I’ve just spent not much longer than 24 hours in Brussels. 28 I guess. For work. I like Brussels. It’s a strange city, especially the European quarter.
Before I left on the Eurostar yesterday afternoon I bought a poppy from. The Royal British Legion poppy seller in St Pancras. TV news persevered have been wearing them for weeks – politicians too. And they’re becoming more common around the UK too. But in Brussels it’s like playing a game of ‘spot the patriotic Brit’. (You know, a little wink and flick of your poppy can get you far). Belgians must have thought I was weird. Poppies, of course, are a symbol of Flanders. Those fields are where that symbol cane from!
I’ve had five people, in the last 28 hours, ask what the poppy was for. Of course i knew what it was for – I explained November 11th and Armistace Day in the UK. But the explanations as ever, became increasingly elaborate. Bu the time of my [absolutely fascinating] conversation in the Eurostar terminal as I waited to depart this evening I was recalling stories about my grandfather and his part in the Second World War.
You know, so many questions are asked about Britishness. But the poppy is one symbol that makes me proud to be British. It’s about what’s best in British life – at the most generic level it’s about comeradery, history and endurance. It’s amazing to have had people ask me what the poppy meant. It made me stop and think about it. And did me a world of good.