Peter Rhodes on punctuating placards, politicians who break appointments and how Dad's Army fuelled wartime fears

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column by Peter Rhodes.

Rifles for Adolf?

ONE of the most irritating aspects of modern politics is politicians failing to turn up at long-planned events, because they've suddenly been offered something better. Many clubs and charities have had the dispiriting experience, after weeks of preparation, of The Great Person texting at a few hours' notice to say sorry, but he's been invited to Question Time. Jeremy Corbyn took some stick when he failed to appear at the weekend anti-Boris demo. Corbyn wasn't in London because he was keeping an earlier promise to appear in Scotland, and I rather admire him for it.

AS we mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of war, how did ordinary people react to the approaching cataclysm? Listening to Britain (Vintage Books) is a compilation of rumours, comments and whispers recorded by ordinary people listening to their neighbours and reporting to the Ministry of Information. In the early days of the war, this nationwide eavesdropping service reported rumours of German paratroops disguised as nuns and an enduring terror that Britain was riddled with fifth columnists, ready to strike against us at any moment. A recurring fear was that weapons intended for the Local Defence Volunteers Corps might end up in enemy hands: "There is a general feeling of alarm that Fifth Column members may become armed through the LDVC." They don't mention that in Dad's Army. Don't give them your rifle, Pike . . . .

IN one dispatch, a Ministry of Information reporter noted: "Women, as usual, show more signs of nervous tension than men." If officials made the same observation today, they'd probably get sacked for sexism.

THE Government says a series of planned pay rises will take the starting salary for new teachers to £30,000 a year, reflecting the need for "the best talent" to be drawn to the teaching profession. And who can argue with that? But in the great scheme of things and with an ageing population, feeding young minds is no more important than caring for old bodies with dedication and dignity. If teachers are worth £30,000 a year, so are carers.

IN the documentary Woolly Mammoth: Secrets From The Ice (BBC2), Dr Alice Roberts speculated on re-creating mammoths using DNA recovered from long-extinct specimens, with some crafty cloning. And wouldn't it be wonderful to see this behemoth of the Ice Age brought back to life? But I see a snag. At the present rate of DNA work, this baby mammoth would arrive some years from now, just as global warming is kicking in. The poor little devil, evolved for glaciers and blizzards, would be sweating buckets. The only way to keep him cool would be to shave him. If you shave a mammoth, you end up with an elephant. And we've got plenty of those already.

THE importance of punctuation. Hundreds of placards distributed to the faithful on the anti-Boris marches read: "DEFEND DEMOCRACY RESIST THE PARLIAMENT SHUTDOWN." With a little creative punctuation it becomes: "DEFEND DEMOCRACY! RESIST THE PARLIAMENT! SHUTDOWN!"

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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