Peter Rhodes on Jezza and the Empire, a spellbinding movie and a timeless speech from Shakespeare

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes

Peter Rhodes
Peter Rhodes

AN era ends. No date has been announced but John Humphrys says he "assumes" he will retire as presenter of Today (Radio 4) some time this year. I interviewed him soon after he started the job 30 years ago. I recall the term he used to describe his skinny build: "You'll find more fat on a seagull's lip."

WHY should anybody be surprised at the discovery of a 2009 video showing Jeremy Corbyn denouncing the EU as "a European empire of the 20th century"? One definition of an empire is "a large number of countries run by a small number of people." Spot on, Jezza.

MEANWHILE, it is revealed that the BBC has received more than £4 million from the European Union under something called the Horizon 2020 programme. This has naturally raised questions about the Beeb's impartiality. Sadly, I have no personal or professional experience of how large sums of money may affect one's judgment. But if anybody in Brussels would care to bung this column £1 million or so, we'll see what happens.

I STARTED watching Roma, the Oscar-nominated film by the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, a couple of weeks ago and gave up after 10 minutes. Nothing seemed to be happening, apart from a live-in maid lugging lots of laundry about. I'm glad I resumed viewing this week. What an astonishingly poignant and affecting movie it is. I'm not going to give the plot away but if you get a chance to see it, do.

THIS weekend, the culture continues with a remote screening of Richard II from the National Theatre to our local fleapit. The only thing most people know from Richard II is John of Gaunt's famous speech which begins with "This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle" and ends a dozen lines later with "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England." I'm sure most Brits assume it is a glorious hymn of praise to our native land. But it's not.. Gaunt is actually foretelling doom and howling with anguish that the beloved England he describes has fallen into the hands of spivs, crooks and asset-strippers. For obvious reasons, it is a speech that never goes out of fashion.

STILL on culture, a reader takes me to task for not mentioning Les Miserables (BBC1). Well, it was okay but awfully depressing. When the musical version first appeared, some critics unkindly translated Les Miserables as The Glums. And it's amazing how many people think Les Miserables is set during the French Revolution. Wrong.

HERE'S a puzzle. Brits solemnly claim to be drinking less alcohol. Yet the alcohol industry insists that sales for December were up by 10 per cent. I can think of one explanation. Drunks are terrible liars. No, not a drop has pashed my lipsh . . .

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