Peter Rhodes on signing the eco-pledge, exciting sins and the spiritual elevation of Sir David Attenborough
NEARLY 200 years ago, Britain's vast and rapacious alcohol industry was scared to death by the Band of Hope. This was a mass nationwide movement in which children signed a pledge declaring: "I promise to abstain from all intoxicating drinks." For thousands of kids, "signing the pledge" became a rite of passage. I thought of those earnest Victorian abstainers while watching the protesters at the Extinction Rebellion demos.
SO let us draw up a Great Global Covenant, a 21st century version of the Band of Hope pledge. Let us start with the young middle-class zealots on the streets of our capital. And let them sign the new pledge and declare that, because they desperately want to save the planet, they solemnly and publicly promise that for the next five years they will not drive a car, take a foreign holiday or travel by airliner. C'mon, kids. Who'll be first to sign? Thought not.
THE Extinction Rebellion event, with its promise of salvation if we mend our ways, has the feel of an evangelical movement. There's no doubt about who is the messiah of this religion. The late, great A A Gill writing 14 years ago in his ruthlessly-observed book The Angry Island, declared of the English: "If you ask them what they think the Almighty will be like when they get to Heaven, most of them will say David Attenborough."
IF you remember the early days of Attenborough and his black-and-white dispatches from far-flung forests, you may recall his peculiar habit of raising his half-closed eyes and fluttering his eyelashes at the camera. You might expect it from Dr Evadne Hinge and Dame Hilda Bracket but it was a bit odd coming from a bloke up the jungle. At some stage, Attenborough was presumably told to pack it in.
AND back to my new (by which I mean very old) boat, now floating on a mooring which you reach in a tiny dinghy called a tender. Strange word, tender. It has so many different meanings. You may be tender-hearted or have a tender patch of sunburn. A locomotive tows a tender, a builder tenders for a job and a customer tenders money in a shop. In sailing, a boat which wobbles is said to be tender. Years ago I was quizzing a boat builder in Suffolk about the handling characteristics of the vessel I'd just bought. "Oh, 'er's tender at first," he explained. "But then 'er bites like a church," which cleared everything up.
I WONDER how a non-English speaker using a dictionary might translate Elvis's ballad: "Love me painful / wobbly / small dinghy, love me sweet,"
A RATHER excitable God-botherer on the radio welcomed us to Easter Sunday with: "Let us now rejoice by confessing our sins." Don't you get the feeling that some folk must have much more exciting sins than you? How much rejoicing can you get from owning up to picking your nose while driving?