My first ever Remembrance day service was whilst I was a curate. The parish priest grinned as he explained that he would be away and it was all mine.
That should have started alarm bells but oddly didn't. It was even more weird when I found we had to have a rehearsal the night before. After that I knew what the problem was.
Old service men each had their own version of what happened the previous years. One man did one bit of the service, another a different bit. The procession with the banners to the altar had to be done with military precision...it was important to them...it had to be right.
I agreed with that fully. The problem was that they had different memories.
"No we never did it like that. "
"We've done it like that every year."
" No, one year he did it but only because I was ill."...
.The tone was set. Walking through it was a mine field. The British Legion sent representatives and they also had their own way of doing everything.
The girl guides and brownies had to be dragooned into walking with their flags up to the altar ,in exactly the right position... The man doing the dragooning was also the man whose mode of transport around the village was a camouflaged jeep!
I did the service for several years, learning as I went along just how important it was to everyone and giving in with good grace when disagreements occurred. Now I am only asked to do the service if the incumbent is sick so Ive been let off this year but its the first time!
Last year for the first time I did lay down the law. One browny's mum told me that on the previous year her daughter had been very sick after being told off by one of the men. She had actually thrown up at the back of the church. I had to do something she said.
So I explained to the old soldiers that the children had not been taught the ways of the army barrack sergeant and that if they went wrong they had to be left alone.
They were not impressed but they were noticeably more relaxed. No one threw up!
As these old boys get older and less in number its going to be even more important to keep the spirit of this day alive and well. We will not forget!