Peter Rhodes on huffle-puffers, thoughtless students and a definition of coping

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

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Huffle puffers

An email arrives from BT about their service “during this difficult time.” They don't seem to have any difficulty getting my bill out.

Is it time to ban some energetic exercise in public places? A brisk walk is good enough to get the system working and it doesn't produce the vast clouds of droplet-laden breath recklessly pumped out by joggers and runners. I think of these Lycra-clad liabilities as huffle-puffers.

I have never known a four-letter word to be bandied around so much, and used with so much certainty and authority, without anyone even attempting to define it. The word is cope. When the NHS says it can cope or the Home Office says police can cope, what do they mean? If Britain loses 10,000 to this plague instead of 20,000, is that coping? If the cops have to ignore 10 per cent of crimes, are they coping?

I only ask because back in the 1980s I took part in an exercise designed to simulate Britain's recovery after a nuclear war. It was based on a scenario of 80 nuclear strikes across the UK. Millions were dead and millions more would die as the radioactive plumes were tracked by government scientists on a huge plastic screen. But people were obeying instructions to stay at home, some water mains were already reconnected and deliveries of thousands of cardboard coffins were getting through. In our bunker, we thought we were coping rather well.

Moral? “Cope” is a great little verb because it can deal with any situation. In short, it copes.

In yesterday's column I referred to Mount Pleasant Airport in the Falklands. You may have assumed that a press party, having just landed at this amazing place, would set off to explore its barracks, briefing rooms and endless corridors. Not a bit of it. In order to settle an argument on the plane, we headed straight to the loos, found a washbasin, filled it and pulled out the plug. As we were now in the southern hemisphere, would the water drain clockwise or anti-clockwise - the so-called Coriolis effect? To be honest, I can't remember.

A reader lives opposite a house occupied by university students and was surprised, in these lockdown times, to see a visitor arrive on a bike and knock at the door. She was warmly greeted by one of the students and the two women hugged on the front step and then took selfies together. Social distancing? Not for them. And these are students, the most intelligent kids our nation has produced and our hope for the future. God help us.

The organisers of the Cheltenham Festival say they took expert advice before going ahead with last month's event which saw 251,000 racegoers herded together, allegedly resulting in many new cases of coronavirus. So is the Jockey Club for the high jump?

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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