I can see the harsh irony in how last week I was recommending how one should be taken out of the comfort zone that we surround ourselves with, only to place myself firmly back into it with a safe piece of writing, but that is all part of the contradiction that goes with life!
As this weekend coincides with Remembrance Sunday, it is only fitting that this subject is touched upon by me. The remembrance poppy is too often taken as a glorification of war but, thankfully, now it has come to commemorate and help many people whose lives have been affected by conflicts. Here at BIS HCMC we have taken this a step further and mounted what is perhaps the most impressive set of exhibitions I have seen under the title of “Sanguine”: a word that has its’ origins in the Latin for blood, but has morphed over time to indicate someone who is cheerfully confident. The exhibition takes a very sensory look at distinct conflicts from a multitude of perspectives and, at times, challenges our conventional interpretations.
This type of challenge fits very snugly into how conventional thoughts about the entire “Poppy Week” are also very often quite wrong.
The remembrance poppy that is so readily associated with Britain was actually “invented” by the American Legion to commemorate North American soldiers who were victims of the entire 1914-18 war, not just the Somme.
Similarly, the force behind the promotion of the poppy as a symbol was a North American “Humanitarian” called Moina Belle Michael.
The poem that inspired Ms Michael was written by a Canadian poem called John McCrae and entitled “in Flanders Fields.” McCrae wrote the poem in one sitting in the back of an ambulance to honour a good friend who was killed on May 2nd, more than seven months before Remembrance Sunday.
But, actually, all these factors pale in comparison to the beautiful, haunting and quite disturbing words of the poem, of which I personally find the second stanza the most powerful,
“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.”
In Flanders Fields, John McCrae, May 1915
Have a good weekend.
Tim Deyes, Principal