Peter Rhodes on Billy the Kid, an unexpected refund and giving thanks for deliverance at Kabul

The latest column from Peter Rhodes.

A second Dunkirk?
A second Dunkirk?

The media, with one voice, declared the end of Britain's “20-year military involvement in Afghanistan.” Truth is, we've been mucking around in Afghanistan, ever since the First Afghan War which began in 1839. According to one history of that conflict: “Not one benefit, political or military, was acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated.” That's the thing about history. It repeats itself.

And yet history may be kinder to Operation Pitting than some of today's politicians and pundits are. To evacuate 15,000 loyal Afghans and UK citizens from an airport 4,600 miles from home, in the face of the enemy and without the loss of a single UK soldier is a miracle comparable to Dunkirk. Churchill solemnly reminded the nation back then: “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory.” And yet Kabul 2021, like Dunkirk 1940, could have been infinitely worse and for that we should be thankful.

Rejoice. We may have left hundreds of loyal interpreters, their wives and children behind in Afghanistan to face Taliban vengeance but, hey, we got the dogs and cats out, and that's what really matters, eh? Only in England . . .

Yesterday's item on Morecambe and Wise being unimpressed by Monty Python reminds me of a colleague who in the 1970s was shown the script for an upcoming Morecambe and Wise show. My colleague read it through and told us later: “There wasn't a single funny line in it.” But when those lines were delivered by Eric and Ernie, something wonderful happened and mere words erupted into magic. They brought us sunshine.

The gun that killed the notorious Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid, real name Henry McCarty, has been sold for six million dollars. Which makes Billy the Six Million Dollar Man. Wikipedia is less impressed, describing him thus: “Occupation: cattle rustler, cowboy and ranch hand, gambler, horse thief, outlaw.” You don't get CVs like that any more.

Positively the last word on my home-insurance renewal. I paid over the phone and, when the daylight robbery was over and the bloke asked if he could help in any way, I pointed out meekly that the premium has shot up by 21 per cent, with not a word of explanation. He instantly knocked off £20. Which made me wish I hadn't been quite so meek.

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