Now then, I had not intended to write anything today. The sun is shining and my intention was to pick up my camera and go do some " brilliant photography" or more likely the usual bland rubbish I manage to capture. I seem to give off some sort of secret pheromone that alerts all the wildlife to my presence and where ever I wander becomes an animal free zone. Also, it is probably best I apologise now for what I am about to write. It is not a simple subject this one.
The National Arboretum. Not a place that most of you will visit, and there are probably quite a lot of people who do not know what it is, or indeed where it is. Just for a bit of information it is out Lichfield way. It is heralded as the nations war memorial, a place where bereaved people can go and spend some time in relative peace and tranquillity.
The place had not entered my thoughts for a long time. My memories of it not being particularly good for various reasons. I did travel to it once, and to be honest wished I had not, I will explain why as we work through this piece.
It crashed back into my minds eye yesterday evening when I was looking at my Twitter feed. I spotted a tweet from Gideon Osborne (that is his real name, they called him George so as not to put people off, not a roaring success that was it?) crowing about how well they had done in "securing the funding" for it. This angered me greatly. Not because Gideon was a major player in the brutal regime of Mr Cameron or any of the other stuff which people rightly associate with him. It made my temper rise because the whole thing is a charade. It is supposed to be a place that stands to show the world that the UK deeply cares about the memory of those who perished in defence of others. A fine memorial erected in the memory of heroes, a focal point of the many ultimate sacrifices that have been made over the centuries, all those war dead remembered with dignity and honour, a place for tears and smiles. A place for nothing but good faith and altruistic intentions. Really?
The UK is very good at platitudes, at so called deep reflective thought and regret and sorrow when it comes to our war dead. Nationalistic pride bristles as people stand silent for two minutes once every 365 days. The National Arboretum is apparently the absolute zenith of our respect and gratitude. So, let me ask you this, why would funding have to be "secured" in the first place? For me, this absolutely typifies the real British attitude to such things. "Secure Funding" for such a thing? When push comes to shove our national war memorial is a set of figures on a balance sheet in a high office somewhere. Why the hell did funding have to be "secured"? It is an insult to all those dead heroes that there has not been a national memorial for decades, paid for with enthusiasm and pride by the government of the day. To hear the likes of Gideon crowing about it says it all really. The nation should be enraged about the whole idea that profit and loss, cash turnover etc is even a part of the equation. Are we really of the opinion that money in any way should play a part in any of this? Would having had a place such as this really have crippled THE ECONOMY if we had built it years ago? Should it really be that the building of it is something for which politicians should see fit to try and score political points after? I see the place as some sort of attempt to sugar a very bitter pill.
Let me take you through one or two things which stick in my memory from my visit there. Firstly, you have to pay to park up. Why? People with heavy hearts travel to that place, first thing they get is to be asked for money to park their vehicle. This, to me, rivals the queues I see outside a cancer hospital here in Sheffield. It really demoralises me to see that, cars stretching back quite a long way, containing those who's lives are under direct threat, about to be relieved of some cash whilst they the go in to likely hear the devastating news. You have to be me I suppose, not feeling at my best, wondering what the experience was going to be like, hoping against hope that seeing my sons name on the Wall of Remembrance did not reach into that place deep within me which has been a struggle to control. But, still you find yourself doing these things. First thing, I am asked for is money. Not a good start is it?
I wander to the Wall, and find my sons name there on the plaque, just catching the sun and shining quietly away. There are too many names on that wall. It is not easy to prevent the moist eyed scenario that goes along with such things. Luckily I am alone and do not have to worry about being seen in such a state. After a short while, I sigh and look up to the sky just to my left. There, fluttering in the breeze is a flag advertising a funeral company. It is too much. Advertising, the generating of money. More cheap and misplaced values on show right beside a Wall of Remembrance, at out national war memorial. Staggeringly it says upon this flag "The Co-Operative GOOD FOR EVERYONE".
Can you honestly believe that? or, am I being a bit picky here? Would you expect to see advertising in church or at a funeral service? Why this?
I am told that the upkeep of this place is around 4K a day, and that it is reliant on charity to keep on keeping on. Why? Where is all that nationalistic pride when it comes to our national war memorial? It is extremely demoralising to me that this needs to be the case. Surely we as a nation could possibly stretch to providing it with the necessary funds. We will hear the warm (carefully rehearsed) words on November 11th, all the celebrities will appear on day time telly wearing a poppy, no doubt our friends in Government will wear one, then go to the office and clinch another deal to export some WMDs for profit. They never seem to have to "secure funding" for that. I know one who will run through wheat on her way to church. Her husbands salary, gained from hedge funds involving arms sales, would also help. Am I being awkward again?
The place is run by volunteers, and my personal thanks to every one of them. I have to wonder about the salaries of those at the top of the managerial pyramid though. It really does seem tacky to me that money is involved in going to remember your fallen son. Should we not be doing better than this?.
Here is a link to the online shop click here