Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday, 7 November 2008


For the past two days I've been working in my studio to the accompaniment of the whine of chain saws and the grind of shredders – the local tree surgeon has been working on some of the trees in our garden. Two large side branches have been removed from the huge Yew tree in our courtyard, you'd hardly notice because the tree still looks majestic, but there are two large log piles under the tree. Among the logs I found this beautiful disk of Yew wood – my Dad was a joiner so I have a thing about wood. I brought it into the studio to count the tree rings: 105, that's back to 1903.

This year is the 90th anniversary of the Armistice after the World War I, not many years ago there was talk of Poppy Day dying out, despite recent conflicts it seemed irrelevant to most young people. For many reasons the 90th anniversary seems to have a resonance as it never had before.

Here's just one remembered story traced across the tree rings . . .

c. 1908
a boy (left) helped in the fields cutting flowers for market

war broke out and his brothers went to fight

at home with his sisters he helped
his widowed mother in her grocery shop

c. 1916
he too joined the regiment and went to war

he saw things in Belgium and France he
chose to keep unsaid

he was lucky, he came home

he married a young school teacher

they grew flowers and fruit
they worked hard and lived through another war

they were my Grandparents

(and yes, that's me looking very thoughtful c. 1963)


  1. beautiful post and what a wonderful way to remember them.

  2. I loved reading your memories. Not all young people find the memories of the world wars irrelevent. Three of my sons have done a "battlefields" trip to Northern France and Belgium with the school (Jacob has just returned) and all have been deeply moved by what they have seen. I think it should be compusory for all youngsters!

  3. What a beautiful piece of wood. I can see it stained and preserved somewhere in the garden.

  4. What a beautiful story, I loved the pictures. I have been to Compiegne, in France, where the armistice was signed and spent hours looking at the pictures of the war fields in the stereoscopes which, although quite harrowing, are strangely compulsive. We owe so much to those who gave their lives not just then but in all the conflicts since. We should never be allowed to take that sacrifice for granted, especially in an age where young people kill indiscriminately as they play video games. Maybe poppy day in its present form is dated and should be changed but we should never forget. My dad did come back from the second world war but his brother didn't.

  5. Always a difficulty for me; having lost family on both sides, I remember quietly.
    But I would like youngsters to read this and think.
    And that is a splendid slice of yew!

  6. What a wonderful story! I love the 'tree biscuit' You can really see what sort of weather we had each year by looking at the tree rings!

  7. I love the photo of your grandma and you in the other one with your serious little face. Big old yew tree indeed - we are surrounded by little saplings that we'll never see reach that age (all planted when we moved in). Now every time I see a big old tree I stop and pay my respects.

    We've fallen into the habit of going to the little memorial in our town every year for ANZAC day. They close the road through the mountains and the local band marches down the street to the top of Honour Avenue lined with the plaques for the men lost at war. We first went from curiosity and couldn't believe how many young families were there. Now we've made it an annual event and I hope the ceremonies don't die out.

  8. The photo in the flower field is so beautiful, it makes me wonder why it was taken and by whom.
    What happened to your great uncles?
    Have you watched any of the BBC programmes this week? The stories have been so interesting on the few I caught.
    I think they are collecting social history/war stories at Duxford on Sunday, I'm not sure what is involved but it is free to get in.

  9. A beautiful, thoughtful post.

    Veterans will be offering paper poppies for donations here in the states soon. I always get a few - my Dad is a WW2 Navy vet - but had to explain the significance to my sons. Another piece of history passed over by our miserable public education here.

  10. I so enjoyed reading the history of how your grandparents came to be together. I love how you have tied the story in with the number of tree rings, a beautiful piece of wood, and a beautiful post. x

  11. Lovely words and sentiments, and such a beautiful piece of wood!

  12. That is a poignantly beautiful post and a fitting memorial. I think Poppy Day is still resonant with young people, especially given the current conflicts.We sold poppies in School and the children were always interested to know the stories and the history.

  13. Your story is so beautifully written along with the photos...very poignant.
    I can see where your love of gardening came from.

    My Dad recently marched in the Veterans Day Parade held on Nov. 2nd in Hartford, Connecticut. He served in WWII as a combat medic in Italy, France and Germany. He was in the 45th Infantry Division which liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp, April 29, 1945.
    He couldn't talk about the horrific tragedies and his experiences until about 16 years ago, when a teacher interviewed him. Since that time he has been speaking at schools and other venues sharing his experiences which are deeply moving and emotional. He speaks from his heart and the students are so very attentive, you could hear a pin drop. He's received over 1,000 letters from students in elementary and high schools in appreciation of his visits. My Dad's philosophy is," no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

  14. I love the way you can see the years in the rings of a tree.
    A lovely post.
    My Grandfather was also one of the lucky ones that came home.
    I have tagged you. For details pop over to mine.

  15. This is a lovely post. If trees could speak...

  16. A lovely post, we visited Vimmy ridge this year and saw the trenches and the still terribly scarred earth. I can only imagine the horror they had to endure.

  17. Thank you Zoe.

    Hi Gina - as the National Curriculum now covers WWI in some detail I think most young people know something of the horrors that took place and are deeply touched by what people of their own age endured.

    Tina - the Yew wood is gorgeous.

    Pamela - this year Poppy Day has had a lot of media coverage and many school children have been involved in meeting the Veterans and remembering with them.

    Moreidlethoughts - I should imagine most people have their own family tragedies they remember at this time.

    Matron - 'tree-biscuit' - I love that!

    Chooks'r'us - hope your saplings grow into majestic trees.

    Rhiannon - my great uncles both survived too. One was in a cavalry regiment and was injured, when he recovered he became an army PE instructor. The other drove supply lorries - Granddad told us he would wait at a junction of a main raod to see the convoys and hope his elder brither was one of the drivers.

    Hi Deb - I think youngsters are amazed and awestruck when they learn what their great grand-parents lived through.

    Hi Louise - I was really amazed how old the branch was - it got me thinking...

    Thank you Annie

    Hi Threadspider - it really is hitting home this year.

    Hi Nan - I love the two wartime photos on your blog. BTW I've done my random list.

    Hi Karen - thanks for the tag - I've just compiled my list.

    Hi Casalba - that's what a friend said when she took us to the mass grave sites in the woods outide Warsaw.

    Hi Acornmoon – the memorials in France are overwhelming.

    Thank you everyone

  18. Wow what a story. Wonderful to have the pictures but especially the tree section. I don't remember the war as I wasn't around but my soul does and every time I see anything related empathies whell up inside of me. All so much more than we have ever had to endure...

    People would be wrong if they think younger generations will forget. Such things are too powerful to pass away.

    Thank you for evoking the past.


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