Sitting either side of this canal, drenched in a sunlight which burst in intervals through clouds dark with rain, was a pair of pill boxes – gun emplacements guarding road and river from enemy tank advancements.
More real in concrete than a cinema could ever communicate, these defences formed part of a line which stretched across Wiltshire and Berkshire – the Ironside line – and stood as a rapidly constructed response to the imminent and highly likely prospect of a German invasion.
Nowadays, they sit quietly beside a winding lane. Bar a plaque at their front, there’s little to show the significance of these hulks of brick.
Look what’s around them, though, and it’s clear to see exactly what they were protecting: the freedom of nature, the rural beauty not just of Britain but of a world without prejudice, and the liberty to cruise one’s canal boat at leisure.
Levity aside, they’re a frightening reminder of what was and could have been – and a reason, if a movie isn’t enough, to be thankful.