Meeting report

24 April 2017

John Hicks

Simon Mortimer chose Anzac as the word of the day. Very appropriate for our Anzac – eve meeting.

Nicola Powell’s speech “Utilise the Commute” certainly fulfilled its required objective of "getting to the point". This was a charming, good humoured speech. We learned how Nicola uses the 240 hours a year she spends, driving to and from work, productively: by listening to educational podcasts (Joe Rogan?), or singing along to uplifting Disney songs (and not caring what fellow drivers think of this). As I understand it, her wish is to install Bluetooth so that she can be even more productive and follow up on phone calls. Would that require a trip to the dentist? Only asking ...

Alas, David Preston’s “Rome to Venice” was postponed. Instead he read from “Kiwi Down the Strada” a book which follows the fortunes of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the Italian Campaign in WW2. This was an interesting and appropriate reading, given the theme of our meeting, but I do hope that David's "Rome to Venice" doesn't suffer the same fate as Christchurch Cathedral. 

Simon’s agenda suffered another last-minute change but he adroitly switched into TTM mode and came up with some thoughtful topics on his Anzac theme. There were some thought-provoking responses, too. Carolyn Skerrett wondered why the Anzac spirit grows stronger, even as the survivors among those we commemorate become fewer.

I resorted to Google to find answers to some of the questions Simon posed.

Why the last post? "The 'Last Post' call originally signalled merely that the final sentry post had been inspected, and the camp was secure for the night. In addition to its normal garrison use, the Last Post call had another function at the close of a day of battle. It signalled to those who were still out and wounded or separated that the fighting was done, and to follow the sound of the call to find safety and rest."

Why poppies? The RSA site explains: "The use of the red poppy – the Flanders’ Poppy – as a symbol of remembrance derives from the fact that the poppy was the first plant to re-emerge from the churned-up soil of soldiers’ graves during the First World War.

"It was a poem by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian medical officer, which began the process by which the Flanders’ Poppy became immortalised worldwide as the symbol of remembrance.

"The inspiration for the poem had been the burial of a fellow officer during the Second Battle of Ypres in early May 1915. McCrae's verses, which had been scribbled in pencil on a page torn from his despatch book, were sent anonymously by a fellow officer to the English magazine, Punch, which published them under the title In Flanders Fields on 8 December 1915. Subsequently, the poem was published around the world to much acclaim and is one of the most memorable and moving poems of the Great War."

Stephen East gave a very useful General Evaluation which would have been especially useful for our newer members, because he concisely explained his view of how evaluations should be performed. 

It is Anzac`Day as I (JH) write, so John McCrae should have the last word:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.