Peter Rhodes casts his eye over the week's big news.
CLICHÉ corner. A reader asks why is it that we always “potter” in the garden? And why are electric lights left “blazing”?
IS ANYONE surprised by this week’s TUC report showing that thousands of tenants have slipped into rent arrears after being clobbered with the bedroom tax? I can’t think of a more mean-spirited policy than cutting the housing benefit of people whose only crime is to live in the house their local council or housing association gave them. Everyone accepts there is a desperate shortage of family-sized public housing, caused largely by successive governments ripping up border controls and rewarding people for breeding like rabbits. Tenants with smaller families should be encouraged to vacate big houses they no longer need. But the way to do that is by building more one and two-bedroom homes in the area and paying tenants a sweetener of, say, £1,000 to make the move. More carrot, less stick.
SO EVERYONE was guilty but no-one is to blame. The “serious case review” into the death of four-year-old Daniel Pelka who was murdered by his mother and her partner in Coventry, says some professionals were “too optimistic” in believing Daniel’s lying mother. We are told that “critical lessons" must be "translated into action". It all sounds hideously familiar. The beauty of a report like this is that it can be pulled off the shelf and used again, time after time for years to come, simply by changing the name of the dead child. A masterpiece.
FREE school meals for all under-eights? Part of me rejoices at the prospect of millions of mums no longer having to worry about the next day’s sandwiches. The other part of me fears that kids who were quite happy with sarnies will now be tearfully exposed to the latest theories on what constitutes a healthy meal. Anyone for tofu and broccoli surprise, kiddies? It is a curious thing but in the days when every state-school kid was raised on a shilling’s worth of braised beef, mashed potatoes and stodge pudding, we were a lot thinner and a hell of a lot fitter than today’s little sofa-slugs.
INCIDENTALLY, when I use the word “mums” I of course mean all homemakers, in a non-gender-specific sort of way. You have to be so careful.
MY ABIDING memory of school dinners (now renamed “school lunches” by the interfering middle classes) is of salads suddenly appearing on the menu with an accompanying bread roll. On day one, the rolls were dry. A pal and I, both aged 10, solved the problem by pouring salad cream on them. For this spark of initiative we were both whacked on the head by a teacher. Happiest days of your life.
MONEY and justice do not mix. Thousands of motorists have been sent on speed awareness courses not because they posed any particular danger but because “safety partnerships” signed contracts with the speed-awareness industry. The latest public-order brainwave is for police to arrest drunks and hand them over to private security companies who will put them in “drunk tanks” and charge £400 to release them. So, in effect, there is a bounty on the head of every drunk. You see the danger? At worst, there is scope for police corruption, with officers taking backhanders for every person delivered. At best, expect a sudden redefinition of the term “drunk” to include anyone smelling vaguely of alcohol, in order to keep the drunk tanks in business. And don’t expect any sympathy from your fellow citizens. The same harrumphers who believe 32mph ought to be a hanging offence also believe that a quiet pint after work is rampant alcoholism. And they have the vote.
AND would these drunk tanks, with all the attendant humiliation and publicity, be used for drunk-as-a-skunk politicians, the nobility, their offspring and so on? Or would the ruling elite be quietly taken home to sleep it off? What do you think?
THERE is nothing remotely funny about yet another mass murder in the States, this time the slaughter at the naval base in Washington. And yet sometimes nothing gets to the heart of an issue quite like the simplistic logic of a stand-up comic. Lee Nelson, the “well-funny” Cockney (actually played by qualified doctor Simon Brodkin) complains in his stage act that the Yanks have trouble making connections: “Take the connection between lots and lots of people having guns, and lots and lots of people getting shot.” Put it this way, says Lee Nelson. If he gave you a mobile phone, would you be more or less likely to make a phone call?
THEY stand on flower beds holding tiny spades. They sit by garden ponds holding little fishing rods. Sometimes they cheekily bend over and moon at passers-by. But I’ve never seen garden gnomes doing what one pair were up to in a shop window in Ypres, Belgium, when I was there a few days ago. Two of the little chaps were exchanging Nazi salutes. Charmante.
A READER reports a BBC weather forecaster warning that a cold front would be “gambolling in from the Atlantic.” Isn’t it March that’s supposed to go out like a lamb?