I'm feeling quite proud at the moment. I'll explain. As I'm sure you all know, this year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first world war. Obviously, along with a lot of other European countries, this is a very significant anniversary for the UK. Over the past few months, and sometimes longer, a lot of projects all over the country have been put in place ready for the anniversary. In that, Somerset is no exception.
More than a year ago I was asked by the Somerset Heritage Service to give them advice about setting up a website, what job it should do and what content they should have. I was happy to do that for lots of reasons. I like working with the Heritage Service and have even done some volunteer work with them in the past. The result was http://somersetremembers.wordpress.com/blog/ .
Although I am very firmly a pacifist and always have been, I can't change the past, and we need to know about things like this war so that we don't make the same stupid mistakes in future (even so, a vain hope I think), so the war interests me too. On top of that, my grandfather actually fought in the war. He was posted in Palestine looking after and driving horses. When I was a child he used to tell me some stories about things that happened to him and people he met. Of course, because I was so young, he didn't tell me anything grim or horrific - and I'm sure there must have been things like that - but I did get a bit of a feel for his part in it all. Sadly, I don't remember most of what he said, which is a pity, and he hasn't been around to ask for a very long time, but I do feel a connection even now.
As part of the project I gave advice about, the Museum of Somerset is putting on an exhibition called Somerset Remembers the First World War. The exhibition opens this coming Saturday, and I hope it will be a great success. A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation to a posh opening evening this Friday. The exhibition will be opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, Lady Gass (no laughing at the back, please), and is quite a prestigeous event. I feel very honoured to have been invited. I'm also looking forward to actually seeing the exhibition.
Perhaps my fascination is because it was such a pointless, tragic conflict - really just a stupid family feud that got way out of hand and resulted in the deaths of millions of people and changed the world forever. I've recently read a lot about Russia's involvement - something that seems to be largely overlooked in western European history - an immense event in Russian history that partly led to the downfall of the monarchy and nobility, and the rise of the revolution.
Perhaps it's also because of my grandfather. We have lots of photographs of family members in their uniforms - my grandfather, his brothers, my great-grandmother's brothers and sisters - I intend to offer them to the project (to be recorded digitally) so that the sacrifice those people made doesn't fade away when there is no longer anyone around who remembers them.
Whatever the reason, I'm delighted to have been invited and look forward to attending, and reporting back.