Oh how I envy the wonderful confidence bordering on naivety shown by Newmarket’s Adam Burns and his mates as they trek 2,000 miles to see England play in the World Cup. “They hope to get tickets when they arrive,” said our report. Just like that.And such is the sublime assurance of youth that they probably will.
Jeff Heilbein’s enchanting memory of how as a boy in Canada he watched our Bill Tutte “working on puzzles over milk and cookies” brought the quiet hero to life for me in a way no other words have. Those who win wars with their brains are not to be found in ‘Spitfires or swigging Scotch in mess bars. They quietly sip milk and nibble biscuits. But they win, all the same. I was thinking along these lines when I scanned the obituary of Albert Grimster the long-retired Newmarket GPO engineer. It said, almost in passing, that he “took part in the Arctic convoys”. Those five words opened up a whole panorama of hardship, courage and heroic endurance. So what did his obit say about what Albert the Navy hero liked to do when there was no war to win? “He enjoyed tending his allotment … and taking holidays.” Like Bill Tutte, he was infuriatingly unheroic in his manner. When I see a hero strut, I smell a rat.
Susan Taylor spoke for all of us as she said with a sigh: “When you are older and wiser you wish you had listened but it doesn’t mean anything to you when you are 14.” She was speaking of her father, Henry Rouse, the Soham blacksmith whose Great War memorabilia as a frontline farrier she has offered for display in this centenary year. The heart of the problem is that we almost all fail to register the recollections of our elderly loved ones because we believe there will be countless other occasions when we can pay proper heed. We put it off. Then, almost before we know it, the chance has gone. For ever.