Peter Rhodes on a not-so-doomed tree, the loneliness of pandas and why the welcome for Afghans could be lukewarm

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Taliban – how many British fans?
Taliban – how many British fans?

The reception of 17,000 Afghans is designated Operation Warm Welcome. Good luck with that. The brave interpreters and others plucked to safety are the sworn enemies of the Taliban. And the Taliban, sad to report, have plenty of friends in Britain.

Khola Hasan, described as a scholar of the UK Sharia Council, recently told Radio 4 that the Taliban have “grown up.” She added that “every single person that I know as a Muslim” was celebrating their return to power in Afghanistan. This suggests the reception shown in Britain to some exiled Afghans may not be universally warm.

The great writer G K Chesterton declared: “Journalism largely consists in saying 'Lord Jones is dead' to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”

The BBC are past masters at that sort of journalism, routinely presenting us with obituaries on “the legendary reggae nose-flautist” or “the iconic Morris-dance choreographer” or other alleged superstars we've never heard of.

Today, the “Lord Jones is dead” accolade is extended to trees we've never heard of. Take the “critically endangered” Menai whitebeam, a tree found only in one tiny location in North Wales. According to a new report warning of mass tree extinctions across the planet, there are only 30 Menai whitebeams left in the wild. But this is hardly surprising, given its bizarre choice of habitat, solely on the top of the shore of the Menai Strait and exclusively on limestone rock. Picky, or what? The Menai whitebeam sounds like the tree equivalent of the giant panda which insists on eating nothing but bamboo and then wonders why it has so few mates.

British Transport Police in Birmingham tweeted a picture of two officers alongside the Covid-masked Tom Cruise, currently filming in the city, with the message: “I promise you, this isn’t Photoshopped.” Well, of course it isn't. If you Photoshopped Tom Cruise, why would you put him in a mask? Mission: Implausible.

Men who mumble are considered more attractive by women, according to researchers in California who claim that mumbling is a masculine trait. Well, maybe it is. But it also conceals the embarrassing fact that many males are useless conversationalists. When her man mumbles, a woman can at least convince herself he's saying something sensible, especially if he can be trained to avoid words such as Villa, Clarkson and the offside rule.

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