Pine needles and poppies
Brunette: I was looking at the xmas decorations in the loft yesterday and wondering if we need to get any new ones.
Blonde: Yes, that time of the year is almost upon us again.
Brunette: And I was thinking that we may get a real tree for a change this year.
Blonde: How nice. I was talking to Becky in HR (*) today, she’s thinking of getting one too.
Brunette: They’re a bit messy, but they smell so nice, don’t you think?
(*) It may have been 'Tracey from Accounts' or 'Sandra from Collections'
I got out at that point. It surprises me that people get artificial Christmas trees. If you’re going to have a tree, have a real one, I say. So what if it sheds needles within days of putting the thing up? And, a few weeks later, when you pack the decorations away, make sure you put a few needles away with the decorations. Along with ancient, favourite decorations, they create a sense of continuity that I like.
Despite being a cynical old bastard, I have a sentimental streak that surprises even me.
While on the topic of celebratory plants, I’ll digress to another, one that is much more topical at this time of the year, than a Christmas tree. Yes, it’s almost poppy day again.
I got rather verbose about it last year, even slightly sentimental, so I won’t go over old ground. What follows is 'new ground', to me that is.
Until a few days ago, I was completely unaware of the ‘clash of the poppies’ as, to me, only the red poppy had any symbolic significance. I now know that the white poppy is similarly symbolic yet has a whiff of controversy about it:
It was first introduced by the Women's Co-operative Guild in 1933 and was intended as a lasting symbol for peace and an end to all wars.
Worn on Armistice Day, now Remembrance Sunday, the white poppy was produced by the Co-operative Wholesale Society because the Royal British Legion had refused to be associated with its manufacture.
While the white poppy was never intended to offend the memory of those who died in the Great War, many veterans felt that its significance undermined their contribution and the lasting meaning of the red poppy. Such was the seriousness of this issue that some women lost their jobs in the 1930s for wearing white poppies.
The battle of the poppies continues to this day with clashes being reported in Canada.
Although I admitted to sentimentality above, I’ve never been one to get too worked up by wars of the past, no matter how tragic, how much I owe them the freedoms I take for granted and even though they may have killed some of my ancestors. However, I do think that Rebecca Sullivan’s (*) poem, ‘There Lie Forgotten Men’, chosen to lead tomorrow’s Armistice Day celebrations is very good:
From 'There Lie Forgotten Men'
She stands there alone
At the edge of the silent place
And she is shocked
New wars brew and these forgotten men
Will play no part in them
The dead silence warn no ears but hers
In great halls, in moments of great decision
What they fought for is forsaken
And by day's end new gravestones
Appear on the blood red ground
She finds what she seeks
'Sgt John Malley Age 27'
His life brutally ended
And she stands by his grave
But he can give no answers
And she weeps for him
For the empty hole he left behind
And for the new emptiness
Soon to join the black chasm.
And her tears join the flood.
(*) Rebecca Sullivan is a 13-year-old schoolgirl who has never written poetry before.