Peter Rhodes: The importance of preparation

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Peter Rhodes on University Challenge, "affordable" electric cars and a D-Day battle worth honouring.

Bill Bray of the Staffordshire Yeomanry

IT has never been easier to get into university than it is now. It has never been easier to get a first; these once-hallowed degrees are now handed out like peppermints. But there is one area of varsity life which is as rigorous and unforgiving as ever - University Challenge (BBC2).

THIS week, in a programme almost too brutal to watch, Southampton University routed Cardiff University by a withering 280-40. Southampton won because its team was better selected, better rehearsed and far better informed than its rivals. Preparation - the ultimate lesson for life.

I WAS pleased to read this week that 97-year-old Bill Bray, a wartime tank driver with the Staffordshire Yeomanry, has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French government for his part in liberating France. He is one of the last survivors of a little battle which probably saved the Allied landings on D-Day, June 6, 1944, yet is barely known today. German tanks were heading for the crowded invasion beaches where they could have caused mayhem. But they were stopped and destroyed in a well-planned ambush by the Staffordshire Yeomanry. It was a decisive moment on that world-changing day, yet it is barely mentioned in history books and has never appeared in any D-Day movie. Why not? Probably because the Yeomanry was a regiment of part-time Territorials, not a fashionable, famous or well-connected regular unit. When the Regulars come home from war, an officer writes the regimental history. When the Territorials come home from war, they go back to their day jobs and their deeds fade from memory. Bill Bray's medal is a timely reminder of a victory which deserves to be remembered with pride.

OH, the embarrassment. One national newspaper zoomed in on the impressive chestful of medals worn by the Prince of Wales at this week's Passchendaele commemoration and found they were not real gongs at all. Charles was actually wearing an assortment of commemorative medals, most of which he received for being his mother's son: the Coronation medal, Silver Jubilee medal, Golden Jubilee medal, etc. Notably absent was the Cycling Proficiency badge, so we can only assume he never passed the test. Seriously, if you haven't got a proper medal to wear, don't wear anything.

INTERESTING to see the latest battery-powered cars launched as "the first affordable electric vehicles." They will sell at £27,000. Affordable? To whom? The irony is that these electric cars are subsidised by the Government. In other words, they are made "affordable" for the well-heeled thanks to taxes of people who will never be able to afford them. This is like Robin Hood in reverse gear.

I TROD on something sharp and it forced its way through my boot, coming to rest in the hollow part of the rubber heel. And now it rattles. It is like having a castanet attached to one foot. In the great scheme of things I accept this is hardly castastrophic, but every time I go for a walk I cannot get that infuriating tune, Lady of Spain, out of my head.

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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