Peter Rhodes on pausing a railway, dodging DIY and what “lots of grandparents” want
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
The good news? Work on HS2, the £1 billion-a-mile railway that nobody wants, may be paused because of coronavirus. Excellent. And the longer it is paused the more we will realise that we don't need it and that £100 billion could be much better spent on health and social care.
Let's hear it for Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant-Governor of Texas who says “lots of grandparents” share his view that it's better for the US to accept a higher death rate from coronavirus in order to protect the economy for the sake of future generations. Maybe some grandparents feel that way but I bet a hell of a lot more don't.
For example, a few days ago I thought Britain was about to hear a splendid example of the boundless self sacrifice of the wartime generation. “I've lived to 83 . . . ” an old chap told a radio interviewer solemnly. And for a split-second I felt sure that what he was going to say was on the lines of: “I've lived to 83. I've had a good life. So if it's a choice between me and a younger person getting the last ventilator in hospital, then let it be them and I will walk towards the light and meet my Maker.”
But that isn't what he said. What the old bloke actually told the reporter, bluntly, was: “I've lived to 83 - and I want to see 84.” Not terribly noble but blindingly honest and I bet he speaks for many old 'uns in Britain - and quite a few in Texas.
We may talk bravely about laughing in the face of death but that great satire, Monty Python's Life of Brian, tells the truth. As Reg (John Cleese) welcomes Brian (Graham Chapman) to the People's Front of Judea, he declares: “There is not one of us here who would not gladly suffer death to rid this country of the Romans.” At the back of the room a worried guerilla says: “Er, well, one . . .”
Meanwhile, as we pump untold billions into the NHS, it creates a strangely unbalanced economy. As the Daily Telegraph put it neatly this week: “The British state is slowly becoming a healthcare system with a nuclear deterrent attached.”
You are stuck at home. You may come under pressure to do some of those DIY jobs that have been hanging around for ages. Here are some useful job-dodging figures from RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Mishaps with DIY tools and machinery account for 87,000 accidents each year. Accidents involving ladders injure a further 41,000. At a time when the NHS is under extreme pressure, the socially responsible thing to do is avoid household jobs at all costs.
Tomorrow: Reasons why that lawn really doesn't need mowing.