Monday, 14 November 2011

Remembrance or not


It’s odd how Londoners pronounce the word poppy. A little girl pointed at mine and said, “puppy,” and I looked around, wondering what she meant.

Potter down to Shepherd’s Bush to try to find a poppy brooch in Westfield shopping centre, as I can’t keep the plastic stem things on.

Hardly any poppies are worn in this part of town, no one is selling them in or near the vast shopping centre. Inside, the shop assistants don’t wear them, not even in cosy old Marks & Spencers.

Perhaps some idiots worry that it might be a religious or political symbol. For me it’s about death, nothing else; remembering people who died caught up in recent conflicts, including Germans, French, Turks, Italians etc.

Not sure that also applies to people who joined the Condor Legion, Gestapo, Einzatzgruppen, Arrow Cross groups, or the NKVD.

In the quest to end poppy misery, I roamed around, floor by floor until I found Swarovski the jeweller, as they had been advertising some little crystal poppy brooches for £15. In this shop the Japanese looking staff stared blankly at me, they’d never heard of them. Finally got a little cloth brooch with a good clasp from among the racks of girly things in Accessorise.

I hope I am not turning into a “poppy fascist,” but I wore my lone poppy proudly on the crowded bus home but also felt slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps people wearing them were all sitting up the front of the long bus, because I didn’t see any around me, just drab, worn out looking foreign mothers with babies and Somali lads in odd knitted tops talking into their i-phones.

I do wonder what all this new enthusiasm for the poppy is all about. A few years ago I distinctly remember there was very little public interest and elderly people would sit outside M & S in Kensington with their full poppy trays, looking very gloomy. People no longer seemed willing to give money to wounded soldiers or think about the past.

Perhaps that was due to the economic boom that was on, and Tony Blair’s attempt to turn us into a land without history. Well all that is over now and the poppy has become a rallying point, the only symbol of cohesion we have left as a country, and I think people are clinging to it rather desperately.

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