Rhodes on cars, cats and the cost of images from galaxies far, far away

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

He can do no wrong
He can do no wrong

Tobias Ellwood MP ran over and killed a cat. He says he wasn't aware of any collision and I'm inclined to believe him, having done the same thing one dark morning many years ago. There was no more than the gentlest of bumps and the poor creature was dead. I moved the corpse on to the grass verge but did not hang about to find the owner, a decision I have never regretted.

People get terribly emotional about cats. This may explain why Ellwood's house has since been vandalised and egged. Put simply, the cat owner's view is that their cat can do no wrong, therefore anyone killing it is either a speeder or a murderer, or both. Best not get involved.

For the record, we are not all thrilled and awed by Nasa's new James Webb Telescope beaming back images of far distant space. The Mail's TV critic Christopher Stevens, on viewing BBC2's fawning documentary on the project, declared: “No-one ever challenges the wild boasts and self-aggrandising fantasies of these tech maniacs.” Ah, but we do.

Plenty of us question the wisdom of ploughing 10 billion dollars into a project which delivers images of the universe as it was 30,000,000,000,000 (just keeping adding the zeros) years ago. Even my generation, once accustomed to waiting a fortnight for the chemist to process our holiday snaps, regards a multi-billion-year time-lag as a bit steep.

But the scientists keep spouting emotive phrases such as “the very birthplace of the universe” or “touching the face of Creation” and the politicians, who tend to have arts degrees and don't understand anything of science, keep signing the cheques. And they never, ever ask questions such as: “This deep-space telescope of yours, how many hungry children will it feed?”

In the month that the NHS was awarded the George Cross for “74 years of dedicated service” notably during the pandemic, we had a glimpse of its less glorious side. An ambulance-service insider explained on Radio 4 how some NHS staff actually welcome queues of ambulances full of patients stacked up outside hospitals. He said a senior nurse once told him: “If we let you go, you'll just bring in more.” I suppose some days are more dedicated than others.

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