Rhodes on endless scrutiny, irritated sharks and a surprise encounter in a forest

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Ranulph Fiennes – sneaky-beaky
Ranulph Fiennes – sneaky-beaky

I referred yesterday to basking sharks being harmless to humans. Yet I recall an angler on the Clyde once telling my father that if your dinghy cast a shadow on a basking shark, it might get irritated and flip you over. A fisherman's tale?

See how the past and its long-forgotten smears creep out of the woodwork the moment you reach for power? Barely had Nadhim Zahawi announced his bid to become Prime Minister than Sky raked up the 2018 men-only dinner at a London hotel where hostesses claimed to have been groped. Zahawi attended briefly.

Zahawi may have thought this fleeting embarrassment four years ago was of no interest and off-limits. But that's not how things works. Does anyone seriously think resignation will spare Boris from further examination? Or that Keir Starmer's beer and curry are forever laid to rest simply because the police decided not to fine him? Or that any politician will escape unrelenting examination as the next general election approaches?

This unprecedented, inescapable scrutiny may be a modern thing, spurred by social media, but it has echoes of that famous line in the poem, the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, referring to the heavenly ledger where all our sins are recorded: “The Moving Finger writes and, having writ, / Moves on: not all thy Piety nor Wit. / Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, /Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.” And Twitter's keeping an eye on you, too.

Sorry to read at the weekend that Sir Ranulph Fiennes is living with Parkinson's disease. I interviewed the man they called the world's greatest living explorer for the launch of his novel The Sett in 1997. In sneaky-beaky SAS style, he sent me a grid reference which took a photographer and me to a small clearing in a forest near Kidderminster. I described the moment: “Ranulph Fiennes bursts out of the straggly bracken like a one-man jungle patrol as my back is turned.” Some meetings you never forget.

What will they think of next? An advert headlined: “Is your flatulence affecting your life?” introduces a range of garments spun from a thin carbon cloth “which effectively removes odours”. They're presumably still working on the soundproofing.

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