Express & Star

Peter Rhodes on trains, quangos and why the working-class have all the best holidays

Scam alert. A recorded phone call informs me that my credit card has been used fraudulently to book “a train ticket from London to Norway.” So that'll be the London to Oslo line, changing at Dogger Bank?

Liz Truss, embittered but worth listening to

“What has happened in Britain over the past 30 years is power that used to be in the hands of politicians has been moved to quangos and bureaucrats and lawyers so what you find is a democratically elected government actually unable to enact policies.” This comes from a speech in America and because the speaker was our short-serving and naturally embittered PM, Liz Truss, it will probably be ignored. And yet the more we see of the obstructions and blockages in Westminster and the courts, the more it has the ring of truth.

A tale of two classes. As the owner of what some in the media call “trendy, middle-class logburners,” I've just had dealings with a professional chimney specialist. He meets different people every day and finds all sorts of things in the recesses of fire-backs. There was a fashion in the 1950s, he says, for house builders to plant their mark on the future by writing their names on old cigarette packets and tucking them into the brick joints. But most moving, having miraculously survived the heat, are countless children's letters to Father Christmas. Funny how everybody wants to be middle-class when so many manual jobs are so fascinating.

Lucrative, too. The chimney man is off on his annual month-long holiday to Spain and the septic-tank engineer is unavailable in the summer months when he skippers a 36ft charter yacht around the Aegean. Next door's house rebuild came to a grinding standstill when the plumber took himself off for a three-week vacation in China, while our tiler spends his summers restoring his farmhouse in Normandy.

And when I slipped the coalman his traditional yuletide fiver , he said he'd be drinking my health on Christmas Day – in Benidorm. Meanwhile, the middle classes huddle bleakly around their trendy logburners and wonder whether uni was such a good idea, after all.