These photographs were taken from my doorstep yesterday morning. The occasion was enhanced by the early Spring sunshine. I was more fortunate than Robert Browning – I was there, not abroad!
Please read the preface to Gallery Series I/15 (https://lagill6.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/gallery-series-i15/) to more fully understand the image below:
Gallery Series I/16
I first published the following post in 2011 – shortly after the events of 9/11. The occasion it records had a significant and formative impact on my life and, on the eve of Remembrance Day, it seems an appropriate time for a re-publication The image has been reprocessed to capture the regimented nature of the sacrifice.
Most of us can identify incidents, happenings or, perhaps, decisions we made that in some way had a lasting influence on our lives. For me a school trip to Holland at the age of 15 was such an occasion.
It was my first trip abroad. The Dutch were warm and welcoming people who spoke with what I can only describe as a slight but attractive gurgle in their voice. Most were sufficiently fluent in English to make communication comparatively easy. We felt ‘at home’.
Our stay had been very carefully organised as an educational visit – the two masters in charge were both geography specialists. We were taken to the polders to see how the Dutch had reclaimed marshland and were introduced to traditional culture and costume in places such as Edam, Volendam and Marken.
Amsterdam was a very different experience. Here was a capital city with a transport system based on trams, bicycles and a network of canals. Bicycles – they were everywhere! Bicycles reigned supreme. Not sporty types, but sturdy, upright machines that seemed to underline their status.
But the occasion that had a lasting impact on me occurred not in Amsterdam nor any of the other interesting places I have mentioned, but at the Arnhem War Cemetery.
Our party was from a boys’ grammar school and we knew that one of our old boys was buried at the Cemetery. It seemed right and proper that we should pay our respects. The necessary arrangements were made, but nothing could have prepared us for what we found.
On entering the Cemetery we were confronted with row upon row of uniform, white headstones stretching far into the distance – 1759 in total, 1392 from the United Kingdom. It is known as the Airborne Cemetery. The Airborne forces went into battle by parachute or glider. In either case they were highly vulnerable to gunfire.
We were directed to the grave we were looking for – the name was Shuttleworth, but I don’t remember the details – and then retraced our steps silently, obviously reading other headstones as we passed along. What was especially tragic was the high proportion who were aged between 20 and 24 when they died, and a few were in their late teens. These were young men, not much older than us, with their lives before them. What a shocking, shocking waste of life.
The coach journey back to the hostel was very quiet.
I enjoy creating and posting abstract images and often feel that it would be appropriate to attach the following extract from Kandinsky:
‘The spectator is too ready to look for a meaning in a picture—i.e., some outward connection between its various parts. Our materialistic age has produced a type of spectator or “connoisseur,” who is not content to put himself opposite a picture and let it say its own message. Instead of allowing the inner value of the picture to work, he worries himself in looking for “closeness to nature,” or “temperament,” or “handling,” or “tonality,” or “perspective,” or what not. His eye does not probe the outer expression to arrive at the inner meaning. In a conversation with an interesting person, we endeavour to get at his fundamental ideas and feelings. We do not bother about the words he uses, nor the spelling of those words, nor the breath necessary for speaking them, nor the movements of his tongue and lips, nor the psychological working on our brain, nor the physical sound in our ear, nor the physiological effect on our nerves. We realize that these things, though interesting and important, are not the main things of the moment, but that the meaning and idea is what concerns us. We should have the same feeling when confronted with a work of art. When this becomes general the artist will be able to dispense with natural form and colour and speak in purely artistic language.’ (Kandinsky Concerning the Spiritual in Art)