Gerhard marvels at the recent poppy installation at the Tower of London, which leads him to muse on how much has changed in a century.

If you are visiting London between now and 11 November, you should definitely visit the art installation at the Tower of London, commemorating the First World War. A total of 800,000 ceramic poppies are being planted to create artist Paul Cummins’ installation ‘The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ ( Only about one-fifth of the way in planting, I found it very moving and it triggered my own investigation into my family’s past.

Every November the Poppy Appeal by the British Legion remembers the fallen and it is an integral part of the UK’s culture. I thought it was interesting that there is very little in the way of remembrance in Germany. I guess that being the aggressor and loser – and subsequently feeling guilty – has a lot to do with it.

One organisation that does exist, though, is the ‘VdK’ ( I always knew it by its abbreviation, as the German word is a real tongue-twister and stands for ‘Care for German War Graves’. It was founded soon after the First World War to help fund the care of soldiers’ graves outside Germany. From my youth, I remember lively coffee afternoons and bake-offs that used to be held to raise funds for this organisation and was wondering if they are still able to do so, or whether some health & safety decree has put an end to this by now.

I was judging a local business community cake competition recently and was told only companies that had a health & safety-certified kitchen were allowed to participate. In some ways it was good, as they could only muster 11 companies with such premises and this meant less cake to taste, evaluate and judge, which can be quite taxing especially when the numbers reach the 30s. Yet on the other hand, I was rather saddened that something as innocent as a ‘Bake-Off’ had been curtailed because someone had thought it was too risky.

Half of me wants to say, “The world has gone bonkers — pass me that toffee cheesecake!” On the other hand, I’m beginning to have niggling doubts and wonder if I would be staring into the face of some cross-contamination and incorrect storage horror while sinking my teeth into a red velvet cupcake!

A lot has changed in the last 100 years!