I remember my mum collecting for Poppy Day. She spent about 2 weeks on it, going out regularly, more or less every day. She collected a small fortune for them and delivered it all to the British Legion. So when I was asked to help out I knew I I wanted to do it. And it was a very rewarding few hours.
I set up at the back of the supermarket. Some people were very generous, handing over notes. And there is a huge variety of things to choose from to buy now. It’s mostly older people that volunteer to do it regularly, but it was also lovely to see soldiers out in the street and the station selling poppies.Young and old, believing in the same thing.
Lots of people stopped to chat, mostly women, as I guess many had lost beloved fathers, brothers and husbands in wars. A very dignified lady told me her husband had been French and was a Submariner, long dead. But every year she presented a wreath at the Cenotaph, wearing a special Poppy. Another lady said her grandfather had been sent to war at age 33 and been killed. Another had lost a young fiancé, but had married eventually. These were mostly very old people of course, who struck me with their strength and dignity at such an old age.
Some people walked by without even looking, but I decided not to judge them, perhaps they were lost in thought, or had bought 5 poppies already and lost them (like me!). And some seemed to genuinely not understand what they were! I have noticed that the wearing of poppies has reduced this year – such a shame in the 100th anniversary of the 1st World War. One chap told me it wasn’t customary in ‘his country’ but he wore it here out of respect – if only more were like him – including our own!
The most disappointing thing all morning was when a staff member told me they were not allowed to wear poppies….! Strange as they had allowed us to sell them there!? A customer who overheard told me ‘I hope this shop goes down the pan!’.
My own maternal grandfather never collected his medals – he had had enough by the time he got back and wanted no reminder of war. He had plenty of stories to tell about the ‘Yanks’ he met though – he was thoroughly impressed with them and taught us all their card games and slang!
What I loved most about collecting for Poppy Day was the enjoyment and reassurance that older people especially got from seeing us out selling them. They remember the sacrifices of a world war, even though they may have been children. Selling poppies certainly gets you thinking, and reminiscing, and seeing us stirs up many emotions in passers-by. It’s hard to not be upset by what some people lost…
I have said it before but will do so again – Poppies should always be red. The blessings bestowed on our country are overflowing. But if you reach down into our history, also overflowing is the blood of millions of our ancestors and those in recent wars – profusely and thickly and deeply – the earth is soaked in the blood of the slain. This Remembrance Sunday, when we stand silent, we will remember those who died, sacrificed and never came home, and those left behind.
I hope we never stop wearing our Poppies.