Wensum, by Jim Harding, November 8, 2016

Hundreds if not thousands of communities great and small across the land will soon gather around war memorials to pay their respects.

During our more than thirty years in this town the general acknowledgements have certainly increased and the numbers filling the market place have probably doubled. Whilst Remembrance Sunday always plays host to the wreath-laying ceremony, it’s long been the practice to ‘stop the traffic’ on November 11 itself to observe a two minutes silence at 11am. For some time now there has also been a bugler or two playing the Last Post and Reveille.

The very simplicity of these rituals, I feel, only adds to their intensity. At some point in the proceedings, wherever they are held, the words of Laurence Binyon from his poem For the Fallen are almost bound to be read. It’s the fourth of this seven-verse composition which has become synonymous with the occasion, the one that begins: ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old..’

When I lived in Australia, Returned Servicemen’s League Clubs were very popular social gathering places around Sydney. They may still be. What I especially recall about them was the almost sacred ritual of the two-minutes silence which was observed nightly at precisely 9pm with everyone getting to their feet. After this pause the Binyon verse was always read out. As a young man then who had never experienced anything like this at home, it left an enduring impression. And reminded this ‘foreigner’ that honouring the sacrifices of its troops in both world wars and particularly the Anzacs at Gallipoli was something that had been hard-wired into the Australian psyche.

On the home front, do join the mayor and other councillors in front of our war memorial this Friday at 11am if you can. And at the same spot on Sunday, November 13, when the parade will march along Norwich Street and the poppy wreaths will be appropriately laid on the steps of the memorial from 2.45pm. A combined service will follow in the parish church immediately afterwards.

Of course it’s a slow process, but in the space of a few days I detect a definite change of season. My river walks are always indicative of roughly where we are in the year and the first blanketing of frost on the waterside fields tells its own story. These same pastures have been home to Pensthorpe’s rare breed cattle since late spring but the herd has recently been removed to over-winter in a more protective environment. The same treatment has been afforded to the belted Galloways who have been chewing the cud on the field behind the new extension to the chocolate factory. Such has been the relative warmth of autumn that regular strollers, often with their dogs, have marched past me in almost summer-time gear. Not any more. They, along with the golfers on the south side of the river, have started to cover up against the chill. Why, I’ve even seen some in woolly hats.

To be honest I love this pre-Christmas period when the landscape is groomed after the crops have been gathered in and winter’s blast is yet to come.

Get outside and enjoy it while you may.