Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I reviewed the current socially-distanced format of The Archers. Tina reviewed The Silence by Susan Allott, set in England and Australia. Jean read a collection of Celtic literature, A Celtic Miscellany, edited by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson.
Did anyone catch the 75th anniversary VJ Day observance on BBC’s YouTube channel? VJ Day marks the Victory in Japan that ended World War II. The UK observes this date on August 15, when the surrender was announced. The US waits until September 2, when the documents were signed on the USS Missouri.
The British celebration honored veterans of the war who fought in Asia, including a tribute to Vera Lynn who died this summer after living long enough to see her songs anchor the VE celebration in May.
The VJ Day concert was performed at Horse Guards Parade in London where the buildings were used as a giant screen. It’s an impressive show and also tender, sentimental, and nostalgic.
I worry about nostalgia when the topic is war, especially a war that ended in the dropping of nuclear bombs. On the other hand, I enjoy opportunities to share tenderness and sentiment with my fellow human beings and they don’t come up often enough for me. So, it’s a balance of contradictions. That used to feel like a bother and a buzzkill, but now I’m old enough to have improved my abilities to hold contradictory thoughts at the same time. It’s worth the effort to acknowledge the complexity.
The concert did manage to tamp down some of the “glory of Britain” sentiment that sometimes seeps into these kinds of events.
The glory of Britain is on display in an old movie that I watched this week — The Little Princess with Shirley Temple. It’s an American film with, mostly, American actors. But, like the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, it is set in Victorian London. The establishing shot is a close-up sweep from Tower Bridge to the Tower of London. I imagine that it would have been too expensive, in 1939, to recreate a flyover of the London skyline from 40 years previously.
I saw this movie when I was young, but after I’d read the book. It was probably one of my first experiences of being acutely aware of the differences between the two and having difficulty deciding whether I preferred the book or the movie.
I have to be somewhat forgiving of the simplified version of war given that the recipient of explanations is 9-year-old Sara Crewe. And, the film does show the very real suffering of a child of a soldier sent into harm’s way.
The patriotism, also, can be explained by the timing of the film — made in 1939 as World War II began in Europe.
Still, the two experiences together had me wondering how we humans can find ways to be both patriotic and peace-loving, proud of things that work well in our societies and humble enough to appreciate other approaches and perspectives. That feels like good work for 21st-century humans.