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The Disappearing Poppy

When you saw Adrienne on TV recently, sometimes there was a poppy, sometimes not. Here's her story of the "now you see it, now you don't" poppy.

Getting off a plane in Berlin was both the wrong time and wrong place to suddenly remember that I should have packed a poppy. I may be forgetful, but I believe in remembrance. The poppy always makes me feel especially Canadian. Wearing it is a simple, dignified display of respect and I like that. So, to face days and days of Berlin wall anniversary coverage without my poppy was a problem.

First to the rescue; CBC Radio reporter Dave Seglins. He's not at all forgetful. In fact, he pulled out a chewing gum package to reveal a whole row of poppies ingeniously and meticulously pinned to the plastic to protect them. He slipped the row of plastic out as if he was offering a bright red chiclet. Brilliant. I took one and vowed to be careful with it. I meant it.

But then came the interview in the Berlin bomb shelter. We travelled down multiple flights of stairs into the dark maze, the walls adorned with the photos of the terrified civilians who had sought protection deep below the streets. We were there to have a look at a recreation of the muddy tunnels used to smuggle East Germans to West Germany decades later when the Wall was up.
The temperature was fluctuating, coats were on and off, gear moved around and suddenly I had that sickening feeling again. The poppy, in my hands for only a few hours, was already gone. That frustrating straight pin had just come loose.
Without trying to cause too much fuss, I retraced my steps in the dark to look for it, finding only the little red flower. The pin and black core were gone. Lost. In a German bomb shelter. Really.

Time was tight, so we moved on.

Surely, I thought, I will find another poppy-packing Canadian somewhere.

On another shoot wandering towards Brandenburg Gate, I passed hundreds of people looking admiringly at the colourful dominos set to fall on cue to mark the anniversary of the fall of the Wall. My interest then though was in the people not the dominoes. I was furtively glancing from lapel to lapel for poppies. I didn't see a single one. But, I did hear two British voices and went after the women and stopped them. Strangers can be wonderful sometimes, and when i told them what I was looking for, instantly one of the women said "let me check my purse". She started digging through a handbag that immediately reminded me of my nana's, long ago. Out came mints and tissue and a tiny address book, a changepurse, and all of it smelled slightly of Oil of Olay. She handed it all to me as she plunged deeper into this remarkable bag.
"I'm sure it's in here somewhere" she said. She explained she had taken it off in the morning, just feeling slightly uneasy about wearing it in Germany. "It's not rational," she said, "but I just thought it best to leave it be." Search over, purse given a good sorting, but no poppy. I thanked them for being good sports and they were off. This was starting to seem an impossible task, until I smacked into another radio colleague, Tom Parry, moments later.
Perfect. My poppy packing hero. Kindly he handed it over with the requisite "don't lose this one ok?" With a few more hundred metres to walk, I examined the fragile little thing in my hand. Tom's was a British poppy. They're a slightly different shape from the Canadian poppy; with two petals, made of rather thin paper that doesn't do all that well in the rain. But the stem is plastic with no annoying pins that can suddenly become separated. I promised myself to pay attention this time and guard it properly. And I did.
The now rather wrinkled and sad looking little flower made it all the way back to London. But, of course, I don't need it now, because on my desk, the little pile of bright Canadian poppies I should have picked up in the first place, was waiting for me, just in time for Remembrance Day.