Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
DRINKING because your friends do it. Is it beer pressure ?
AS DESKS are cleared at the BBC, a reader recalls an old proverb. Today’s cockerel is tomorrow’s feather duster.
ACROSS Europe, workers linked arms in solidarity against spending cuts. A continent united? Not exactly. While a general strike crippled Portugal and dozens of cities from Spain to Poland came to a standstill, it was business as usual in the UK. The day of action perfectly illustrated our relationship with the EU. In it, but never really part of it.
CONFUSED about Nick Clegg’s plans to reform the workplace? So you should be. The deputy prime minister’s pledge to change the system has been variously reported as giving all employees “the right to flexible working” or “the right to demand flexible working.” In fact, Clegg talked in vague terms about flexibility, care-giving and sharing the job of raising a child. But the official Lib-Dem website merely promises “to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.” The right to request? Don’t we have that already? Or has a conversation between two citizens (boss and employee) been abolished while I was sleeping?
TALKING of things happening when your back is turned, how in God’s name did we reach the stage where a teenager is arrested and put in the cells in Kent for setting fire to a remembrance poppy on Facebook? Linford House, 19, was stupid and offensive but he incited no violence and there was no breach of the peace. Whatever happened to Voltaire’s magnificent definition of free speech: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”? The first time I heard those words they were spoken by a corporal of the Royal Fusiliers. He was busy stripping a machine gun and explaining to me his motivation in joining the British Army. Remembrance means nothing if we forget that our war dead perished to protect a free society, not a state where we arrest silly boys under something called the Malicious Communication Act. Sometimes in this country you’d think that Hitler had won.
DOESN’T it drive you mad when someone wins a multi-million pound jackpot and declares: “It won’t change our way of life”? If it isn’t going to change your life, then why buy the ticket in the first place? Why not hand over your winnings to someone who will use it well? Spending money wisely is not only huge fun, it is a social duty. So well done, Adrian and Gillian Bayford who won £148 million in EuroMillions three months ago. They have just spent more than £6 million on a seven-bedroom Georgian mansion in East Anglia. In doing so, they will not only improve their lives but pump thousands of pounds into the pockets of local tradesmen, shopkeepers and, who knows, maybe a servant or two. They are fulfilling the ancient concept of noblesse oblige which one dictionary defines as “benevolent, honourable behaviour considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank.” Spend it, spread it around. Make a difference.
IN the heyday of world communism, the red-flag nations inspired their workers with slogans such as “Mao is our eternal leader” and “Build more tractors and we will bury capitalism.” These days, capitalism is winning and the tone has changed. A senior delegate told China’s Party Congress: “The wives of the majority of the Communist Party members are prettier than the wives of non-Communist Party members.” Join the Party and bag a babe. What a great slogan.
DURING a trial in Ipswich it emerged that between 2004 and 2009 no fewer than 115 prisoners escaped from Hollesley Bay open prison. So in what sense is it a prison?
MORE on legacy scams. A reader whose surname is Lloyd tells me he has received a letter telling him he is the sole remaining heir of one Charles Lloyd. And so has his father.
A ROW is raging over the “thin, weedy” voice used by the British actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in the new movie, Lincoln. The voice has been likened to that of Mr Burns from The Simpsons but I would put money on Day-Lewis getting it right. He is a ferociously dedicated actor, living and breathing the parts he plays. There is no voice-recording of Lincoln, who died in 1865, but there are contemporary reports which refer to his voice being high and nasal. However, generations of proud Americans have grown up with movie and TV versions of Lincoln talking in a deep, strong voice. Some seem to regard any other sort of voice as a commie-pinko attack on the virility of their nation. From the passionate (some would say rabid) debate raging on the internet, I particularly enjoyed this: “Hollywood has pumped out another anti-white load of propaganda and brainwashing BS. It never ends with those nanny state, fascist control freaks.” Look, chaps, it’s only a movie.
AFTER many weeks, the redecoration of Chateau Rhodes ends with a bit of plumbing, the installation of a flame-effect electric heater and the discovery of a splendid new expletive. Fire and ballcocks. Feel free to use it.