Peter Rhodes on balance bikes, sand batteries and Boris the shaggy old sheepdog

Our character-building climate. You wait nine months for a hot day and then remember you don't really like hot days.

Balance bikes – technology in reverse
Balance bikes – technology in reverse

Much debate online about the phrase Boris Johnson used in his farewell speech: "Them's the breaks.” Turns out it refers to the break you make as you start a game of pool. It should not be confused with "Them's the brakes,” as used by driving instructors indicating the centre foot pedal to learners.

Is technology going backwards? As I write this column our two-year-old grandson hurtles past on his balance bike. When I was a toddler we had miniature bikes with pedals, chain and stabilisers and spent a lot of time falling off. The balance bike has none of these trappings and is simply pushed along by the kids' feet. In no time they learn to balance and glide. It's 19th century technology and it's selling like hot cakes.

The latest breakthrough in green energy is another simple, unsophisticated idea that the Victorians could have invented. It's the Finnish-designed “sand battery” in which renewable electricity is used to heat massive containers of cheap, low-grade sand to a scorching 500C. When the weather cools, this budget warmth is pumped into neighbourhood heating systems. We had to wait until the 21st century for the sand battery but Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) would have got the idea in two minutes.

So who's next in 10 Downing Street? Already, the future PM faces that much misused term, a Catch-22 situation: 1) The new prime minister must obviously be someone with Cabinet experience, but 2) Anyone with Cabinet experience is obviously tainted by association with Boris Johnson. Go figure.

And what of Boris himself? What grisly future awaits him? I suspect he may morph into some sort of roguish national treasure, a shaggy old sheepdog who, for all his unhappy habits, still arouses a certain fondness in about half the nation. Yes, they will argue, he may be a scruffy old dog who leaves poo on the carpets and unexplained puppies all over the place, but at least he's patriotic and he hardly ever bites.

I would be astonished if Johnson were not already getting offers from Have I Got News for You? and (perfectly cast) Would I Lie to You?

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