Peter Rhodes on watching buzzards, remembering cars and how the Covid jab will become compulsory

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

No jab, no fly
No jab, no fly

Boris Johnson says there will be no official compulsion for people to have the anti-Covid vaccine. The Australian airline Qantas says international passengers might not be be allowed on its aircraft without a certificate of vaccination. And that's how no-compulsion will become compulsion.

Parliament will never try to pass a Vaccination Bill. But airlines will demand proof of immunity. And so will hotels, resorts and probably entire countries. Don't be surprised if insurance firms get on the bandwagon, too. Today, you may huff and puff and insist you'll never accept the jab. Tomorrow, if you want to live anything like a normal life, you'll join the queue and roll up your sleeve.

Meanwhile, as the death knell is sounded for petrol and diesel cars, I spent an idle lockdown hour making a list of my cars from 1969 to the present. There have been 26, an eclectic assortment of classics and bangers, from seductive sports convertibles to workaday hatchbacks.

Each of those 26 has its memories, from the Vitesse of our courtship days to the Toyota Celica coupe that never skipped a beat until 2am one September morning in 1986 when my wife went into labour and we needed to get to hospital quickly. For the first and only time, that Toyota's engine coughed once before starting, a heart-stopping reminder not to take any car for granted.

But the car that transformed and enhanced our life the most was the least glamorous of the lot. It was a tiny mustard-yellow Fiat 126, the only car I ever owned whose back window you could wipe from the driver's seat. After a succession of ruinously expensive saloons, that diminutive Fiat cut my motoring costs and transformed our household finances. We were no longer perpetually hard-up. I'm not one of those drivers who endows cars with human personalities. But I always think of my Fiat 126 as a little mustard saviour.

Nature notes. Writing this column, I saw what looked like a big crow in the field next door. It was a buzzard. As a rule, we see buzzards soaring magnificently, screeching at each other and plummeting on some unfortunate rabbit or vole. But they're just as happy on foot, mooching unglamorously around a field for earthworms. This one suddenly leaned forward and then stood upright, stretching a worm to twice its normal length before pulling it from its hole. Buzzard numbers have quadrupled since the 1970s thanks to a characteristic they share with us humans. We'll eat any old rubbish.

Meanwhile, another successful omnivore has started the annual rodent pilgrimage to the loft of Chateau Rhodes. A mouse has found the Christmas present hiding place and nibbled a chocolate orange. Dilemma. Do we put down poison, set a traditional Little Nipper trap or deploy the “humane” trap which catches them alive? I'm inclined not to intervene and let the calories do their work. Death by chocolate orange must be a grand way to go.

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