By chance, I read the local paper and saw an article looking for volunteers for the forthcoming Poppies: Weeping Window exhibition at the Museum. Whether it was due to my recent memory of the huge London exhibition or because I had once attended a local army run school years ago or both, I decided to apply.
Soon I joined up with a lovely Friday morning team for the first of 13 weeks interaction with the public. Now, with only one week to go, I’m going to miss this weekly role and wonder what on earth I’ll next do.
Up to now I’ve always been on car park duty and therefore the first to ask the questions on the unsuspecting members of the public. I daren’t find out if they are subsequently being asked the same interrogating questions by other members of the team.
I have been amazed by the number of visitors from south of the border and from overseas. In the main it has been a bit like Noah’s Ark in that they arrive in groups of two. Occasionally there have been groups of 4 or 5 ladies, sometimes with one silent man trailing behind, and they arrive at the gate talking non-stop. They usually have to be given a couple of loud ‘Hullos’ to avoid them knocking over the granite stone barricade. I would hate to use the walky-talky provided by the museum staff if first-aid was ever needed.
A group of 4 arrived with gusto a few weeks back. They hailed from Northumberland and had been in London late last year to take in the sights and the thatre. One suggested a visit to the Tower of London to see the Poppies and the others had to be convinced it would be worthwhile. Well, once there they became hooked and decided to follow the Poppies as they toured the country. It would also give them the opportunity to see parts the UK they had never seen before. Thus they have been to Kirkwall, now they have landed in Perth and have already booked accommodation when they will soon visit Caernarvon.
Nearly all the visitors, all bar one in truth, commented when leaving that it had been well worth the visit. Many had found the occasion to be a bit emotional, bringing back memories of their own relatives who had fought in the Great War. Quite a number commented on the fact that they had been successful in purchasing a ceramic poppy post the London exhibition. One had opened the poppy package then dropped it on the hard floor breaking it into several pieces. Fortunately her husband managed to re-glue it together.
The early weeks are now distant memories but it was not fun standing out in the open car park welcoming arriving Blue badge holders whilst an Indian monsoon was turning the tarmac into a river. Those arriving on foot were not able to see the back of the red jacket ‘Poppy Partner –can I help you?’ They did not want to be stopped by a bedraggled rag whose hair was acting as a downpipe.
What an Experience!!
Brian Fitzgerald | Poppy Partner