Express & Star

Peter Rhodes on a missing delivery, computers at odds and how time doesn't always fly

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Margaret Keenan gets her jab – only a year ago?

Political dilemmas of our time. Supposing the official investigation found Boris Johnson was guilty of partying during lockdown, and he was forced to resign. How would Labour celebrate . . ?

It's a hallowed old tradition that, when you reach a certain age, the gap between Christmases feels about 20 minutes. You wonder where the year has gone as you erect yet another tree and scoff the contents of yet another advent calendar. Christmas 2020? You can almost touch it. Time flies.

With one exception. The December 2020 images of 90-year-old Margaret Keenan of Coventry becoming the first person in the world to get a Covid-19 jab as part of a mass-vaccination programme, seem at least 10 years ago. Why's that?

'Tis that time of year again when, all over the world, things go missing. I can understand it when the thing in question is a little thing like a wee packet of washers or some tiny Xmas stocking fillers. But in my case the missing item is a huge, bright-red 50 gallon oil drum which is hardly the sort of thing to slip behind the delivery-van dashboard or get nicked on a whim by a passing thief.

Why a 50 gallon oil drum? Because these big drums (which were actually used to transport fruit pulp, not oil) make the best garden incinerators ever. A few enterprising online firms clean the drums, drill holes in the bottom and, behold, your very own inferno awaits. Except that mine has gone missing. After a few days of ping-pong emails, the supplier admitted defeat thus: “Unfortunately, after going back and forth with our courier they are unable to track or put a location on your parcel.” Now, this is odd because the courier's tracker app declares proudly: “Status: We've got it. We're processing your parcel at our hub.”

In other words, one computer says the oil drum is present but another computer says it is absent. And you just know in the run-up to Xmas, that the same sort of thing is happening a million times a day, thanks to a superheated online market and an overwhelmed delivery network, as computer speaks unto computer, but doesn't necessarily understand what it hears. It's beginning to look a lot like chaos.

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