Saturday, November 7, 2009

Commemorate Remembrance Day, wear a poppy

The DLR was down again the other day. You could almost hear the collective groan of the hundreds of commuters at Bank when they trooped into the train towards London Bridge station and switch the the Jubilee Line going towards Canary Wharf.

All that while the mob was building up at London Bridge. But the Wharf people are a hardy bunch. Afterall, with DLR and Jubilee, two of the most unrealiable London Transport lines, serving Canary Wharf, you have to get used to it somehow. It was three trains later before I reached the front of the queue and when the fourth one eventually came, I was crammed in like a slab of Spam.

Ten minutes later the train finally pulled into Canary Wharf Tube station and we stumbled out of the cabins. Giving a nonchalent brush to our coats, we headed for the gantries. Then something struck me.

Standing just outside the gantry was a white hair gentleman huddled in a great thick coat. Although he was stooping with age, it was quite clear from his frame that in his youth, he was easily a six footer with broad shoulders. He was carrying a bucket with one hand and looking anxiously yet with a tinge of expectation at the people hurried past him. A strape went round the back of his neck and held a small carton filled with paper poppies to the front of his chest.

A lady stopped and walked towards him, opened up her purse and dropped some coins into his bucket. The elderly man's face crinkled as he smiled and passed her a poppy, which she promptly attached onto her coat's lapel.

Remembrance+Day+Poppy+Lest+We+Forget+Singaporean+in+LondonPoppies, which bloomed over Flanders - a devastated First World War battlefield, was chosen as the Commonwealth symbol in memory of war dead. Regardless of their causes, all wars, when stripped of their rhetoric, are in fact mindless slaughter. However, on Remembrance Day that falls on 11th of November, let's put aside our cynism or the need for justification - wear a poppy to commemorate the ones who paid the ultimate price.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

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