This is the last Christmas and New Year that I will spend with my Berryman ancestors, reading their letters, adding photographs and links, selecting a couple of hundred characters to tweet.
We have about 45 letters to go as the Berrymans ease into peace: some from Ted as he tries to get home to marry Nell, a few from Topher as he waits to be demobbed, and some from Paul in the late 1920s which suggest General Swan was right to be cautious entrusting him with Nancy’s happiness.
I will miss them. It’s not given to us to know our grandparents as peers, and working with these letters has enabled me to get to know my grandparents and their siblings as young men and women.
One thing I have learned from Ted’s time in Mesopotamia (Iraq) is that the decisions made by politicians cascade down the centuries. There is a straight line, drawn by Sykes and Picot, from the end of WW1 to the terrorists we are dealing with now and the wars they have involved us in. So…. Brexit. There are many opinions on Brexit, but the perspective of these letters makes it clear that our children will be living with the consequences – whatever they are – for centuries. And that in the words of the RAF, poor planning makes for piss poor performance. We have elected politicians on all sides who play games as if they have no consequences when their actions are very consequential indeed.
On the domestic level, may I share a picture I found last year showing me as an infant, locking eyes with Ted as an elderly man and doting grandfather, while my sister looks on. I did not know if any picture existed showing the two of us together and as the project progressed it became more and more important for me to find one. This gives me a deep and warm delight.
Let me wish you and everyone you love the happiness and safety in 2019 that Ted and his brothers fought for 100 years ago.