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

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'