Friday, November 07, 2014

The poppies... the blood-red sea at the Tower of London bring more and more people every hour. Each night, the Last Post is played and 180 names are read out, from among the over 800,000 British and Commonwealth  dead from 1914-1918 commemorated there.

Something has happened in London over these past few days. Remembrance Day means more this year. There are of course poppy-sellers everywhere, some of them young men and women in uniform - cadets from the three services - and the sight of  young people formally attired in this way is so unusual and striking that it makes the whole of a crowd at a railway station or on a busy street look different, somehow. Others sellers are Chelsea Pensioners, or of course simply kindly volunteers of the type you find helping in charity shops or at church events or local fetes and fairs. We are conscious of a friendly and open-hearted Britain that we do not often see, of formal clothes that have a formal meaning, of time given without financial reward, of goodwill and of a sense of common purpose.

It isn't the usual London.

Won't last, of course. But even the dismantling of the scarlet sea - there are over 8,000 volunteers to clean and pack and post the poppies to their owners - will mean something. And we have joined together in something bigger than ourselves, and found a bond with our history that stirs our souls and links us to ideas and ideals we do not often think about and sometimes feel we are no longer allowed to discuss openly.

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