Time for a bit of solidarity with pals on the continent

Dame Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench
Mutiny Festival 2017 Picture: Paul Windsor

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One hundred years ago, Europe was reeling from what would become known as the bloodiest first day of any battle in history.

The Battle of the Somme had begun, as the British and the French joined forces to try to repel the German advance.

Alliances shift and the winds of war are once again blowing in from the east, as ISIS targets Turkey and its innocent citizens.

Europe was divided along battle lines that stretched 15 miles along the Western Front, and July 1 marked the start of five long months, at the end of which more than a million were either dead or injured.

It would be an insult to the memory of all those who lost their lives to draw any kind of parallel between European relations a century ago and the war of words that’s erupted since someone let Nigel Farage loose on a microphone.

But the fact remains that even the centenary commemorations have become a political football in the week or so since Britain voted to leave the EU.

You see the thing is, even though the Somme is always marked in Britain’s calendar, to the French its memory has been overshadowed by Verdun and so the country’s presidents don’t normally attend the commemoration ceremonies.

Not this time.

At the last minute President Hollande decided he would attend the centenary instead of Prime Minister Manuel Valls, perhaps because if he didn’t it would look like Britain was being snubbed by the country most likely to next face down a referendum on EU membership.

It’s not something you can shrug off, even if that shrug is Gallic.

Time has marched on since the combined soldiers of the British and French empires stood shoulder to shoulder and in some ways the world today is very different to the world in which so many lives were lost.

But in other ways it really isn’t.

Alliances shift and the winds of war are once again blowing in from the east, as ISIS targets Turkey and its innocent citizens.

Perhaps now more than ever it’s time to show that our own fractured political landscape and huge uncertainty isn’t more powerful than the power of remembrance and a little bit of solidarity with our pals on the continent.

WHY NOT DO SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY FOR A BIRTHDAY?

I love the fact that Dame Judi Dench got a tattoo for her 81st birthday.

I don’t know if it’s her first, but I bet it’s the only one she was given as a gift by her daughter.

And why not? Why not do something out of the ordinary to mark a special birthday?

No need to wait until you’re 81, mind, but hat’s off to Dame Judi for doing it.

How many of us think we’ll get round to doing something fun and a bit wacky, only to find another year has gone by in the blink of an eye without us really noticing?

I mean, let’s face it, we’re already in the latter half of 2016. When did that happen?

In between going to work, fixing houses and cars and watching small people grow up it’s hard to think about what else is going on.

A FANTASTIC EFFORT TO RAISE THE CASH TO GET PEPE BACK HOME

Sometimes people are brilliant, aren’t they?

It’s been a fantastic effort to raise £27,000 for Andrew ‘Pepe’ Bache, the England fan grievously injured in France when he was set upon by thugs.

At least £15,000 of that will be used to pay for an air ambulance to bring him home, perhaps indicating that the rest may have to go towards medical bills.

It’s only been a couple of weeks since the fundraising began, so what a fantastic response from Pepe’s friends, family, football friends and perfect strangers who just wanted to help.

His family will be so pleased to have him back, despite him having to go straight to Southampton General Hospital for treatment. Let’s hope he’s able to make it back soon.