Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

A A A

I was watching The One Show, a lightweight early-evening BBC programme, and was surprised to see Jeremy Paxman put in an appearance. He looked strangely incongruous, sunk into the squishy sofa wearing his smart suit, crisp white shirt and blazing red poppy, his clipped accent seeming even more so when set against the impenetrable regional accents of the cheery presenters.

What could brainy Paxman be doing here, I wondered. The last time I had spotted him in similarly incongruous circumstances was 10 years ago, cycling through Kensington in a tweed suit. These days you see cycling celebs all the time, but back then I got the same sort of shock you'd get if you saw a nun smoking in the back of a taxi.

Paxman was there to endorse the Poppy Appeal, which raises money for the Royal British Legion. With quiet gravitas he introduced a very moving segment about war poet Wilfred Owen, which was followed by several interviews with injured serviceman in Iraq and Afghanistan and wives who had lost their husbands in conflicts that the majority of the British people never wanted.

As one young soldier discussed his terrible experiences, I was distracted by his unnaturally painted eyebrows. It transpired that his face had been blown apart and been miraculously put together again. He still needed to have more treatment, but government money had run out. (Surprise! A trillion available for Trident but not enough to patch up a soldier!) But the British Legion, which does excellent work taking care of injured servicemen and their families, stepped in with financial support.

It's ironic that in recent decades we've become increasingly risk- averse while the Government continues to instigate military conflicts resulting in the premature deaths of thousands of soldiers every year.

At home, conker competitions are banned, trees are ripped up outside children's playgrounds in case the leaves poison the kids, and endless directives appear extolling the terrors of alcohol, cigarettes and unpasteurised cheese. Public money is dished out for ludicrous compensation claims – earlier this year a man sued for slipping on a leaf outside a florist – yet no such largesse is forthcoming from our Government for brave soldiers killed and disfigured in pointless illegal wars. Out of sight, out of mind!

Cameron and Brown both want to extend Trident at vast cost, yet the Government does not provide sufficient funds to buy soldiers basic equipment to guarantee their safety. While Brown funds crippling, expensive wars and conflicts abroad, he is cutting subsidies – in real terms – to fight global warming, the greatest threat facing mankind. What have we done as a nation to deserve such "leadership"?

Poppy day is sometimes seen as an anachronism, but anything that highlights the barbarity, environmental destruction and wanton pointlessness of war must be a good thing.

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform