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Should poppy sales be all year round?

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My Ealing: Roy Bartlett

Remembrance Day Service in Ealing



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Rupa Huq, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Ealing Central and Acton, joined Roy Bartlett - one of the legion of poppy sellers - raising money this year.


As remembrance season draws to an end on the 11th, the sight of poppy sellers on Ealing’s streets ends for another year.

The selfless folk bearing collection tins and boxes of paper poppies at various sites around the borough are out in all weathers every year but often we don’t get an insight into their own stories or experiences so last week I joined ex service-man Roy Bartlett from the Argyle Road area of W13 at his pitch by the entrance to Waitrose in West Ealing. Roy has been a regular at this time of year in the store for many years.

It’s 2pm when we start and a steady stream of shoppers come by. The type of poppy on offer has widened this year from the traditional pin one to an adhesive sticker variant (popular with children) and larger plastic version.

It’s a tad chilly by the store entrance but Roy has a good vantage point and is well positioned seated in his motability scooter. The staff are nothing if not accommodating – offering warm drinks to Roy and me. “You’ll have me going to the toilet!” jokes Roy aged 84 refusing the offer. He has an infectious smile that many cannot resist, donating even when they are already donning the distinctive red paper flowers in their lapels.

Bartlett is a multi-faceted character: ex-RAF, lifelong Ealing resident and grand-dad. He sports a clutch of medals gained from National Service to what he calls “the cold war”, a term not often heard these days. He spent the second world war living over his parents hardware shop in South Ealing Road until evacuation to near High Wycombe which he admits isn’t far away by modern standards.

Above all my experience of helping out with poppy selling last week demonstrates the generosity of the people of Ealing. While I was there, I lost count of the number of notes deposited including at least one £20 bill in the space of 2 hours as well as tenners and fivers which had to be stuffed into the slot. As Roy himself admits you can never tell who and how much will donate: “It’s sometimes the most unlikely people. One very harassed lady with 4 excited children in tow stuffed in a £20 yesterday. Another rather scruffy young man did the same, shook my hand and said ' Thank you and your colleagues for the way of life that I enjoy today'.” I wondered how things compare to last year. Roy reckons the hundred year anniversary since 1914 has affected this year’s trade in an upward direction.

I thought of Roy and the sacrifices of both his generation and those before and since on Sunday at the moving remembrance service at Ealing Green – he himself is a regular at the commemoration at Greenford held at the same time. My stint spent with him on Friday afternoon took in the late lunchtime shoppers as well as post school run custom at Waitrose. I eventually had to leave myself to get my own offspring. Later Roy posted on EalingToday “Another good Waitrose day - 5 £20 notes and had to pack up early as tin was jammed full”. Last year his collection raised in excess of £1000.

Roy told me that we’ll have to wait until the Spring to know this year’s precise total but whatever the figure it was a honour to have lent a hand to fundraising for such a worthwhile cause. Indeed there may even be an argument to keep up efforts all year-long rather than just the 14 days around poppy day.

Rupa Huq

Roy Bartlet’s autobiographical novel of his wartime experience “A Little Boy's War” which the jacket describes as “the experiences of … living in the West London suburb of Ealing, particularly during the sustained German Luftwaffe ‘Blitz’ on the capital in 1940” is available on Amazon.








10th November 2014