Peter Rhodes on a scrapped holiday, HS2's vanishing profits and the humbling of a Speaker
Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.
As Woody Allen famously put it: if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Our plan for today was to set off to Devon for two weeks of total immersion in Beer. The rest, alas, is history.
The holiday cottage is cancelled and, like millions of British families, we are contemplating a summer without a summer holiday. Our grandson, now 14 weeks old, is all dressed up for Beer beach in a blue-and-white striped matelot babygrow, but with nowhere to go. Interestingly, the babygrow has a pocket. For what . . ?
Things could be worse. For a start, we are lucky to have a garden. Britain seems to have become two nations, the ones who know lots of people who have sickened and died from Covid-19 and the others who can't name a single victim. At the outset some folk claimed this pandemic would be a great leveller. No it isn't. The lucky are still lucky.
The pandemic myth-making goes on. The latest myth is that heroic Brits dutifully obeyed the lockdown until wicked Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The truth, for anyone who cares to remember or to switch on the telly, is that thousands of Brits were breaking the outdoor-mixing rules from the outset and what sent them rushing to the beaches was not a slap-head political adviser but the weather. When the sun comes out, so do the Brits. Always have done, always will do.
Greece may soon allow visitors from England, subject to health tests on arrival and a period of quarantine. It is the latest country to put its faith in body-temperature and other screening. And good luck with that. In the planning stage, nothing looks more straightforward than scanning trippers with thermometers and then either interning suspect cases or sending them home. In real life, who will be heroic enough to tell a family of two parents and three kids, off on their dreamed-of holiday, that one of the kids cannot travel? Will the riot police be on standby?
The word from Whitehall is that John Bercow, having nobly assisted the Remain cause in the Commons, will not be getting a peerage. He is said to be miffed but he really should be proud to be overlooked so pointedly. He broke the mould of Mr Speaker, ditched all pretence of impartiality and staked his future on Brexit being torpedoed. He miscalculated and reaped the rebel's reward. And he's still a Right Honourable, which is more than most rebels ever get.
Meanwhile, I am still waiting to see the new business plan for HS2, the one that shows how it can still make a profit with seats separated to achieve safe-distance rules, plastic barriers, passenger-spacing inspectors and dozens of self-cleaning WCs. The finances of this detestable behemoth were always pretty dodgy. Today, the fastest thing about HS2 is how quickly any hope of a profit is vanishing.
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