Arriving in Ieper among hordes of noisy Belgian schoolchildren was a pleasant surprise! The town is a lot bigger than I remembered but thankfully our hotel is only a short walk from the station, past the Cloth Hall and towards the Menin Gate. In fact, after checking in and before eating we paid a visit to the Gate, to the strains of a couple of pipers warming up for the evening sundown ceremony.
The weight of names on this enormous monument is oppressive - more so, at dusk, than when I'd last seen the massively inscribed walls in the midday sun well over a decade ago. But as darkness falls and the carved initials, surnames, ranks and regiments gradually fade from view the fact that these marks in stone are all that remain of several hundred thousand men seems as oppressive as the gathering gloom. It's impossible to comprehend, fully. Or rather, it is possible to comprehend - but not to cope, emotionally, with that comprehension.
Tomorrow is another day. We, at least, get one. They, poor buggers, don't or didn't or didn't get many or anywhere near enough. They didn't even get a grave. Just this mass memorial, a massive monument to madness.