So what is the answer to the great poppy debate? Simple – wear one if you want to and don’t if you don’t. These are precisely the kind of liberties our forebears died for.
That is not how the Twitter mob sees it, breaking out the pitchforks and flaming torches if anyone dares to appear on TV without an obligatory poppy and demanding the offender’s head on a spike. Do grow up!
But neither do I have much sympathy with the creepy sanctimony of the white poppy brigade.
The holier-than-thou subtext of wearing a white poppy is to say: “I also remember the dead – but I’m not an evil warmonger!”
But this is to totally misunderstand what the red poppy is all about. It is emphatically not militaristic, nor a glorification of war and still less any kind of justification for current military campaigns. Neither it is a symbol of left or right.
Rather it is a simple act of thanks and remembrance, public in nature, but often intensely personal in motivation.
I can’t pin a poppy to my lapel without remembering my parents, both sadly dead now.
My dad served as a Royal Navy stoker in the Second World War, working and sleeping deep in the bowels of a warship, with the constant knowledge that the hatches were battened down above his head and if a U-Boat did strike it would mean a horrible death by drowning. I can think of few things more terrifying.
My mum meanwhile was shepherding her younger siblings into a communal air raid shelter as the Luftwaffe blitzed the hell out of Liverpool, emerging the next morning with a sense of guilty relief that a neighbouring street had “copped it” during the night rather than hers.
Once fascism was defeated, my parents’ generation began rebuilding the country and raising families amid grinding poverty and real austerity – not the ersatz modern version where if you haven’t the latest iPhone 6 and a subscription to Sky Movies you are somehow considered poor.
I sometimes wonder if our current generation were ever tested like our parents were, would we have the courage, stoicism and sheer bloody-minded determination to prevail?
In short – would a generation that has a fit of the vapours if someone is mildly disobliging on social media be able to stand up to the equivalent of Hitler? Let’s just hope it never happens.
If you called my parents heroes they would have laughed in your face. They would often say they did what they had to do because there was no choice.
But in their small way they participated in a remarkable act of national will. At a time when Britain stood virtually alone in the world against Nazism that generation came together to defeat an evil tyranny and restore democracy to much of Europe.
For that reason alone they will always be heroes to me.
And that is why at this time of year I remember them – and all the brave men and women who before and since who have fought and died defending our freedoms – with humble thanks.
I wear my poppy with pride – and I hope you will too.
An ill wind blows
Just a couple of weeks ago in this column I highlighted expert warnings that because of the eco-friendly energy policies adopted by successive governments and promoted by the green lobby, the lights would soon go out.
We’ve been forced to close coal-fired power stations to meet carbon emission targets, despite the fact that we have plentiful supplies of coal and it produces reliable and cheap electricity. The green lunatics who have seized control of our energy system told us not to worry because there wouldn’t be power cuts. Instead, solar and wind power, despite being frighteningly expensive, would fill the gap.
Well, how is that going? At one point this week all the wind farms in the UK together contributed a grand total of 0.5 per cent of electricity demand. The National Grid was forced to use “last resort” measures – effectively bribing large industries to shut down in order to prevent power cuts to domestic users.
Apparently, the windmills don’t produce much electricity when the wind doesn’t blow. Who knew?
And it is not even proper winter yet!
My advice: stock up on tinned food and bottled water – and dig out that old Tilley lamp.