Thursday, July 03, 2014
A hundred years
I don't know much about E equalling MC squared - happy to take Einstein's word for it - but it's certainly true that something odd happens to time when you get older. Not only does it whizz by, propelling you smartly towards decrepitude and the grave, but something happens in reverse too - to the past.
There's a lot in the media at the moment about World War 1, since it's the centenary of its beginning. When I was little, or even just young, World War 2 was a lo-o-o-ong time ago and World War 1 was more or less prehistory. And now I think: gosh, it was only 100 years ago and that's nothing. Nothing at all.
It seems to have become more recent; which is a bizarre sensation.
I was born in 1950 and as I've said in this blog before, my parents were both very much affected by the Second World War. My dad was in the Royal Engineers from the ages of 19 - 25 and for most of that time he was overseas, in Egypt doing bomb disposal and then Belgium and Holland, building or destroying bridges. He could easily have been killed. My mother went to London at the age of 17 and was working there during the Blitz and some time thereafter. She too could easily have been killed. Naturally both parents spoke quite a lot about their war experiences - particularly my mother - and yet for a long time I felt that it all happened in such a distant past that there was little connection with my life. Yes, the past: five years before I was born. Really, really, really no time at all.
And my grandparents, of course, lived through two world wars. Two! Twenty-one years apart! Again, hardly any time at all. If the first one had finished in 1993, which feels more or less like yesterday, then what would it feel like for the second to be starting now? Appalling. Unthinkable.
My maternal grandfather, above, was in the Royal Scots and, as I've also mentioned before, was shot in the hand at Gallipoli. Again, he was lucky to survive when so many didn't. He was a printer, a compositor, in civilian life, and operated a sort of typewriter to set the type. His war injury left one of his forefingers permanently bent down to his palm and so from then on, he had only nine working fingers. I thought nothing of it (ancient history...). And as for what he witnessed at Gallipoli and elsewhere - I have no idea. I never asked. I probably didn't want to know.
Anyway. 100 years. Less than twice my life - considerably less than twice my life - and that seems to have passed in a flash. It makes you think. And even though many other people have said much the same thing, it's not till you get older that you really appreciate how short life is and how events are which you used to think were far back in time are actually quite recent.
So. Must get on.