Peter Rhodes on Belgravia's missing character, a blow for XR and the challenge of tracing contacts

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

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Carson (Jim Carter) the butler (from Downton Abbey)

Yes, same here. I keep thinking it's Tuesday.

A reader says Extinction Rebellion (XR) has gone very quiet. No wonder. Any organisation whose entire strategy is built on crowds and bringing congestion to streets is likely to take a whacking in times like this. Even when lockdown is eased, how long will it be before creating any sort of crowd is regarded as wickedly reckless and self-indulgent?

As for global warming, we switched off our boiler on April 3. Last year we needed it until April 15. Not exactly a scientific study but it's saving us a few bob.

What is it about Belgravia (ITV) that fails to grab the national interest? Julian Fellowes' Victorian costume drama is beautifully dressed, acted, lit and filmed. Yet four weeks into its six-week run, do we really care what happens to any of the characters (apart from the dachshund)? What's missing is a good strong character linking the nobs to the minions, the Upstairs to the Downstairs. In Fellowes' hugely successful Downton Abbey, that job was performed magnificently by Carson the butler (Jim Carter), dressing-down the footmen one minute and moments later explaining the 20th century to the Earl of Grantham (“I believe it is called a telephone, my lord.”) and thus bonding two dramas into one.

Testing for coronavirus and tracing all contacts is being touted as a vital weapon in fighting the pandemic. Maybe in the early stages, with a few dozen cases, it made sense. Now, there could be millions of Covid-19 victims, most showing few symptoms and many with complicated lives. Could all their contacts for the previous days be traced? The interview begins: “Yeah, now I remember, I drove up the M6 last week, or was it the M1? I definitely stopped at a service station. Can't remember which one. Who served me in the shop? A lady, I think. Or was it a man? Yes, I used the loos. There was another bloke at the urinals. No, sorry, I didn't think to ask for his name and address. Did I go straight home to my wife? Er, not exactly. See, there's this girl in Doncaster. No, I don't know her surname. We always meet in a hotel. Novotel, I think. Or is it Premier Inn? Sometimes she brings a mate. Anyway, is that any help . . . ?”

Have we ever seen anything as stunning as the nine-day creation of the first Nightingale Hospital in London? Has there ever been such a testimony to British dynamism? Well, probably. If you go to the Falkland Islands, you'll land at MPA, Mount Pleasant Airport, built in just three years after the 1982 Falklands War for £215 million. Governments always moan about being short of money but when war or pestilence strikes, there's always a few billion tucked down the sofa.

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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