Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A morning seminar that was much shorter than expected meant that I was in Stockton High St at 11 this morning. It seemed appropriate to mark the 2 minute silence at the cenotaph rather than in some random shop doorway, so I made my way there. A group of primary school children had been brought to join in, there were men who had survived war and others who'd had relatives involved. Quite a large number in fact, paying our tribute to the people who've lost their lives or their loved ones to war.
Then, tonight, browsing for a few minutes around the world wide web I discovered that my Great Uncle, whom I never knew, had been a gunner stationed at Newcastle for a year before being sent to join the newly formed Tank Corps and fighting across and among the trenches of the Western Front. He survived and came home to his wife, though what happened to them then I don't know.
Between those two events I was fortunate to be able to accompany the Mayor of Stockton to a very thought provoking lecture on the role of engineers in combating climate change. What's that to do with Remembrance? Only that the man elected as chairman of the local branch of the Institution of Civil Engineers couldn't be there tonight - he was otherwise engaged with the army in Iraq, serving a tour of duty. I hope he's safe tonight.
His replacement as chairman welcomed us and explained the situation. It reminded me that many years ago the teenager who eventually became my husband was contemplating joining the army as an engineer. He was warned that engineers didn't have an easy life in war - they build the bridges that enable others to get to the front line was one comment. In the end he decided that army life wasn't the career he wanted and so we didn't experience the worries, pain and separations which might have been our lot.
It was good to hear an engineer talking about using timber and stone where possible in place of steel and concrete - reducing the carbon footprint of a building at a stroke by keeping the carbon captured in the timber in place and by not having to generate huge amounts of power to manufacture the modern replacements. His one big complaint was that the timber harvested in this country isn't being laid down to season properly and so hardwoods in particular are being imported - increasing their carbon footprint. I look forward to that changing in the future.

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