Peter Rhodes on cultural tribes, hate crime in the home and things to count in Lockdown

Buy in haste, repent at leisure. I purchased a cheap computer keyboard a few months ago. Already the letters E, R, O, H, U, N, M, T, I S and L have worn out, making it extremely difficult to spell words such as “steronlihum.” However, you can buy stick-on characters to cure the problem. They seem to work well but you really have to press them hard to make them adhere to the keySSSSSSSS.

Count the twenties
Count the twenties

And why, you may ask, do I use a PC with separate keyboard when the rest of the world uses chic little all-in-one laptops? Because I once spilt a cup of coffee on a laptop. On the PC, it's a £7 replacement job. On the laptop it's a nightmare. Especially if the coffee gets into the steronlihum.

Why could six educated and dazzlingly clever contestants on Only Connect (BBC2) not recognise an image of Max Bygraves? I raised the question last week. A reader suggests it's because they are too young to remember You're a Pink Toothbrush . But there must be more to it than that. I suspect the teams would instantly recognise politicians or sporting stars from the 1960s, so why not an entertainer?

I bet the answer lies in cultural disconnect which divides our nation into hundreds of little tribes, each with a profound interest in some aspects of culture and sport, but no interest in the rest. They know all about cricket but nothing about football. They are immersed in Radio 4 but can't find Radio 2 on the dial. They know Carmina Burana by heart but can't quite place Ed Sheeran.

Me? I couldn't name a single member of the England football squad. But I do enjoy Bill Bryson.

In a consultation document, the Law Commission suggests extending the definition of hate crime to include words spoken not only in public places but in the home. The idea of kids grassing up their parents or dinner guests reporting mealtime conversations to the cops is a step too close to Nineteen Eighty-Four for most of us. Fair Cop, an organisation campaigning against curbs on free speech declares: “It will be like the East German Stasi security service.”

It might actually be worse. At least the Stasi pounced while “offences” were being committed. Our legal system likes to reach back into distant history. Today, you may consider yourself enlightened, woke and entirely free of hate. And then someone remembers that, at a party in your house in 1987, you told a joke about vicars. You're nicked.

I spent a few minutes examining a £20 note I've been carrying around since March. Like so many modern products it is crammed with useless information. For example, how many times do you think the word “twenty” or figure “20” appears on this note? I make it 31. Stuck for things to do in Lockdown? Not me. . .

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News