A long and strange day, in which I drove with LCM and M-i-L to a memorial service some 100 miles away . We went in tribute to one of the dearest men, a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. Like my late FiL, he was endlessly kind, courteous and delightfully self-deprecating, one of the most fully-human men I've known - but he had also had a distinguished career as a soldier and was much decorated as a result. I've always struggled to square the circle of enthusiastic soldiering with deep faith and shining humanity, and today's service only added to my confusion. He had planned it down to the last detail, and it was utterly in keeping with the setting and the congregation. The chapel was filled to overflowing with rank on rank of pink and prosperous men in covert coats, with matching wives in smart tweeds,- as clearly a uniform as anything worn on the parade ground. A regimental chaplain prayed in bracing style, we sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" with huge gusto ( a measure of my affection for G is that I was prepared to sing it at all) , heard readings from St John (Authorised Version, of course) Bunyan and "Watership Down" and listened to two accounts of G's life and times. It was all perfectly fitting,- but so far away from the man whose gentle humour was one of the first pleasures of meeting LCM's family and friends when we got engaged.
For his sake, and that of his widow (whom I also love dearly) I curbed my impulse to leap onto a chair and start singing "The Red Flag". Politics, religion, sport,- we were fine on two-thirds of them. G and his wife were hugely supportive of my ordination, .and equally understanding when our children regaled them with horsey triumphs and disasters. Thankfully, we never approached the issue of politics,- though he was such a dear, I'm sure he'd have extricated himself from the situation before we had a chance to disagree. I'm so glad to have known him, - and grateful for the reminder that it's never good to judge by appearances.
Go well, G.