She sat on his lap with her “I want an answer and I want it now face” of a seven-year old who was used to getting what she wanted when she wanted it.
She wasn’t amused when he looked straight past her. His eyes glazed over and he stared into the distance. She persisted her voice raising an octave.
“Daddy what did you do in the Great War?”
Below her brother was playing with his toy soldiers and guns.
“Bang. Bang. You’re dead.”
Her Daddy continued to stare. Not at her at something or somewhere beyond her.
“Bang, Bang, Bang.”
The battle on the carpet was reaching its end. One side had won the other had lost as the toy soldiers either stood triumphant in victory or face down in defeat.
She tried to get her Daddy’s attention one more time.
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy. What did you do in the Great War?”
The door opened their nanny came in. It was time for bed. The children ran out leaving their father breathing in the present but living in the past.
Fiona Drane September 2013.
The above very short story was written in my creative writing course this week. Our teacher laid some photos that she had cut from magazines and encouraged us to write from the photos. This photo spoke to me straight away and the above few paragraphs were quickly written.
The photo hasn’t left my mind since. As many of you will know this photo was used as propaganda at the start of the first world war to encourage men to recruit making them tap into the glory of being a family hero and fighting for your family and country. It’s a clever poster and one I suspect that resulted in many men putting themselves forward only to die a gruesome and bloody death in the trenches or forced over the top at one of the battles like the Somme where they were simply cannon fodder for higher powers.
Why did it make me think? Well firstly the gift of hind sight is a marvellous thing. We know now that the reality of the first world war was that many men did not return. And those who did were traumatized and damaged by sights, sounds and smells that would haunt their dreams for the rest of their lives and before long their sons and daughters would be fighting it all over again in the Second World War. Today we are currently looking at wither there should be military action against Syria just like then its easy to believe the pro war supporters that state it will be quick action over in a few months. Will it? How many innocent people will die and what will happen as a result of this action? History teaches us again and again that there are consequences to war. Consequences that even the cleverest of politicians cannot see. Did they see in 1914 that the war would last four long years? The loss of life would be immense and that the last legacy on the living who returned would be dark? Did they know it would be a temporary peace and all too soon it would start again?
It made me think too about my profession. I work in Marketing and the poster is a marketing tool. It’s very clever tapping into emotions that we all have. To be heroes in the eyes of our children? But is it right? I don’t think so its manipulation and many of the men who reacted to this never returned to sit by the fire with their children on their lap and those that did were changed forever. Like any profession marketing can be used as a tool for good but it also as this shows can be used for manipulation. This is an extreme case but its a poignant lesson to make you stand back and look at what you do and analyse is it for the good of humanity and enhances life for others or is that not the case? Perhaps the phrase should be
“What did you do in your life to make life better for others?”.
Photo courtesy of vinmag.com http://www.vinmag.com/online/media/gbu0/prodlg/AP1182-daddy-what-did-you-do-in-the-great-war-poster-1910s.jpg