Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Ieper




Gert took us on a Sunday drive to explore Ieper or Ypres if you're speaking French. This was one of the main arenas for WW1. Here's some photos from a very special cemetery where Katherine Mansfield's brother is buried. There are also many New Zealanders there.

Okay, had to go and have dinner but I'm back to finish this post. Ieper is a place I've visited before, in 2004 with Muzz. It touched a chord then and this revisit reinforced that. I got to see some new places this trip as well as revisiting familiar ones. The cemetery above was a new place, Tyne Cot was a familiar one. It's changed, there's a new visitors centre that adds to the whole experience with graphic displays and explanations bringing the war closer.

The vista from the large window with the legend showing the battlefield, it looks very peaceful today. I always feel a welling of emotion as I read the names on the stones, the names of young men whose lives ended in mud, in pain far from their families. The war was advertised to them as an adventure, it became a nightmare. The young men are mostly the same age as my young men, but for an accident of birth they would be there.

I often think about accidents of birth when I'm in the UAE. The young men who come and work there in the construction industry, young men who come over from countries that are not as privileged as ours, are at such a disadvantage. They don't seem to be free to choose their fates, tied to those who recruit and employ them. When I compare that to my young men, that seems an untenable fate, there but for an accident of birth.

No comments: