Liv­ing Na­tional Trea­sure

Poppy maker

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Pho­to­graph by Richard Can­non Tessa Waugh www.pop­py­fac­tory.org

Wish LLOYD has the kind of life story that could be a novel. Af­ter a trau­matic child­hood in Peck­ham, he passed his army en­try ex­ams with top marks and found his way into the Royal Engi­neers. ‘i was this street­wise south Lon­don boy and, sud­denly, i was do­ing all these dif­fer­ent things,’ he re­flects. ‘han­dling ex­plo­sives, strip­ping weapons down in the dark, driv­ing heavy plant ve­hi­cles, ori­en­teer­ing and run­ning.’

When he came out of the army, Mr Lloyd sprinted against great ath­letes such as Kriss Ak­abusi and Lin­ford Christie, be­fore in­jury brought his run­ning ca­reer to a pre­ma­ture end. he then worked as a tele­coms en­gi­neer, but, af­ter 28 years in the job, life took an­other nose­dive. ‘i lost my job and money was run­ning low, it was com­ing up to Christ­mas, i was sleep­ing in my car and i couldn’t think how i was go­ing to buy my daugh­ter a present,’ he con­fesses.

Mr Lloyd’s girl­friend at the time put him in touch with Vet­er­ans Aid and STOLL, a char­ity that helps to house vul­ner­a­ble vet­er­ans. STOLL told him about the Royal British Le­gion’s Poppy Fac­tory, where he’s worked for the past year, along­side 30 other army vet­er­ans with phys­i­cal and men­tal-health prob­lems.

The fac­tory’s main func­tion is to pro­duce wreaths and the pop­pies that we wear each Novem­ber, while pro­vid­ing vet­er­ans with a step­ping stone into the work­place.

‘i was very weak, very emo­tional and in a bad place when i started, but i’m back to my old self again now,’ di­vulges Mr Lloyd, who’s due to have ma­jor heart surgery later this year. ‘Ev­ery­one at the fac­tory has sup­ported me and i feel as if i’ve been given a sec­ond chance.’

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