Peter Rhodes on a too-short documentary, a surprise TV hit and another US/UK ambassadorial row

Read today's column by Peter Rhodes

Surprise hit?
Surprise hit?

A KEEP-FIT column for over-60s advises: "Walking fast up a relatively steep hill for 45 seconds and strolling back down, repeating six to eight times." Some of us already do that. It's called forgetting why you went up the hill.

YOU can only squeeze so much into a 30-minute documentary, especially if you follow the traditional rules which say you can't mention the fishing industry without taking a trip on a trawler. Panorama: No-Deal Brexit - Are We Ready? (BBC1) set out to examine the biggest issue of our age in the time allowed for a single episode of EastEnders or Corrie. By the time the clever camerawork, arty background shots and local colour had been sorted, there was not much deep analysis. So the message from Panorama was that some people dread no-deal Brexit, some welcome it and some aren't really sure. Which we knew already. Could Auntie Beeb really not find a one-hour slot for something so important? There does seem to be an awful lot of tennis clogging up the schedules.

GENTLEMAN Jack (BBC1) ended in one of the Church's better-kept secrets. Holy Trinity church in Goodramgate, York, bears a rainbow plaque inscribed: "Anne Lister, 1791-1840 of Shibden Hall, Halifax. Lesbian and Diarist took sacrament here to seal her union with Ann Walker, Easter 1834." It's a secret little church, tucked away down an alley and, even for us wicked old atheists, a place for peace and calm reflection. You might reflect quietly, for example, on the curious fact that a drama series about a 19th century coalmining lesbian from Yorkshire which seemingly had "cult viewing" stamped all over it, became an instant success with more than five million viewers. An unpredictable audience, the British.

THE White House's fury over anti-Trump remarks by the British ambassador, Kim Darroch may suggest that ambassadors are always polite towards their hosts. Not so. In the dark years of 1939-40 the US Ambassador in London was Joe Kennedy who confidently expected Hitler to win the war and send Britain "to hell." A memo from the British Foreign Office dismissed Kennedy as "a very foul specimen of double-crosser and defeatist." When the Blitz began, Kennedy moved out of London, prompting one British diplomat to observe: "I thought my daffodils were yellow until I met Joe Kennedy."

THANKFULLY, Joe Kennedy's anti-British snarling, which puts this week's Washington spat in the shade, lasted for only one generation. Joe Kennedy's son, John F Kennedy, later president of the United States, was a war hero and a good friend of Britain.

AFTER yesterday's item on bringing water from the River Jordan for little Archie's royal christening, a Daily Telegraph reader recalls a ceremony many years ago when an RAF pilot managed to bring some of the precious water from Palestine. The vicar poured the water of the River Jordan into the font and it splashed on the floor. He'd forgotten the plug. There's a sermon in here somewhere.

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