Walking about in a high-immigrant area of south London last week proudly sporting my poppy - something I have done every November since a schoolboy without thought - I did something I've never done, which is to assess how many others around me were doing similarly. The answer is far fewer than I would have thought. Very few young people, very few women and very, very few immigrants - the notable exceptions being a pair of wizened little Nepalese fellows, almost certainly ex-Gurkhas. And yes, I was aware, but not at all concerned, that should some deluded Jihadist with a breadknife be on the prowl, I'd make a prime target.
I'm of an age and background that views outward displays of partisanship as rather vulgar and capable of causing unintended offence; union flag enamel lapel pins, a crucifix or suchlike are therefore out. And none of my clothes are permitted to display the tailor's name except discreetly on a patch in the lining. The poppy is the one symbol, worn for one brief week, that says so much; respect for those who have lost their lives, a belief in the causes for which they fell and a quiet and dignified statement of national solidarity.
My search is on for something that communicates in the quiet, respectful, tolerant way as does the poppy those values which I and many more hold dear. A Help for Heroes wristband comes closer than a union flag badge but still doesn't quite hit the right note.