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?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Grad / Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultant - Oil & Gas

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000. : SThree: Progressive Global Energy a...

Commercial Property

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices