This weekend saw the Jests at a family gathering. It combined a significant birthday and a significant wedding anniversary, both falling within this year, for what Bertie Wooster would have termed "ancient relatives". They gathered family and friends around them for a celebratory lunch.
There was splendid food, (the quiche guarded with a fierce intesity by a waitress determined not to allow her largesse to any but card carrying veggies), lovely wine, fizz for the toasts (several, by the time you had covered the bride / groom / birthday / guest speaker etc...) and a general warm hum of happy conversation throughout proceedings (except during the speeches where even the children sat engaged by two racconteurs at the top of their game). Best of all the venue was the function room of a Village Cricket side, and there was a match on, so after the main event we got to sit and soak up some real olde english tradition-- and beer.
Furthermore the occasion has given yours truly another* very tentative claim to fame. Our eldest is learning to fly through school. One of the guests at our table got to hear of this and promptly said, "Here lad, shake my hand." He duly did, being an obliging sort. As he did so the guest (a gent well into his ninth decade) informed him thus, "You're shaking the hand of a man who has shaken the hand of a man who was shot down by Von Richthofen."
It transpires that our new friend was at a seaside resort some time in the late forties or early fifties and came across a man who was there with his wife. This man was rather frail and needed help in getting about on the front. Our friend had been happy to oblige, and the wife explained that her husband had not been quite his old self since he had been shot down by the Red Baron. He then, and we now, have no reason to doubt her veracity, so here I sit, the proud Dad of a lad who has shaken the hand .... as detailed above.
In some sense this gives us a vague tactile link with a significant historical figure and keeps the past alive in a curious way. Books tell you the nuts and bolts of history, but alongside this there persists a rich oral tradition which preserves the more mundane aspects of momentous events. And for a man with a picture of Albert Ball on his wall, that's good enough for me.
*One day, if you're very good, I might tell you all about my other claim to fame. (And yes it is a bit more concrete than shaking the hand of a man who.... )