Saturday, November 12, 2005

Lest we forget

The poppy seller nearest my house is not this gentleman, but he might be. He is rather taller and finer-boned, and has the kind of perfectly-combed silver hair under his beret that you are certain would have the faintest aroma of old-fashioned hair tonic, if only you could get close enough. He speaks sofly and deferentially, like those who are accustomed to being deferred to. He has the sort of demeanour and gentle, frank goodwill in his face that makes you think National Service is a fantastic idea.

I bought a poppy from him. So, apparently, did everyone else I see around here -- including the groups of ten year olds who hang out in the mall out the front of which he is stoically and benevolently parked. They probably have no idea whom they supported by buying their poppy, nor what the poppy itself commemorates, nor why it is a poppy at all, rather than, say, a piece of ribbon or a daffodil.

And you know what? It doesn't matter. Their poppies commemorate it anyway, pinned incongruously onto the faux-fur lined hoods of their pink and blue and purple winter puffer jackets.

And it is worth seeing the look on our poppy-gentleman's face as he sees that everyone that passes has a poppy. Because in truth, no matter how much any of us knows about what the poppy is for, its importance is utterly negligible to anyone but he. Clive James said of the atrocities of WWII that if we could have any idea what it was truly like, we would die of grief.

I'll wear my poppy in gratitude that I have nothing to forget.

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