“They’re war medals, love!” he said, pointing to the string of metal hanging from his chest.
For my foreign friends, today was, of course, Anzac Day, where Australia remembers its war dead. Sort of like 6 October in Egypt, but less glory-obsessed.
There was a good turnout at my local cenotaph, the memorial found in every town commemorating the local sons and daughters who have died for their country. There was a respectable showing of old blokes with their pressed trousers and medals, some smart older ladies with set hair and nice hats, and quite a lot of young teens wearing what most likely was their great-grandfathers medals and slouch hats. A few blokes with plenty of tatts and shaved heads had the look of Vietnam veterans about them, and amongst the flags was the banner for the Royal Australian Regiment, Second Battalion, which has served in Malaya, Borneo, Korea and Vietnam.
I remember being hauled off to Anzac Day parades when I was a kid, so it was the first time for the Jackson junior to get a dose. Admittedly, she’s a little too young to understand, but she kept quiet during the Last Post and the hymns, curled up against me in the baby carrier.
Later, as we walked away, we passed a very tall old Scottish man, leaning on his walking frame. The cheeky baby pulled a face at the old soldier. “I wish someone’d carry me,” he said, and trundled down the hill to the RSL (Returned Soldiers’ League) hall to play two-up.