The rocky road to Dartmoor- paying homage GTG style
Greetings and welcome to another week of globetrotting shenanigans. As previously hinted, many of us, particularly in the Western world will have heritage spread across the globe and this means a hand in the significant events of history. My great – great grandfather was a soldier in the 16th battle of the Somme (WW1), this week your GTG invites you to tag along on my journey to the grave where he lies.
On an overcast day off work in Edinburgh I found myself wandering the floors of the National museum of Scotland then standing face to face with the bagpipes that sent George McKintyre’s regiment into battle on the day he was killed. The emotion unexpectedly hit me like a demolition ball and I started weeping over the loss of the father my nan barely knew.
A short while later It came time to prepare for a visit to my beloved friend Claire In Paris and a plan started to hatch. It dawned on me that I would have some free time and that my grandmother had previously made some efforts to track down that part of the family and where they ended up. I rustled the grapevine into action and began piecing together the vital information that would see me embark on a four hour journey each way, to spend under an hour coming full circle.
8am and Gare Du Nord was sighing with the morning lull, a similar feeling to the day before when I had gone on my fact finding mission and to test the smooth running of the connecting trains (or so I thought). A coffee and croissant in hand I was ready for the journey to the beautiful Northern city of Amiens, the second stop on my way. Paris passed from both view and memory as the train carried me in and out of sleep and through countryside that possessed all the unique radiance you might expect from Northern France.
On arrival in Amiens the temptation to wander and lose myself for the day was only just overcome by the task I had at hand. My objective here was to source a map of the area and gain more specific instructions for reaching my final destination. Frustratingly, most of my time here was spent reassuring people I knew the name of where I wanted to go followed by the ‘helpful’ feedback that I was not currenty there. Finally I arrived at the tourist information centre and managed to gain both at once.
My next stop was the village of Albert, the closest point by train to the cemetary and waiting (again) at Amiens station I could barely contain my eagerness to travel that next twenty minutes. Then in Albert I asked the friendly staff at the small train station to help me order a taxi that would allow me to meet my return train (one hour later). I could feel my pulse racing and was oblivious to the cold as I jumped in for the final 10 minutes down the road. As we followed each gentle bend my keen eyes scanned each passing object untill finally we slowed on approaching the sign marked Dartmoor cemetery.
The taxi left, and I panned my surroundings, realising I was the only person as far as the eye could see. The privacy of that open space gave me a peacful mind as I entered the serenity of sleeping sacrifice. Following my momentous anxiety in finding the right headstone, I collapsed to my knees in contemplation. During my waking moments on the train I had prepared a message in letter form. I transribed my love on behalf of my family, the respect I have for my great grandmother and what a formidable woman and role model she was. I thanked him for his sacrifice and left the folded page with him for as long as it would last, shed a few more happy tears of fulfillment, and upon signing the visitor’s log readied myself for the return to reality.
Of course that was a snippet of the story. the dramtic climax of which was me standing there and waiting for my return taxi that was so late I nearly missed my return train to Paris in the end but overall an amazing experience that I would not trade, on that note happy globetrotting and untill next week.