Peter Rhodes on online medicine, crossbow madness and feeling proud to be British

“If they can do that to an animal, they could do it to a human,” said a distraught cat owner after his pet was wounded and another cat killed by crossbow bolts in the Scottish town of Kingussie. He's right. Psychopaths often progress from animal cruelty to harming humans. And yet UK law allows anyone over 18 to buy lethal crossbows - including psychopaths. Madness unchecked.

The Railway Children – a lesson from history
The Railway Children – a lesson from history

I rang my GP surgery for an appointment. A recorded message told me if I had a life-threatening condition, to hang up and dial 999. A few seconds later another recorded message in a different voice also told me the same. A few seconds later yet another message told me the clinicians were all busy. Next, a message offered an online consultation.

I duly filled in an e-form. I've no idea how any internet-based service is supposed to help the millions of over-60s who aren't online. Living without the internet was once a lifestyle choice. Now it's becoming a matter of getting or not getting NHS help. How has this been allowed to happen?

The Railway Children Return, now in cinemas, tells the tale of a young black American soldier on the run from brutal US military police. The plot recalls true events in wartime Britain when thousands of black soldiers were stationed here before the 1944 Normandy landings. They came from a United States where segregation was rife. To their surprise and delight, they found themselves warmly greeted in England. While there were occasional racist incidents, in the main the black soldiers were welcomed in pubs and at local dances where, to the horror of some white GIs, they danced with white women – unthinkable back home in the Deep South.

So why is this remarkable chapter in history so little known? Why do our schools not teach our children about the friendship and respect between black American servicemen and British civilians in the 1940s - and the impetus it gave to the US civil rights movement after the war?

Maybe it doesn't fit in with the approved narrative that Britain is a racist country, steeped in bigotry and imperial guilt. Learning the truth about the black soldiers' experience here might make us proud to be British. And that would never do, would it?

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