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Questions

  • Poppy Day is the only annual day in Britain named after a flower. Why, then, is it not a big day for florists? Why does everyone buy paper poppies?

  • I've sent off my registration for Novacon.* The event's only in two weeks, I won't be able to register through the con for hotel space until my registration is processed, and warning signs are everywhere that singles are limited and will probably be sold out by now. I could book a single right away in the correct hotel through its website. Other than it costing more (albeit less than a double), is there any reason not to? Is there some moral factor about making sure the con has enough of its room block sold out to justify receiving free function space from the hotel, and booking via the website would mean my booking isn't helping the con?

  • I went to my local post office to mail an envelope today, only to discover they don't do express mail. Regular airmail only. So I went to Canary Wharf, to a full, dedicated post office, and sent it express mail there. Are most UK post offices so limited as to not do express mail? What else is too much to expect of little local postal outlets?


* I've been dilemma'ing between the London Good Food Fair and Novacon. There's still a small chance I may be able to see the food fair as well, but I'm not counting on it. I decided to err on the side of seeing people I'd not seen in a while.

Comments

( 61 comments — Leave a comment )
chickenfeet2003
Oct. 30th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
Why does everyone buy paper poppies?

The point of buying a poppy is to make a donation to the British legion. Buying flowers from a florist wouldn't do that.
oursin
Oct. 30th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC)
Also, real poppies are not in season in November, and even if they were, they tend to droop and drop their petals almost as soon as they are picked.

More frivolously, I wonder about the narcotic perils of large nos of poppies in enclosed spaces!
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 30th, 2006 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fjm - Oct. 30th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 30th, 2006 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chickenfeet2003 - Oct. 30th, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - m31andy - Oct. 30th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 30th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - m31andy - Oct. 31st, 2006 11:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - daisho - Oct. 30th, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - m31andy - Oct. 31st, 2006 11:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - daisho - Oct. 31st, 2006 10:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
crustycurmudgeo
Oct. 30th, 2006 03:48 pm (UTC)
In the states it's known as Veteran's Day, but occurs on November 11th, the aniversary of the signing of the armistice, ending World War I. The poppy sales proceeds were originally supposed to go towards funding WWI veteran retirement homes, but since there are so few left the money now goes to other veteran service organizations.

Poppy Day
owlfish
Oct. 30th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
Veteran's Day/Rememberance Day is honored in many places, and many places use poppies as a symbol of it. But I don't remember it ever being called Poppy Day in the U.S.
(no subject) - lazyknight - Oct. 30th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 30th, 2006 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 30th, 2006 04:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - daisho - Oct. 30th, 2006 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 30th, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 30th, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - daisho - Oct. 31st, 2006 10:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lazyknight - Oct. 30th, 2006 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sollersuk - Oct. 30th, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oursin - Oct. 30th, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cynicaloptimist - Oct. 30th, 2006 10:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lazyknight - Oct. 30th, 2006 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
flick
Oct. 30th, 2006 04:11 pm (UTC)
Poppies aren't in season and make useless cut flowers.

I'd stay at the nice hotel over the road, personally. Actually, I *am* staying at the nice hotel over the road. There's a very slight ethical reason why one should book via the con and therefore increase the con's room block, but at this stage it doesn't really matter, I suspect. Plus, if enough people don't book as part of the room block, they're less likely to use the same hotel again in future.

I suspect the answer is that they don't offer that service because there is No Demand for it. And, when the fact that that local PO doesn't offer any useful services because there is No Demand for them means that no one bothers using it, they will be able to close the local PO with a clear conscience because there is No Demand for it....
owlfish
Oct. 30th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of pressed poppies. Live ones do droop rather rapidly, it's true.

Crossing roads is not one of my greater skills, and the idea of dodging motorway traffic doesn't appeal to me, much as I generally like the idea of staying at nice hotels. Perhaps I can still talk C. into coming along to chauffeur...

Last week, after my third trip to a post office, I wondered how on earth the Royal Mail could think of closing down so many postal outlets. After all, if I need post offices at least once a week, surely I'm not alone. Then this week happened, and a postal outlet without the rather obvious service I needed. And now I understand. No wonder there is No Demand.
(no subject) - m31andy - Oct. 30th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 30th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 31st, 2006 10:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flick - Oct. 31st, 2006 10:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 31st, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
a_d_medievalist
Oct. 30th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
The American Legion also sells poppies. But practically speaking, have you seen the poppies that grow in Flanders Fields? They can grow up to many inches in diameter and, as people have pointed out, are crap when cut. You could never wear them the way you do a fake paper one. Me? I'm just happy they aren't made of plastic.
owlfish
Oct. 30th, 2006 05:14 pm (UTC)
I hadn't realized the poppies were that big there. If they are - and if poppies were usable as sensible decoration and didn't wilt so far - why not make something bigger than a pin out of them? Poppy hats? Proclaim your support for veterans with a large and stylish hat. The broad-brimmed ones can use small pieces of oasis to keep poppies blooming for at least an extra hour before they wilt.

(Obviously this is only a solution for warmer climates, where the chill snaps of November will not auto-wilt the already highly wiltable poppy. If poppies were in season now.)
(no subject) - a_d_medievalist - Oct. 30th, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 31st, 2006 09:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_d_medievalist - Oct. 31st, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
ewtikins
Oct. 30th, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC)
I think in Canadia they may have once been made by veterans. Not sure. I can't find a reference for it online, so it may be a fiction.

sollersuk
Oct. 30th, 2006 05:18 pm (UTC)
It isn't strictly Poppy Day, it's Remembrance Day. Fresh flowers are irrelevant because what one does is buy paper flowers, made by disabled ex-servicemen, as a donation to the British Legion, which supports ex-servicemen. In any case poppies aren't in bloom in November and die within minutes of being picked. The thing about poppies is that they were about the only sign of life in the devastated fields around the trenches in WWI.
owlfish
Oct. 30th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
I'd expect most Brits to understand what the phrase "Poppy Day" referred to just as much as recognizing what day of the year "Bonfire Night" is.

As someone long interested in iconography and symbolism, and the subset of it that pertains to flowers in particular, the lack of real flowers around a day named for a flower baffled me. It makes a great deal of sense that they are out of season and don't store well. I understand too that paper flowers are cheaper to produce - and thus easier to mark up to a salable price to cover both labor and a useful donation to the British Legion. By buying a paper flower, one gives patronage to labor by relevant people who need it, in addition to the donation.

The paper flowers, however, are still stand-ins for the real thing. They still represent, in color and form, an actual plant. I don't think fresh flowers are at all irrelevant; they are the ideal after which the paper versions are modeled. The live poppy is the one whose original significance the paper ones carry on. There are clearly many reasons not to use a real poppy - and one of them, beyond the flower's short life span and out-of-seasonness, is tradition. And there's nothing wrong with a good tradition either.
(no subject) - lazyknight - Oct. 30th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sollersuk - Oct. 30th, 2006 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oursin - Oct. 30th, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
fjm
Oct. 30th, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
Have you met the Peace Poppy? White instead of red. First produced by the Peace Pledge Union in 1921. Available at all good Quaker book stores (ie Friends House on Euston Road).

I believe the other point about poppies is that they grow best in churned earth, and thrive rather well on blood fertiliser.
owlfish
Oct. 30th, 2006 06:18 pm (UTC)
I've read about the Peace Poppy but never seen one worn.
(no subject) - sollersuk - Oct. 30th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fjm - Oct. 30th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_d_medievalist - Oct. 30th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oursin - Oct. 30th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fjm - Oct. 30th, 2006 09:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
gillo
Oct. 30th, 2006 06:00 pm (UTC)
As lots of other people have said, the poppies are made by disabled ex-servicemen and are to support the British Legion, so florists are not really involved - though they can, I believe, order them to make up more complicated wreaths.

It's not - and I hope never will be - a "fun" thing to wear a poppy - they are worn in commemoration because they grow particularly well in recently churned-up soil, as on the Somme and at Ypres. Isaac Rosenberg and John McCrae both wrote poems in which they figure largely. Here's one by Rosenberg:

In The Trenches


I snatched two poppies
From the parapet’s ledge,
Two bright red poppies
That winked on the ledge.
Behind my ear
I stuck one through,
One blood red poppy
I gave to you.

The sandbags narrowed
And screwed out our jest,
And tore the poppy
You had on your breast ...
Down - a shell - O! Christ,
I am choked ... safe ... dust blind, I
See trench floor poppies
Strewn. Smashed you lie.


Not a fun flower, you see.

We call it "Poppy Day" because we buy the poppies for commemoration, not for the flowers themselves, which are pretty thin on the ground at this time of year anyway. And once you cut them they wilt very quickly.
a_d_medievalist
Oct. 30th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC)
Speaking of which, even on wreaths (in wreaths? wreathed?), IIRC, the almost-life-sized poppies are not real.
(no subject) - gillo - Oct. 30th, 2006 09:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
oursin
Oct. 30th, 2006 08:49 pm (UTC)
I have a feeling - not quite strong enough to make me dig out Ronald Hutton's Stations of the Sun to check, but a feeling nonetheless - that there used to be other seasonal festivals associated with plantlife, if not actual flowers, such as Oakapple Day. Many of these probably declined because people no longer had ready access to oakapples, etc. But Poppies for Remembrance Day brings them back in symbolic form.
owlfish
Oct. 31st, 2006 08:58 am (UTC)
Appropriately enough, pre-Armistice Day, Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers says that the red poppy symbolizes consolation. Give or take the lack of seasonality to poppies on Poppy Day, days named after seasonal plants make a great deal of sense to me - blooms being temporal markers all in their own right.
geesepalace
Oct. 30th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
As I remember there were actual poppies at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey, at least in the early summer, several decades ago. At the time I was fond of G&S's Patience, and wanted to walk down Piccadilly with a poppy (or a lily).* I could find no florist that sold poppies (or, alternatively, lilies). Obviously the tomb wasn't a viable source; but I'm pretty sure it did have them.

* Then a sentimental passion of a vegetable fashion
must excite your languid spleen,
An attachment a la Plato for a bashful young potato,
or a not- too-French French bean!
Though the Philistines may jostle, you will rank as an apostle
in the high aesthetic band,
If you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily
in your medieval hand.
owlfish
Oct. 31st, 2006 09:16 am (UTC)
Any idea which hand would be my medieval one?
printperson
Oct. 30th, 2006 09:59 pm (UTC)
In the US, Memorial Day is celebrated at the end of May and that is when disabled veterans sell poppies (or now, reproduction poppies). Since poppies are actually growing in the fields of Europe at that time, the poppies make perfect sense. I remember the thrill I had the first time I actually saw fields of poppies as I was travelling across France in June during my first trip to Europe. In elementary school we had to memorize and recite In Flander's Fields, so the poppies had meaning to me. BUT, I believe that Memorial Day was originally started as a commemoration of the Civil War, so perhaps the poppy flower symbolism was added after WW I.

To my knowledge, Armistice Day(now called Veterans Day),celebrated in the US on November 11, has no association with poppies.
a_d_medievalist
Oct. 30th, 2006 10:34 pm (UTC)
Memorial Day is the generic day for honoring the war dead, while Armistice Day was to commemorate the Armistice. AFAIK, poppies were associated with the November holdiay from its beginnings. Although it was later changed to Veterans' Day, the poppies have remained associated with it, whereas their association with Memorial Day is a much later convention and probably comes from governmental efforts to remind people why we have these holidays in the first place. I don't know that this was true for all of the US, but I do know it's true for the states I've lived in -- CA, WA, and GA.

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