In this, the centenary of the start of World War One, something startling is in process at the Tower of London. A commemorative art installation by artist Paul Cummins spills into the moat, and is comprised of hundreds of thousands of ceramic poppies which are still being added to. This, of course, echoes the fields of the Somme where the blasted land errupted in a shock of poppies, as if the blood of the colossal amount of people killed there had somehow flowered. The land was poppy-scarred.
While this is poignant symbolically, nature has no mind for such things. The flourishing of Papaver rhoeas on the battlefields was an ecological response, the tiny seeds taking advantage of particular conditions. Poppy seeds can remain viable for decades; laying dormant in the soil, they wait for some form of disruption to churn them up into the light they require for germination.
Unaware of the poignancy of this memorial, I saw starlings use the cover afforded by these clay flowers, an undergrowth where the gulls and pigeons seemed reluctant, or too big, to venture There, the tourist-scattered crumbs could be golloped with little hassle.
Overlooking the moat, someone had carved “Forgive” into the trunk of a London Plane tree. Whether this referred to the memorial and what it represented, I do not know. But it seemed fitting.