Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Last allied veteran of the Christmas Truce in WW1 Dead

Reuters reported on Monday, November 21, 2005
in a story by Peter Graff

The last known surviving allied veteran of the Christmas Truce that saw German and British soldiers shake hands between the trenches in World War One died Monday at 109, his parish priest said.

Alfred Anderson was the oldest man in Scotland and the last known surviving Scottish veteran of the war.

"I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence," he was quoted as saying in the Observer newspaper last year, describing the day-long Christmas Truce of 1914, which began spontaneously when German soldiers sang carols in the trenches, and British soldiers responded in English.

"All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices.

But there was a dead silence that morning across the land as far as you could see.
"We shouted 'Merry Christmas' even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again."

Troops in the trenches swapped cigarettes, uniform buttons and addresses and even played football in one of the most extraordinary episodes of the war.

Parish priest Neil Gardner of Anderson's Alyth Parish Church in Scotland said he had died in his sleep and was survived by a large family, including 18 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.

"He was a wonderful old man: he was gracious, gentle, he had a great sense of humor and a fine sense of wisdom from his experience spanning three centuries," said Gardner, who also served as chaplain to Anderson's regiment, the Black Watch.

Anderson also served briefly as a member of the household staff of Queen Elizabeth's uncle, Fergus Bowes-Lyon.

With Anderson's death, fewer than 10 British veterans of the war remain alive, of whom only three or four were veterans of trench warfare on the Western Front.

Attention has turned to the last survivors in recent weeks, with filmmakers bringing out documentaries in time for this month's Armistice Day holiday, marking the day the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918.

Don't Get Creative With My Christmas Carols

I've been playing Christmas Carols tonight while I work on things around the house. I have a few CDs that I haven't listened to before. I popped in one and they were doing something I hate - getting creative with old standards.

People - DON'T do that. We just want to hear the pretty song, the way we remember singing it during the nativity play as a kid, we don't want your interpretation.

If you want to interpret something, write it first. Otherwise, just stick to the script. Don't go trying to get fancy. We just want to hear "Away in a Manger" just the way we sang it when we were 10, only we want you to do it pretty. That's why we bought your CD.

OK, if you're Aretha, you can get creative. Otherwise, just stick to the basics.

The Life I Want to Live

Today at lunch this came up in conversation with Trish and I hadn't thought about it in ages. It came up because I was talking about how regardless of what a mess things are in in my world, I always know where my passport is - as if I'm going to need it at the office tomorrow here in the middle of the United States.

I told Trish about reading an Alexandra Stoddard book some years ago - before I even owned a passport - and she was saying that you should never keep your passport in a safety deposit box. Instead, you should always keep it in your home because if someone invited you to leave the country over the weekend on the spur of the moment you wouldn't be able to get your passport.

That stuck with me. I think because it told me the kind of life I wanted to be living - the one where I needed to always have my passport at hand - just in case I needed it for a quick trip to a foreign land.

In the "fake it till you make it" category, I always know where my passport is. So, I'm ready when this spur of the moment invitation arrives.

Droopy Day

I've been a little droopy today. I had a little "episode" overnight so didn't get much sleep. I was exhausted when I got up.

I was thinking about what to have for lunch - thinking I needed some protein and iron - when Trish called and asked if I wanted to go to lunch. I said, "sure" and did feel better after I ate.

Fortunately, I didn't have anything critical for work today as I didn't feel very good. I slept for awhile and did feel better when I got up.

Tonight I've gotten a little bit more done on the tree. I'm approaching having it all together. Well, aside from the few thousand ornaments. But, I love that part.

I do not enjoy the assembly and lights part, but the lights are what make the tree so beautiful. I've only got two more rows and the topper and it will be all together. Then tomorrow I can start the ornaments.

I have a busy, busy, busy work day tomorrow, but hopefully I'll feel like working on it tomorrow night.

I love getting out the ornaments and remembering the stories behind each one.

I used to ask for help to get the tree assembled and lighted, but that gives people the "right" to complain about my "excessiveness" when it comes to the tree. So, I prefer to just do it myself and then I don't have to take anyone's crap.

I've thought about doing a long blog post titled, "Stupid Things People Say to Me at Christmas Time." But, I decided it wasn't a good idea.

I will offer this one tip - if you're invited to my home, don't point out that there is a light burned out on the tree. That would fall into the "oh, really, no shit" category. There are thousands of freaking lights on it - did you not notice - OF COURSE some are not working. I don't take time to replace every burned out bulb when I'm assembling the tree. I'd need to start in May if I did that.

I realize if you put two 100 strands on your tree, that's noticeable. Trust me, if you put a few dozen 100 strands on your tree, it's not that big of a deal. The only one who notices is someone who wants to "catch me" in something that's not perfect. News flash - I already know I'm a long way from perfect - I don't need you to point it out.