Express & Star

Peter Rhodes on rolling cheeses, leaving Europe and the art of rubbernecking

I live under a flight path to Birmingham International Airport. At peak times on these early summer days, airliners are almost nose-to-tail queuing to land. The skies seem to be jam packed with trippers and business travellers. And this a nation on the brink of recession?

Idiots? The Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll

I warmed to Matt Crolla, a 28-year-old from Manchester who took one of the prizes in this year's world-famous Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll in Gloucestershire. Asked by a reporter how he prepared for the race, Crolla said: "I don't think you can train for it, can you? It's just being an idiot.”

Being an idiot in this context means hurling yourself down a terrifying slope in pursuit of a huge cheese. The disappointment for winners and losers alike must be the photos of the event. They say the camera cannot lie but nor is it much good at capturing gradient. The cheese-racing hill is almost as precipitous as a cliff yet in most snaps looks like a gentle slope.

History repeats itself. Except when it doesn't. Brexit, the act of leaving the European Union, is today blamed for rising prices. Strangely enough, back in 1973, joining the Common Market was blamed for rising prices. Mind you, in 1973 world food and energy prices were hiked by a far-off war which didn't directly involve the UK but dramatically forced up the cost of oil and gas. Whereas today . . . .

In a bitter column for the Daily Telegraph, Iain Dale describes how when he collapsed on the Tube, “not a single member of the public came to my assistance.” We ought to be surprised but we are not. There was a time when fathers, like mine, told their kids: “Never be a bystander.” This stirring four-word exhortation has been updated for the 21st century by simply removing the first word. We are a nation of rubberneckers.

If you really must cross the Atlantic in a boat the size of a bath, be prepared for tears. Andrew Bedwell, 49, cried this week when his tiny craft started leakíng on the first day and cracked open when it was hauled off the water. Nothing to weep about here, Andrew. It's the laws of physics giving you extra years of life. Use them well.