From the Associate Priest - 27th May 2020 - Building Bridges

bridgeVE day may seem a long way back now, two weeks or so ago on the 8th May, but I'm quite sure some of you will remember it 75 years ago. I wonder what memories it brings up for you or your family members?

For my father it was a red-letter day, when as a young craftsman in REME he found himself with his team in Hamburg Docks, having 'liberated' some large containers of French wine. Enough said about that, but recently the French Government decided to give any surviving British Veterans of the Normandy Landings the Legion d'Honneur, and my father was one of the lucky ones. To his surprise, two french schoolgirls and their teachers also came to the ceremony at Blandford camp, in January last year. Letters were exchanged, cards sent, and a visit was made to their school in Caen. When Lockdown began in March, the students, aged 14-15, began sending the veterans they knew, their 'Lockdown Chronicles' from their experiences studying at home, wearing pyjamas all day, learning dance moves, and so on.

One of the girls sent a video of her activities via her teacher to my mobile phone; so Bill decided to send videos back, in English, of him potting up tomatoes, cooking, doing his art work and so on. Imagine my surprise when a team from Associated Press contacted me, to ask if they could make a feature item for the VE Day news, about a British Veteran and French teenagers swopping Lockdown stories. A film crew came, it was duly filmed in Bill's back garden with social distancing, and the young French girl, Marion, and her teacher, were interviewed in France. The teacher took the last frame, standing by Pegasus Bridge, with his Union Jack shoes, talking about making history now, and the importance of building living bridges of friendship. This particular bridge spans extreme age and youth, and different nationalities.

Jesus' final prayer was that his followers should all be one, united in heart and mind. So often we allow contact to break down, so that friendship and support cannot flow easily. During this Lockdown period I have learned again the importance of reaching out, forgiving others and myself for percieved failures, and seeing friendship flourish in different ways, because the old patterns of life have suddenly disappeared. And this is happening all over the world, everywhere that the disruption of Coronavirus is being felt. So perhaps today it would be good to take a moment and give thanks for the kindnesses received, the contacts around us, the unexpected helps in the way, and to be bridge builders ourselves.

Mary Ridgewell