A Clearer Head

My head is now feeling less bruised. Thank god these migraines don’t occur that frequently anymore and are far less severe than they used to be. A few years ago I’d have been out of comission for days. (This is all down to not eating chocolate or cheese or red wine.)

Following the funeral of the last remaining First World War survivor yesterday (see previous post for the link) I’ve been musing on being The Last, and also on how much that war influenced my writing. I think it was while studying Owen and Sassoon and the like (under the wonderful Mr Wilson) for GCSE that I first got an actual itch to write, as well as an interest to read more. It was the first time I think I was close to understanding what writing (about real things ie the war, racism in To Kill a Mockingbird etc) could make you feel and understand (things/the world/people) better, as well as understanding better how literature fits into the rest of life. And it’s strange also to think that the previous English teacher had all but put me off my favourite subject (he told me I’d amount to nothing, which isn’t strictly true). Thank the universe for the brilliant Mr Wilson.
Important lessons. And lessons that have stayed with me. You know, last night, I went back to the poetry collection we used for that part of the GCSE course, and went over some of my old faves, and was surprised at how I’ve clearly taken (borrowed/been influenced) by their structure. The chattiness and realism and BANG! ending of The Chances is definitely something I strive for in many of my stories.
So now you know!
And being the last must have been an odd feeling. Sad, proud, a heavy responsibility. But what of those who’ve been forgotten? What of those with no known graves? What of those who are just faces in browned photographs now, who are nameless curiosities and heirlooms?
And why, why – why – why don’t we learn?
Just some thoughts to, you know, cheer you up of a Friday! 
(Here’s a poem which sums things up rather brilliantly, I think, though there are many, many more.)

6 Comments on “A Clearer Head

  1.  by  SueG

    An astonishing poem, and an ageless one. Glad to hear your migraines are getting better. I've suffered from them too and, Jeez, they're the worst.

  2.  by  Jo

    Great reflective post for a Friday afternoon Nik. I have been thinking a lot recently about our war heroes and how there will always be more, so sad. I wondered how Mr Allingham felt and whether he fought for so long because he was the last. I don't know whether it is because my partner served for 10 years and I am seeing the affects war has had on him, and how my best friend has started a new relationship with someone in the army who could be posted anywhere at anytime. It makes you appreciate time more and that the heroes, never ever get over it and we should be more mindful to that.On a different note, I suffer from migraines too – the worst type ones and haven't eaten chocolate for 20 years… thought I was odd and the only one.

  3.  by  Tania Hershman

    Wow, powerful poems, amazing, thank you Nik. And what a concept, being "The Last", it's hard to get your head round, eh? I can't imagine what i might be the last at? I mean, I was the last year to do O'Levels, but that's not quite the same! Imagine the changes he saw in his lifetime, and, having been to Flanders, everything he went through almost 100 years ago. Unimaginable.

  4.  by  Mare

    The idea of "The Last" immediately brought images and sounds to my mind which all seem to be competing for my attention. I will undoubtedly be taking notes for weeks to come. Your post also reminded me of my Papa, and the photos he brought home from the war. He shared those pictures with me when I was little, listing each one of his friends' names. Decades later I still have those pictures, but the names of the men standing with Papa are lost to me now.

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