Peter Rhodes on numbering warships, flat batteries and a bizarre recreation of the Elephant Man

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

OLD habits die hard. In the Second World War, the British had only one airborne division but named it Sixth Airborne to fool the Germans into thinking there were more. Today, HMS Montrose, the Royal Navy frigate on duty in the Gulf, carries the identification mark F236 which might suggest there are at least another 235 in service. The shameful truth is that our navy has only 13 frigates.

How many frigates?

THE Elephant Man, as seen in the C4 comedy Year of the Rabbit, is inspired. The original Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, was the hideously deformed circus attraction who, by sheer dignity, self-education and courage, became a favourite of Victorian society. In the Rabbit incarnation, Merrick is an outrageously camp theatrical queen, like Kenneth Williams at his best. It's a wildly inventive twist, made more surprising by the fact that this Elephant Man is played by David Dawson, probably best known as the bookish King Alfred in The Last Kingdom (BBC2). If you haven't caught it, Year of the Rabbit, starring Matt Berry and set in the foul, fetid back streets of 19th century London, is the funniest thing on telly at the moment and, in every sense, the filthiest.

SO the Labour Party imposed legal gagging orders on its own staff to prevent any embarrassing whistle-blowing. Why has Jeremy Corbyn not spoken out on this burning issue? As so often, Private Eye magazine offers an answer. It suggests that Corbyn himself is legally obliged not to explain any Labour policy in detail, having signed a gagging order. The Eye is, of course, satire and nothing in it should be taken seriously. Mind you, it would explain a lot . . .

SCIATICA corner. I had no idea so many readers and friends had been sufferers. My experience with sciatica over the past few weeks has made me think twice about those "cheats" who are captured by DWP investigators, playing golf or mowing the lawn while claiming benefits for a bad back. I dare say most are on the fiddle. But on a single day recently I repainted a trailer, rowed a boat and did some gardening. Yet I couldn't lie down in comfort, and walking more than 100 yards was agony. I can quite believe somebody might be unable to sit at a computer in an office but perfectly able to dig up potatoes.

THERE was a time when car batteries went flat in cold weather. But I've heard reports of summer holidaymakers arriving home after a fortnight, or even just a week, and finding the car battery as flat as a tortilla. Go online and you'll find hundreds of people in the same plight, often with new cars. A friendly mechanic tells me it's to do with all the electronic kit - alarms and suchlike - which stays on even after you switch off the ignition and remove the key. Progress.

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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