Peter Rhodes on listening for whales, dressing for the studio and the joy of rain

My rainfall diary: MONDAY: Oh blessed, blessed rain. At long last the heavens open, the thunder roars and the earth echoes to the sweet drumming of the precious precipitation. The air reeks of fertile freshness, the meadows gratefully gulp. The long-dry rivulets fill and drain into the brooks and rivers. We stand outside, ecstatic and astonished in the drenching downpours, mouths open, drinking the raindrops, celebrating the triumph of life over death, rejoicing in the swelling rebirth of our parched land. TUESDAY: Still bloody raining.

Rupert Kirkwood filmed the moment he was circled by a Minke whale for 20 minutes while paddling offshore near Fowey in Cornwall. Photo: Rupert Kirkwood/PA Wire
Rupert Kirkwood filmed the moment he was circled by a Minke whale for 20 minutes while paddling offshore near Fowey in Cornwall. Photo: Rupert Kirkwood/PA Wire

I wrote last week about the kayaker who approached a 30-ft whale off Cornwall after he heard the noise of its blow-hole. It reminded me of a chap I interviewed some years ago who had served as a sonar operator on a nuclear submarine. The best part of the job, he recalled wistfully, was tuning in to the whales' frequencies in the wee small hours and hearing these giants softly singing in the deep. I like to think he was keeping one ear tuned to the Russians, but who knows?

It looked for a moment as though a random electrician or plumber had been caught on camera in the immaculate setting of the BBC News studio. Turned out to be the Beeb's climate editor Justin Rowlatt who is apparently exempt from the usual Broadcasting House dress codes. His full-on, breathless presentation on climate change, in jeans and open-neck shirt, was more like a celebrity spot than a news report. Maybe his scruffy outfit was meant to capture the outdoor nature of the heatwave. Who knows, maybe next time he'll dress up as a firefighter.

A reader upbraids me for using the word “invites” instead of “invitations.” My go-to reference on such occasions is my 1988 edition of Chambers Dictionary which seemed remarkably relaxed on the subject, offering: “invite (colloquial), an invitation.”

That edition is one which contains the only joke ever included in Chambers, the light-hearted definition of the cake known as an eclair. The compilers decided to reinstate it after dropping it from an earlier edition and being bombarded with complaints. Here goes: “Eclair: A cake, long in shape but short in duration.” Still, still, my aching ribs.

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