Peter Rhodes on vertical farms, understanding manspeak and the origins of punters

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Stormzy Airport?

“Vertical farms” are the big thing for the 2020s. Dozens of farmers have reportedly applied for planning permission to erect huge multi-storey greenhouses capable of producing crops in all weathers which are five times more productive than open fields. But why put them in the countryside?

Our cities and towns are full of unwanted commercial buildings. Strip them out, bring on the seedlings and let's see fresh fruit and veg grown on the upper floors and sold at ground level, right where's it's wanted with zero carbon footprint and no air miles. And thus the countryside is saved for traditional pursuits such as Morris dancing, dropping litter and leaving gates open.

I can see only one problem with the vertical-farms-in-cities plan. If we grow food in disused urban buildings, where will the dealers grow their cannabis?

This is a leap year which means, on February 29, women can propose to their men. I will certainly be rooting for Miss Persistent who poured out her woes to a Fleet Street agony aunt a few days ago. She and her boyfriend have been together for six years. He says he will marry her “eventually” but they need to save up before getting hitched. She suddenly inherits £20,000 and, with their money worries over, expects a New Year proposal. Nothing happens. She's 42 and she's hurt, bewildered, uncertain. And she clearly doesn't understand that some words mean entirely different things to men and women. Words like “eventually.”

I will put up those shelves, eventually. Couldn't be clearer, could it?

More from the newly-released secret government papers. Back in 1996 it was suggested that Heathrow might be renamed Winston Churchill Airport. The idea seems to have been lost in the cobwebs of Whitehall which is perhaps as well. By now, the “Winston Churchill” signs would surely have been torn down on the grounds that he was an imperialist/warmonger/racist/workplace bully/alcoholic/terrible bricklayer or whatever and we'd be landing at Stormzy Airport.

I used the word “punters” the other day. Any idea where it comes from? One explanation appeared recently in the magazine Motor Sport which carried a 1938 image from the glory days of Brooklands racing circuit in Surrey. Some enterprising folk realised a river ran alongside the track, offering great views of the Singers, Bentleys and Napiers hurtling past. And there they are, those fans of 82 years ago, standing up to enjoy the spectacle – in punts. The first punters.

If you think there is nothing more embarrassing than dad-dancing, consider dad-jokes which all seem to be based on the premise that we fathers don't really get the modern world. From a stocking-filler collection of dad-jokes, this one made me smile: “I ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon. I’ll let you know.”

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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