Peter Rhodes on flaming June, thieving gulls and lashings of ginger beer

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Famous Five author Enid Blyton
Famous Five author Enid Blyton

Beer, Devon.

Flaming June lives up to its name. The sun has got his hat on, the days are warm, the nights bearable and there’s not a rain-cloud in sight for a solid fortnight. This is the sort of Devon summer where the Famous Five pigged out on cakes in between solving robberies and foiling smugglers.

If you’re a fan of Enid Blyton (I know of one reader who as a child was convinced she really was a member of the Five) and someone asked you to quote her most famous line, you’d probably shout “lashings of ginger beer.” But you’d be wrong, because the author of the Famous Five books didn’t actually write that - it appeared in the Comedy Strip film Five Go Mad in Dorset. Another one for the pub quiz.

Incidentally, Five Go Mad in Dorset should not be confused with G7 Go Bonkers in Cornwall. How deliriously happy the world leaders looked in the genteel, predictable company of their own touchy-feely kind, free at last of The Orange Thing.

Nothing I’ve seen in Springwatch (BBC) compares for sheer drama and surrealism with the huge herring gull who landed on the table of our seafront balcony, fixed my wife with a baleful eye and, quite deliberately, stole her private property. A couple of wing-beats later it dropped the item on a garage roof, having decided it was inedible.

If you’re on a staycation, one of the advantages in a situation like this is that you can always pop to the people next door and ask for assistance. You’ll never find a foreign-phrase book containing the question: “Do you have a stepladder I could borrow? A seagull has stolen my wife’s spectacle case.”

Another tiny knock for Darwinism. I was surprised to hear a BBC correspondent claiming this month’s lunar eclipse was due to “a quirk in the design of the solar system.” Design? Doesn’t that require a Designer? Note the respectful capital D.

The latest fitness/fashion statement down here in Devon is the changing robe, a vast, comfortable, monk-like garment providing instant warmth and dryness after your daily dip. The changing robe says: “I’m not just a swimmer, I’m a wild swimmer.” But given its cavernous, curve-concealing nature it sometimes says: “I’m not just a swimmer. I’m not even just a wild swimmer. I’m a wild swimmer who’s a bit plump.”

Talking of living forever. A reader reports his state of health: “My doctor tells me every day’s a bonus, but advises against buying green bananas.”

A real holiday treat was a very kind Times review of my book. The book promptly shot up the Amazon sales chart. So what sort of people are buying it? Thanks to computer analysis, Amazon can reveal that “people who bought this item also bought: Regina Blitz Household towel, 8 Rolls, 560 Super-Sized Sheets, Triple Layered Strength.” Make of it what you will. Bloody Adjectives: Ripping Yarns from Sleepy Hollow by Peter Rhodes, is published by Brewin Books at £8.95.

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