Peter Rhodes on a grim spring, the joy of delivering and a sudden encounter with Armageddon

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Grateful – Richard Harrington in Poldark
Grateful – Richard Harrington in Poldark

The BBC monthly weather forecast for the period March 15-28 is: “Pretty typical for a British spring.” Have six little words ever hinted at so much misery?

My fear that people without smartphones might be left out of the Covid-19 passport scheme may have been solved by the Old Testament. Israel is way ahead of the rest of the world in vaccinating and is already producing a smartphone app showing the owner's health and jab record. But some ultra-Orthodox Jews refuse to use smartphones, so the authorities are also producing a printed paper version of the passport. Problem solved. And if they can do it, so can we. Shalom.

Visitors to Israel are sometimes surprised not only at how seriously the ultra-orthodox take their brand of Judaism, but how the rest of the nation bends over to accommodate them. Take the Shabbat elevator, as seen in many hotels. It's a lift that works automatically, ensuring that Jews do not have to operate any sort of electrical switch on the Sabbath. You can always spot the new tourists. They're the ones who ask: “Why is this flaming lift stopping at every floor?”

When things get back to normal and you want that trip you always promised yourself, I can recommend the Holy Land. You have to be a harder-boiled atheist than I am not to be moved by your first sight of Jerusalem by night, or thrilled to find yourself on the road to Jericho that the Good Samaritan trod. As you might imagine, Israel and the West Bank are dotted with archaeological digs. As our minibus passed one I asked the driver what place this was. “Armageddon,” he replied brightly.

Richard Harrington who plays Captain Blamey in Poldark (BBC) says he got a job as a takeaway delivery driver after being unemployed during lockdown. While his plight has been used to illustrate the hardships suffered by creative workers during the pandemic, it seems his stint with Deliveroo wasn't all bad. As Harrington puts it: “I’m usually fairly fit but the first lockdown turned into a lock-in. So I was very grateful to be able to get on my bike every day.”

Over the past year I've made a point of asking delivery drivers what they did before lockdown. One was a postie, another a soldier and another a personal trainer. Like Harrington, all seemed remarkably grateful to be on the road, delivering stuff and, above all, meeting people. Being grateful in adversity is one mark of a gentleman.

France's former president, Nicolas Sarkozy (the short one with the supermodel wife) has been sentenced to three years in jail for corruption. Two of the years will be suspended. The other year will be spent in his home wearing an electronic tag. Useful French phrases: “une tape sur le poignet” translates as “a slap on the wrist.” But without any hint of pain, n'est ce pas?

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