Peter Rhodes on power cuts, a mild spell and whatever happened to Winterval?

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Father Winterval
Father Winterval

Tuesday's sudden rise in temperatures created the rare weather condition for which, some years ago, a reader coined an entirely new word. It applies when it's cooler indoors than outside. That's when conditions are not inclement but outclement.

How easily the phrase “their fourth night without power” slips off a newsreaders' tongue and what a nightmare of misery and despair it covers. If there is ever a public inquiry into why the first winter blizzard of 2021 knocked out the electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes, it might ask why so many power pylons were erected so close to so many trees. Someone presumably thought it was a good idea.

Shock, horror, outrage. According to weekend reports, civil servants have banned the word “Christmas” from the anti-Covid campaign for fear of offending minority religions. A proposed slogan: “Don't take Covid home for Christmas" was amended to refer to "the festive season.” And if that doesn't prove there's a Left-wing conspiracy in Whitehall, what does?

However, if you are old enough and sceptical enough, you may be reminded of Winterval. What a great Xmas yarn that was for hacks everywhere. In 1997 it was widely reported that Birmingham City Council wanted to rename Christmas as Winterval. The alleged aim was to avoid offending ethnic minorities. But in the process, it seemed everyone else was offended.

The problem was that as you dug deeper into the Winterval story, it evaporated. Turned out Winterval was no more than one official's bright idea of bringing together all the autumn and winter festivals for marketing purposes. There was no question of renaming the Christian festival, no offence to Christians and no offended minorities. And yet Winterval stuck and has become an urban myth. I may be proved wrong but the latest tale of unnamed civil servants banning the word “Christmas” from the Covid campaign, as allegedly confirmed by the tabloids in “an email seen this week” has a whiff of Winterval about it.

Mind you, as we become less religious and more acquisitive there may, in the distant future, be a case for dropping the religious names of the festival. We could call it Giftmas. Or Partytide. Or my personal favourite, GDB (the Great December Blowout). Any ideas?

  • Peter Rhodes' book, Bloody Adjectives is published by Brewin Books at £8.95

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