Today is Remembrance Sunday and across the country people are gathering together to commemorate the ceasing of hostilities between two armies, the Allies and the Germans at the end of the First World War. The agreement took effect at 11o’clock on 11th November 1918 after 4 years of fighting and is now remembered as Armistice Day which marks a sign of respect for the many millions of people who died in this war and the loved ones they left behind. Wars have started for different reasons including religion, revenge and racism, and through the eyes of a cat looking at the devastating effects of armed conflict I can’t think of a single valid reason to start a war. But fighting over a difference of opinion or a claim for territory is not a unique feature of humanity. Many creatures in the animal kingdom do it as part of evolutionary survival including us cats, present company excepted of course. My neocortex is more developed than most felines leading me to prefer a battle of wits to a battle of arms!
Trafalgar Square Nov 2014
Despite the skilled methods humans use to wage war on each other, you also show extraordinary compassion towards those in need and great strength of character in difficult circumstances. You have creativity, loyalty and courage, all qualities I see when I look at the faces of those depicted in the Battle of Britain Monument that John and I took pictures of during our trip to the London Eye. This bronze and granite sculpture commemorates the military personnel who took part in the Battle of Britain during the Second World War and is situated along the Victorian Embankment of the River Thames. It reminds me of the costs of war, like the bright red poppy which serves as a symbol of sadness and hope that one day all humans will live in harmony. The Flanders poppies grew in the battle-scarred fields of Western Europe and flourished despite the landscape having been bombed again and again, providing inspiration for a poignant poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’.
Picture this – a sleek black portly cat setting out for London from deepest Bognor Regis with nothing but a polka-dot bag on a stick and a dream. Rumour had it that the streets were paved with gold and this cat from humble beginnings was off to seek his fortune. When he reached the bustling city he couldn’t believe his eyes, there were horses and cars, great tall buildings and hundreds of people, but nowhere could he see any gold. This lucky cat with a vivid imagination was indeed on an adventure but didn’t have to worry about being tired or hungry because he was taking a trip with his ‘dad’ and business partner (John) to England’s capital, not to seek treasure but to pursue the passion in his life – photography.
A sea of red
John and I decided to take the train up to Londinium to see the beautiful Tower of London ceramic poppies before they are dismantled later in the month. Each of the 888,246 poppies represents a tribute to British or Commonwealth service men and women who have been killed in action. Around 4 million people are expected to have visited so far but it will be dismantled shortly to go on tour across the UK, being displayed around the country and then permanently in the Imperial War Museum. Some of the poppies will be sold for £25 each and the net proceeds will be shared between the six service charities including Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion.
The sea of red poppies is a moving piece of art that reflects the scale of the sacrifice made by the service personnel who have died in the line of duty and the humans that had gathered to look at it were full of admiration for the artist who created them and the meaning behind them. And that wasn’t the only picturesque scene I witnessed on my jaunt to the Big Smoke. The view of the city from the bank of the Thames was stirring – the bold structures that silhouetted the grey stormy skyline, the brightly coloured clothing of crowds wandering along the embankment, working barges and busy pleasure-boats bobbing noisily on the churning murky waters of the fast moving river.
The naval vessel in the picture is HMS Severn, a Royal Navy river class patrol ship paying a visit to London for a few days so the crew can attend the Remembrance Service at St Paul’s Church on Armistice Day and help raise money for the London Poppy Appeal. HMS Severn is moored alongside HMS Belfast, part of the Imperial War Museum’s exhibits that tells the stories of life on board this warship during the Second World War. Look carefully at the photos and you’ll also spot St Paul’s, the Shard and the Monument – a tall stone column topped with a flaming urn covered in gold that stands as a memorial to the Great Fire of London in 1666. I hope you enjoy the pics and I’ll tell you more about my London adventure next time.