Peter Rhodes on Britain's best village, the betrayal of charity-shop staff and the eternal Irish Question
GREAT genetic mysteries of our time. Why is Kim Jong-uns's sister so attractive?
BREXIT – An Everyday Story of Hagglers. In this week's episode M. Barnier says Britain must make up its mind what it wants. Mr Davis says, thanks, Michel, we'll have this. M. Barnier says, non, you cannot have that. Just like last week. Just like next week.
RESEARCHERS in the States believe they have identified a long-forgotten book which may have inspired some of Shakespeare's greatest plays. 'A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels' was written in the late 1500s by George North, a minor figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth. Experts believe its influence can be detected in Hamlet, Macbeth and Henry V. I think it was Bill Bryson who pointed out that Will Shakespeare could always tell a good yarn – so long as someone else had told it first.
I WONDER how many dedicated and hard-working folk are today turning up for their shift at the local Oxfam shop and asking themselves, why do I bother? Unpaid, unrecognised and plagued by shoplifters and fly-tippers, these volunteers generate millions of pounds of revenue, much of which goes to pay vast salaries for Oxfam's executives, consultants and advisers. You think you are doing God's work, or at least helping to build a better world. And then you read exactly what some of your bosses have allegedly been up to in Haiti. Overnight, the best known charity brand, and a number of others, have become tainted and thousands of helpers – mostly women – must feel betrayed.
GOOD news. My long-term holiday haunt of Beer in Devon did not win Channel 4's Village of the Year competition. That honour went to Broughshane in County Antrim which I dare say will become a seething trippers' honeypot, allowing Beer to slip back into unjam-packed serenity. All this assumes the trippers will be able to negotiate the post-Brexit border issue in Northern Ireland. Visa for Broughshane, anyone?
MEANWHILE, anybody with a sense of history knows there should be no border issues in Ulster because there should be no border. It was once expected in both Whitehall and Dublin that by now the Six Counties of the North would have been quietly absorbed into the Irish Republic. How could it be otherwise when Ulster's Catholics would soon outnumber Protestant voters and would surely vote for union? Today, the new leader of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald, says she hopes 'to secure and win a referendum on Irish unity'. Good luck with that. The latest polls suggest that barely a quarter of Catholics living in Ulster want a united Ireland. That glorious historical spoof, 1066 and All That, is coming true: "Gladstone spent his declining years trying to guess the answer to the Irish Question; unfortunately, whenever he was getting warm, the Irish secretly changed the Question."
OUR changing language. Tongue firmly in cheek, an online shaving-products firm describes its razors as 'Handsomer, sharperer, less expensiver'. How long before that becomes standard English?