Friday, November 28, 2014

Time In the Moat at The Tower of London

Britain is commemorating the centenary (British for 100 years) of World War I in many ways this year.  One of the most overt rembrances was the Tower Poppies installation at The Tower of London.  Each poppy on display symbolized the death of a Commonwealth soldier during the war.  Volunteers spent many hours assembling an astounding 888,246 ceramic poppies to plant in the moat.  The installation started in August, and the final poppy was planted on Armistice Day (Veterans Day in the USA).     

If you've seen any of the photos I liked on Instagram, you'd notice my slight infatuation with the Tower Poppies.  Check out some of the photos by Historic Royal PalacesLevanterman, and TheLondonHeli on Instagram for more amazing shots.

The Tower Poppies from The Shard's observation floor
While on our expat adventure, I've been fortunate to view the poppies several times as the installation grew.  As the installation grew, so did the number of tourists.  Toward the end of October, the huge numbers of people visiting the display often required the Tower Hill Underground Station to close due to overcrowding.  

On an overcast Saturday in November, I was a part of something extremely special.  I spent the morning in the moat of The Tower of London removing just a small portion of the 888,246 poppies.  Each one of these beauties was purchased as part of a charity fundraiser to benefit several charities.  

I was astonished at what it took to make the installation possible.    
  • The poppies are ceramic so there is an element of fragility.  Each poppy was allocated to a paying customer, so each broken poppy ate into the charitable profits when it needed to be replaced.  
  • Each poppy was comprised of six parts!  The ceramic poppy was sandwiched between four different sizes of rubber washers.
  • To finish it off the poppy was perched upon a metal rod.  
After our group leader gave instructions on how to dismantle the poppies, everyone got to it.  By that I mean taking selfies.  Holy moly, I think some volunteered so they could take pictures for the entire shift instead of actually getting their hands dirty.  I suppose when working with the public you get what you get.  Once most of the group got their fill of photos, it was down to work.  
I was super happy that I wore my wellies
We took turns unplanting the poppies and safely organizing the parts.  The poppies went into their original box, and the metal rods were bundled into groups of 30.  The most tedious of the jobs was sorting the four rubber washers.  Just when we thought we'd made a dent in the pile, someone would pour on their group's stash.  Some of the metal rods had started to rust and the washers were stuck so it took strong hands to remove them.    

The poppies harbored the perfect environment for some massive worms!  All I could say when I saw these birds was Mine! Mine! Mine!


Our leader was thrilled to share that we'd unplanted over 3,000 poppies!

The only way out at the end of our shift was to walk all the way around the moat.  I could not have been more excited about the walk.  Truly an experience I will never forget.     

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