Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Martinmas: Poppies and corn

Today is the day when people, especially in the UK, tend to wear red poppies in remembrsnce of those who died in the two world wars of the last century.

But in recent years I’ve been repelled by the sight of British politicians appearing on TV wearing poppies in their lapels three weeks or more before the day, in a blatant attempt to curry favour with the voters. And it seems that right-wing politicians are particularly apt to jump on the bandwagon.

Red poppies among the corn (photo by Chris Gwilliam)

Red poppies among the corn (photo by Chris Gwilliam)

Perhaps to counter this my friend Chris Gwilliam posted a picture on Facebook of red poppies where they belong, among the corn, not in the lapels of smarmy politicians. The poppies symbolise the blood shed by the predecessors of those same politicians, and, very often, the blood shed in our day by the very politicians who wear them, who still send young people to fight in futile wars as their predecessors did a century ago.

Coincidentally, and perhaps ironically, 11 November is also the feast day of St Martin of Tours, who could be the patron saint of conscientious objectors, since when he became a Christian he resigned from the army. On being accused of cowardice by his commanding officer he offered to stand, unarmed, between two opposing armies in an impending battle.

On an altogether different tack, the picture of the cornfield reminds me that in American English the word they use for corn is “grain”, and they reserve the word “corn” solely for maize. Looking at the picture, I wondered why I would not describe that as a grainfield rather than a cornfield, since I do also use the word “grain” to describe cereal crops. And I realised that I think of it as “corn” when it is growing in the fields, and “grain” only when it has been milled.

Grain elevators in Koster, North-West Province, where grain is fouind

Grain elevators in Koster, North-West Province, where grain is fouind

So what is seen in the fields in the picture on the left is corn, and what is kept in the grain elevator in the picture on the right is grain, even though Americans might call it corn.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Martinmas: Poppies and corn

  1. Bit harsh on politicians there Steve! Any politician with a major media presence who didn’t wear a poppy would be committing electoral suicide. For better or worse the media would rip them apart, and the public would go along with it.

    Interesting to see your use of the word ‘Martinmas’. Not being a part of the church or Church of England growing up I’d never come across that word until I was in my late forties when I heard it in the song The Wife of Ushers Well by Steeleye Span. Although I do see now they also recorded a song called Martinmas Time back in 1966.

    • I could understand it if they wore poppies from the Sunday before to 11th November, but when they wear them in October it’s like shops putting up decorated Christm,as trees in October — utterly phony. It’s phony anyway, because they are the ones sending bombers to Belgrade, Basra or Baghdad, or Mosul but it just makes them look doubly phony.

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