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SUMMER 2015 - We meet our Waterloo

So, having missed the original battle by the small margin of a couple of centuries, I opted for the next best thing, and signed up to seats at the re-enactment of this most famous of conflicts, one in fact that has been written about more often than any other in recorded history (Gettysburg being the second such event.)

Only trouble was – Management organises Village Day down our manor, which was scheduled for the same weekend and she tolerates no absenteeism therefrom – this was a dilemma.

I steeled myself to broach the subject of my absence from Village Day due to the need for me to satisfy the calling of my military forebears and represent them in the flesh at what promised to be a spectacle the like of which one would not see again, perhaps ever – thousands of people descending on the same Belgian fields where exactly 200 years before, 190,000 infantry, artillery and cavalry crammed themselves into a mile and a half square with the express purpose of killing each other in the name of their country.

A lot of myths about Waterloo exist – for a start, most of the Allied army under Wellington weren’t British, the Prussians (now Germans), who to use a footballing analogy, turned up after extra time but scored the winning goal, list Waterloo as a German triumph and Wellington never said “Up guards and at ‘em!” – apparently it was something far more in keeping with the aristo’s taciturn manner: “Now Maitland, now’s your time!“ Clearly Brigadier Peregrine Maitland was used to such vernacular and didn’t interpret this message as having been summarily dismissed from his post or that his laundry was finished and instead gathered up the troops and they charged down the hill waving bayonets, shouting expletives and ensuring Europe was a safer place for all except the French for many years to come.

Now, you may ask why I’m even bothering blogging this to my three readers, but here’s the thing – despite my good lady loving Village Day as much as she hated the idea of decamping to Brussels, traversing battlefields, climbing up the Butte de Lion, (it’s a monument!) and listening to gory stories of carnage and slaughter – she moved Village Day (she’s that powerful) to the weekend before, so she and la famille could accompany moi to the great event. That is what I call love.

Mind you, after repeated moans of ‘I’m tired’ and ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘can we go back to the hotel now?’ (this when we were halfway to Hougoumont – the Holy Grail for all Waterlooers) I confess to becoming exceedingly grumpy with the whole lot of ‘em but cheered up after we managed to get round most of the sights, ate lots of steak and chips, and watched with fascination as people from all over the world (I kid you not) descended on the area, dressed in the most amazing and stunningly accurate costumes. There were chasseurs in the toilets and gunners in the bar, colonels in cafes and Prussians putting their towels on the best seats – (nothing changes!).

I wonder what event our descendants will be celebrating in 2215? One can’t help feeling we’re advancing in years but going backwards in many respects. I remember (and it wasn’t so very long ago) when things got done, correctly – you could also ‘phone your local bank or find a policeman when you needed one – fat chance that happens now. If people accidentally drove into your car when it was parked, you returned to find a note from the perpetrator confessing his error, plus two more from witnesses testifying it was all his fault, along with their contact details, theatre tickets and an invitation to dinner.

That doesn’t happen much now either. Instead, you return to your car to find a dent in it and, as famously happened to one poor soul, a note telling the owner that the person responsible was surrounded by a crowd of people who thought he was writing his details down, but he wasn’t!

I would think that of every electronic file we open, probably a third have some error, ranging from the trivial to the egregious, made by those who work for big organisations that care less and less for their staff and more and more for their profits, with the result that the staff care less and less about the job. Their desire is to get shot of the paperwork in the fastest time possible and as Josephine said to Napoleon, we all know what happens when you rush things.

We deal with some great people who we know are conscientious and efficient so we cling to them for grim death but it’s sad that less and less pride goes into what people should be proud of doing, making a difference. If we all started thinking like that, the Waterloo spirit may well prevail which, provided we don’t end up killing each other, wouldn’t be such a bad thing – would it?