I went into Muswell Hill today to buy some paper and a printer cartridge. I was also looking for nit comb! Readers who are aware of the fact that I use Pritt Stick to stiffen my moustache will not be at all surprised to also learn that, after chatting to Nathan's best mate Philip, I've started using a nit comb to comb my moustache! The closely-packed teeth are very good for getting between the hairs and exfoliating the skin underneath! The thing about men is that they don't often discuss beauty tips and grooming, so the small number of tit-bits you do receive along the way are golden!
Anyway, I managed to lose my last last nit comb in France, so thought it might be time to buy a new one from the chemist. The lovely lady in the shop asked whether she could help me, and I asked if she had a nit comb. She was, I suspect, Spanish, and probably hadn't come across the term before. "A comb?" "Yes, for nits..." "Nit?" She looked bemused and took me to a little stand selling brushes. "No, I mean a comb... For nits... Like Nitty Nora!" I pointed at my head assuming she'd know I was pouting at imaginary nits rather than just my hair! "You don't mean lice?" She said. "Yes! I said, triumphantly..." "Lice!" She ran off and reappeared, proudly holding a bottle of Prioderm. That's a remedy for lice for those reading this blog who don't have children!
An old lady was sitting grumpily in the corner of the chemist. There's always an old lady sitting on a chair in a chemist isn't there? I assume they're always waiting for prescriptions, or just taking the weight off in a corner of the world which smells familiar to them. (Usually of lavender water and Pears soap.) Anyway, this old dear was listening in to my conversion. She looked at me, rolled her eyes, and, in an uncannily sardonic impersonation of Maggie Smith in Downton said, "bloody hopeless." I felt the need to explain to her that I didn't actually have nits and that I wanted the comb for my moustache. Well that tickled her, let me tell you. She found it so amusing that she nearly fell off her chair laughing!
Anyway, after a great deal more pointing and miming, I'm now the proud owner of a brand new nit comb and my moustache looks lustrous. Like a fox covered in pepper.
...So today marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Funnily enough, I woke up at 7.30am this morning, which was a little weird. I promptly fell asleep again, forgetting the significance of that particular time. The news (which I watched for the first time since long before the referendum) has been filled with moving images from Thiepval in France, or Theepvall as one of the BBC reporters called it. He was from Northern Ireland where gay marriage still isn't legal, so I guess he can't help not having a broader view of the world. You'd think someone might have had a quiet word, though.
Anyway, it's rather impossible to comprehend that it's now exactly 100 years since the most miserable day in the history of British military, and that there is no-one left in this world who remembers how it felt to go over the top. When I was young there were a fair number of veterans still alive. I used to write to a First World War soldier when I was a teenager, and there were plenty of old boys who used to shuffle out onto the market square in Higham on the 11th November. Then one by one they left us...
What I didn't know until today is that the symbol for remembrance in France is the blue cornflower which is particularly lovely because the cornflower is my second favourite flower after the poppy. Imagine having a list of favourite flowers! For the record, my third favourite is the sunflower. Anyway, there was a wonderful moment in the Thiepval ceremony this morning when thousands of poppies and cornflowers poured from the ceiling of the enormous monument.
In the UK, Manchester seems to have been given the monopoly on remembering the many Pals battalions who were decimated by the Somme. There were ceremonies in Leeds, but they weren't mentioned on the national news. I was rather touched to see, all over the country, volunteers in WW1 uniforms, simply standing around in train stations and public places, sending out a heart-warming message that those brave, foolhardy Tommies are still walking amongst us.
I have cut together a little video about our trip to the Somme Region last Sunday. It was all shot on mobile phones, so doesn't have the beauty and finesse of the films the BBC made about our trip which are currently doing the rounds on various regional news programmes, but they are very atmospheric, and very representative, I hope of the uniqueness of the occasion. This film isn't just about the young cast trying to get their heads around the enormity of the battle, but also about them thinking practically about how they can use what they've learned in Brass.
If you have a chance to have a look, I'd love to hear your thoughts. It's about fifteen minutes long.