IN his fortnightly column, JOHN GUEST, the rector of St Margaret’s, Stanford-le-Hope, takes a look at local issues and muses on the lessons we might learn for life.

A FURTHER word about Armistice Day after we paused on the 11th this week to remember.

Services on Remembrance Sunday (generally the nearest to the 11th) are not waning, but seemingly gaining in size and significance as the years pass.

Stanford-le- Hope was no exception as we again welcomed vast numbers of young and old to the town centre.

Our magnificent version of “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” down St Margaret’s tower is worth recalling as it has a powerful contemporary tale to tell.

The original on the Tower of London, with its 888,246 ceramic poppies was good, but I’d argue our local one is better.

Better because it is such a hotch-potch of shapes, sizes and materials and represents local creativity, vision and hardwork.

Like the servicemen and women the poppies originally portrayed, our poppies portray the same diversity and complexity of parochial life – the good, the bad and the indifferent.

They speak not just of the past sacrifices we appreciate, but the future potential we espouse – all we can be if we strive together.

And the crimson mixture also loudly proclaims our present achievement – who we are right here and right now: the Church, the Hope Committee and the Forum, Stanford Blooming Marvels, our schools and pubs and shops and businesses and all our wonderful citizens, both young and old.

The poppies even speak of those who detract and disagree and denigrate this sacred time. Our community includes all.

Last week, I asked some of our local schoolchildren to squeeze a small pebble in their hand until it hurt and to consider that sometimes memories can be painful.

Let our poppies and our stones help us to remember and give thanks for the gift of life and the love that always pulls us together.