The countryside looks and feels like it’s mid September. The harvest in southern England is almost complete, leaving golden fields of stubble set against the dusty greens of the hedgerows and the brown lawns of our gardens. And what a harvest it is, with many farmers achieving record yields in near-perfect growing conditions. The year is so far ahead of itself that it seems strange that the swallows are still with us. There will also be a bumper crop of blackberries and my outdoor tomatoes are ripening so fast that, for once, they won’t all need to be turned into green-tomato chutney.

I spent Sunday watching my eldest son play cricket. It was a relaxed village game with plenty of joshing between the young men on a day hotter than any we’d had on our summer holiday in Africa. Mums and dads made the teas or poured the beer. The girlfriends worked on their tans and their iPhones.

One hundred years ago, these boys would soon have been heading for war, the thump of leather on willow replaced by the boom of the guns. A generation was set to be torn from its family and friends. What can it have been like it?

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