I visited Alnwick Castle yesterday, while on my holiday trip to Northumberland. It has been the location for quite a few films: Ivanhoe, Robin Hood Price of Thieves, and most of the Harry Potter series.
However, it was an internal production that captivated me.
At the end of the tour if the State Rooms, there was a simple slideshow running in a side room where the servants would have been based. A total of one hundred and nine joined up.
Photos and letters, of the staff from the Castle who served during the Great War, were projected onto a wall. The slides were accompanied by a soundtrack of the names of those one hundred and nine read out by a descendant. Truly poignant and emotional. The stories of very ordinary men placed into the most extraordinary situation.
One series of slides, in particular, had me close to tears. Letters and photos exchanged between one man and his young children, followed with a short message: “died while in a POW camp.”
A few minutes after this, midway through the presentation, a family of four (dad, mum and two kids aged around ten) popped their heads in. Within two seconds, mum had decided “This isn’t for us. Looks boring”, and traipsed on down the corridor.
I had seen the same family earlier on, captivated as a tour guide pointed out the various parts of the Castle that had appeared in one, or more, of the Harry Potter films. The kids were able to recount characters, scenes and spells from those movies. Yet somehow, the stories of real battles against tyranny were deemed too “boring.”
I’m no advocate for war, particularly the mass slaughter of millions in the First World War, but I think it’s disrespectful to dismiss so coldly the remarkable bravery of those who served, and died, in the trenches.
We still have men and women who don a uniform and put themselves in harms way so we don’t have to. I sometimes think they don’t get the respect they are due, whether they are in the military, police, ambulance service or fire and rescue.
Yet, at the first sign of trouble, it’s them we turn to. We can’t have it both ways.
The headline to this, by the way, is a quote from Dumbledore in “The Order of the Phoenix.”