Serialization of Helen Fielding’s latest Bridget Jones offering appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine today.
And I’m glad to see that the nits/ head louse plot line rings true.
I wonder if Helen has read our book during her research.
Just as predicted, a couple of weeks into the new term and 8-year-old was caught scritch-scratching behind the ear.
We’ve invested in a new nit comb, after the one we bought in Canada 5 years ago started to shed tines.
And tonight three little louselings have been dredged out.
This being the 21st century, we no longer believe in spontaneous generation, so a model of island biogeography offers us the best understanding of what has occurred.
First, there are no adults, not one. Second, the louse nymphs are all the same size, about 0.5 mm long. This implies that a mature, egg-laden female visited the island (8-year-old’s head) from some other part of the archipelago (class of schoolmates). She laid her eggs over a very short period, probably an hour or two, then moved off to another isle (probably during literacy lesson). A week later the eggs are hatching synchronously and the baby lice are starting to crawl about and to feed.
Of course, there is no actual island hopping (or skipping, or jumping) because head lice only crawl, but instead of having to negotiate seas between the islands, these islands conveniently visit and bump each other, head-to-head.
We got in quick, this time, with our vermin eradication programme. But we must keep vigilant.
The editor of the 8-year-old’s school newsletter has chosen exactly the right time to make the usual head louse announcement — two weeks into the autumn term.
After several louse-free summer months the kids return to the heady (literally) maelstrom of head-to-head learning; just perfect conditions for louse spread.
It is a great relief to see that the school continues to offer sage advice about finding nits (i.e. combing) and they maintain their policy of not excluding nitty children.
For anyone who missed it, the blobfish has, apparently, been voted the ugliest animal in the world. I can’t work out whether I’m frustrated or relieved that this accolade didn’t go to an insect.
There are plenty of contenders. In Extreme Insects, I put forward the caterpillar of the lobster moth, Stauropus fagi, for this title. Imagined, by the ancients, as being half scorpion, half spider, it presents a truly gothic appearance. This, of course, is part of its defence against predators. It doesn’t look like an edible morsel. It doesn’t look like anything, actually.
But then marine biologist Maya Plass helpfully pointed out that, in her opinion, head lice could have out-done the blobfish:
“Nits are as close to ugly as I can imagine…Although [I'm] still impressed at their ability to cling to hair with their evil little limbs.”
She’s right, of course. ‘Cadaverous ashy-white’ is the best description of a head louse that I can find, from Denny’s Monographia Anoplurum Britanniae, published in 1842.
Maybe I should make a real push and get the head louse nominated next year.
Just got a call from my brother. He’s bought, and he wants me to sign, a copy of Little Book of Nits.
“It’s for some friends”, he says. ”We stayed with them recently, and all their kids had head-lice”
I readily agree, but after we hang up, I contemplate the possibilities.
You’ve got to be REALLY good friends with someone to give them a book that is a direct comment on the state of their children’s verminous hair. And you have to be sure that you’ve accurately gauged the true measure of their humour.
This could all go horribly wrong.
It’s another sale though. Ring up those royalties, I say.
There is a saying in my extremely small world, born out of experience – when the going gets tough, the lice get going. When I say they get going, I mean it in the ‘sleeves rolled up and dig in’ sense, as opposed to b*ggering off when there is work to do.
Throughout my career as a working mum I learned that just at the point where I was about to crack and was unable to take any more, no really, absolutely, any full stop more, I’d catch a rogue child scratching out of the corner of my weeping eye.
Up all night with a vomiting baby, car broken down, bailiff at the door (you think I’m joking) and cat dying – and that was just one Wednesday in May – I spot the tell-tale itch, check the scalp in question and, bingo! the job just got even harder.
I had my sister on the phone recently and she sounded utterly exhausted. She’d finally moved house miles away from her old address, having packed up herself in between her paid working hours and sorting out my neice and nephew with their daily requirements of school etc. Her husband works abroad and had cancelled coming over for the ‘completion’ at the last minute due to company commitments and she had reached the very final hurdle only to discover a mistake in the sums and a shortfall on the very last day of a shedload of money. It was at that moment, sobbing and stressed, she tussled her son’s hair and realised it was crawling.
She was a different woman to the one I had seen not three weeks earlier at Jamie Oliver’s Italian place among the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. Then my sister was full of hope and plans for the new house. It was all yet to happen. Let’s celebrate, she suggested, and we had Bellinis while our children lounged around enjoying eachothers cousinly company, teasing eachother with breadsticks and sharing the fun of Jamie’s silly ViewMaster children’s menus. Happy days. It was all going so well.
Now she was faced with the prospect of having to comb the kids’ heads over and over as well as unpacking boxes and shuffling furniture alone. Good thing we all went out for a meal together, I said in an attempt to comfort her down the phone. We had such a lovely afternoon, eh? And it was all thanks to you. By the way, I got some super pics of the children. I will email them to you to cheer you up..
And before I did, I flicked through the photos. I could do with a little reminding myself after a hectic week coupled with a sore throat. There was us two raising our peach juice and sparkling wine, there was my quid ink pasta, yum, and, oh, there’s a brilliant one of my son showing her son how to make the ViewMaster work by pressing down the lever, heads together…. Oh sh*te.