Peter Rhodes on honouring soldiers, over-hyping vaccines and the Dr Zhivago we never got to see

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Omar and Julie – perfect
Omar and Julie – perfect

But for fate, the perfect pairing of Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in David Lean's 1965 epic Dr Zhivago might never have happened. We learn this week that Kirk Douglas and director Stanley Kubrick tried to get the film rights. Kirk as Zhivago? And who would have been his Lara?

Here's a challenge. Who would have made the worst-paired Zhivago and Lara of all time? My shortlist for the doomed couple includes Charles Hawtrey & Barbara Windsor, John Wayne & Doris Day, and Arthur Lowe & Dora Bryan.

Last year there were 36,000 complaints about armed-forces accommodation. Some squalid quarters were rat infested, others had leaks. This week a campaign was launched to award the Victoria Cross to Britain's Unknown Warrior, buried in Westminster Abbey. Why heap honours on warriors who have died when we deal so shabbily with the ones who are still serving?

Remember back in March when this wretched virus erupted and the V-word was on everyone's lips? If we only had enough ventilators, all would be well. Several billion pounds later, we learned that ventilators weren't such a big deal after all and many patients did better on low-pressure oxygen. Today we are obsessed with another V-word. Vaccines are being hailed as the great hope to “get back to normal by Easter” Don't bank on it.

There's also a danger that if politicians start focusing on vaccines as the sole solution, lots of other proven, but less glamorous, solutions will fall by the wayside. The hospital death rate from Covid-19 today is about half what it was in March. That's not because there was some great breakthrough in new drugs or technology but because medical staff learned which existing drugs could be effective and what nursing techniques might be tried. There are people alive today who owe their survival to something as simple as “proning,” turning patients from lying on their back to their tummy. If we rely too much on vaccines, the medical expertise and nursing skills acquired in 2020 may be forgotten. And then what do we do when the next virus comes along?

It's a health thing. Some folk with medical conditions and some of us on blood-pressure pills, avoid tight socks. Knowing this makes sense of an otherwise puzzling online sales pitch: “Man's Eazy Grip Socks: Walking, Travelling and Diabetes.”

The Christmas post is going to be frantic. You can see it already in the number of Royal Mail and private-courier vans thronging the roads as buyers ignore the high street and turn to eBay and Amazon. Is it too early to repeat my favourite graffiti tale? The General Post Office Building in New York carries the famous proclamation: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" Underneath, someone once scrawled: "So what is it, then?"

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