Peter Rhodes on Spanish revenge, a new job at the Beeb and how the pandemic prevents proper mourning

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

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Safe spacing – funeral in the pandemic

Good to see the BBC has created an appointment to deal with the modern menace of fake news. The job title is Specialist Disinformation Reporter. In every possible sense, you couldn't make it up.

This time last year I was moaning about the open-plan refurbishment of our building-society branch, stripped of counters, screens so that “the details of your financial situation, once whispered in hushed tones through the grille, are now discussed across a table in full view of the waggly-eared citizenry.” Today I can report good news – sort of. Owing to coronavirus, the screens are back. Conversations are again private and hidden from eavesdroppers. And who's paying for this flip-flop approach to interior design? No prizes.

One of the tragedies of this pandemic has been the number of fine men and women who have died without proper recognition. The traditional funeral service with hundreds of well wishers paying their respects has been replaced with a safe-spaced handful of nearest and dearest. Sometimes there are not even enough seats for all family members. The passing of one of the most popular and respected soldiers in my old regiment was marked with little more than a brief email message to his comrades. For him, unlike those who had passed in previous years, there was no guard of honour, no parade, no thunderous wall of sound as dozens of yeomanry soldiers belted out Jerusalem.

He had been a lance-sergeant in the Scots Guards and when his term of service ended he joined our Territorial Army signal squadron. I recruited him and it was the best day's work I ever did for the TA. He served for years, rising to become sergeant-major. He was a thorough professional, an inspiration and, like so many old soldiers, he died too young. He would not have wanted me to name him here, so I won't. But I hope one day his comrades will be able to gather and raise a dram in his memory, and to the memory of all the others who have passed from our sight without us having a chance to lower the flag and say goodbye.

Last week's item on a holiday in Menorca in 1976 was a reminder of how blissful the Balearics were before the yobs arrived. Five years later I was sent on an assignment to observe the much-reviled British Youths in Majorca, and what a deeply depressing experience it was. Most decent Brits could only look the other way and pretend this shower had nothing to do with them.

One local boat operator took imaginative revenge on a bunch of troublemakers who had turned his smart cruiser into a litter-strewn, vomit-stained mess and left the boat's WCs in a filthy state. He allowed them to disembark for a swim in a small, secluded creek and then, quite deliberately, discharged his toilets among them. A useful Spanish phrase: Dos pueden jugar a ese juego. Two can play at that game.

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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