Friday Fact || In Flanders fields, where poppies blow

In history and literature, there’s no other flower that has made a mark than the poppy.

Poppies (scientific name: papaveracaeae) are small flowering plants, often herbaceous, often grown for their flowers. They have also been used for medicine. One species, the papaver somniferum is the source of opium.

So, how did the poppy gain so much significance?

It was during the First World War where trench warfare in France was raging. So many men and animals have died, and their blood, along with the nitrogen from explosives and lime from shattered infrastructures such as houses and buildings, fertilised the soil to such an extent that poppies flooded the fields of France and Belgium. Constant bombardment of the soil also disturbed the soil, bringing the seeds to the surface.

And the longer the war raged, more soldiers were being killed, the more the poppies thrived.

Soldiers wrote home about the poppies, and so did the poets. One of them was John McCrae, a Canadian doctor at a field hospital. He wrote In Flanders Fields after burying his friend, a fellow officer in the Canadian army. The poem was published in Punch, a popular publication. In millennial-speak, the poem became “viral” almost immediately. The poppies became the symbol of the war dead; the souls of soldiers killed in action between 1914 and 1918 becoming flowers.

An American professor named Moina Michael brought about the poppies’ “popularity”. Inspired by McCrae’s poem, she wore a poppy in remembrance of the fallen soldiers. Moina also helped out in war efforts, assisting in training YMCA workers. After the war, while holding classes for disabled servicemen, Moina realised that she needed to provide continual financial assistance to those servicemen. This prompted her to sell silk poppies as a means of raising funds for the veterans.

In 1921, her efforts have resulted in the poppy being adopted as a symbol of remembrance in America, as well as Britain.

You can learn more about the First World War here, here, and here.

Reference and image source here.

Reference for Moina Michael

 

Friday Finds|| Abbey Sy’s The ABCs of Journaling

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The ABCs of Journaling

Abbey Sy

Hardbound, 121 pages, with full colour illustrations and photographs

Published by Summit Books

I have been following Abbey Sy’s work ever since I attended the Type Lab event almost three years ago. She is phenomenal–there’s her website to prove it! One look at her book–The ABCs of Hand Lettering–and it was typography love at first sight for me, and also the start of my somewhat muted journey into learning about calligraphy and typography.

Back then, before law school happened, I loved to pour out my innermost thoughts, and put them on paper. They were pretty much emo-laden thoughts (not exactly proud of that haha)–and although I cringe about what I have written back then, I pretty much enjoyed making it look pretty all the same.  View Post

Friday Feature|| Testament of Youth (2014)

 

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Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Emily Watson, Hayley Atwell, Dominic West, Miranda Richardson, Colin Morgan, Taron Egerton, Alexandra Roach

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a weakness for period films. Particularly during the Victorian and post-Edwardian period.

Lately, I am interested in the events during the First World War–did a bit of reading–and would love to read more. I came across this book, Testament of Youth, on which this movie is based. Testament of Youth is the story of a real-life young woman named Vera Brittain, who worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse during the First World War–or the Great War, as it was known then.

At the start of the story, Vera (Vikander) struggles to be allowed by her father to attend Oxford. At that time, it wasn’t the done thing for a young woman from the upper middle and upper classes in post-Edwardian England to pursue higher education. Finally, after her younger brother Edward (Egerton) persuades their father to allow Vera to attend Oxford, Vera prepares for the Entrance Examination. She eventually gets in, including her brother and his friends, one of which was Roland Leighton (Harington) who became Vera’s fiance.

Their peaceful world was shattered when England declared war against Germany. Vera’s brother Edward went to war, as well as his friends Victor (Morgan) and Roland. Vera ended up going to Oxford alone, but after seeing some hospital beds and nurses within the university vicinity, Vera, despite resistance of her tutor, signed up to be a VAD nurse.

Tragedy met Vera three times. Her fiance, Roland was killed in 1915, her friend Victor in 1917, and finally her brother Edward, in 1918. Vera returns to Oxford, continuing what she left. There she meets Winifred Holtby, and was encouraged to “get up, get dressed and eat.” Vera and Winifred became firm friends–I read somewhere that they remained so until Winifred’s death in 1935 due to renal failure.

One scene in particular, moved me so much that I memorised what Vera said. It was that scene where Vera was at a meeting or talk of some sort with the question: Should Germany Pay? After being mocked slightly, she delivers this speech. I only managed to memorise part of it, and I do think that even in this day and age, it is still applicable.

“It was their hands too that I was holding. Their pain was the same pain–their blood is the same blood. Our grief is the same grief as the grief of hundreds of thousands of German women and men. I speak to those of us who are left behind. The mothers, sisters, women–we sent our men to war–I fought my father to let my brother go. Because they think it’s the right thing. The honourable thing.

I can only stand here and ask you–is it? Is it right? Can I accept the courage to accept that there might be another way. Perhaps their deaths have meaning only if we stand together now and say no. No to killing. No to war. No to the endless cycle of revenge. I say, no more of it. No more.”

Another thing that has captured my interest is the scenery. I don’t know why, but it was magical to see those wild, green moors, the coves, and the sea. Oh, and the University of Oxford! To me, the locations are characters of some sort, as it gives the atmosphere, and it sets the tone of the story–or the movie, rather. And they did, very well.

Has any one of you seen the movie? How has it impacted you?

Image credit here.

Friday Finds || The Blue Castle — Lucy Maud Montgomery

How are you all doing? Hope you are doing well!

It’s been ages since I’ve written a book review–I’ve been reading a lot of books but I haven’t put pen to paper. Or rather, in this case, fingertips to keyboard with regard to how I feel about them! I’m going to review one of my favourite author’s little known work.

Reading Lucy Maud (LM) Montgomery’s work is always a treat. I’ve fallen in love with Anne of Green Gables as a little girl. In many ways, I related to Anne Shirley. I still do, actually. While I have many good friends and I love them dearly, there’s only a few with whom I have the same wavelength–I share her viewpoint in having a friend that’s also a ‘kindred spirit’.  I still read the books in the series because there’s something about worth revisiting in Anne Shirley’s world: She never changes who she is, and she does her own thing. For those who have never read the series at all–IT IS NEVER TOO LATE. It’s totally worth your time. The eighth book in the series is actually my favourite!

Okay, back to LM Montgomery’s little known work. This is another book of hers that I have fallen straight in love with. No, seriously. In classic Montgomery style, the beginning of The Blue Castle was riveting enough to make me want to stay up until late at night to finish it.

In a nutshell, Valancy Stirling (such a delicious name!) was the nonentity of her family. Plain, unmarried, dull (to her family), she had a bleak future in front of her,  because she was twenty-nine, and with nary a marriage proposal to her name.

Things became more exciting when Valancy felt the need to see a doctor. One of her own choosing, mind, as her family had their own go-to doctor. And the prognosis was not looking good. This was the turning point for Valancy. From that moment on, she decided to say whatever she wanted, wear whatever she wanted, do whatever she wanted. After all, she had only one year left to live and she wanted to take her life into her own hands.

And boy,Valancy’s in for a wild ride.

What I love about The Blue CastleThere was never a dull moment reading this book. LM Montgomery had the knack for great dialogue and detail. And the mood! The first chapter really did set the tone of the story–a morose, grey beginning that had you wanting to know why it was so, and it would make you wonder if things would change.

Another thing I love about The Blue Castle and Montgomery’s writing in general is that the narrator makes the reader get inside her brain and know exactly what she was thinking, dreaming, planning, dreading…or even plotting.

Let’s not forget the character development of each of the characters. Initially, I liked Valancy’s Cousin Olive, and thought that Valancy was a bit unreasonable over her apathy towards her cousin. Eventually, I finally realised that Olive was meh (and she’s a bit of a cow). Other relatives such as Uncle Benjamin I found too easy to dislike –there are many people who are like Uncle Benjamin! He, however, redeemed himself at the end of the book.

I loved Valancy’s spunk once she decided to take her life in her own hands! One of my favourite conversations in the story were of Valancy, her friend Barney and her Uncle Wellington.

“Valancy, how came you here!” he said sternly.
“By chance or God’s grace,” said Valancy.
“With this jail-bird—at ten o’clock at night!” said Uncle Wellington.
Valancy turned to Barney. The moon had escaped from its dragon and in its light her eyes were full of deviltry.
“Are you a jail-bird?”
“Does it matter?” said Barney, gleams of fun in his eyes.
“Not to me. I only asked out of curiosity,” continued Valancy.

If you’ve never read The Blue Castle or any of Lucy Montgomery’s work, they’re certainly worth a read! Completely tempted to write more–and gush more about this book, but at the risk of sounding spoilery, I decided that I’ll leave it to you to read The Blue Castle!

 

Inviting you to Ivamonos!

We are so excited to invite you all to a workshop on coversational Spanish on June 30!

One of The Friday Book Club’s partners and supporters, Melissa Villa-Real Basmayor is the the Editor-in-Chief of the leading regional news source, Bicol Standard, and a former instructor of Spanish at Ateneo de Naga University.

For years she worked as a Spanish content provider and even headed her own Spanish-language website.

On JUNE 30 at CROWN HOTEL, NAGA CITY—Our very own Melissa, would like to give back to her home community by sharing her knowledge on conversational Spanish.

Tag your friends and family and discover the rich art and culture of Spain in a unique way!

Posting more details soon!

Image credits: Bicol Standard