A Thousand Stars Away

Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium.

Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium. (P. Ferguson image, September 2013)

Visiting Talbot House 2013 

Sometimes it is worthwhile letting some time pass by. It’s an opportunity for better reflection and gathering those thoughts that have laced their way through our day until this moment when at long last it is time to sit down and put virtual type to virtual paper.

The most memorable visit on our recent sojourn to France and Flanders was a stop at Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium. It was here that soldiers of the Great War were able to get away, even if momentarily, from the harsh realities of the frontlines in the Ypres Salient.

As I stand at the front of the building I look upwards to the sign dated 1915 – ? The last time I was here the building was covered with scaffolding but this time we are told of a side entrance whereby we gain entry into this wonderful site. It is filled, from the outset, with the hearts and souls of those who have passed through here from 1915 – 1918. It was here that soldiers gathered for a bit…and then returned to the scorched and twisted landscape…some never to pass this way again.

Lettering on the stairs: EXCELSIOR, ONCE AGAIN! A COMPANION - LADDER THIS TIME, LEADING TO A LOFT. / PERHAPS 100,000 HAVE CLIMBED THESE STAIRS - BEFORE YOU, AND BEFORE / GOING UP THIS LINE. HERE YOUR ARE ON HOLIER GROUND THAN ANY.

Lettering on the stairs: EXCELSIOR, ONCE AGAIN! A COMPANION – LADDER THIS TIME, LEADING TO A LOFT. / PERHAPS 100,000 HAVE CLIMBED THESE STAIRS – BEFORE YOU, AND BEFORE / GOING UP THIS LINE. HERE YOU ARE ON HOLIER GROUND THAN ANY.

I was immediately taken with the house and its furnishings and signs. It is here that the Great War is at peace today. I remember climbing about the stairs, looking at the rooms and then to the stairs leading to the loft. The stairs were rather pitched and narrow, but still we managed to climb into the loft where church services continue to be performed.  After having watched, in another part of the building, a short film on Talbot House troop entertainments, we settled onto some chairs and it was here that our guide brought her words to us, creating an even greater sense of this place. “Twenty years ago there were veterans here. Their eyes, a thousand stars away. They don’t see you. They see other things”. (Annette, Camalou Tours) These words continue to remind me what Talbot House meant to those who visited during the Great War, and how their experiences have shaped some of us fortunate to have met a few of those witnesses to the war to end all wars.

Holier Ground Than Any. The loft at Talbot House.

Holier Ground Than Any. The loft at Talbot House. (P. Ferguson image, September 2013)

Sometimes the Stars
The Audreys
(Adelaide, Australia, 2010)

Here I am confessing, you’re lost to me now
I’m on a train telling strangers, about you
How you’re still looking fine
How you ease my worried mind
Long, summers and wine
Yeah, you saved me

But sometimes the stars seem closer than they should
Like the more I knew, the less I understood
And the further that you got from me
The more I felt like I could see
The more I wondered if I should trust the stars
‘Cause sometimes the stars

Here I am obsessing, that I lost you somehow
On a train full of strangers, and you
Every star look the same
All of those faces without names
They all drifted away
Is that when you left me?

‘Cause sometimes the stars seem closer than they should
Like the more I knew, the less I understood
And the further that you got from me
The more I felt like I could see
The more I wondered if I should trust the stars
‘Cause sometimes the stars


About The Author

pferguson
Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

Comments

One Response to “A Thousand Stars Away”

  1. pferguson pferguson says:

    Late yesterday evening (April 20, 2018) I discovered that the video, originally with this blog, was no longer available. The video was of Harry Patch’s visit to Poperinge, Toc H and to a nearby chocolate shop. I have often thought about this clip, his visit and voice. Today’s update, after some while searching, I discovered this fine song by the Australian band, The Audreys….the lyrics are reflective, wandering and I am always searching.

    Private Harry Patch died July 25, 2009 at the age of 111 years, 1 month and 1 day. During the Great War he served with the 7th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry as an assistant gunner with the Lewis Gun section. Harry Patch was wounded September 22, 1917 at Passchendaele during the Third Battle of Ypres. Years later he said, “I’ve tried for 80 years to forget it, but I can’t”

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