Jaqui's Daily Blog

In Which I Visit the Tower

I am one of those people who hates missing out on anything. You wouldn't have guessed, would you?

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters is just like me, which means we are forever checking our diaries and trying to fit in yet another important visit, outing or meeting-up which, despite (or even, perhaps, because of) all the difficulties presented to us, We Simply Cannot Bear to Miss.

Other members of our family are far more sensible, taking after Mr B in this respect. They consult their diaries, and their Nearest and Dearest, before yodelling an enthusiastic "YES!" or a pragmatic "Not this time, sorry!" to any proposition put to them. They certainly do not try to re-arrange what they are doing in order not to miss out on the latest idea. They are the Sensible Ones.

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I are mostly unapologetic about our approach to Unmissability. Nobody else understands us but we are As One.

Unfortunately today, I was As One - as in, on my lonesome because the Y of the DDs was at work. "Oh, I do wish I was there!" she texts me, presumably from her desk, when I text her to say I am on the London train, on my way to see the Tower of London poppies before they vanish forever.

I have been telling myself for months that I needed to visit the Tower - ever since the first poppies were planted. Time slipped by and there I was, on the verge of missing out on something so truly special that I would never quite forgive myself. Opportunities came and went, missed for any variety of reasons. Which is why today I took the train to London Victoria and the District Line to Tower Hill to catch a last sight of the breath-takingly poignant display.

The crowds are not quite so numerous as in previous days so it only takes me an hour to walk all the way round the Tower, despite stopping every so often to take a photo on my mobile phone and read the heart-breaking messages pinned to the railings, many with faded photographs of long-lost soldiers. I try to take a "selfie". I know exactly where to find what I like to call "the selfie button" (why, oh why do my grandchildren find this description so hilarious?) but framing a photo is beyond me. I fear that when I sit down to look through my photographic efforts, the majority will have to be deleted.

There is a regular army of volunteers, painstakingly removing each ceramic poppy in turn and carrying it, oh so carefully, to a table where it is packed away for safe transport to its destination. Some of the volunteers are wearing red berets with black bobbles on the top; from above they look like giant poppies themselves, moving between the mass of red. It's a moving sight in more ways than one. A large white crane is dismantling the Weeping Window which is the cause for much discussion among the watching crowds who had thought that this was one of the features which would be remaining in place until the end of the month. Further round the walls, however, the spectacular Wave is still in place while even further, around Traitor's Gate, the display is intact.

I return to the start of my circular route and watch the new rota of volunteers march purposefully into the poppy field to replace their colleagues. The tramp of Wellington boots is turning the grassy field where once the vibrant poppies bloomed into a muddy morass, a poignant present day nod to the ghastly mud-filled trenches of Passchendale.

And I am thinking that I am glad I didn't miss this moment, as each poppy is removed. Some people have said that the poppies should stay in perpetuity but I think there is something unbearably sad - and somehow right - in the recognition that every one of the 888,000 plus lives which were lost in the War Which Didn't End All Wars, like the poppies, also disappeared from the lives of those who loved them best. Thanks to one man's inspiration and the Historic Palaces' leap of faith, millions of us have been brought face to face with the harsh reality of what happened between 1914 and 1918, whether through personal visits, through TV, through photographs in newspapers and social media.

In just a couple of weeks all the poppies will be gone, vanished from sight, like the brave men and boys whose lives they represent.

Gone but not forgotten.

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Latest comments

23.04 | 20:15

lovely and heartwarming - an inspiration to us all x

09.03 | 12:07

Love this story told as ever beautifully.x

10.11 | 21:31

What a super account of a special event. I loved meeting you last night and seeing your creation come together. I’m so pleased you got so much from the activity

07.09 | 13:17

I have broad shoulders x

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