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Peter Rhodes on satanic mills, putting Brits back to work and do boys or girls run in families?

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

The swollen River Severn at Bewdley last week

If you have not yet made the connection between flooded meadows and Home Secretary Priti Patel's plan to restrict immigration and get eight million “economically inactive” Brits working, consider this. Come November, the new Ministry of Work Enforcement will be turfing the old, the sick, the part-time students and stay-at-home mums off their cosy sofas and driving them out into the paddy fields to pick the rice harvest. You read it here first.

I am not sure how the Home Secretary is regarded in the corridors of power but a recent cartoon shows an electrical shop selling light bulbs in three grades: Dim, Extra Dim and Priti Patel. Whatever can this mean?

A reader condemns my ignorance for not knowing that William Blake, when writing about “dark satanic mills” in his poem Jerusalem, was actually referring to the Church. I am aware of this theory, thanks, but it is no more than a theory.

Some say Blake meant the established Church of England, others that he was referring to all churches, or to universities, flour mills or even windmills. Truth is, nobody knows what he meant because Blake (1757-1827) never explained. But when I borrowed his term “dark satanic mills,” last week I was referring to real mills, like the smoke-blackened cotton and wool mills of Yorkshire where my ancestors toiled for a pittance. They were soot-stained and they were certainly satanic (the mills, that is, not the family).

Still on families, Australian researchers examined more than eight million birth records before concluding that it's just a myth that boys or girls run in a family. Or as their leader put it: “Our heritability estimate was zero.” Well, maybe it was and maybe the statistics are spot-on. But all the research in the world cannot alter the fact that my grandmother had eight grandchildren, five by her daughter and three by her son, and all eight of us were little boys.

While some folk campaign against the surveillance state, others can't get enough of it. Like the reader who writes: “I am a great believer that DNA and ID should be recorded at birth. I have never done anything wrong and see no reason why we should not.” Here's a good reason. Today's mischief has a habit of becoming tomorrow's crime. Sex-pest bosses who routinely smacked secretaries' bottoms in the 1970s never dreamed they were doing anything wrong, let alone criminal. And if some future vegan-majority government bans all meat, and your DNA places you at a burger bar some years earlier, it would be awkward, to say the least.

Today's flood scenes on the Severn are a bitter reminder of the inundation of 2007. I recall asking a reader how his caravan was faring, on a riverside site at Evesham. He replied glumly: “It's at Tewkesbury now.”

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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