Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
WONDERFUL line from Derek Jacobi as the Yorkshire pensioner in Last Tango in Halifax (BBC1). He runs a finger along the lines of boys in his old school photograph muttering: “He’s dead, he’s dead.” And then he lowers his voice because what’s coming next is even worse than death: “He went down South."
IF YOU are of a certain age, you will always see Jacobi in his most famous role. In Last Tango in Halifax he is Emperor Claudius with a cloth cap but no stammer.
A TALE of tatters. News reaches me of a lady whose washing machine and tumble dryer gave up the ghost at the same time. The repair man explained it would cost him at least £40 to dispose of them. The alternative, he suggested, was to leave the appliances on the drive in the hope that the scrap-metal men would take them overnight. The lady declared sniffily that it was not that sort of neighbourhood but agreed to go along with the plan. So the repair man heaved the washing machine out of the house and on to the drive and went back inside for the dryer. (You can see where this is going, can’t you?) By the time he came out with the tumble dryer a few minutes later, the washing machine had gone.
THE genie is out of the bottle. The internet has changed everything we do, from getting news to shopping, gambling and education. And still the legal profession doesn’t get it. This week sees a new move in the campaign to prevent juries from discovering online that the defendant is a multiple rapist or serial burglar and not the fine chap the defence barrister makes him out to be. The Law Commission suggests that jurors should be forced to take a special oath banning them from researching a case online. It suggests that newspaper and TV websites, bloggers and tweeters could be ordered by law to remove all material relating to a defendant. It is a preposterous and unworkable idea. The only way forward is to begin every trial with total disclosure of the defendants’ criminal record and trust the jury to decide the case solely on the evidence it hears. If we go down the road of forcing jurors into an unnatural state of ignorance, why stop with the internet.? Why not block the jurors’ ears with wax and keep them in a darkened cellar for weeks before the trial? The plain fact is that you cannot conduct trials on a 19th century pattern in this 21st century world.
I WAS fascinated by a feature on two sisters in York who suffer from prosopagnosia or face-blindness. They are unable to recognise the faces of people, even when they have known them for years. I suspect many of us suffer from a milder form of this condition. Once I have placed somebody, especially someone I have interviewed, I can give you an encyclopaedic description of everything about them. The hard bit is recognising them in the first place. I am hopeless with faces. I expected to enjoy the movie The Departed (2006) but was puzzled by a young rookie cop who went undercover to infiltrate the Mafia but was also working as the Mafia boss’s spy inside the force. Mrs Rhodes was kind enough to point out that these are two separate characters, not one. The Departed is a great film, but only if you can tell Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio apart.
AM I the only male who sniggers at the opening of the Marks & Spencer Christmas TV advert? It’s the one where four women throw two snowballs each at the camera, and not one of them manages to hit it. Snowballs - it’s a bloke thing.
A NOTE in the windscreen of an abandoned car at our local ford read: “Broke down due to flood”. Or possibly due to idiot.
IMPERTINENCE is a word you rarely hear these days. It went with the age of deference. It’s the sort of word the dowager countess (Maggie Smith ) would use in Downton Abbey if a chambermaid spoke without being spoken to. We heard it a few days ago when Philip Davies MP dared to ask His Imperial Serenity Milord Patten whether he might consider keeping a record to show exactly how much work he does for his £110,000 a year as chairman of the BBC Trust. It seems a modest request. It is, after all, what every employee of the BBC and in every other workplace is expected to do. But Lord Patten who is responsible for overseeing a Corporation which gets £4,000 million a year from the licence payers, was clearly horrified. He delivered the line: “I think that’s a thoroughly impertinent question” with a blend of bewilderment and fury that even Dame Maggie would envy. Prove that one is working? The very idea.
I SUGGESTED Scotland might one day sue England for 40 years of not giving Scotland a fair share of North Sea oil and gas revenues. A reader thunders: “What about suing the Scots for the cost of building Hadrian’s Wall to keep them out?” Calm down, lads. It’s only a referendum.
STILL in Scotland, the authorities are searching for a name for the new Forth Road Bridge which is currently known by the rather drab name of the Forth Replacement Crossing. A reader points out that as the Forth already has four major crossings, this new one could be called the Fifth Forth Bridge, or even the Forth Fifth Bridge. I find myself reminded of that great Scottish football score: East Fife four, Forfar five.