Peter Rhodes on breast pests, Boris's décor and an old catchphrase revisited

Twenty-four hours from now Keir Starmer will be awaiting the by-election result from Hartlepool. Supposing Labour wins massively. Supposing this is the start of Boris's sleaze-collapse and Keir's rise to power. Supposing in a year or so there's a general election. Supposing Starmer moves in to Downing Street. Supposing he really likes the décor . . .

The Goons
The Goons

“Traditional” is a great word, conferring instant respect without the need to offer any proof. Take the ongoing furore over the alleged Devon and Cornish approach to cream teas. Experts tell us the former is “traditionally” served with jam on top. So where's the proof?

The online font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, dares to declare that despite the “traditional” claims, “cream teas are served and enjoyed both cream-first and jam-first throughout both counties.” And through the rest of the world for that matter.

A new campaign, Stop the Breast Pest, has been launched by a couple of MPs to cope with camera-snappers targetting women who are breastfeeding. It began when a 32-year-old mum in Manchester realised a man with a telephoto lens was targeting her and other breastfeeding mothers in a public park.

She complained to the police, only to be told that there was nothing they could do “as a criminal act had not taken place.” Apparently the new law banning upskirting with cameras applies only to a woman's body beneath the waist, not the breasts.

But what about the very old law of behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace? And would the cops have been quite so unhelpful if the breastfeeding mother had been, for the sake of argument, the Chief Constable's daughter - or even, in these enlightened times, the Chief Constable?

There is a golden rule of showbiz I just made up and it goes: if you wait long enough, every old catchphrase will magically re-appear. A reader tells me work on her garden patio has come to a grinding stop thanks to the post-pandemic rush to DIY, a global shortage of timber and, possibly, events in the Middle East.

Some of my older readers (the ones who still think of the Middle East as the Near East, but that's another matter) may recall the 1950s glory days of The Goon Show and those two aged characters, Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister (Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan). One of Henry's catchphrases, much repeated by schoolboy Goon fans, was “You can't get the wood, y'know.”

I wonder how many DIY store or builders' merchants staff, trying to explain the global timber shortage to customers in their 70s, have had the riposte in a silly voice: “You can't get the wood, y'know.”

And even if the timber has been felled, sawn and dispatched from the Far East (not to be confused with the Middle East), it may still not reach you, giving rise to a new catchphrase that Henry Crun would have loved: It's stuck in the Suez Canal, mate.

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