Gordon Jarvie’s childhood recollection acts as a coda to Remembrance weekend and last week’s sequence of poems on the theme of war.


I have the photo still:

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myself aged four, podgier

and more curly haired

than I have since become.


Dad stands behind

in smart black naval uniform,

hands resting upon my shoulders

for reassurance in a public place.


We’re flanked by my mother

in checked-tweed suit

and my grandmother in pleated dress.

Both wear hats. It’s an occasion.


In front of Palace gates and railings,

centrepiece to the ensemble,

I hold the medal in its opened case,

blue and white silk, a silver cross.


I remember no crowds

but a drab grey morning

luminous with excitement.

We were going to see the King.


I was hot and fidgeting

through the long ceremony,

but a tall guardsman lifted me

onto a high radiator for a better view.


There was a long queue

of men shaking the King’s hand,

talking with him, receiving their awards.

This was their big day.


‘What did he say?’

‘He asked me what I got it for.’

‘What did you say?’

‘For doing my duty, sir.’


He kept it many a year.

Then it was gone, stolen

by a door-to-door type

who preyed on the elderly gullible.


I have the black case still,

with empty, cross-indented velvet,

from Garrard’s, Goldsmiths,

Jewellers, &c, to the King.