Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
THOSE bargain-mad Russians are already online, buying and selling what are claimed to be fragments of last week’s meteorite. Hang on, comrades. Before parting with your hard-earned roubles, check out my exclusive collection. I have several bits of meteor, the tail from Halley’s Comet, three rings from Saturn (never been used) and the rudder off Noah’s Ark.
A NUMBER of councils are said to be changing the rules to make spitting a form of litter and issuing fixed-penalty tickets to spitters. I am 99 per cent behind this because so much spitting these days is the result of plain ignorance or aggressive turf-marking by young gangs. But spare a thought, please, for the dying legions of old blokes who spent 40 years or more working in Britain’s forges and foundries, whose lungs are shot to ribbons by exposure to heat and chemicals, who have not drawn a proper breath in years and who have absolutely no control over what the next cough will bring. Believe me, if you had in your throat what he has in his, you would spit, too.
IAIN Duncan Smith, the Work & Pensions Secretary, says he will force migrants from the EU to wait a full year before they can claim benefits. Home Secretary Theresa May says she will bring in new laws to chuck foreign criminals out of the UK. Reality check, please. The truth is that neither Mr Duncan Smith nor Mrs May, nor any other minister of what we used to call the Crown, can promise any such thing. As they know full well, any laws they pass are subject to EU legislation and the Euro-courts. And if our masters in Brussels and Strasbourg say every new arrival is to be given a free house, the right to vote and a bag of sweets, that’s exactly what will happen. Readers sometimes ask me why we have 650 MPs at Westminster. You know, I haven’t the faintest idea.
DON’T you admire the honesty of the would-be driver in London who, it was revealed this week, has flunked his (or her) driving-theory test 107 times? By now, plenty of people would have sent along a pal to impersonate them.
STILL going for the title of World’s Worst Provider, BT is now two weeks into repairing (or rather failing to repair) the line serving my neighbourhood. I have had a heart-to-heart with the line engineer, tearing his hair out in frustration because the job requires a full cable team but they keep sending just him and his van. In his words, he simply wants someone in the organisation to take “ownership,” which is presumably what we used to call responsibility.
MEANWHILE if anyone at BT can explain in simple terms what is meant by their latest update (punctuated exactly as you see here), I’d love to hear from them. It reads: “An engineer has been allocated to resolve your fault it is no longer possible to make any changes.”
I RECENTLY raised the old question of why, in an age of devolution and rule from Brussels, we still need 650 MPs at Westminster. The answer, from the wilder fringes of the Lib-Dems, is that we don’t need 650 but 1,300. The suggestion, to be raised at the Lib-Dem spring conference in the interests of wider access for all, is for the creation of job-sharing MPs, with two job-sharers standing as one candidate in elections. Interesting proposal. Would job-sharing MPs both get the present 80-day holidays or would they get 40 days off each?
IT IS a fact universally acknowledged that frumpy women of a certain age who have made their name from brilliant writing are always going to have a bit of a downer on slim, gorgeous chicks with cascading curls who marry princes. Hilary Mantel, the novelist, has denounced the Duchess of Cambridge as “plastic and “personality-free.” Julie Burchill, the columnist, joins the attack on the woman she calls “poor shiny, smiley Kate.” You can’t help looking at Mesdames Mantel and Burchill and suspecting that if they woke up tomorrow morning looking half as good as Kate they would both be altogether shinier and smilier, and a lot less unkind.
INCIDENTALLY, I see my collection of arcane memorabilia also includes the authentic Holy Grail, the jug used by Christ at the Last Supper. It comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Pontius Pilate and is reassuringly marked “microwave safe.”
MONEY talks. That is why a sports hall at Sandhurst military academy, which was once named after the heroic 1914 retreat from Mons, is to be renamed King Hamed Hall in honour of the Bahraini monarch who has endowed the place with millions. I understand the name change has caused some resentful muttering in the ranks, particularly in the Mitsubishi Shopping Village (formerly Aldershot).