Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
PATRICK McLoughlin, the transport minister, says the proposed High Speed Rail will “service the United Kingdom for the next 100 years.” Would that be in the sheep-breeding sense?
McLOUGHLIN breezily dismisses the distress this screaming 225mph behemoth will cause, declaring that the national and economic benefits will outweigh any “upset”. But if there is no national or economic benefit, as some forecasts suggest, we are left with nothing but the upset.
THE INTERNET is a great blessing but, like all great technological leaps forward it brings its fair share of crooks. Home Office minister Jeremy Browne claims that cyber-crime, coupled with mass immigration, has created an estimated 7,500 crime gangs. Some days it feels like more, doesn’t it? A tidal wave of casual crime has crept up on us from nowhere. There was a time, not so long ago, when the average law-abiding British citizen might encounter a con-man once or possibly twice in a lifetime. Now, the phone rings three or four times a day with dodgy offers from criminals who want to take your money off you. Crime is a global industry and while half the world is in recession, thecriminalsarethriving.com
A READER has been bending my ear on the subject of what was once called gay marriage, then same-sex marriage and now appears to be known as “equal marriage.” He declares zealously: “The people who oppose equal marriage hold rather a low opinion of some of their fellow humans.” In other words, the only possible reason for opposing it is that you hate gays. Quite how he squares this with the views of many gays who oppose equal marriage is not explained. But for the record, the latest thinking from Government lawyers in Whitehall is that equal marriage will require no act of consummation, and adultery will not be grounds for divorce - unless the adultery is with someone of the opposite sex. In what way is that equal? In what way is that marriage?
A READER writes: “I do not understand the controversy about same-sex marriage. When you’ve been married long enough, the sex is the same.”
FOLLOWING my item on the metrication of snowfall, a reader asks: How big does a snowdrift have to be before it turns from millimetres into feet? Good question. I believe the changeover happens at about two feet. In much the same way, the temperature these days is measured in Centigrade until it hits about 22 when, for no apparent reason, everything turns into Fahrenheit and we’re suddenly in the Sizzling Seventies.
A READER laments all this metric nonsense and longs for the days when we enjoyed imperial simplicity. “It was so easy,” he recalls. “There were 12 inches in a foot, and 12 pence in a shilling. Therefore 100 pennies equalled 8ft 4ins and 90 inches was seven and sixpence.” Ah, blissful days.
HUNDREDS of British troops are going to help out our old friends the French with their post-imperial troubles in Mali. Do not take comfort from Mr Cameron’s pledge that our troops will be trainers, not fighters. Most British deaths in Afghanistan over the past two years have been “green-on-blue” killings by the very Afghan soldiers and police we are supposed to be training.
AND don’t mistake bad news for good news. The headline: “Timbuktu falls without a shot fired” could also read: “Islamist guerrillas slip away with vehicles and weapons intact”.
MICHAEL Portillo’s series, Great Railway Journeys (BBC2) has much in common with Songs of Praise (BBC1). Both create the reassuring impression that a much-loved old institution is in excellent heart. Week after week, Songs of Praise takes us to immaculate churches stuffed to overflowing as the photogenic faithful bellow out hymns ancient and modern with the light of salvation blazing in their eyes. The reality at most churches on a Sunday evening is half-a-dozen elderly ladies and a vicar whose chief concern is not the life everlasting but the hole in the vestry roof. In the same upbeat way, Portillo always finds a seat on a train which is invariably on time and free of drunks and psychopaths. Portillo trains are run by smiling guards and managers who never, ever tell him he’s bought the wrong ticket and that’ll be another £150, pal. The reality of train travel, from my last experience, is a jam-packed carriage in which everyone with a seat is desperately avoiding eye contact with a vicious little Scouser complaining to his wife at full volume: “Ye’d think some ****er would get up and offer his seat to a ****ing lady, wouldn’t yer?”
The best way to travel by train is to find the one carrying Michael Portillo.
A READER catching up on past episodes of Homeland (C4 ) noticed that the title sequences referred to “The George Bush Centre of Intelligence.” Are we all smiling?