Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
PRESUMABLY the rail companies and Network Rail cheerfully co-operated in the making of the documentary series The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track (BBC2). They must be regretting it, for the message, loud and clear week after week, is to avoid trains at all costs. Some passengers are not the sort of people you’d want to share a train with, and let’s not even mention the state of the lavatories. This week’s revolting scenes of cleaning a carriage at the end of a day’s use by the Grim British Public was stomach-churning stuff.
IF YOU need proof that Britain has a real booze problem, look no further than the assorted slappers, scrappers and scumbags using the trains on The Railway to get to and from Aintree and a public rally. There was a time, not long ago, when being drunk in a public place was enough to earn you a night in the cells and a £5 fine the next morning. For some reason, drunkenness is now tolerated by the cops and getting thumped by drunks seems to be regarded as an occupational hazard by train and platform staff. It is all very well David Cameron and his Cabinet agonising over a minimum price for booze but the problem is not the cheapness of alcohol but the lack of any deterrent against those who can’t handle it.
THAT great national treasure Victoria Wood has attacked “enhanced reality” TV shows such as The Only way is Essex (TOWIE) where ordinary people are encouraged to act out situations. She says it is taking bread out of actors’ mouths. Maybe it is. But, like it or not, throughout history from Shakespeare to TOWIE, there has been only one measure of successful drama – will the punters watch it? Sadly, no-one ever lost money by underestimating public taste.
IT CLEARLY pays to go straight to the top. Last week I printed the email address of Ian Livingston, chief executive of the BT group. In the space of a couple of hours, two readers made contact to tell me how a quick email to email@example.com worked wonders. One had a long-running problem with his BT charge card instantly sorted. Another whose landline and internet had been down since early February was reconnected PDQ.
RESEARCHERS at the University of Nottingham have developed a test to detect Alzheimer's disease in its earliest stages. And having been diagnosed, what then? What happens to your life insurance policy? Or your travel insurance? Or your driving licence? Even if some drugs can significantly delay the onset of dementia (which is debatable), there is no defence against the consequences of knowing what is coming. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
IF THE Chris Huhne / Vicky Pryce implosion proves anything, it is how very easy it is to fiddle the legal system by one driver accepting penalty points for another. Huhne and Pryce got away with it for years and they are not alone. There must be hundreds of couples who have colluded in the same way. But as this case shows, there is no statute of limitations on the charge of perverting justice. Once you have told the lie, your fate for years to come depends entirely on your accomplice keeping mum. And if your relationship breaks down in bitterness, then God help you. I wonder how many seething ex-spouses, hell-bent on vengeance, are today steeling themselves to tell the cops about the penalty points, all those years ago. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and men are not much better.
A READER writes, claiming the “simple answer” to the so-called bedroom tax is for people on benefits with spare bedrooms to adopt a granny. I floated a similar idea a couple of years ago, suggesting pensioners should buddy up, sell two houses and buy one to share. I was promptly slapped down by a self-confessed miserable old git who said he had no desire to share his declining years with another miserable old git.
I WROTE about seeing a police officer so scruffy and unshaven that I was tempted to give him a disposable razor. A reader writes: “Don’t. You might get nicked.”
WHEN she took her coronation oath in 1953, the Queen could never have imagined she would one day pledge to defend activities which were then illegal.
This week she endorsed the Commonwealth Charter which declares: “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.” Whitehall has let it be known that “other grounds" includes sexual orientation.
So this is nothing less than royal approval for gay rights throughout the Commonwealth.
Her Majesty is voicing the seven-word mantra of our age: “Some people are gay, get over it.”
A few parts of the Commonwealth will be horrified but most of its 2,500 million citizens will regard it as progress. And a few will wonder what would have happened if the Queen had made this promise at her coronation.
She would probably have been ushered quietly out of the back door of Westminster Abbey, never to be seen again.