I wasn’t going to blog for, oh, days and days. Days and blinkin’ days. But then I remembered something and two pieces of my life slotted together with a satisfying clunk and a snug fit;
One of the really enjoyable things about my brief tenure in the British Army was marching. I loved it. Annoyingly I marched only in the first few months of my service because, once posted to a Military Police Company we never marched again.
But in Basic Training, and then in the Military Police training, marching mattered. We’d shamble onto the parade ground every morning, wondering only if we’d be in time for a bacon buttie come Naafi break, not a thought in our woolly heads but complaint and grumble and dissatisfaction. We would be called to order, shrug into a semblance of a squad, and the drill would begin. Within minutes the day seemed brighter, our minds focussed, all senses alert.
If you’ve never been a part of a marching platoon, on a crisp English morning, maybe you think it would be a soul-less experience. Not so. Listen, come back with me to a day in, oh, I don’t know… maybe it was ’67: I am in the outer rank of a small squad, marching on a parade ground in Chichester. I can see the head and shoulders of Charmaine in front of me and, framing her, the sky. I am aware of the person in front of her, like a second outline as we take the right foot step. Eyes front, straight ahead. This is all I need to see. I have trust in the process. The rhythm of our identical steps keep my world view steady. I can hear only the sharp, clear beat of our feet on the tarmac, a single sound, now, now, now, now. Our arms move as one, and I sense them rather than see them. I imagine the air billowing around us as we sweep it upwards, downwards, in unity. Our unity our strength. We’re waiting for a voice, and when it comes there’s a rhythm to the words, a rhythm matching the ringing sharpness of our steps. ‘Le… eft turn!’ and as one our heels kick down, our bodies swivel, and the rhythm returns. No echo, no stutter of sound. Crisp. United. And delight slips in… my breaths deepen, my shoulders straighten, I can hardly hide my smile. I could do this for ever. March into eternity.
I am part of you and you are part of me. Together we make up a strange creature, moving smoothly, strongly, beautifully. If I miss a step, you will miss a step, so I miss nothing. Eyes focussed straight ahead, senses alert, ears strained, no longer a single being but a part of you as you are part of me. Trusting the voice of command, rejoicing in my position here, in the ranks, full of joy to be a part of this beast, this new creature with so many beating hearts. My part is small. Listen for the command. The music of marching feet. Unite. Trust. Celebrate. Smile and breathe deeply, appreciate everything, be aware of everything, enjoy. Know that you are part of something wonderful. Trust and obey.