Peter Rhodes on masks at the Proms, a classic book and something worse than the Taliban

Curious face-mask etiquette at the Proms (BBC1). Soloists enter the stage at the Royal Albert Hall masked up and remove the mask for singing. But rather than keep the masks with them, they leave them on a stand beneath the conductor and collect them after their number. If you did this in your local supermarket you'd be asked to leave.

Mr Toad - bringer of nostalgia
Mr Toad - bringer of nostalgia

If you think the Taliban are evil incarnate, watch out for the Afghan branch of Islamic State, now said to be gathering its forces, which according to one report regards the Taliban as American stooges. Don't bet on it but this mess could end with the Yanks and Taliban fighting on the same side.

On a happier note, I was reading The Wind in the Willows to my grandson, now 19 months, and reflecting once again on what an extraordinary work of imagination it is. With a magnificent disregard for size or scale, Kenneth Grahame created a cast of animal characters who are small enough to live in little holes in the riverbank yet, on the next page, big enough to fit into human clothes. Mr Toad is the same size as a water vole, yet has no problem driving a car or handling a horse-drawn caravan.

In Grahame's fantasy, badgers are the same size as moles, and voles are no bigger than toads. And the strangest thing is that for the 113 years since it was first published, children have loved the story and never questioned the most improbable details. For generations of us, Grahame's masterpiece, with its sun-kissed picnics and toasted crumpets, was an introduction to the happy-sad emotion we call nostalgia.

Not that our resident toddler knows anything about nostalgia. He's hooked on the book because it has drawings of Mr Toad racing in a big red car. At 19 months, his world consists of three things, namely 1) tractors, 2) cars and 3) all the other stuff.

Grown-ups are often accused of stereotyping toddlers into gender-defined interests; cars for boys, dolls for girls and so on. In my experience, little ones come ready-programmed. Presented with a pile of publications, our grandson reaches unhesitatingly for the October issue of Classic Cars and makes brum-brum noises at a vintage Bentley. Progressives may rage but Mr Toad would understand.

*Peter Rhodes' book, Bloody Adjectives: Ripping Yarns from Sleepy Hollow, is published by Brewin Books at £8.95

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