It was quite a while before I realised that using Poppies to commemorate Remembrance Sunday (and the fallen of wars in general) wasn’t universal. I don’t know if it’s practised anywhere outside the UK, in fact. But here it’s pretty much the only one of the many collections-for-good-causes which has widespread appeal, partly because it’s a tradition which long precedes pretty much every other save-the-something collection. Partly, I think, because we’re all human and who can argue with collecting money for such a cause?
As it happens I haven’t seen many poppy-sellers around where I work in Camden Town. But I knew that today — Saturday before Remembrance Sunday — the local cadets would be out in force (and in fatigues) around Ealing where I live, armed with Poppies and collecting tins. And they didn’t disappoint. I am, for several reasons, not a great fan of cadets and school OTC outfits. But, at least where I live, this is pretty much the only example of seeing groups of young people on the street doing something for the good of others. The Scout movement has reinvented itself as a training scheme, as far as I can see; and in any case, it’s been years since anyone would have been seen dead on the street in a Scout uniform.
So I bought my poppy from a young man in army outfit who looked a little lonely at the side of the main Shopping Centre square. And I hope you’ll all do the same.