The Tower of London, with its incredible history and its sombre, forbidding presence, is always impressive- but seeing it surrounded by a sea of blood red blooms (888,246 ceramic poppies representing British and Colonial lives lost during World War I) is nothing short of breathtaking.

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I was there on a Saturday, and the crowds were fierce, but I barely noticed. I simply could not take my eyes off that brilliant red moat!

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I rounded the corner of the Tower and the full extent of what I was seeing became apparent.

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 This was more than art. It was more than ‘pretty’. I found myself thinking about those 888, 246 lives- what kind of men they were, how old they were when they died, where they were killed, how their mothers, fathers, wives, brothers, sisters and lovers grieved for them. I thought of my little boys back home in Australia, and all the lost sons those flowers represented.

It was incredibly moving.

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Of course I went inside…

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Traitor’s Gate is one of my favourite parts of the Tower. Built between 1275 and 1279 as a way for King Edward I to access the Tower by river, the gate is infamously remembered as the point where prisoners such as Thomas More, Queen Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth I and Queen Anne Boleyn entered the Tower.

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I kept wandering, soaking up the history.

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Tower Green, the site of the scaffold. Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Katherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey were among the unlucky folk whose lives ended here.

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I found myself reaching out and touching things, partly to convince myself that I was really here, and also as a way of getting some kind of grasp on the passage of time. I wondered how many other hands, over the centuries, had touched this wall. Poppies, stones, years and lives- I was overwhelmed by them, by my inability to count them, by the insignificance of my very small presence against a very large, and very bloody, history. 

 

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