The whole truce, and nothing but the truce

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Eight foot x 18ins radiator, excellent condition – by the way, it’s a century since the outbreak of the First World War.

The horror. The tragedy. Trench foot. Rats run o’er sleeping faces – the radiator is off-white, fixings attached. Half a man face up in a pool in a crater left by a howitzer shell. £40 ONO, must collect. Up to 50p of final fee will go to British Legion as a fig leaf.

What kind of awful human being am I? Cynically wielding images of murderous conflict merely to help rid myself of a humping great clod of iron that clutters the shed.

No better than Sainsbury’s!

Only joking. Obviously they’re worse. My glib attempt to flog scrap iron on the back of industrialised slaughter was clearly a joke, a jape, a whimsy. And one which would never have existed at all had said supermarket chain not decided to take the lead in this regard.

I would also point out that my use of the 1914-18 corpse mountain as a device to line my pockets did at least possess the virtue of absolute candour.

Waterlogged holes in the ground where desperate men live cheek by jowl with vermin and disease, death and anguish in every direction – and a steal at £40 ONO!

Maybe I will come to regard this as a strategic error. There actually is a radiator just as described for sale, and if the thing is still on my hands this time next week I might come to the conclusion Sainsbury’s got it right.

The grocers’ Great War, in sharp contrast is fought in a Winter Wonderland, by young handsome chaps, the English lead resembling an amalgam of Princes Wills and Harry, white gleaming snow puffs and billows as they play, play, play...

A glib parody of reality.

The Christmas truce this advert uses to peddle consumer goods took place in 1914 near Ypres. By then this area had already seen some of the war’s heaviest fighting and many hundreds of thousands had died. A handful of photographs of that short-lived peace survive. There is no snow. Just packed and blasted earth. Mud.

The truce extended all down the line, but games of football were rare. In most cases it amounted to a mutual agreement not to shoot as each side recovered the bodies strewn across No Man’s Land.

There were probably more joint services of burial than kickabouts.

But THAT’S not very festive, is it? That ain’t going to persuade you to fork out for a four bird roast.

So they contrived a fairytale.