Peter Rhodes on premature poppies, the real Good Old Days and the end of the line for fireworks

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Blooming too early
Blooming too early

Headline from a news website this week: "Cops enter house giving off foul smell."

For obvious reasons, the Treasury has "paused" production of the new 50p coin commemorating Brexit on October 31. About 1,000 of the coins have been minted and experts reckon they might be worth £800 each to collectors. This puts the October 31 Brexit 50p on a par with the much sought-after 1065 Battle of Hastings memorial groat and the Waterloo half-sovereign unfortunately stamped "Duck of Wellington."

Three stories always arise at this time of year. For the sake of economy, let's deal with them in a single paragraph. Yes, some people wear their remembrance poppies far too soon. Yes, some military charities are hoarding ridiculous amounts of money while veterans go short. And yes, the days of fireworks must be numbered. In an age when Oxford University seriously tells audiences to show "jazz hands" rather than risk triggering trauma by the noise of clapping, scary fireworks will surely be replaced by silent laser displays. But not too bright, obviously. Don't want to startle anyone.

According to DNA research, the real-life Garden of Eden was in modern-day Botswana. Today it is desert but 200,000 years ago it was a lush, green, animal-rich paradise where mankind lived and evolved around a huge lake. The climate was good, there was plenty of food and I dare say the folk enjoyed a spot of fishing. It was paradise on earth. This leads on to one of my pet theories. In every age and in many cultures, folk have believed that life was better in the good old days which they usually place about 40 years earlier.When I was young, people spoke fondly of the 1930s when money was short but neighbours pulled together. Today, you hear the same said of life in the 1980s. Back then, the summers were warmer, food tasted better, kids were respectful and neighbours were neighbourly.

It is easy to dismiss this belief as nothing more than old folk yearning for their youth. But I suspect what they feel, echoing in their minds, is an inherited race-memory, carried by untold generations of human beings, of an age when the living really was better. In our minds we fit this golden age into the span of our lives. But in reality the Good Old Days were not 40 years ago but 200,000 years ago.

I dare say the forthcoming election manifestos will touch on the ticklish subject of free TV licences for the over 75s. I may see a way forward. In this grotesquely unequal society of ours, life expectancy can vary by as much as 20 years depending on whether you are poor and live in the tenements of Glasgow or are rich and inhabit the leafy lanes of Surrey. So let's have free TV licences for the over-75s - except for the rich. "The rich" will be defined as anybody over 76.

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