Peter Rhodes on identical couples, the lure of SUVs and Hollywood's daftest murder bid

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Tough target – Cary Grant
Tough target – Cary Grant

How should we react to the news that some Covid-19 testing swabs handed out in Birmingham had already been used? Phlegmatically.

In theory, we should all be clamouring for clean, green electric cars. In reality, a survey reveals a whopping 39 per cent of vehicles bought in Europe in the first half of 2020 were SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles). The lure of the SUV has cancelled out any of the petrol-saving benefits of electric vehicles. So what explains the popularity of SUVs, or 4WDs, as we Brits sometimes call them? I suspect it has nothing to do with sport or utility and a lot to do with fat. As a nation we have never been more obese. How many drivers cruising grandly in their SUVs can't actually squeeze into a saloon?

A reader writes to say how much he enjoyed BBC4's recent screening of the 1959 Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest. Me, too, if only for what must be the daftest murder bid in movie history. The bad guys could simply plug Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) with a bullet. Instead, they send him to a remote crossroads where we discover it's almost impossible to fly a biplane while spraying insecticide and simultaneously trying to machine-gun Cary Grant and avoid a petrol tanker, oops, too late. Moral: the best hit-men do not multitask.

After boozy crowds gathered in Liverpool, one intensive-care doctor said he was disgusted: “They don't care that people are dying from this disease, it is heart-breaking to watch." When they come to write the history of this pandemic, let's not have any Blitz-type cobblers about how the whole nation pulled together. Some did, some didn't. For every act of self-sacrifice there was another act of pure selfishness. This was not our finest hour.

The Bank of England is discussing negative interest rates, meaning customers pay for the privilege of the bank having their money. The plan is to encourage spending and penalise hoarding. The reality, at least in Japan which went negative in 2017, was that folk spent millions of pounds on one particular household item. A home safe.

Researchers in California examined thousands of photographs and disproved the old wives' tale that married couples grow to look like each other. The images were scrutinised not only by humans but also by facial-recognition computers. Result: no evidence of any striking similarities.

Next step for the researchers is to test the theory that a person's name can be predicted from their appearance. But how precise can that research be? For example, if you have bouffant hair and an orange complexion, you may be known by all sorts of names.

While long-term couples may not resemble each other, it can't be denied that some adopt each other's views, mannerisms, expressions and, in some curious cases, fashion sense. These couples are never so happy as when they are out and about in matching outfits, like identical twins. What do you think they're wearing underneath?

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