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This is a question Beautiful Moments

The best night of my life was spent lying in the bottom of a boat, floating down a river low enough to be under the thin layer of mist gathering at about 3am such that it scudded between me and the stars.

Make us feel all warm and fluffy. Tell us about the most beautiful moments in your life so far.

(, Fri 11 Mar 2005, 9:15)
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Beautiful moments?
Probably most beautiful was a trip I went on at school, which took in most of the battlefields of World War 1. I didn't really know what to expect, and I certainly did not think I would be affected so profoundly and emotionally. Our tour guides made us realise, that but for an accident of fate, we would have been forced off to our deaths in that godawful war. We retraced the steps of a typical Pals batallion, starting off with high spirited songs, and camaraderie, but such jollity was soon tempered by a sense of the enormity of this history we barely understood. So many moments stand out from that trip, such as seeing your name, and everyone elses name scuplted in a giant marble monument; wandering through the largest, quietest graveyard I have ever seen, while a gentle rain pattered down; wandering through tunnels dug before my grandfather was born; Seeing what a shell does to a man's face; retracing the battle of the Somme, in a field where you still can't walk on most of it due to all the live munitions still buried there...

But the crux, the emotional highpoint was the Menin Gate ceremony, a nightly remembance ceremony, carried out ever since the armistice, interrupted briefly by the Nazi occupation. Until that service, I had only understood the horrors of WW1 from a distant, intellectual perspective, but when the peals of the Last Post echoed intolerably loudly throughout the Gate, and my ears, I could stand no more and broke down in tears. After the service, the traffic started to flow through the gate again, but my tears hadn't stopped, and I was filled with a compulsion to truly honour the dead. Walking out in to the cold night of Ypres, the dazzling lights stinging the eyes, I turned about and saluted the monument... not out of nationalism, but out of kinship, for men who were in an utterly fucked up situation, but still managed to carry out some acts of benevolence, and valour. Truly beautiful moment...

Later on that evening, when we were on the coach back to the hostel, they played one of the most beautifully chilling choral works I have ever heard, which seemed to express the sorrow felt for these mere boys, barely men, cut down for no fucking reason at all. Every single last person on the coach broke down in tears, probably slightly less than a hundred people. I had never seen, or felt anything like it...but it still wasn't as powerful as the salute.

Probably hard for anyone to understand who hasn't been on one of these trips, but I count it as one of the very best weeks of my entire life.

No apologies for length,
(, Sun 13 Mar 2005, 1:37, Reply)

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