Monday, October 16, 2017


Dear Readers,

         The drought in Cape Town devastated our kikuyu lawn which can normally be expected to revive as soon as the winter rains arrive. But this year it was so pathetic that instead of being green it turned red.
         Flanders poppies took over. We didn’t plant them nature did.
         About four years ago a neighbour gave us a few seeds. They are minute, like small grains of sand.
After that we had some in the flower beds here and there and one year they almost disappeared completely for no particular reason. So the last thing my wife and I expected was that a drought would supercharge their growth to something we had never seen before in the 10 years we have been in our house.

             And they didn’t only appear where the lawn had been. They popped up all over the place. If our driveway hadn’t been brick paved it too would have been covered in red. As it was they still managed to end up flowering in some of the joints between the pavers.
         One even gained a foothold on the side of a small brick wall. How that little seed could have remained there long enough to germinate in a soilless environment only nature knows.
         The majority are red, but inexplicably a few pure white ones appear every now and again.  We have tried planting the seeds from these in the past, but we never get anything like a bed of white. How it works I don’t know.

         A Canadian doctor’s haunting poem and the efforts of an American school teacher put this red flower on the map as a symbol of remembrance of those who fought and died in various conflicts from the First World War onwards.
         In Flanders Fields, the world’s most famous War Memorial Poem was composed by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on the battle front at Ypres, Belgium in 1915. These poppies grow naturally in areas of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe, so when World War 1 churned up the fields of Flanders and Northern France they turned the barren earth into a sea of blood red so different to the fighting that had just ceased.
Lt. Col. John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields
         Then thanks to the determined efforts of an American school teacher Moina Bell Michael an artificial red Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy was adopted by numerous organisations around the world to raise money for ex-service men and women in need of assistance. 
        Now almost 100 years later it is still the inspiration for a Poppy Day every November because it was on the 11th of that month that the Great War ended in 1918.
          Michael, who was inspired by McCrae’s poem, wrote her own one We shall keep the faith. And that’s exactly what she did by starting this everlasting remembrance movement.
         The White Poppy has had a much more chequered existence. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t grow nearly as prolifically as the Red one. Britain’s Women’s Co-operative Guild adopted it in 1933 as a lasting symbol of peace.
         Worn on Armistice Day, now Remembrance Day white poppy replicas were at one time produced by the Co-operative Wholesale Society because the Royal British Legion refused to be associated with its manufacture. Veterans felt it undermined the meaning of the red poppy.
         It was so divisive that some women lost their jobs in the 1930s for wearing the white ones. In 1940 Britain’s Daily Mail called for it to be banned because it was encouraging conscientious objectors.
         The White Poppy Appeal is now run by the Peace Pledge Union, the oldest non-sectarian pacifist organisation in Britain.

P.S. Here’s hoping they will stick to gardens and won’t be popping up after any battles in South Africa in the future.

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