Alan and I went to see The King’s Speech, set at the start of World War Two, last night. When we go to a movie, we stay right through the credits. Gaffers and stand-ins can take comfort in the fact that someone, somewhere is seeing their name on the big screen.
As we were watching, there was the usual post-movie shuffling around as people gathered up their coats and popcorn boxes and started heading for the exits. Behind us, a woman with an English accent said, “Ooooh, that sound sends a chill down my spine even now… Did the sirens sound the same on your side?”
And her friend, with an eastern European accent, explained that she never really heard air-raid sirens until afterwards. But then, of course, “they turned us over to the Russians…”
They chatted a bit more about their experiences. The English lady lived in a big city, where bombings were frequent. Her friend lived in a small town, up in the mountains of Czechoslovakia.
As they made their way out of the theatre, I said to Alan, “Want to follow history?” and we walked out after them, at a discreet distance. They were two old ladies. They reminded me of my Mum.
I bet that, in the midst of those dark and frightening times, with the bombs and the sirens for one and then the repression and the fear for the other, they never thought that time would pass, that one day they would be old and safe, going to a movie with a friend who once was the enemy, chatting about a shared experience, the divisions that once seemed so important rendered irrelevant by old age and the losses that entails.
We all think that this time we’re in, right here, right now is the end of time. We say things like, I never thought I’d end up here…
But we haven’t. We haven’t ended up, we don’t end up, until we’ve actually ended. Whatever bombs seem to be falling on our lives will, eventually, stop. And, yes, there will be reminders, the sound of sirens will send a chill down our spine, but chances are, we will be safe and warm, in the company of a good friend who may have once been the enemy, or merely a stranger, giving a lesson in history and in life to two avid students on a random Wednesday evening.