Monday 11 August 2014


You've probably seen in the newspapers the Poppy installation at the Tower of London to commemorate the 100th 'anniversary' of the start of The Great War.  It's called Bloodswept lands and Seas of Red and will consist of 886,246 ceramic poppies created by the artist Paul Cummins.  Whilst the installation was officially announced a couple of weeks ago teams of volunteers have been planting poppies at a daily rate of about 10,000 so that the total can be reached by 11th November.  In fact they are doing more than just planting them, they've been creating them.  The petals are made in a workshop in Derby and then shipped in batches of 4000 to the site.  Volunteers then work in the Tower moat with steel stalks either 45cm, 75cm, or 100cm. The process is a production line:  struggle to put a small rubber washer on the stalk, then struggle to put a big rubber washer on, then struggle to put a small rubber spacer on before finally struggling to put on a big rubber bung.  Make several before carrying them over to their designated position, remove the large rubber bung, put on a ceramic poppy and plant.  Re-attach the large rubber bung, and repeat.  The work is being done in four-hour shifts come rain or shine. When it's dry you need to hammer in the stalk.  When its wet you get cold and wet but the stalks go in a lot easier.  You will have guessed that I have done one shift and have volunteered for more (it's so 'popular' that I'm not sure I will be needed again).  I had a lovely Sunday morning doing this.  The other volunteers were an absolute joy to work with.  It does make you think and reflect on why you are there...and when we thought we might start moaning about being so wet this weekend, we all realised that the soldiers we are commemorating had to live and die in the most appalling conditions for four long years.

So I would very, very strongly recommend you go and see this.  There is a beauty to it, but somehow it manages to capture the tragedy of a war that was supposed to end all wars in a very emotional way.  I'm sure it will move you.