Peter Rhodes on the future of food banks, disappearing capitals and that worst-case Yellowhammer

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Easy to open, hard to close

YOU know you're getting old when capital letters start disappearing. A review of the new Downton Abbey movie refers to two characters "bickering over the general strike." Such was the trauma of this 1926 national calamity that for decades afterwards it was always written as "the General Strike." As our race-memory fades away, so do the capitals.

YESTERDAY'S item on huts, sheds and caravans reminded me of a beloved den of yore. My brother and I, aged 12 and 10, cycled out of town for about five miles and found a deep, dry ditch at the side of the road. Here, we constructed our den, weaving the grass and bracken into a roof, stocking it with food and water and making traps out of paper and elastic bands to whack any trespassers.

WE visited our secret den almost every day during that long, hot summer. And then one day we arrived after the council ditch-clearing lorry had been at work. We couldn't find our den. We couldn't even find where it had been. They didn't do counselling back then.

"WE are meeting people who are in several jobs and they still can't survive. They still have to go to the food banks". So says shadow chancellor John McDonnell, laying out his tax plans for the next Labour government. The aim is to make food banks unnecessary. Britain has about 2,000 of them, a grinding embarrassment to whichever party is in power.

OPENING a food bank is easy. All it takes is a dedicated charity, lots of donations, some premises, and a few volunteers. But how on earth do you close a food bank? Who wants to be the prime minister who stopped feeding the hungry?

SO what's the worst that can happen on the road to Brexit? Some lorries delayed, a temporary shortage of lettuce and a bit of extra smuggling. Operation Yellowhammer, the Government's worst-case scenario for a no-deal Brexit, has been portrayed as Armageddon, catastrophe, disaster and going over a cliff edge. Considering this is the biggest re-arrangement of Britain's trading arrangements for 40 years, Yellowhammer looks about as disruptive as fog in the Channel or a bad drone day at Gatwick. It's all about perception. If you wish to see a catastrophe, then you will surely find one in Yellowhammer. If you wish to see a few hurdles to be overcome, that is what you will see. As with so much in this Brexit debate, the division is not so much between Remainers and Leavers but between pessimists and optimists.

NEVER have these two mind-sets been better illustrated than in Any Answers? (Radio 4). The first speaker was a doctor, voice shaking with emotion, terrified that Brexit would take us all to hell in a handcart. The second was a listener quietly convinced that all would be well because we're such a great nation. I suspect that 12 months from now, no matter how it turns out, both will be equally convinced they were right.

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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