Opinion: Janet Christie - Remembrance with a smile

Youngest is on choons as I taxi her to work.

My dad on the left, marching out of Dundee, 1939, towards Dunkirk, El Alamein and Monte Cassino, with the Black Watch.
My dad on the left, marching out of Dundee, 1939, towards Dunkirk, El Alamein and Monte Cassino, with the Black Watch.

“Listen to this one, I’m loving this at the moment,” she says, plugging her phone into the player.

Hope it’s that WAP (featuring Megan Thee Stallion) Cardi B rap again. I’m always up for a celebration of female sexuality, a bit of smash the patriarchy ‘n’ that...

But what’s this? A piano trills, violins swoop and an orchestra swells as a singer begins…

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“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…”

A huge belting laugh erupts behind me. My Dad’s laugh. It’s in my head. I hope. I smile.

“Vera Lynn. Why are you listening to this?” I say.

“Cos I really like it.”

“Where did you hear it?”

“Dunno. It’s around. Why?”

“Cos it’s a song from the Second World War,” I tell her. “The one your grandad was in from when he was 20. Vera Lynn used to sing it on the radio for soldiers abroad and people at home. When it first came out he would have been marching through France with the Black Watch, a boy from Dundee on his way to Dunkirk – remember the film? Then later he was in North Africa and up through Italy then home. The song’s about getting through the War and meeting people again. Maybe it’s around cos of Covid. It’s nearly Remembrance Sunday, Poppy Day. But the big events aren’t happening this year cos of Covid.”

“Did your dad like that song?” asks Youngest as Vera sings on about smiling through.

“I don’t know. Never heard him sing it. He wasn’t big on nostalgia or militaristic jingoism, or big remembrance events. But I can’t say I ever heard him slagging off Vera Lynn, or Germans for that matter. Churchill yes, and various military leaders, and officers – even though he was one by the end.

“I just think us all singing Vera Lynn during coronavirus and comparing it to the Second World War would have made him laugh. But not in a bad way. He was always very encouraging and kind, and funny.”

“Well, what would he have said about coronavirus?” says Youngest.

“Dunno. One thing he did always say was “Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Keep going,” and he’d laugh. I suppose that kind of works.”

“Yeah,” says “Youngest. “And Remembrance Day – the important bit is the remembering.”

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