Saturday, November 11, 2006

TODAY IS ARMISTICE DAY, and at 11am I kept the two minute silence, while standing alone in our kitchen. I thought of my Great Grandmother who lost two sons in the First World War, and of my own paternal Grandfather, who was shipwrecked in January 1916. On a life raft with two other men, he was the sole survivor after being adrift for three days in the North Sea.

Thousands of books have been written about war, remembering war, set in a war. As it is Armistice Day I thought, that rather than blog about what I am reading at the moment, I would list some of the books I have read over the years which deal with war and conflict.


All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Good Soldier Schweik
by Jaroslav HaĊĦek
August 1914 by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
And Quiet Flows the Don by M. A. Sholokov

Spanish Civil War:

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway


The Tenth Man by Graham Greene
Most Secret by Neville Shute
The Bridge over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
The Guns of Navarone by Alistair McLean
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monserrat
That Summer by Andrew Greig
The Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard
The Seige by Helen Dunmore
How Sleep the Brave by H.E. Bates
Enigma by Robert Harris

The Gulf War:

Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNabb


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.

Yet again a group of PC people are trying to get people to stop wearing red poppies as a sign of remembrance, It makes me livid.
Poppies have been a symbol of death and sleep since the time of the ancient Greeks so it is entirely appropriate that they have become synonymous with remembrance of all the servicemen and women who died in the First World War and all subsequent wars. The poppies are red. They are red because they are a certain type of poppy – popaver rhoeas – which grows naturally in conditions of disturbed earth, and can be found growing all over Western Europe. During the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century battlefields became fields of blood red poppies growing up around the bodies of fallen soldiers. During the First World War which raged through northern France and Belgium, the heavy shelling and trench warfare ripped open the landscape, and once again large numbers of poppies began to appear. None of them were white.

From time to time some group, or person, tries to say that we should be wearing white poppies for peace. This seems to imply that those who wear red poppies are against peace and are glorifying war. They seem to think they have commanded the moral high ground. What offensive, patronizing rubbish. To wear a poppy does not say that the wearer is either for or against war, just that they remember those who have died in war. In fact I can’t imagine that anyone in their right mind would be in favour of war per se. War brings fear, danger, cruelty, death, destruction and poverty in its wake; The price paid by individuals and families is often very high. To remember the dead, and to honour them, is to remind oneself that as nations we should be extremely wary of threatening , declaring or initiating war, or of becoming embroiled in other people’s wars, If there is a way of maintaining peace that is honourable, just and equitable we should always espouse it.

I , like millions of my fellow citizens, am entirely opposed to this bloody business in Iraq, and am equally opposed to our position in Afghanistan, but nonetheless I will be wearing my poppy and remembering that men and women are dying in war, yet again.

As someone wrote today -"The money from red poppies goes to help ex-servicemen; the money from white poppies goes to subsidise people spouting their opinions. "


Whilst reading the controversy about poppies in the press , wearing a poppy myself, and writing my rather mild little rant above, I suddenly remembered a recipe for muffins I have made a few times and it seemed appropriate to post it here today. They are yummy when still warm accompanied by a mug of really good coffee. Enjoy!


Makes approx 1 dozen

280g plain flour
15 ml baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g caster sugar
1 egg
240 ml milk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
90 ml vegetable oil OR 85 g butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven 190°C

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Stir in the sugar and poppy seeds.
In a separate bowl, beat egg with a fork. Stir in milk,
followed by grated lemon rind and oil/butter.
Add lemon juice.
Pour all of liquid ingredients into dry mixture. Stir just until
combined. Batter will be lumpy but no dry flour should be visible.

Spoon into muffin cases – they should be ¾ full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are
lightly browned and spring back when pressed gently.

If you want to make them extra special and very lemony, you can mix 3 tablespoons of icing sugar with one tablespoon lemon juice to make a glaze, and drizzle it over the tops of the muffins whilst they are still hot.
Cool on rack before serving

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the poppy. Unfortunately in Northern Ireland the poppy has secatarian implications also which is very sad as lots of men on both sides of the religious divide died in both wars.

Your blog is a bit glitchy by the way, it doesn't like me scrolling don't know why that might be.