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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Things you learn by going to the Cenotaph rather than watching on TV

1. The Royal Marines have a hell of a band.
2. Elgar's "Nimrod" is a hell of a tune.
3. For most of the people doing the marching this is a grand day out.
4. Armies aren't just made up of the elite Guards regiments, many of whose members are still impressively ramrod-straight at 75.
5. Wars are also fought by an assortment of stock comic shapes and sizes who return in later years wearing a bewildering range of different-coloured berets above bulbous noses, their basic forces uniforms energetically customised in a way that means nothing to the onlooker but everything in the world to the wearer.
6. The silence at eleven is complete enough to allow you to hear the wind in the trees on Whitehall. The crowd are a lot more varied than you might think. There are young people and tourists alongside the usual preponderance of military families. In their shared ability to stand still and shut up they may be a self-selecting bunch.
7. The very last veterans in the parade, after the Sally Army, the Bevin Boys, the St John's Ambulance and the Boy's Brigade, were a group from the UK Border Agency. I don't know how I'd feel about that.
8. Near the end I spotted a couple among a Legion group. They were probably about my age. They were dressed slightly differently from those around them. I wouldn't be surprised if they were art teachers. They both had their coats open to display tee shirts. Printed on the front was a picture of their soldier son and his dates. The second one was 2007.