Nationalism is something of an alien concept to me: as someone born in New Zealand of English and Scottish parents, with an American wife, who has lived most of his adult life in England, Wales and Scotland I have, it’s fair to say, divided loyalties. (Except of course when it comes to rugby and movies involving hobbits, two areas in which my homeland leads the world.)
But I’ve been feeling obscurely proud to be British this week. I’ve been reading up on the Second World War, and—apart from the obvious heroism and sacrifice of so many people from all countries—I’ve been struck at the way the British character keeps revealing itself. I mean, would any other nation’s soldiers on capturing a town in Normandy stop and, before putting up any defences or establishing picket lines, sit down for a cup of tea, as the 7th Armoured Division did at Villers-Bocage?
Stephen Ambrose (author of “Band of Brothers”) recounts how when the British and Germans were fighting in Tunisia in 1943 the commanders of each side came to a civilised agreement: they would radio each other with the names of any prisoners taken that day so the families could be notified; and no fighting would take place after 5 pm.
One day the German commander discovered that his men had captured a British supply truck after the 5 pm watershed. He ordered them to return it, but it was too late: the goods had vanished. Knowing his enemy he hastily contacted Rommel and cunningly suggested that his unit be sent on a reconnaissance mission at once. Rommel agreed: sure enough, the next night the unit that had replaced his in the line had two of their supply trucks stolen by the British…
Well. I’ve been cracking on with the gansey this week, and have, somewhat to my surprise, finished the first sleeve. It’s about 19 inches in length, 96 stitches at the cuff, and I’ve made the cuff 5 inches long so that the recipient can adjust it to suit, i.e., just in case I got the measurements wrong (paranoid much?). I just have to—sigh—pick up the stitches around the other armhole, and then it should just be a matter of 3 more weeks’ knitting, a week to wash and block it, and we are outta here.
Incidentally I do have another reason to feel the sin of pride in my adopted country this week. The Natural Environment Research Council has invited the public to vote on a name for its new £200 million research vessel. Usually these ships are named after famous explorers or naturalists—the David Attenborough, say, or the Henry Worsley—but the current frontrunner name is, I am delighted to say, the rather wonderful “RSS Boaty McBoatface”… Isn’t that great? Vote early and vote often is my advice.
We’re taking a break next week for Easter (and to get over the shock of the clocks going forward)—our next post will be on Monday 4th April. See you then!