Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
A READER, having a problem with a company, sent an email of complaint and received a reply which begins: “I have noted your comments and can only apologise for the error and for any incontinence caused.” Perfect.
HOW could Jimmy Savile have got away with so many alleged attacks on young girls without anyone making a fuss? Never underestimate the power of celebrity. Some years ago, the comedian Jack Dee made the point that people would have been less eager to defend Michael Jackson, with his bed-sharing parties and kiddy-magnet fairground, if he had been not a rock superstar but a lorry driver from Essex.
WHAT is Lord Prescott of Thumpingham’s favourite new Labour policy? “Having a go at the banks!” he snarls with relish. Those of us without severe amnesia will recall that John Prescott was part of the Labour government which let the banks do exactly as they wanted, and landed us in this mess.
REMEMBER how before the 2010 General Election, the Tories promised an end to the daily diet of red tape and elf ‘n’ safety nonsense? We have since learned that more people are being prosecuted for piffling wheelie-bin offences and that more speed cameras are on the way. Just before the Conservative conference began came news that parents at a school in Swindon have been told they must pass a Criminal Records Bureau check before they can watch their children taking part in sports meetings. So the brave new world is much the same as the stupid old one.
TALES from the National Parks (BBC4) was a typical story of our time, a clash between off-roaders and locals. The off-roaders have a legal right to drive 4x4s along the green lanes of the Peak District and seem determined to exercise that right, even if it brings disturbance and distress to residents. We have a similar problem in the urban fringe near Chateau Rhodes with moto-cross riders who turn up, rip the countryside to pieces, destroy the Sunday tranquillity and then accuse anyone who complains of being intolerant.
THE fascinating world of television ethics. In the United States a TV news company apologises profusely for screening the moment when a runaway driver put a gun to his head and killed himself. Such scenes are supposed to be stopped with a five-second delay in broadcasting but this image slipped through the techno-net. Meanwhile on Dr Who (BBC1), Amy Pond and her husband kill themselves by holding hands and jumping to their deaths, leaving young viewers with the message that if you commit suicide with the person you love, you’ll come straight back to life. So that’s all right.
RAILTON and Dawn Elliott spent £6,000 of their hard-earned money rescuing a cat from the chaos of the Egyptian revolution and re-settling it at their home in Oxfordshire. And how has this fortunate creature repaid them? By running away. Fond though I am of our old moggie, it is a rule of life that if you want a loving, loyal and grateful pet, don’t get a cat.
MORE on terms such as “aubergine toaster” that change their meaning depending on how you pronounce them. A doctor I know has just been given a new job. He is an Elderly Tsar.
THE world will end on December 21 this year. Or at least that was the plan, according to scaremongers who told us the ancient Mayan calendar ended on that date. However, it is a golden rule of the Armageddon industry that the closer the big day gets, the quieter the prophets become. The latest buzz is that December 21 may see “a big change” beginning. On the other hand, it might bring a small change. Or hardly any change. I can confidently predict December 21 will fall four days before Christmas. No change there, then.
THEY say what happens in the States happens in the UK a few years later. So take note of this. For the first time in living memory, life expectancy among some Americans is falling. The assumption that each generation would live longer than the one before is no longer true. Unhealthy lifestyles and obesity are two key factors, according to researchers in Chicago. There is nothing more unnatural and heartbreaking than burying your own children. It is already happening on a huge scale the other side of the pond. Look around at today’s tubby twentysomethings and just ask yourself how long before it starts happening here.
YOU know how it is when a snippet of news leaves you wanting more? The death is reported at 84 of a foxhunting vicar, the Rev. Rex Hancock. The obituary records: “His riding career came to an end at the age of 72 when he broke his ankle while conducting a funeral.” Yes, but how . . . ?