I had actually resolved that over Remembrancetide, as it is sometimes called these days, I would refrain from being rude about pop-culture sentimentalisatiuons of the War. I feel guilty about attacking the beliefs of simple folk, if only because it makes them so annoyed.
A poor chap on an Elvis Costello fan forum was reduced to such helpless rage by my critique of his hero’s song “You Hung the Moon” that he resorted to vulgar abuse, calling me an “insipid dick”. Similarly, a furious reader of my ancient post about Michael Morpurgo’s dreadful Private Peaceful today shamed himself or herself by fuming that I am idiot.
I don’t mind for myself, you understand – I’ve been called worse than that in my time – but I feel sorry for these poor naïve folks driven incoherent by anger when their assumptions are questioned.
So, out of kindness, I had resolved that for a couple of weeks I would lay off pop representations of the War. Unfortunately I opened At Some Disputed Barricade by the novelist Anne Perry.
Its first sentence describes what a group of British soldiers saw one evening on the Western Front in 1917:
“The sun was sinking low over the waste of no-man’s-land…”
Er – weren’t the Germans coming from the East…?