Peter Rhodes on flying the flag, the end of Mondeos and a familiar face in the torture chamber

Under new rules from Whitehall, UK government buildings will soon be expected to fly the Union Jack every day. It's all getting a bit American, isn't it?

Brian Wilde – unlikely torturer
Brian Wilde – unlikely torturer

While the Yanks proudly fly their flag 24/7 on state, federal and corporate buildings and outside private homes, we Brits have always been more reserved. The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says the Union Jack “unites us as a nation,” but it clearly does not.

For obvious reasons, the new rule will not apply in Northern Ireland. And with Scotland lurching towards another independence referendum, who would try to enforce it north of Gretna?

Even in England the Union Jack is not universally admired. Is it really worth forcing reluctant employees to work under the shadow of the flag, or go through the regular rigmarole of hauling it up and down?

I can foresee flags being scorned, vandalised or simply vanishing. The Government is creating grounds for dissent. Just flagging that up.

A month ago, when the Government announced that this year's school exams would be assessed not by professional markers but by teachers, I pointed out that this could put teachers at risk of threats, bribery, and so on.

Four weeks on, the watchdog Ofqual is telling teachers to beware of “pushy parents” and warning students that any “malpractice” could see their results invalidated.

All sorted, then? Not exactly. Ofqual wearily accepts that “grade inflation” will be inevitable this year.

This might be the perfect time for me to have my fourth stab at O-level Maths.

A number of readers have pointed out that Richard Topcliffe, Good Queen Bess's sadistic torturer in chief in the repeat screening of the 1970s drama Elizabeth R (BBC4) was played by Brian Wilde, that nice Mr Barrowclough from Porridge.

Forsooth 'tis true. But isn't there something exquisitely chilling about the gentle and usually bewildered Mr Barrowclough, organiser of the library at HM Prison Slade, revealing a hidden enthusiasm for ripping out toenails?

So farewell, the Mondeo. Production of Ford's big, sleek and infinitely useful saloon is ending. Apparently, Mondeo Man no longer wants a conventional car and is turning to sports utility vehicles or SUVs.

I've never quite understood what is either sporty or useful about an SUV but I guess two social changes are at work. Firstly, it's a height thing. Once you've driven an SUV, looking down on other, lesser vehicles like a knight on his charger, you don't want to sit at prole-level again.

Secondly, it's the old obesity epidemic. These days, how many drivers can actually fit in a saloon?

And so the Mondeo, having morphed from outsize Sierra into a beautiful road machine with that unabashed Aston Martin-style grille, is overtaken by history, fashion and calories.

But don't assume an SUV will bring happiness.

A lady of my acquaintance bought one and complained: “You need a ladder to get in the bloody thing and a parachute to get out.”

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