Down to Ely to watch the Royal Anglian Regiment's Homecoming parade, this being the first battalion, The Vikings.
The weather was perfect; warm but not hot and with a lazy breeze. Cardigan weather for the casual, blazers and Panama hats for the more formal. What was surprising was the level of security and the police looking nervous, attending with camera vans. Having seen yesterday's coverage from East London, that might explain their fretfulness.
The Royal Anglians have the Freedom of the City, which means they do all the hard PR work of marching and carrying weapons while the folk clap politely and stand the poor devils a tea and sandwiches reception but only after they've performed for the kiddies, listened to the big-wigs whilst shouldering a rifle, waited for the veterans of the British Legion to form up, and risked their necks on the slippery stones of the nave of Ely Cathedral where their parade boots struggle to get a grip.
The market square and approach roads were gratifyingly full; the police did civilian crowd management while quietly-placed soldiers stood at the corners of the square watching, checking for trouble. Fortunately it is a place with plenty of exits; if you had to clear the area it wouldn't be difficult to do so but it could take a little while considering the number of slow-moving elderly and disabled people.
In the event nothing untoward happened, the crowd were happy to see the Regiment and were reminded that these are not clones grown in a lab somewhere; these fighters are from our families.
People with reservations about the conduct of the war behaved themselves in the traditional and correct fashion of these parts; they scowled and chose which statements to applaud. But they turned out to make it clear: whatever your political views, the soldiers are owed respect. It is high time that sentiment was demonstrated by guaranteeing the welfare of soldiers' families if the worst happens, and full support whatever else happens. It is relatively simple to enlist sympathy for the wounded and physically disabled where we can see the damage, but too many ex-service people are amongst the homeless, addicted or psychologically incapacitated.
Even when money is tight - especially when money is tight - it is reasonable to pick and choose your priorities for social care and these soldiers have earned their place at the head of the queue.
In the meantime, the Royal Anglian Regiment Benevolent Charity tries to respond within 24 hours to requests for help for former members and their families, which may make all the difference in a critical situation. You may care to donate money or sponsor a charity walker in July. If you are in East Anglia anytime between 16-25 July, you may wish to join the walk for a while and make a donation to do so.