When our daughter Rose, now fifteen, was baptised my father gave her a present of the silver christening mug he was given over 100 years ago.
(Sadly, I can’t post a photograph of it here because it was pinched, last year, by someone who was working for us; the police refused to interview him even though we knew who’d nicked it because they said someone else might have taken it; and the insurance company refused to pay for a replica to be made because there hadn’t been a break-in. Hey ho. Extremely trivial by comparison with what follows...)
It was from the churchwardens of my father’s father’s church, St Andrew’s in Norwich. And it was given him by his godmother, Lady Morse.
Anne Morse was a widow. Some consolation for the loss of her husband was that she had three fine young sons.
All of whom proved their worth by winning the Victoria Cross.
And all of whom – all – were killed in action.
I need two minutes’ silence to take this in.
All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?
Imagine. The bells ring out. The joy, the celebration, the relief. He will come home, safe and sound, to live again.
And then you see the Post Office boy coming up the path with a telegram for you...
How they must have prayed against news, in that fell and dreadful time.
Bink was the first in our family to wear the white peace poppy. Now even my father wears one, alongside his traditional red and the only medals he is entitled to: for being there.
Despite courage that made me swell with pride as a little child at school, when my class all said what their daddies did in the war and I was laughed at. Despite braving shame from society and even his own family, his sister still resenting his stance over half a century later. Despite insisting on a rôle in the front line when he was posted to a safe office job in London, so he saw D-Day as an orderly in the Medical Corps. Despite standing his ground under threat of the firing squad when he refused to bear arms, till reprieve came the next day from the Geneva Convention.
Despite all this, as Conscientious Objector he is allowed no other recognition for his bravery.
He is now deeply moved – and vindicated – that more people than ever wear the peace poppy alongside the red.
Starting with his own mad granddaughter: our own Cassandra.
If you’d told me a few years ago that there would come a time when I’d be glad to have no news of one of my children, I’d be intrigued. If you had gone on to say I’d prefer to have no news of Bink, frankly astonished.
Ten days ago, Bink embarked on the Priory’s Addiction Treatment Programme. A tough regime, nearly fourteen hours a day; for the first week, no contact with the outside world.
Every day that went by with no news left me more buoyed up and happy. She is lasting the course! She has not rung home! And the hospital has not rung to say she has disappeared...
(Her therapist has most considerately been in touch three times; told us Bink has impressed them all by her commitment to the course; most recently, that she was preparing a presentation for the morrow and might not have time to ring.)
Even now when she is allowed contact, she has not. I’m longing to hear her voice, of course I am. But even more, I would prefer her to be too busy to talk to me.
How good it is, sometimes, to have no news.