Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
YOU are what you eat. I had a beef pie on Tuesday and I’ve been a little hoarse ever since.
YES, I know there’s a lot of it about. Throat full of razor blades, head full of snot and your voice suddenly dropping an octave. For men, there is one advantage of this chesty winter malady. At last we can all do a good impression of Lee Marvin’s basso-profundo hit from Paint Your Wagon. All together now: I was born under a wandrin’ star.
THE wrong sort of snow brought down an oak tree which in turn brought down all the phone lines in our neighbourhood. As I reported earlier, BT said on Monday it would be fixed in 48 hours. Fat chance. Latest estimate is that it may be repaired today. The engineer tells me it could have been sorted earlier but he had to wait for the man who decides whether telegraph poles are safe to climb. No surprises there, then.
TRYING to get our calls diverted was enough to make you tear your hair out. It involved the inevitable conversation with a call centre in India. When these call centres first opened I used to chat for ages with operators in Benares or Bangalore about where they were and where I was and how’s the weather your end and who’d you fancy for the First Test? But over the years the fluent English speakers seem to have moved on. Call me paranoid but I suspect when I call up these days, the supervisor cups his hand over the phone and says to his team: “Rhodes on the line again. Anyone here not speak English?”
SO FAREWELL, Pope Benedict. Purely by chance we were in Italy when he became Pope in 2005. As we flipped between CNN and BBC in our hotel room, there was some confusion about events in the Vatican. Had the right colour of smoke emerged from the chimney? Had the cardinals made their decision or were they still haggling? Yet while CNN and the BBC dithered, all the church bells in Riva del Garda began ringing. Somehow, the people knew they had a new Pope and the sound of those bells echoing joyously over Lake Garda is a memory to treasure.
IN A week when we are thinking hard about the stuff we eat, my local off-licence is offering expert advice on choosing the right wines to go with your dinner menu. I am torn between Marelot and Chardonneigh.
ONE of the most depressing reports this week is the news that Britain does not have enough skilled IT technicians to make the internet secure. Because our universities are turning out the wrong sort of graduates, using the world wide web will become increasingly risky. But while we are short of cyber experts, we are knee deep in video-technique, leisure-planning and media-studies graduates who have no jobs, no hope and £40,000 of university debt. At the heart of this imbalance of talent is the old snobbery among English academics for anything that involves using your hands or, heaven forbid, wearing a boiler suit. Wickedly misled by useless careers advisers, bright kids who could make a great living working with widgets waste three years of their lives faffing around with video cameras in the belief that they will be the next Matt Baker. Meanwhile, plumbers (if you can get one) charge £60 per hour.
AND off the the nurse for the annual blood-pressure test and analysis of my latest blood sample. Everything seems boringly normal but I suspect 20 years from now we will look back on this ritual examination of our gore in much the way that today’s doctors look back on leeches, bleeding cups, black bile and miasma. Medicine never stands still. Today’s wisdom is tomorrow’s folklore.