I decided not to wear a hat today. Mr B thought this was a very good decision but then his idea of dressing up is to wear a blazer over his normal clothes.
When we arrived at the Drumhead Service commemorating Armed Forces Day, it was noticeable that there were nowhere near as many hats as I remembered from last year's splendid occasion. There was one quite startling creation which would
have matched my outfit rather well. I pointed it out to Mr B who said that, had I dared to don such headgear, then he would have refused to accompany me. I thought this was a trifle harsh, personally, but then Mr B is a Man of Strong Opinions.
One of my reasons for not wearing a hat was that I knew I was going to have to load and unload the mobility scooter from the car. It was gong to be tricky enough wearing a dress rather than my customary trousers (lots of graceful
bending of the knees would be called for in order to preserve my dignity) - a titfer would definitely be A Step Too Far and would doubtless be knocked flying as I reversed down the ramp. You will be pleased to hear that I did remove Mr B's Jolly Roger pirate
flag from the back of the scooter. I may not have worn a hat but I did know about Observing the Proprieties.
I had timed everything to perfection, though I say so myself as shouldn't, so we were in our seats
(Row E - I on the west side - thank heavens for the sea which helped ensure I could work out my west from my east) five minutes before the 10.40 a.m. deadline. Mr B, in the olden days, would have insisted on arriving at least half an hour beforehand but nowadays
he is happy to leave such timing decisions to me. Except when we arrive late, in which case, quite rightly, it will be All My Fault.
The rain stayed away, though rumbles of thunder reverberated around Steyne
Gardens where we were all assembled - the Great and the Good. Plus Mr B and me. I had brought my umbrella along - the stylish one with pictures of good old London Town on it - but it wasn't needed. Better safe than sorry, I always say. Okay, maybe not absolutely
always - but always when I have remembered my brolly.
The Drumhead Service is always poignant - but never more so than today. For a start, it is almost exactly a hundred years to the day since 366 men from
the Royal Sussex Regiment died in a fierce diversionary battle a day before the Battle of the Somme started in earnest. The day is known forever in our county as "The Day Sussex Died." The two drums making up the altar, as is traditional for a Drumhead Service,
were - fittingly - drums of the Royal Sussex Regiment.
We sang hymns with Sussex connections, including "Jerusalem" penned by William Blake, some time resident of Felpham just along the coast. My friend Rachel
was one of a group which fought long and hard to raise funds to buy Blake's Cottage for future generations.
Then, most moving of all, a presentation of the Legion D'Honneur - France's highest decoration for
civil or military valour - to John Sandles, a Royal Navy veteran of D Day. On this day, just a few days after the EU Referendum which saw Britain vote to leave Europe, we sang God Save The Queen - followed by The Marseillaise. French Consul Captain François
Jean spoke, in French and in English, of the many battles in which French and British soldiers had fought - and died - side by side.
Our two countries, he avowed, would always stand side by side, would always
be friends. Poignantly, he thanked the British Armed Forces for giving back to France its liberty, its dignity and its honour.
And I thought: "Lest we forget..."