shake that cola drag

The office-block persecution affinity.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Siobhan and Brent and I went to the Dawn Parade at the Auckland Museum yesterday, Anzac Day. It was the ninetieth anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign and I was impressed by the numbers of people - hundreds, possibly in the low thousands - who had dragged themselves out of bed to gather at 5.30am on a very nippy morning. I could see nothing of the service as I was in completely the wrong place (and I'm short), but I could hear all the amplified proceedings as things grew increasingly more orange behind Rangitoto. The flags on top of the museum were lowered to half mast as the bugler played the Last Post. The Voice of God MC was clearly reading from last year's script as he boomed out 'April 25th, 2004!' at the beginning of his speech, and some idiot refused to turn off his cellphone during some crucial moments, but the crowd was obviously reverent. I wondered how much of the ceremony was really relevant to our varied reasons for attending. I certainly didn't need to recite the Lord's Prayer or sing 'Abide With Me' (and from the tone-deaf murmuring it was obvious that none of us knew the hymns anyway), and World War I was *not* a fight to preserve 'the freedoms we now enjoy' in any real sense. But I suppose Anzac Day is for World War II veterans also, and I know the large numbers of younger people in attendance were filled with gratitude for the Second World War as well as sadness for the waste and horror of the First (well, for both, really, but at least II had a purpose). The best part of the ceremony was at the end: the march and falling-out of the old veterans, most of them clearly frail but upright and be-medalled, as the crowd applauded their exit.

My grandfather Jack, who turns 87 this year, and who was in North Africa in World War II with the grisly photos to prove it, forgot it was Anzac Day yesterday. He went over to my aunt's to do her gardening, as he does every Monday. He has never been to a Dawn Service. His father-in-law George, my great-grandfather, was the third to last surviving New Zealand veteran of Gallipoli until his death in 1995 at the age of 100. Jack says that George was only in Gallipoli about a week by his reckoning and that 'the old bugger never worked a day in his life'. I think Jack still resents going over to visit his then-girlfriend Bonnie, George's daughter, and being made to dig out stumps on the family farm! As well as being bitter about George's Gallipoli glory, Grandad has always been slightly annoyed that George was adopted later on as a poster boy for the Maori Battalion (there was no Maori Battalion in World War I, but George, as a Maori veteran, was revered by the next generation - rightly, in my view, but try telling Jack that). Asking Grandad to discuss what a military fraudster George was is a family joke. You can get him going on a rant for twenty minutes if you ask the right question. And if you're lucky he'll tell you interesting stories about the desert, too, and his army buddy Shorty ('hell of a nice joker'), and seeing Winston Churchill when he visited them (Jack was, as befits an Irishman Anzac, unimpressed). Hee.

I'm not sure what the point of that paragraph was, except perhaps to ponder how real and interesting and funny all those hundreds of thousands of people would have been if they'd returned from the front, like my family did.

Helen Clark's Gallipoli speech is here.


Post a Comment

<< Home