Peter Rhodes on a national treasure, a nice turn of phrase and the case for a bigger Army

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Linda Lusardi at the 2013 TRIC Awards, at Grosvenor House on Park Lane, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2013. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire.

“If you take defeat well, it's probably time to put the cue in the rack.” Eddie Jones, reflecting on being asked to stay on as England head rugby coach. Lovely turn of phrase.

Thanks for your many comments on expiry dates for medical equipment, prompted by my item about being issued, as a TA recruit in 1976, with an army shell dressing dated 1944. Searching through my old kit at the weekend, it seemed that in the 1970s little had changed since the days of Brown Bess and pikestaffs. I found another item I was issued with. It is a cotton envelope containing a patch of battledress khaki, several buttons, six safety pins, two balls of wool and a packet of sewing needles made by Guillaume & Sons of Alcester. It is dated 1955.

I have no idea if the Army still issues this uniform-repair package but if they do, I bet the name has changed. Back in the wicked old sexist 1970s, it was known as a housewife.

I was pleased to see that our national treasure Linda Lusardi has survived a nasty case of Covid-19. I interviewed her once and she was lovely company. She's now 61 and I bet she gets fed up with that lifelong “girl next door” tag. But she does have an easy familiarity about her which must be disappointing for anyone expecting a simmering, come-hither sex goddess. As Lusardi once put it, she's more of a smiler than a pouter.

Will the pandemic, following the flooding crisis, make any politicians or top brass regret making such savage cuts to the military? In 1980 the British Army had 160,000 regular full-time soldiers and 63,000 reservists. Today it can scrape together about 79,000 regulars and 27,000 reservists. In times of crisis the Army achieves the impossible – like laying a million sandbags or creating Nightingale Hospital in nine days - and makes it look easy. The reality is an organisation creaking under the strain. When it comes to re-balancing Britain's budget after the pandemic, it might make political sense to chuck all the new money at the NHS. But a few more boots on the ground wouldn't be a bad investment.

Whitehall has taken much stick for not revealing the results of Exercise Cygnus, a 2016 study which suggested the UK could not cope with a major pandemic. I like to think I believe in an open and informed society. But is that really the sort of information that ought to be made public? How about the Trident nuclear-warhead codes? Should Joe Public be told those, too?

As cash-strapped firms apply for government aid, there's a widespread fear that Bloggs' Widgets will get £20 million support from the taxpayer, and then pay its chairman, Mr Welloff Bloggs, his contractually-agreed £10 million bonus. That's not the idea at all, but how do you stop it?

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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