April 6, 2020
By Arthur H. Gunther III
There is understatement in almost everything British, and that may be because life’s storms are, indeed, best met by “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The Blitz, almost 15 years of war rationing, great economic and social change and now both the challenges of Brexit, and, more important the coronavirus, have demanded, demand again, a people’s resolve.
John Lyons of Hartlepool, off the North Sea, my grandfather, set such a tone. When we visited his town, attacked during the First World War by offshore Germans who could have included some of my other European relatives, there was residual reminder of the loss of lives more than 100 years ago now. A museum dedicated to that history stands by the rail line bound north to Scotland.
The British, especially the older lot, do not forget hardship, however stiff the upper lip. On certain Sundays in London, on war memorial days, you still see chaps with sport coats and suit jackets that have commendation medals affixed. These men, and women, proudly and with upright posture, stroll, whether in Lambeth Walk or elsewhere.
Endurance, survival are the unseen medals on those chests, and the civilians who lost kin and home in the Blitz and later V2 rocket attacks wear them too.
The British tradition of tea drinking also is a badge of courage and survival. Any tense moment has its cup of tea, and even a glance at the cozy or the kettle can lower the blood pressure. My late mother, daughter of an Englishman and an Irish mom, all too soon an orphan at age 8 and with a tough life in the Great Depression, would not be without her tea in the proper Irish way, with a dash of milk (substituted by condensed, canned milk during the American war rations time).
In this long moment of the spreading coronavirus, with the sad passing of some and the hardships, each of us has a reference to those who came before and endured. It is at least comfort to think back and nod in respect and remember that others have stayed calm and carried on.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. firstname.lastname@example.org