Shad ponders the poppies

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!

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’.

Shad continues his trip to London

As John and I headed into the City of London after our emotional encounter with the Tower of London poppies, we stopped for some comfort food to warm our cockles.  This culinary delight came in the form of hot-dog and chips from a van that claimed it was selling traditional London food!  Mmm.  I believe that sausages were originally imported from Germany and became popular at baseball games in America, and the relish didn’t feel very British to me.  Nevertheless, it was tasty.  Why it’s called a hot-dog I’ll never know.  I’ve come across a few dogs in my time as regular readers will know and not one of them had any bits that looked like a sausage in a bun.  My own theory is that people used to cook meaty sausages that were stolen by the dog when they were still hot from the oven and hot-dogs were born.  Of course a cat would wait until the sausage had been cut into bite-size chunks and garnished lavishly before running away with a decent helping.

 

London Basin

Anyway, I digress.  After finishing my traditional London dinner and grabbing a quick catnap, John and I picked up the pace so that we could see as much of the City as possible.  We walked briskly past the Royal Exchange, originally built in the 16th century as a centre of commerce, it has twice been destroyed by fire and rebuilt and is currently a plush courtyard with offices, luxury boutiques and restaurants. Another unique building you will see in the photos is the Bank of England which is authorised to issue banknotes in the UK and is the custodian to the official gold reserves.  Apparently the vault beneath the City of London needs keys that are 3 feet long to open and holds around 4600 tonnes of gold.

 

Check out these fabulously dressed ‘Beefeaters’ as they’re affectionately known.  The detachment of the ‘Yeomen of the Guard’ is symbolic of London and has formed the Royal Bodyguard for many centuries.  In case you’re wondering, they apparently derived their nickname from their position in the Royal Bodyguard in the 15th century when they were permitted to eat as much beef as they wanted from the king’s table.  No hot-dogs though!

 

My tough little paws were starting the feel the strain as we sauntered along the Victoria embankment at the boundary of the City of London but a good photographer learns to power through.  From the Waterloo Bridge we took photos of the London Eye, Westminster Tower and the Houses of Parliament. Boy that Big Ben looked huge from the street below and the Gothic architecture was impressive and imposing.  According to the locals, Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster which was cast in April 1858, making him around 156 years old.  He is 96m (or 315 feet) up in the air and the clock weighs about 13 ½ tons, about the same as a small elephant.

 

We headed to Trafalgar Square which was thriving with tourists and smart office workers going about their business.  Here we saw Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery and ended our whistle-stop tour of London on a poignant note in front of the bronze soldier.  The 7.5m high soldier sculpture commemorates the WW1 centenary and is based on the Unknown Soldier.