Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Beatles, Braveheart, and the Greatest Generation

Leaving Dublin, we sailed across to Liverpool,  the the next stop on our magical mystery tour. I'd booked a Beatles tour and we were met at the ship's terminal by our taxi driver, Rob. A knowledgeable and affable fellow.  Our 3 hour tour included stops at the childhood homes, Penny Lane, Strawberry Field (actually a girls' orphanage where John use to climb a tree to watch them undress), the church with Eleanor Rigby's grave out back, the church where John and Paul first met, and endless trivia and stories shared by our cabbie. Naturally between locations he played the song that best connected to our next stop.

 I was fascinated by the fact that Paul claims he made up the name Eleanor Rigby, that he'd never seen the gravestone or heard the name at all. That her name on that marker is a coincidence. Yet, given what we know about how much information the brain takes in that we are unaware of it seems very likely he saw it at some point and registered it in some unconscious way.

Then it was on to Glasgow, Belfast,  Edinburgh, and Invergordon:

There is one stop left on the places list, Normandy. As if to match your post about your visit to Arlington National Cemetary, I have the transatlantic companion. There aren't really any words to describe the feeling of the place. But my experience was profound in ways I didn't expect.  Beaches famous for fierce fighting and massive loss of life are now strewn with running children spending the day by the sea with sunbathing parents. Photos of beautiful landscapes marred by barbed wire. A carousel at the site of more heroic deeds and loss of life. 
 Arromanches-les-Bains (Gold Beach on D-Day) 

At Normandy American Cemetery

 Omaha Beach. The tour buses are lined up and tourists, mostly of a certain age visit the site and read the memorials. Pictures are taken, with no one exactly sure whether or not it is appropriate to smile in them. It seems like a sacred place.

Then just beyond where you see that stone monument there are steps going down to the beach. It took me by surprise to see these happy French families enjoying a holiday, children running and playing, parents laughing, sunning. I stood on the steps and looked up at older tourists, mostly American, pointing and discussing the historical significance of the place. I looked down and saw what could easily have been any beach in the world. I wondered what those men who died here would think of that. I could imagine that they might tell us that was exactly what they'd fought here for. After all what better memorial could there be than those free French children. I couldn't help but think that if they are aware of it, it would surely make them smile.

 The following pictures are taken in and around the machine gun nest at Pointe du Hoc:

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