Peter Rhodes: Pilchard surprise, the poor man's peacock and the industry that really needs nationalising

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

WALKING down the lane, I spotted a little chap not more than two feet tall with his arms folded. We studied each other, 100 yards apart. He turned out to be a hare standing on his back legs, and I've never seen any animal looking quite so human. I wonder if that's where leprechaun sightings came from.

Dazzling – a male pheasant

THIS is the time of year when male pheasants – sometimes called the poor man's peacock – emerge in the greatest glory. They are as stately as an ibis, as richly hued as a bird of paradise and far better behaved than peacocks. We have one peacock in the garden at Chateau Rhodes who comes to the window with his harem of five hens and taps on the pane to be fed. Every human who sees him is bowled over by his iridescent plumage and dramatic scarlet wattles. The mystery is that his rather drab mates seem totally unimpressed by his display. His most dazzling courtship display is met by their utter indifference. Some weeks from now the chicks will appear. I often wonder how.

PREACHING the benefits of an inquiring mind, Jeremy Corbyn says: “I don't consider myself the world's greatest intellectual but you learnt from everybody, don't close your mind to the thoughts of others.” Pity he didn't follow that mantra in his schooldays. Corbyn was a privileged pupil but despite the benefits of a prep school and grammar school, he achieved only two dismal E-grade passes in his A -levels. Like he says, not the world's greatest intellectual.

AND while we're on it, why this 1950's-style obsession with nationalising the railways and squeezing the banks until the pips squeak? Half the population hardly ever uses a train and how many of us even know a single investment banker, let alone blame him for our ills? If Really Old Labour wants my vote (and such a thing is not impossible), then get a grip on the dodgiest sector of them all. Nationalise the entire insurance industry with its mega-rich bosses, phony competition, utter contempt for loyal customers and endless payouts to “whiplash victims” who are no such thing. Dozens of firms are selling identical policies with premiums vastly inflated to cover the cost of celebrity advertising and stuffed toys. Sweep it all away, create the British Insurance Authority, eliminate the industrial-scale corruption and give us proper insurance, for the people, by the people. Or is that too radical, Jez?

THREE men and our boats are off to Loch Lomond once again. Enthusiastic dabblers in the kitchen, we always look forward to the cuisine as much as the sailing. We eat the sort of food you never seem to get at home. My unforgettable Pilchard Surprise of 2014 was a bold attempt to use up some leftover ingredients. The chief surprise was how completely a tin of pilchards vanished into the pasta sauce. The only identifiable parts were eyes, bits of spinal column and gobbets of metallic blue-grey mush. An unforgettable meal and, God knows, I've tried.

AS I'm on holiday this week, I'd be grateful if you would hold those emails for a few days. Especially you three-a-day correspondents. You know who you are.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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