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Peter Rhodes on vanishing presenters, finger-lickin' food and a comedy of Northern life

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Jason Manford and Catherine Tyldesley in Scarborough

IS John Humphrys back yet?

I ONLY ask because I suspect Humphrys who retired from Today (Radio 4) last week will go the way of presenters such as James Naughtie or Andrew Neil who walk out one day and seem to reappear the next. Naughtie, a presenter with Humphrys on Today until 2015, is now Radio 4's roving expert on all things American or Scottish. Neil stood down earlier this year as presenter of This Week, a politics show, and is now resurrected to present another politics show, imaginatively titled The Andrew Neil Show. Humphrys says he has no plans to retire and I bet before long we are hearing more of him, not less. Great reappearances in history: James, Andrew, John and Lazarus.

I REFERRED a few days ago to Princess Margaret using the royal "we" to tell friends: "We met Dolly Parton once. . . she is shorter than us." A reader reminds me that Margaret Thatcher adopted the same style on hearing of the birth of her grandson: "We are a grandmother."

TALKING of royalty, I was brought up believing that the further up the social scale you move, the better the table manners become. I write this after enjoying a coffee and a jam cake topped with desiccated coconut. How is one supposed to pick up those tiny fragments of coconut? I bet even the Queen licks a finger and dabs.

SCARBOROUGH (BBC1) is a gentle little comedy of Northern manners, one of those shows, like Last of the Summer Wine, that makes people Down South profoundly grateful they do not live Oop North. Traditionally, the northern counties of England are for laughing at, not for visiting, and certainly not for settling in. We are two tribes. In theory, the influence of telly and the internet should bring us closer, welding England into one homogeneous nation. It isn't happening. According to a survey I just made up, if you live in the Home Counties, you are more likely to visit Sicily than Scarborough - even the clean, freshly painted version of Scarborough depicted in this series.

I RECALL a gloomier, dustier Scarborough, but that was 40 years ago on a couple of TA camps at the town's Burniston Barracks and what we saw of the resort was usually through morning mist on a knackering three-mile run. Burniston was a typical 19th-century barracks with dorms and messes surrounding "God's Acre," the drill square. You could not take tiffin in the afternoon without thinking of those who had passed through the same sort of barracks, the Owens, the Sassoons and some chap called Blackadder. In 1993 Burniston Barracks was demolished. All that remains today is a concrete pill box, a million memories and a few tears.

GOD'S Acre? According to British Army tradition, no matter how high your rank, you walk around the drill square. Nobody walks across it except God, and He does so only with the permission of the Regimental Sergeant-Major.

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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