Went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo at the weekend. Got more profoundly and thoroughly wet than I have ever been in my entire life - including baths. Two hours sat in the pouring rain. Luckily I had bought rainproof suits for the two boys. This is a tip I have picked up from other mothers up here. When I ask them what they do when it rains, they say they put the children in their rainproofs and send them out in it. Spartan really. Anyway, I took a leaf out and picked up the suits at the same time as the farm gates. I quite wished I had one of my own by the end of the evening.
We went to the Tattoo for the sake of the four-year-old who is in love with the idea of soldiery. I hate this. I do not want him dying, brave and beautiful, in a desert; for a dashing photograph to flash up on the evening news, tagged "Dead hero" to be forgotten, buried in the viewer's mind by the time the soaps start. A climbing wall, tree, fast car, pond, sea, war: I hate them all. Is others' motherhood so full of fear or am I just a fright filled soul? My more valiant son pointed to a picture in the programme of a fusilier, all gilt braid and towering bearskin marching at the head of the massed, kilted pipers. He said: "I am going to be him." I said: "Soldiers have two jobs: to kill people and to be killed. Neither of those is a very nice thing to have to do." He said: "I don't care." I thought: "I will take him to the ballet next time."
The soldiers did their stirring stuff with the backdrop of a misty Edinburgh castle, lit by flaming torches. Then the Taipei First Girls' Senior High School Honour Guard and Drums Corps marched in. Teenage girls do not carry the same baggage of bloody death and honour as drumming solider men. But they were young and beautiful and I smiled to see the golden plumes astride their bandsmen hats. Plumes that nodded as they marched in white pleated minis and matching knee high boots. I envied them the plumes, flirting skirts and boots: I envied too the legs to wear such things. But most of all I envied them the fact that they could march in step, first right, then left, then wheel. When I was young, I went away to school for six months. The Canadian college had a compulsory training corps. We drilled, carried guns and wore red and felted tunic coats. We marched; first right, then left, in front of proud and smiling parents. My friend and fellow Brit said he groaned aloud to see my squad parade: every other soldier teen lifted one foot and I the other; then wrong again, first right, then left or was it left then right? I cannot march in step. I have tried before.
I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out what Canadian college you would have went to where you had to march......must have been in the east......and somewhere around 1946
If you were an in-step, in-the-box marcher, you would have an in-the-box, boring blog.
Scores of us would not then check up on you so frequently to see what your chaotic life is up to, nor miss you so much when said life keeps you from blogging!
I read your letter on the "prima" mag and you inspired me to start my own blog, www.maltese-me.blogspot.com.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
My best friend was a soldier. His mother was deeply unimpressed with his career choice! I find the tattoo strangely compelling, even in the wet.
We (parents) all balance fear of losing with fear of smothering, there is a hidden perfect balance line there somewhere that we're all trying to find and most of us keep wandering over it to the left and then jerking back right.
I think Amy would enjoy the shouting out orders. I'll leave it to the experts.
Someone told me 'we must hold onto our children with open arms.' It's true but so difficult. My number three child is still talking about joining the army. I hope, when they see the yellow hair and eyebrow stud, they may reject him.
"Is others' motherhood so full of fear?" Yes, I think so. But probably not so full of imaginative use of the apostrophe in grammatically inspirational corners.
Why would anyone want to be a soldier? A small boy sees the glamour of gold braid and guns to play with that are bigger than their own water pistols, but this desire obviously lasts beyond childhood or the military would be empty and conscription would be with us once more. I suppose I must be grateful for it, but I don't get it. Your boy will hopefully fancy a firefighting life tomorrow and a train driver life next week....
maybe if you don't want him to be a soldier you don't take him to see glorified displays of men with guns...
Have either of your boys got 'dinky' collections? Just wondered.
"There goes the only man I ever respected. He's what every boy thinks he's going to be when he grows up and wishes he had been when he's an old man." That's what Robert Ryan said in The Tall Men, but I think someone said it long before he did.
doglover (a one-time soldier)
[I'm seeing the Tattoo the day after tomorrow ....]
Interesting, really. What makes a man go for a soldier? To what extent are our choices set in childhood, in our own personalities? I have daughters, and I'm glad of it. I read this as yet another of your metaphors, and you have no real fear of this as a possibility, but the mothering of sons seems very complicated to me. Pride and fear and otherness.
I just found your blogg, I'll be back when I have some more time!
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
Henry David Thoreau
By any chance did you make a video of the Taiwanese girls...? I am asking for a friend. Who has a deep interest in marching. Which I share. Not asian teenaged girls thighs. No ... nothing like that.
He's 4 years old. If he's anything like I was, he'll go through about 93 possible career fantasies and end up doing something completely different that he'd never heard of when he was 4.
Did you see the Gurkha Pipers? They deserve everything we can give them. They are distinctly more loyal to Britain than many who oprofess to be British
This is a really nice post. The Taiwanese high school students did indeed look very smart and sweet and as you say nicely subverted all the military guff.
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