Peter Rhodes on syringing ears, unearthing treasure and the not-so-secret tastes of a great poet

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

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The Staffordshire Horde

I'M not sure I believe this. A reader says he asked his local council how much they would charge to take away an old television and dispose of it in an environmentally-approved manner. The price was £35. So he chose a random address from the phone book and contacted a courier firm who took it away and delivered it for £10.

ANOTHER reader , patiently awaiting his turn for an ear syringing, has been dutifully putting olive oil drops in each ear for the past fortnight. He asks a simple question: where does it go?

IN the old days, ear syringing was carried out with great gusto by district nurses wielding enormous syringes. The sensation of warm water swooshing around your skull was unforgettable and the resulting debris was like something out of Time Team. These days it's a slower, gentler process which makes me suspect the old system was not entirely safe and that if you examined your ear-gunk closely you might have found bits of grey matter.

TALKING of excavations, it is 10 years since the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon jewellery was unearthed in a field near Lichfield. Soon, there was an enormous queue to see the items at Birmingham Art Gallery and I found myself next to a couple of old chaps who were obviously skilled craftsmen, probably from Brum's Jewellery Quarter. They were hunched over the display, figuring out how the experts of 1,300 years ago had worked such magic in gilt and garnet. They understood jewel mounting. They knew, just as the Saxons knew, how to turn silver into filigree and how to make gold flow like water. It was a privilege to eavesdrop on that timeless conversation as craftsmen admired craftsmanship and 13 centuries fell away.

TEN years ago, we tended to refer to treasure hunters as detectors. It took Mackenzie Crook's glorious BBC comedy to make the point that the detector is the electrical gizmo and the people operating them are Detectorists.

A NEW volume of poetry by the late, great John Betjeman includes what one reviewer describes as "rhyming homoerotica, long rumoured but never published." Is anyone surprised, and why would it matter in any case? Betjeman came from a generation and a public-school background where the line between straight and gay was not always as sharp as it is today and, while women were lovely, a man's best friend was often another man. In Betjeman's best-loved poem, A Subaltern's Love Song, there is no doubt that the young officer is besotted by the girl: "I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn." But as he watches her playing tennis, he sees in her "the speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy." Very mixed doubles.

ISN'T there something a wee bit medieval, magicky and pagan about bringing water from the River Jordan for the christening of little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor? Windsor Castle, twinned with Hogwarts.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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