Remember

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month many millions of people around the world stop whatever they are doing.

Stop to take a moment from their hectic lives to pay their respects to the fallen. To those who paid the ultimate price to ensure that our busy lives can continue day by day with hardly a beat missed.

The 11th November 1918 saw the signing of the armistice treaty that officially brought an end to World War 1.

One year later in the grounds of Buckingham palace King George V hosted the first service of remembrance to commemorate the signing of the treaty and this became a national tradition. Two minutes silence is observed, the first minute is a time for reflection and give thanks for those who sacrificed so much, and the second is a time to draw your thoughts back to the living, to those who were left behind, the families who lost so much.

In 1939 the traditional armistice day services were moved to the closest Sunday to the 11th in order that production for the next Great War would not be interrupted. This continues to this day, although in recent years the focus has once again shifted back to the day itself.

 

RBL Paper Poppy
RBL Paper Poppy

Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ written in 1915 by Major John McCrae,  the poppy has become a symbolic item worn by many as a mark of respect for those who perished and those who still serve. In the United Kingdom, remembrance poppies are sold by The Royal British Legion (RBL). This is a charity providing financial, social, political and emotional support to those who have served or who are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, and their dependents.

This year is the 100 year anniversary of the commencement of world war 1 and there have been many events organised in commemoration of this. By far the most striking is an instillation at the Tower of London titled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘,  designed and created by Tom Piper and ceramic artistPaul Cummins   There are 888,246 ceramic poppies that cover the lawns of the tower, one for each of the British and commonwealth lives that were lost in the conflict. The last of which was placed there today by a 13 year old army cadet.

The many people that I know that have seen it have all been moved in different ways by the piece, I have only seen it in photographs, but have been similarly moved. The sheer scale of the piece brings into sharp focus just how many lives were lost.

Photograph used with kind permission of Michael P Mulcahy of Innercitylifelondon
Photograph used with kind permission of Michael P Mulcahy of Innercitylifelondon*

 

There has been much controversy in recent years about the political nature of wearing a poppy, but for me it is not a political statement, but a personal one. It gives a focus to my thoughts and I have a deep and emotional attachment to it.

During my life as an ex-pat it has become quite a mission to secure my remembrance day poppy. Although the poppy is a recognised symbol in mainland Europe, actually finding one was nigh impossible.

When we lived in France it was a simple matter of asking my mother to pop some in the post, but the mail delivery here in Thailand has proved to be somewhat hit and miss. And last years were hastily cobbled together from craft paper and pins. This year I was a little more organised and made crochet poppies to wear.

Crochet Poppies
Crochet Poppies

This morning I made sure that my hustle and bustle was completed in time for me to head to a local park where I could spend a contemplative few minutes in the tranquility of the flower garden alone with my thoughts. But it turns out I was not alone. There was an elderly gentleman who approached me as i meandered along to the coffee shop. He stopped me and in very broken English told me I looked sad and asked if I was ok. In VERY broken thai I told him I was fine and we sat and had a conversation only made difficult by the language barrier. My thai lessons are going well but I’m not yet up to discussing the geo-political nature of global conflict, so I did the best I could to explain why I was here and what my wooly poppy was for. It took a while, but the understanding in his eyes spoke more than words. When we parted he took my hand and said;  “War is bad, you remember- is very good”

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Jer Gan Mai

 

*I am a huge fan of this exceptionaly talented urban photographer. Please take a moment to look at the work of Michael P Mulcahy at Innercitylifelondon.

 

A Small Act of Kindness

I am interrupting my European travelogue for something VERY special. ( it will continue after this post )

Now those of you who follow my blog will understand my reasons for the interruption. If you are new to this page I would humbly suggest reading a post from April of this year before continuing to help better understand just how important this is to me.

Today something quite wonderful happened that reaffirmed my belief that I live in the best city, with the kindest people, in the world.

It was not long after I’d dropped small person off at the school bus this morning and I was back at home pottering around in the kitchen when my phone rang. When I saw it was small person calling my Immediate reaction was to check and see if the Matilda was in her box. ( Our adventurous hedgehog had a recently stowed away in small persons school bag and had an excursion ). Thankfully she was in and the cage lid was closed.
But what could possibly be wrong? She must have only just arrived. Was she sick?

Of course these thoughts were fleeting as I answered the call to an extremely excited 9year old.

“Mum, mum, mum, you will NEVER guess what’s happened!”
“So tell me then…”
“Well I just got to school and one of the secretaries told me that she had something for me and I should wait outside…”
“So what was it?”
“Well she went inside ,then she came back outside and guess what she had?”
“I don’t know…. Tell me, please?”
“She had the bag”
“Which bag?”
“Your bag!”
“My bag?”
“Yes, your bag, THE bag!”
“WHAT?”
“The bag that you left in the songtheaw, your bag, it’s here!”
“But that’s impossible, how?”
“My student ID was in the front pocket of the bag. ( On a side note I was wondering where that had gone, I just assumed it was somewhere in the mess of drawers in her bedroom). The driver must have found it in the pocket and brought it back to the school so they could give it back to me.”
“But that’s amazing, that’s so brilliant and kind. Did the driver leave his name so we could say thank you?”
“I don’t think so, they didn’t say so. He just dropped it off when he was going past.”

I said my goodbyes to small person with the firm promise that she would remember to bring my bag home with her. Of course she’s as absent minded as her mother and left the bag in her classroom when she came home, but it matters not. My smelly frayed old bag has been returned and I could not be happier or more amazed.

The driver could have no idea that an empty bag could have been so missed or mean so much. It was worth very little in monetary terms, probably less than the cost of the fuel he used to get it back to the school, but in terms of memory and feelings it is beyond price. But with no thought of reward, I’m not even able to say thank you, he brought my bag back to me and he will never know how much his seemingly small act of kindness means.

When you do something nice, when you perform one small selfless gesture, when you give something of yourself with no expectation of thanks or reward you often have no idea of the consequences of your actions. Even what you consider to be the smallest most insignificant thing could bring so much happiness to a stranger or a friend. So as a way of saying thanks to this lovely, lovely songtheaw driver I’d like to ask you all a favour.
It’s not a big thing, it won’t take much for you do, but please I’d be honoured if you would.
Just do something nice for no reason. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it can be as simple as giving up your seat on a crowded train, holding open a door, even a kind word can sometimes be the most precious gift.
So after you’ve read this, be it an hour a day or a week, just do something nice for a friend or a stranger. You have no idea how much joy you might bring.

Jer Gan Mài.