As with many other people these days the residents in Pavers Place have been playing out their issues with each other, in full view of the rest of the public, on Facebook. I confess to being confused by this particular social medium, it can bring such joy; announcements made by those you love, uplifting photos and often funny images, and then suddenly a few people get annoyed with each other and there it is for all to see.
This particular spat in the street revolved around Armistice day. There was a ceremony in the town on Remembrance Sunday which most people attended, standing in reverent silence, deep in thought. On Wednesday, the eleventh of November, Gary and Harry had decided that at eleven o’clock the tills would stop ringing, people would no longer be served and the shop would stand in contemplative silence with the rest of the country. There had been some discussion between the brothers about the phrase remembrance, Harry having some difficulty with the fact that he couldn’t remember something he didn’t witness, but Shane the vicar, who had been privy to this conversation, came to the rescue, suggesting that Harry should just focus on thinking about all those who had given their lives.
At eleven o’clock, although the Spar had no customers, Harry and Gary did fall quiet, somewhat strangely the people walking in the street also stopped and stood in silence. Ken emerged from the barbers and stood with his head bowed next to Reg, Margaret and Catherine who did the same, and Jacinta came out of her house to join them. I watched from the street, it was a strange spectacle and I had to pull my eyes away in order to focus on thinking about those who had died.
It would appear that Mand had not received the message about the silence, about thirty seconds into the two minutes she emerged from her house and saw her friends stood like statues.
‘You lot alright? What you like doing?’
Jacinta gave her a harsh look and made a zipping motion across her mouth, this had the effect of making Mand more vocal.
‘Alright Jacinta, don’t be narky, why ain’t you talking, has something happened, is it my Garthy?’
Jacinta’s eyes rolled heavenward and she looked towards the others for support, Reg jabbed at the poppy that was attached to his jacket and then pointed to the one that was pinned to Mand’s coat. This seemed to confuse her further and she looked down at the paper flower.
‘Has someone declared another war?’ Her voice had become small and she took on the expression of a frightened child.
The two minutes came to an end and in unison the group berated Mand for forgetting to be quiet and show her respect. She was clearly upset, ‘I’m sorry alright, I just forgot, it don’t mean I don’t respect them like’, and with that she stormed off.
The whole discussion should have ended there but Reg took to Facebook to proudly proclaim that he and Marg had observed the two minutes silence in the street, unlike some people. Catherine and Jacinta added a thumbs up to this comment and then made further snipes of their own. The messages continued to build up for some time, with words from people who neither lived in the road nor knew Mand. In the end the nasty comments were brought to an abrupt end by Ken, who announced that the people of the two world wars did not die so that people could berate each other on a computer, and that we should be trying to live in peace in their name. He posted this with an image of a white poppy, which received many thumbs up signs.
On Friday night the evening news burst into life with terrible images of atrocities committed in Paris, against people simply enjoying a night out. Mand, who had not been seen since Wednesday, posted a message on Facebook, ‘Those poor people in Paris, I’d like to think of them’. One by one the residents gathered in the streets, they stood together in a small group, Reg holding Mand’s hand as they bowed their heads. Ken initiated two minutes silence with the words, ‘We are thinking of them’, and the positive power that can be Facebook finally took its hold.