Remembrance seems to be a particularly English sentiment. We are good at it, great at War Poetry, War memorials and remembering. In beautiful Ely cathedral there’s a long list of names, handwritten in lovely script and they turn a page over every day, the roll of honour. The omnipotent poppy, because of a very poor poem is a strong unifying symbol which means a lot to me because when I was just a girl I would go selling poppies for the British Legion, an organisation which collects money for ex-servicemen and their families. I didn’t get the collection in the village, I was allotted the fens, miles and miles of fertile flat land criss-crossed by ditches and dykes courtesy of the Dutch, who drained flat ,waterlogged East Anglia and where there were only a few farms, long potato mounds and landworkers mostly on tractors. The gentleman who organised the whole thing accompanied me in his car, I just had to tramp across the ploughed fields in my wellies. but he was a real old-fashioned gentleman and I’ll always remember meeting him in the street where he raised his hat to me ! That was an incredible moment because I wasn’t much more than a kid.
So poppies are everywhere in November. If you ever see a picture of any members of the Royal family they are always wearing them, both at the miliary concert in the Royal Albert Hall and the Commemoration at the Cenotaph. This year the concert was given to an empty hall and I can assure you that when the lone trumpeter plays ” the last post” and the red poppy petals come wafting down from the ceiling symbolising the wasted lives of the soldiers in the trenches and other battlefields, it is difficult to hold back a tear, because we are remembering a filthy, blood- and- guts war, where soldiers were dying ,terrified in bloody, shitty , rat-infested trenches. Young men, some just boys because they had lied about their age. So honestly, whatever people say about putting the past behind us, I still think we should honour our fallen.
This year as lockdown impedes gatherings, undaunted, they have decided to ask people to stand on their doorsteps wearing their poppies and displaying poppies in their windows while they observe 2 minutes’ silence. What’s a hundred years in man’s memory?