White Poppies

white poppies with green centre marked 'peace'

Today the annual white poppy campaign launched.

Two main things to know about that: (from the campaign website).

“White poppies represent remembrance for all victims of war of all nationalities, a commitment to peace and a rejection of militarism. They have been worn at Remembrance time since 1933. In contrast, the Royal British Legion, who produce red poppies, say that they remember only British and allied armed forces personnel”.

White poppies remember and respect civilian deaths, deaths in all wars, and deaths from wherever they came. They’re a much less 19th-century approach to grief and mourning than the ‘only our boys’ approach of the red poppy campaign.

White poppies – remembrance for all the dead, in all the wars

White poppies remember and respect civilian deaths, deaths in all wars, and deaths from wherever they came

I realised that I originally published the post below 7 years ago. And honestly, I think nothing much has changed around Worthing. What do you reckon?

Creem Cheeze & White Poppies

We’re in The Orchard cafe for their vegan tea event.  There’s 7 in our group, in a chock-full cafe (tickets sold out weeks ago), and we look around in wonder, interested to know who are the vegan-or-vegan-curious of Worthing, then? There’s an all-ages crowd, including some very glamorous young folks, a sprinkling of beard-and-tattoo dudes, at least one person who has been vegan since the 1970s – and a baby whose excited face makes plain that this is probably their first ever Sunday high tea. Teas and coffees served, food appears. Onion bhaji with mango chutney; creem cheeze and cucumber; shredded veg wraps; scones with jam and something yummy – is it whipped coconut cream? And cake. All kinds of cake, including (inevitably) a carrot one and brownies.

We have a highly animated discussion about parking and the outrageous costs and restrictions of Brighton / Hove (where at least three of us have moved into Worthing from). Parking – as synecdoche for general ease and cost of living – emerges in discussion (yet again) as one clear reason why, for many here, Worthing is nothing like Brighton, no matter how many vegans live here.

As the chomping eventually grinds to a halt and the woman next to me pops her diabetes pills, laughing as she acknowledges the irony, our opposite neighbour pulls out a pack of white poppies. Some folks at the table know about them and are happy to get a chance to buy – they can be so hard to track down. Some have never come across them, and are intrigued to know that it is possible to respect and remember the victims of war (all the victims of all wars) without glorifying or supporting nationalism or militarism, or indulging in what sometimes feels like a national pastime of whitewashed war nostalgia. The Peace Pledge Union supporter does a brisk trade and many of us pick up leaflets.

“If you’re brave enough, you can go up and lay a wreath of white peace poppies whenever there’s a ceremony where they’re laying red ones”, somebody tells us. We’re wondering precisely how brave you’d need to be, to do that, in Worthing?  

Published by Caroline

After 30 years as an academic anthropologist doing ethnography in India and the Gulf, Caroline now avoids airports and spends a lot of time walking, cycling or quad skating around for conversations and stories in their adopted home of Worthing. Caroline does public sector consultancy work and project evaluation, using creative research methods. Caroline also writes. Find them on Substack at https://substack.com/@carolineosella. (Yes, there's a WIP and yes, it's a campus novel, but hang on - it's not a memoir, and it's not a thinly-disguised writeup of people and situations. I studied creative writing, trained, practiced and ** made it all up**).

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