Express & Star

Peter Rhodes on marbles, totem poles and the problem with teaching religion

I was puzzled to hear a witness in the Russell Brand furore described as “a former comedian.” How does one become an ex-comic?

A section of the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, in the British Museum. Photo: Matthew Fearn/PA Wire

Is it a gradual process of slowly becoming unfunny? Or does it happen in a blinding epiphany when, for example, you are serving puddings at a party and hear yourself asking: “May I offer you some of this gelatine-based sweet?” rather than: “Can I press you to a jelly?”

So far this year more than 25,000 Americans have died by shooting. When New Mexico's governor recently imposed a 30-day ban on people carrying guns in public after a five-year-old was shot dead, a crowd of defiant, rifle-waving citizens took to the streets with banners including: “The right to bear arms is what keeps us safe.” Dumb and dumber.

What a warm and wokist glow of virtue Scottish politicians must have had when they agreed to return a 36-foot totem pole to the indigenous Nisga'a people of Canada. Surprisingly, according to reports, none of the ministers involved were aware that transporting this massive, and allegedly stolen, icon to its ancestral home would cost a cool £700,000, later haggled down to £300,000 which will now be paid by Scottish taxpayers.

There is surely a warning here for Britain in the endless row over whether to return the Elgin Marbles (aka the Parthenon Sculptures) to Greece. Even if we agreed to send them back, heaven knows what the postage to Athens might be ( especially after October 2 when the price of a first-class stamp rises from £1.10 to £1.25). Can we ensure that if a deal is struck over the marbles, it includes something on the lines of : “Please arrange collection at your earliest convenience”?

A group of MPs and Lords have written to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan (yes, that one), bemoaning the “tokenistic” religious education offered in many state schools at the hands of non-specialist teachers. Amen to that. The snag is that getting RE right requires the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and at least one teacher on the staff who knows who these gentlemen are.