Peter Rhodes on a forgotten war, the benefits of bribery and tastes that just don't travel

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Wanted – a smaller House
Wanted – a smaller House

Official government advice. Last week: Stay at home, lose weight. This week: form a queue, stuff your face.

Reformers in the House of Lords assure us that they were on the verge of a plan to reduce their ludicrous numbers – now well over 800 lords and ladies – when Boris Johnson spoiled everything by recommending 36 new peers. I'm not convinced. The Lords has been a national embarrassment for more than 100 years and every move to make it smaller, more democratic or more relevant has fractured on the hard, sharp beaks of turkeys who refuse to vote for Christmas.

So here, after much thought, is my brilliant solution. It is called BBO or Buying the Blighters Out. Instead of appealing to their better nature, we simply offer their lords and ladyships £1 million each to clear their desks and vacate the place. The money will be quickly matched by the huge savings in building a new, modest House of Lords not for 800 but for 200 or even 100. When every tool of diplomacy has been tried, why not try that great historical standby, a bribe?

Talking of history, it is 150 years since the Franco-Prussian War broke out. The world expected a long, traditional war. It was all over in six months and proved that an educated, trained, well-motivated army led by officers who knew their craft would beat a poorly-led peasant army every time. Germany's triumph marked the beginning of all our troubles in the 20th century. German pride and French humiliation laid the foundations of the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War, the division of Europe, the rise of the EU and the tense post-Cold War world we know today. Yet I can't recall being taught anything about the Franco-Prussian War at school and I suspect the same is true today. There's more to history than the Tudors.

A coronavirus outbreak among people who visited a bar in Aberdeen is hardly unexpected. The trouble with alcohol is that it inspires great friendships while destroying any hope of social distancing. After an evening on the pop, it is almost impossible to burst into tears at a bar and tell a complete stranger: “ You're my best mate in the whole bloody world, you are” while keeping two metres away or wearing a mask.

Staying safer, you could always try recreating the joy of the Med in your own backyard by uncorking some of those strange, exotic bottles you brought back last time. But take care. Some tastes do not travel well. The Retsina you bought from a taverna in Lindos will taste like aftershave anywhere north of Dover. And while Bardolino red wine, served chilled, is the drink of the gods as you simmer in the evening glow on the shores of Lake Garda, back home, as I discovered this week, it's about as joyous as iced Bovril. Be warned.

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