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Peter Rhodes on the death of a polymath, the value of Channel 4 and the importance of specs

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

As cold as ice

Channel 4's decision to replace Boris Johnson with a melting ice sculpture when he declined to attend its climate-change studio debate was a clear political statement and C4 probably broke its own rules. But isn't that the whole point of the channel?

While you may think the BBC is a national treasure, C4 News is a national irritant. It's like the eternal naughty schoolboy, refusing to grow up, blurring the line between news and comment and always looking for radical interviewees to make Middle England harrumph. And yet for all its annoying little ways, C4 offers a different view and a fresh perspective. If it ever folded, I for one would miss my regular 7pm encounter with Mr Snow and Co. Even at their most irritating. Harrumph.

Friday's tale of keeping the lid on lottery jackpots reminds me of an interview in the 1970s when I got a message that somebody living on our patch – let us call him Charlie - had won a fortune on the pools. I called at his modest house where Charlie was hugely amused at the news. He'd already heard the rumour and his explanation was that the real winner perhaps shared the same surname. Charlie cheerfully posed for a photo of him giving the thumbs-down and looking glum with a headline on the lines of: “I'm not the mystery millionaire.” Ten years passed. I was researching a story involving a well-known and wealthy businessman. We knew he lived somewhere in one of the millionaires' rows to the south of Birmingham. But which house? I set off to knock door-to-door at these magnificent suburban villas. And at the very first knock on the very first house, guess who answered the door? Cheerful Charlie, the consummate bluffer.

Jonathan Miller who has died aged 85, was a polymath, gifted in fields as varied as medicine, comedy and opera. I have a friend whose claim to fame is that Jonathan Miller was the first person he ever saw. Miller was the maternity doctor. My friend was being born.

I may have railed too much recently against the complexities of computers but until they become as user-friendly as television, they won't reach the 10 per cent of UK adults who don't own one. If I were starting from scratch I'd go for the blissful simplicity of a Chromebook. In a world dominated by Microsoft, you may have to dig a bit to find out about Chromebooks but it's worth it. I've had mine for four years and love it.

Some of you thought my reference to Jeremy Corbyn's ill-fitting specs was a cheap shot. Not so. If your specs don't fit, you have to keep pushing them up your nose. And touching the nose is one of the classic body-language signs that somebody is telling an untruth. As Corbyn fumbles with his specs, he unconsciously sends out the message that he's lying, even when he's telling the truth. What on earth are his advisers doing?

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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