Wednesday 27 May 2015

Memory laps

I've written before here about how senses make the best souvenirs, and I've just been reminded about how true that is. After days of wind and rain, this morning was calm and sunny, and I wandered down to our small pebbly beach. As usual, there was no-one there, just a single fresh footprint on a stray patch of sand, and there was no noise other than the tuis back in the bush. And the sea itself, of course: little waves lapping on the shore.

The last time I heard that sound, exactly that sound, was at the Anzac Dawn Service at Gallipoli, as one of a crowd of 10,500 standing silently in the chilly dark, listening and thinking. There had been a programme of reflection leading up to just before dawn: music, documentaries, soldiers' letters home, a light show picking out the impossibly steep cliffs behind. Then the lights were cut, and it was a time for thought as a recording of the sound of the waves - or, possibly, oars - washed over us. A hundred years before, that's how it would have been, before the onslaught began and the peace on that peninsula was chased away for eight long months.

It feels like a real dislocation, to think of battle and pain and death on a sunny Waiheke beach - but the men who died at Gallipoli, and in so many other places during that war, and others, came from places like this, sat on beaches like this one, breathed the same air. They were just like me; but they answered the call, whether for nationalistic reasons or just for the adventure, and ended up wounded and dead, their blood soaking into foreign soil, never to see home again. Gone, like that footprint in the sand, when the tide comes back in. But not forgotten.

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