Peter Rhodes on a superstar's jet, technology we cherish and a BLT hiatus
Read today's column by Peter Rhodes
ACCORDING to one old journalistic definition, Dog Bites Man is not news but Man Bites Dog is. In the same way, Government Collapses is news but Italian Government Collapses is not news. Capisci?
PICTURE the scene. In a chic little office at Broadcasting House, the bright young creatives assemble to discuss the coming season's documentaries, each hoping to outdo the other with right-on, politically-correct ideas for films reflecting the urban buzz of the Metropolis. And what a dazzling selection of worthy titles they have: Lost Haikus of the Windrush Generation. Dylan Thomas - the Quinoa Years. Daphne, the Transgender Lollipop Man. And then somebody suggests: "Tell you what, let's go to this factory I know in Leeds and do a film about how they make mattresses."
FROM start to finish, Inside the Factory (BBC2) was a revelation. This is public-service broadcasting doing what it should, not only educating and informing but also introducing us to folk we'd never otherwise meet, from the sheep farmer producing mattress-fit wool to the mattress assemblers with their arcane skills. In an age when we exist in little self-selecting tribes sharing the same skills, accents and views, it does us good to see what a bigger, complex country we inhabit.
BUT the appeal of such programmes goes beyond the individuals we meet. In an age when computers have produced gizmos we can't even begin to comprehend, shows like Inside the Factory, The Repair Shop and James May: The Reassembler introduce us to a simpler technology. We may be dazzled by the skills of the craftsmen but at least we can understand what they are doing. Computers make us feel stupid but mattresses makes us feel involved.
SIR Elton John says it was fine for Harry and Meghan to fly on a gas-guzzling private jet to his home in the South of France because Sir Elton paid "an appropriate contribution" to a company specialising in offsetting carbon emissions. If a climate revolution really erupts, this is just the sort of story the Mob will love to hear as they drag the super-rich to the guillotines. Offset with his head . . .
AND down to Warwick where, in the beer garden of the Zetland Arms, seated in the sun behind a pint of best bitter and a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich, I was entertained by the carillon bells of St Mary's playing I Vow to Thee, My Country. Perfect. If the anti-Brexit brigade are right, there may be a shortage of lettuces and tomatoes immediately after October 31. Britain's favourite sandwich will no longer be BLT but B. Quelle horreur.
IF you think I am treating this Brexit business too lightly, consider the doom-laden alternatives. All the other horrifying comparisons have been tried by Project Fear, so they are now invoking the First World War. A piece for the Guardian by Rafael Behr is headlined: "Just as in 1914, the Brexit build-up is making calamity feel inevitable." And just as in 1914 some people are going over the top.