Someone recently asked me whether we celebrated Veterans’ Day in Jamaica. We do. There is a certain time of year on the island when old men sell and wear artificial paper poppies of a brilliant carmine red. This is part of the Jamaica Legion’s Poppy Drive, also called the Poppy Appeal. It is a way of earning money for war veterans living in Curphey Home in Mandeville, the only home of its kind in the Caribbean. Today’s residents are veterans of World War II (WWII) but earlier on, many of them were survivors of World War I (WWI).
A grand uncle of mine fought in the West India Regiment, under the RAF (Royal Air Force), as did one of my fathers (biological), and an uncle in law. But what did I know of fighting in a war until I read Virginia Woolf’s, Jacob’s Room, and learned what it meant to fight (and die) on foreign soil. Our Jamaican men were among those fighting the European/American wars – WWI and WWII. The old men who shuffled under the weight of my father’s casket wore those red poppies as they moved in file towards the church, flag in hand (or was it draped over the casket?). So yes, I guess we do celebrate our old soldiers and veterans. Should you go to Jamaica when the poppy tins are passed around, purchase a poppy, make a donation, thank a veteran. The Jamaica Legion uses the funds from the poppy drive to help take care of the veterans at Curphey Home. How many of our soldiers died in battle and how many returned home from Word Wars I and II, I wonder?
Poppy Paintings and Using Reds
Lately I’ve been trying to work with red, to incorporate it into my paintings. It is a very bold color and I am having difficulty with it; I’ve had some successes as well. Here are three of my favorite poppy paintings. The first is Van Gogh’s and the latter two are Monet’s. The fourth painting is my latest attempt at using red. Feeble, to be sure and who knows how it will turn out. But that is part of the joy of creating. You never know where you will end up any more than our poor soldiers did, when they enlisted for military service under a flag not their own. It wouldn’t be until 1962 before they had their own flag to salute. Just don’t expect us to start any wars for the sake of fighting over a flag, okay, okay, and country!