Category Archives: Politics

Remembering the Poppy

I don’t remember if the school handed us a poppy to wear sometime in early November, or whether we paid a modest amount to wear that beloved badge.

Our fathers went to work, our mothers shopped and played bridge, the postman dropped by — all sporting a poppy on a lapel. Canadians and Brits still wear them —  the newsreaders on the BBC news haven’t retired theirs as of last night, a few days after November 11. In fact, the British delegation took some heat at the G20 earlier this week for their poppies — some other countries didn’t appreciate that splash of red. I’m happy to report that David Cameron told them, diplomatically, to shove it. Fashion note: The UK version now includes a dashing splash of faux foliage.

The Poppy is certainly cheap for such a crimson splash, but its provenance isn’t cheerful. It was the chosen official emblem of mourning for, and remembrance of, the millions of British Empire dead in the First World War. (As WWI didn’t turn out to be The War to End All Wars, we’ve many more dead to remember.) It features in the first line of the Canadian Army surgeon John McCrea’s immortal war  poem “In Flanders Fields,” and was considered the natural choice for the pin of painful memories.

To this day, it’s one of the two poems I learned in school I can still recite without effort. (The other is “Ozymandias.”)

Only once have I discussed the First World War with someone who’d fought in it — our family friend, Doug Read. He kept it light and short, recalling being so tired, young and hungry that he slept through the carnage at Ypres (or was it Vimy Ridge?) My English grandfather served in the Royal Navy, but he died before I could ask him for war stories.

In the time I’ve lived in the USA I’ve discovered that the Poppy isn’t ubiquitous — in fact I’ve been able to buy one only twice since I moved here, from eldery vets at a stoplight. They were sad plasticky versions of the flowers I remembered, but I was happy to buy them and proud to wear them them. Each year, I was literally the only employee to own one.

I need to find a way to bring back the Poppy. Hmmmm — how about I make some next year and sell them, proceeds going to the VFW? I may be a genius.

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Filed under Art, Books, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, History, Holidays, Less than 50 cents, Politics

Site of the Day: The British Monarchy

Queen Elizabeth has a Facebook page. Go revel: http://www.facebook.com/TheBritishMonarchy

No, you can’t Friend her. But you can read the Court Circular!  One or another of her lame sons or grandsons are doing Good Works (when they’re not dressing inappropriately at Hallowe’en parties, fighting in Afghanistan , pushing organic produce or playing polo.) You can see pix of ambassadors presenting their credentials. Endless pix in what I can only describe as Queen chic . She’s not a bit chic, but I admire her matchy matchy outfits, always with a hat. I love hats.

I saw the Queen once, when I was a toddlesr. She and her newlywed husband drove in an open car  around the track at the Semanaire St. Joseph in Trois-Rivieres. She was young and beautiful, the Dook was young and handsome. Then time happens, kids happen, the Empire dissolved.

Unlike most Canadians, Kiwis, Indians and Aussies I was raised in a Jacobin family. My father was vocal in his loathing of the monarchy, rich twits with no clue. Even my Nana, who was born in England, despised the whole House of Windsor, and she saved her bile for the beloved Queen Mum. Poor Nana, she would have made a fab Queen Mum.

So this site is for retro fun, disengaged from the reality that Queen Elizabeth might be the only member of the House of Windsor with two brain cells to rub together, great hats and a bunch of weird kids. And that royal hubby, quite mad .

For followers of Brit soap operas, it’s just Coronation Street with money. But I can tell that’s it’s going to become a guilty pleasure. BTW, Camilla rocks hats too.

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Filed under Free, History, Media, Politics, Site of the Day

Election Night Nosh

The night that Pierre Trudeau became Prime Minister of Canada is the first election night I remember. I’d spotted him early, because of an article in McLeans, and as a young teen I thought he was the coolest guy on earth — cooler than Stevie Winwood, cooler than Glenn Gould, cooler than Jerry Lee Lewis. He wore sandals into the House of Commons, sported a red rose in his buttonhole every day, and met up with John and Yoko when they did the Bed-In in Montreal.

It must be noted that Pierre Trudeau got Canada a constitution.

I can’t remember what we ate that election night, but I’m sure my mother served up a memorable meal — except that I can’t remember it . My parents were excited as I was, watching the CBC returns on the old  b&w.

I’ve never missed an election night since. I sat in the Student Union at McGill, eating soggy fries and seeing Hubert Humphrey go down. Carter, Reagan, Clinton, two Bushes, Obama. I realize that Election Night, while we’re watching the returns, joyful or disgusted, we’ve drifted into Election Night Nosh tradition.

It’s snackie night, clean out the freezer night, cheap cheerful food night. Because the coverage goes on and on, there’s a leisurely feel: it the news is bad, why not be in the kitchen frying up that half package of pot stickers from Trader Joe’s? If the news is good, you can run from the kitchen where you were making guacamole from a couple of elderly avocados. When things get grim, it’s just as well to be deaf over the stove, cooking up the end of a bag of frozen shrimp in a spicy sauce to throw over a bed of rice.

It’s like a low rent Oscar Night party. Thankfully there are no musical acts, no evening gowns, no comedians. But trust me, I care about a swing district in North Dakota more than I care about Best Director. Excuse me while I bite my nails and stir up a wok of fried rice.

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Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Born in Chicago, Food, History, Politics