Remembering A Stranger

The multi-million pound tourism monster in York takes a lot of stopping, or at least slowing, but this afternoon one of our country’s young fallen- blown up in Afghanistan- was honoured with a military funeral in the imposing Minster. Normally one of the city’s visitor hotspots, the magnificent building reverted to core business for an hour as 23 year old David Hart from Poppleton was remembered.

 I happened to be in York on other matters but watched the city come to a halt from a rather pleasant tearoom in High Petergate through immaculately clean windows.

 An old friend once confused me when he said ‘you can’t beat a good funeral’. Today I think I knew what he meant.

 As a solitary bell tolled across the city skyline Police quietly, and almost without noticing, brought the heaving tousrists to order as they made their way from the Museum Gardens to the Jorvik Centre.

Many didn’t have a clue as to what was going on until the hearse started to make its steady progress from the Minster out along Stonegate and off to the soldier’s home village.

 Not a word was uttered. There was no signal. All of a sudden everyone seemed to come to order. The café staff stopped working; the scone-scoffing grannies next to me stood up; drunks emerged out of pubs to steady and cross themselves; Yankee tourists took off their gaudily coloured baseball caps. Clearly there’s nothing like a death to unite the world.

For only two or three minutes York stood still. It was quite extraordinary to be a part of it. Suddenly you felt part of a crowd all feeling the same emotions. And the worst of it is that this is happening all the time, in towns and cities across the country. Makes you think doesn’t it.

 And then it was over. The teenagers from Italy- temporarily muzzled by their teachers- started their screeching, and the York tourism machine could swing back into action. And I returned to my cold cuppa.

 

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