Friday, 25 April 2014

We've boundless plains to share - lest we forget

The alarm went off at 4:45am and I was immediately awake, despite being mid-dream. I could hear light rain falling on the corrugated roof and my resolve to attend the ANZAC Day dawn service in Tamworth nearly crumbled. I pressed on. We drove through the streets, deserted until we neared ANZAC Park, found a park and walked towards the crowd assembled in the pre-dawn.

Wreaths laid in Tamworth at the dawn service for ANZAC Day.
Copyright 2014 divacultura
The rain had stopped. The service was conducted with moving simplicity. The crowd was asked to join in for the hymn, "Abide with Me". I did, but couldn't hear many others. The bugler played "The Last Post", lacking power, volume and confidence, but adding in lots of notes not usually heard in the piece. (Bugles are very hard to play, especially if you're nervous or emotional.) The gentle morning warble of magpies filled the silences.

A piper played something I didn't recognise on the bagpipes and the kookaburras thought it was hilarious. My brother and I found that hilarious and had to avoid looking at each other to avoid ruining the solemnity of the moment. Meanwhile the kookaburras laughed and laughed and laughed.

Both verses of the national anthem, "Advance Australia Fair" were sung, including the lines about welcoming people who come here from across the sea: "we've boundless plains to share". There were a few more voices joining in this time.

Flag at half mast as the dawn breaks in Tamworth this morning.
Copyright 2014 divacultura
We dispersed just as the sky was beginning to lighten. People staying to talk, look at the wreaths, while others took off to find their sometimes precariously parked cars.

We went back into town later for the march down Peel Street. As the bands played, the servicemen and women, and children from every school in Tamworth, paraded before an appreciative crowd. Overhead, planes flew in a formation that looked like the outline of an aeroplane itself. Tiny children, weighed down by the medals of a deceased relative, walked restlessly; others looked curiously at the crowd while waving, delighted to receive the occasional reciprocal wave.

I was heartened to hear that all but a handful of Australia's servicemen and women are back home. I hope the others return soon and that there is no need for them to go away again unless in a community assistance role. We are fortunate. I hope that today's reflection may cause our community to be appreciative of the fact that our citizens can generally live safely and peacefully, acknowledging that this is not the case for all people in the world.  I hope that we can extend our hands to those people and be true to the words of our national anthem. Lest we forget.

Advance Australia Fair
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

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