Friendliness is next to lousiness

It's a thrilling read, but difficult to associate with any of the major characters.

It’s a thrilling read, but difficult to identify with any of the major characters.

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.


Apparently they’re travelling by Tube now too

My grateful thanks to Twitter contacts Lou ‘Weasy’ and David King for bringing this to my attention:

Head lice? Glum faces all round then.

It’s your typical London Evening Standard head-louse-alert-warning-disaster-aaarrrghh article on head lice. I’ve tried to untangle some of the facts here.

Wet weather = more head lice? As Dr Burgess is quoted as saying, more to do with kids staying indoors, cuddling in front of the telly or the games console, and since this was probably researched last month, also more to do with ‘wet play’ in the class-room rather than running about in the playground, so yet more head-to-head huddle time.

Tea-tree and neem oil? The campaign at the school mentioned in the article is led by one vociferous parent’s anecdotal report that it’s the “only product she has found to work effectively”. The plural of anecdote, as any fule kno, is myth.

Passing them on to colleagues and commuters? Remember, it’s that all-important head-to-head touching contact that is important. Head lice do not abseil, or swing like acrobats; they are scurrying about on the scalp, not clinging to the ends of long fine wispy strands. You’re going to have to get rather over-friendly with your fellow tube travellers for head lice to scamper across.

One fact they fail to dredge up is the ‘safe’ breeding season over the summer holidays, when, without the usual nit letters coming home from the school, it is so easy to forget to keep vigilant and keep looking. So if you are concerned about an itchy summer, have another hard scrape at the kids’ scalps. There is no need to worry overly about your journey in to work. But if you are feeling anxious, I’m sure it won’t be long before you can buy hair nets at all Tube stations.


Oh the irony, oh those dark unguarded looks

Oh dear. Teenager is in the bathroom tearing her hair out. Well, if not her actual hair, then at least the contents of her hair, the six-legged crawling verminous contents of her thick luxurious wavy hair. And it may just be that the hair is winning.

I nearly offer to help, but I am warned away by those dark unguarded looks. Her eyes seem to say: “It’s all your fault.”

And the accusations follow: “If you hadn’t written a book about them….”

I don’t seem able to follow this up with the question on my lips: “If I hadn’t, then … what?”

Whatever is the opposite of delicious irony, this is it.

No matter what, I am not dressing up as a head louse

The Little Book of Nits is here, we have a publication date (24 May) so we are having a launch party. And by complete coincidence, it so happens that Justine has the perfect launch venue — the bookshop she runs with her husband Jon.

Bookseller Crow, they sell books, loads of them.

Bookseller Crow on the Hill is renowned as an independent bookseller of repute (number 6, “shabby but wonderful”, in The Independent’s top 50 bookshops) and they have regular signings, readings, launch parties and just plain party parties (15th birthday this June).

In fact I was up there not three weeks ago for the launch of local author Alex Milway‘s latest children’s story about abominable snowmen (and various other mythological creatures), where he served some yeti poo biscuits and was dressed as a yeti.

The Little Book of Nits launch party is at 7.00 on the evening of Thursday 24 May, Bookseller Crow on the Hill, 50 Westow Street, Crystal Palace, London SE19 3AF. Lice are fascinating, and so are the weird and wonderful remedies dreamed up to fight them. It is time for the myths, as well as the lice, to be busted.

I am quite happy to provide a microscope and louse specimens, lead some conditioning and combing workshops, or give a brief run-down on louse evolution, phylogeny and nomenclature. But, don’t ask me, I am not going dressed as a head louse.

Even Hogwarts has a lice infestation

It must be high up on the anxiety list of any headmaster — the last thing the school needs is another infestation…

It’s been some time since my son (now 7) came home with the usual nit letter. I’m not complacent though, I’m sure it will happen again (several times probably) before he leaves them behind and moves on to secondary school.

It is usually in primary school (age up to 12) that children suffer head lice most often. It’s nothing to do with physical size, or childhood body chemistry. It’s everything to do with childish behaviour — unabashed huddling and cuddling. Boys and girls are equally exuberant in the playground, and equally enthusiastic as they snuggle up together to pore over the shared school table to read, or write or chat. Long gone are the stern days when individual children sat at single well-spaced desks, staring in silence at the blackboard at the front of the class.

Two things happen when children go off to secondary school. First, if they have suffered head lice in the past, their families may have have got the hang of control by now. Secondly, they begin to take responsibility for their own grooming. Combing is still the easiest and best way to control head lice, and even without a fine-toothed comb, brushing and combing can still dislodge, damage or remove head lice enough to break or prevent infestation.

Head louse infestations in secondary school are few and far between, but that still doesn’t stop head lice being used to theatrical effect. Even Hogwarts has an outbreak.

The Harry Potter Puppet Pals have become a bit of an internet sensation, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that lice should invade their table-top version of Hogwarts. Weasley has an affliction.

Ron Weasley has lice.

Dumbledore gets it right: “Lice are magical creatures”.

Indeed, they are, but I’m not sure about Hagrid’s folksy treatment. His name is not, after all, synonymous with grooming.

The mayonnaise might work though….

How to judge a book — by its cover

We have a cover. Darned good it is too. Here it is:

The path to happiness: Buy - Read - Look - Find - Remove - Rejoice. Eat only if really necessary.

And we have a contents list:

We've highlighted the important bit.

And we have an index that goes from Albatross and Alligator, via Brimstone, Stavesacre and Voldemort, to Woodlice. Despite its small size, this is a very thorough book on nits. A very thorough book indeed.