Peter Rhodes on a lost chance for peace, a sprouty puzzle and the trouble with martyrs
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
The problem with martyrs is that they live forever.” Middle East writer Mohammad Ali Shabani, warning President Trump of the likely fallout from the killing of Iran's military leader and national hero Qassem Suleimani.
The undoubted star of our Christmas gifts was the jigsaw I described a couple of weeks ago. There is no sky, no corners, no straight edges. The picture is simply a plateful of Brussels sprouts. You don't often see grown men cry.
It seemed like madness during the Cold War and it looks like madness today. But there was a little window of opportunity when the West could have made friends with Russia. Newly-declassified Whitehall documents reveal that in 1995 the Cabinet seriously discussed the prospect of Russia becoming an associate member of Nato. To many who were in the armed forces back then, it made perfect sense.
The old enemy had called off the Cold War and Russian officers were being invited to observe Nato exercises. For a while it looked as though Russia under Boris Yeltsin might become a normal European country. It didn't happen and we will probably have to wait another 25 years to discover the real reason. But I wouldn't mind betting that what President Dwight Eisenhower famously referred to as America's “Military-Industrial Complex” was a key player in keeping Russia out in the cold. Peace is a wonderful thing but it's tension that makes fat profits.
I assumed my overdue parcel, in the care of Hermes since December 12, would eventually turn up. Not so. On December 14, and every day that followed the online tracker declared: “We're sorry your parcel has been delayed, we'll have it on the move in the next 24 hours.” But they didn't. I checked a couple of days ago and Hermes is still claiming: “There was an issue whilst your package was in transit.” No kidding? In the meantime, the supplier sent a replacement parcel which arrived within 24 hours. But the original is lost, eternally stamped “in transit,” like a little Mary Celeste.
Researchers at the University of Reading have discovered that students who place a high value on happiness tend to show greater signs of depression because “you become too attentive to your emotions.” Quite so. But then what else do you expect in a softy Southern place like Reading?
As a New Year's resolution, why not adopt a more North Country approach to things? Think grim. Start from the premise that life is just one damn thing after another and blessed are they who hope for nowt, for they will not be disappointed. This is a useful maxim not only for this life but also the next. A Yorkshireman arrived at the Pearly Gates. “Is this Paradise?” he asked St Peter. “Yes, it is,” replied the saint, “but you won't like it.”