Peter Rhodes on Boris's ratings, London's flood of beer and the pure evil of child-killing

A reader asks: how do we know when urban pursuits such as skateboarding and BMX cycling have become Olympic sports? The answer is that folk begin greeting these sportspeople with words such as: “Well done, you are a credit to your nation,” instead of: “Clear off, you little toerags, or I'll set the dog on you.”

Loved - then sacked
Loved - then sacked

Another reader tells me he's just visited the house where the man was born who invented the toothbrush, but found nothing to commemorate the fact. No plaque.

Boris Johnson's personal approval rating has fallen to its lowest level since he became prime minister, even lower than it was in the January depths of lockdown. Johnson is said to hero-worship Winston Churchill. If so, he may be treading a familiar path, last seen between 1940 and 1945. When the Blitz was raging and thousands were dying, the public loved their Winnie. When danger was past, they sacked him.

There is no crime more vile and inexplicable than the killing of a child. A couple have been convicted of manslaughter after three-year-old Kaylee-Jayde Priest died in agony in Solihull. She was a beautiful little girl who fell into circumstances of pure evil. Every time a child is slain we are told lessons will be learned, but they never are. And although the progressive, liberal part of me believes the solution lies in support, counselling and therapy, I wouldn't lose much sleep if this pair found themselves in prisons where the other inmates believe in rougher justice.

While researching yesterday's item on pubs called The Frying Pan, I came across an incident I'd never heard of. It was the London Beer Flood which sounds like a lot of fun but wasn't. In October 1814, a massive three-storey high vat of beer exploded in a brewery in St Giles. A 320,000-gallon tidal wave of porter swept through the surrounding slums, flooding basements. At least eight people were killed, including several mourners at a wake. There were accounts of people rushing into the streets to fill containers with ale and a rumoured, but unproven, ninth fatality caused by alcoholic poisoning.

To the great relief of the brewery, the coroner recorded a verdict of Act of God, meaning no-one was responsible or liable to pay damages. The company was even able to reclaim the duty it had paid on the beer. Large porters all round...

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