I was listening to the radio this morning when, at 11, all the talking stopped, Big Ben struck the quarters then the hour and there was that strange semi-silence you get when thousands of people are there but none of them is making a sound. Two minutes of silence in which to remember and reflect that it’s:
100 years since ‘the war to end all wars’ began.
100 years regularly punctuated by more wars.
100 years developing more efficient weapons.
100 years and we still resort to armed conflict to resolve social and political issues.
Here’s a flash fiction story I wrote a while ago.
She leaned on her window sill, waiting for the lamplighter’s nightly visit. Already, she could hear his whistle as his boots tapped along the street towards her. Slow steps, the steps of an old man. Most of the younger ones had gone and those who still lived were sitting in their trenches, probably hoping the night would stay dark, dreading the flares and flashes of the guns. She’d only heard stories and the truths they told were unimaginable.
As he arrived beneath her window, the lamplighter gave her his usual smile and wave and reached his long pole up to the fragile glass cage that protected the delicate mantle. With slow, gentle care he eased it up into the chamber, moving it softly back and forth, seeking the tap. The tip of his pole caught it, turned on the flow of gas and held it close to the mantle until the pop and slow illumination told him all was well. He withdrew the pole and the warm yellow light spilled down to flow in a circle around the base of the lamppost.
The man turned and walked on towards the next lamp, fifty yards down the street. She watched him until he became part of the shadows, leaving only his whistle hanging in the air. She looked at the patterns the lamp threw on the wall of her house, sensed the life which the light had brought to the cobbles and bricks around it.
There was only her and the low hiss and flicker of the gas. But no light crept into the folds of darkness within her. The night was empty. It needed more of this radiance, more light everywhere.
But the lamplighters had all gone.