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Peter Rhodes on vanishing Jumbos, treating taxpayers as humans and a hurtful four-letter word

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Where's the pilot?

Any other year would be fine. But just as Cornwall is bracing itself for an invasion of tourists and the possibility of a Covid-19 spike, Which? magazine publishes a poll of favourite resorts. St Mawes is the winner. As the eyes of a million grockles swivel towards the Fal estuary, I bet the applause in St Mawes is on pause.

My local council sent out its council tax demands, realised it had overcharged us and offered a refund. Then things got complicated.

Because it no longer uses cheques, the council offers a credit transfer. But under fraud laws, it cannot do that without us completing a form to state that a) we are entitled to the refund and b) we are aware of what the Fraud Act 2006 has to say about fraudulent claims. Oh, and we must also send the council a copy or photograph of our bank statement. We have done nothing wrong but the tone of the letter is that we are under suspicion and have to jump through several hoops to recover money that is rightfully ours. Crucially, what it doesn't tell us is what happens if we do nothing.

So I phoned the council and asked: what'll happen if we do nothing? In that case, said a helpful chap, the money would be carried over to next year's account when our council tax would be reduced accordingly. So why don't they mention that in the letter? He said, hmm, yes, it seemed a good idea and he would raise it with his superiors. Here's another good idea: don't throw away the cheque books. And yet another: treat people as human beings, not suspects - especially when they are paying your wages.

So farewell, the Boeing 747. BA is retiring its entire fleet of 31 Jumbo jets. It was a magnificent if unnerving sort of aircraft. You'd get on board and think: “Hang on. Who's flying this thing?” Because right at the front, where the crew ought to be, were passengers. The captain and his colleagues flew the Jumbo in a cabin upstairs. I was once upgraded on a Jumbo and taken right up the sharp end, to a seat with limitless legroom. Yes, it was very comfortable but as a member of 4F (The Frequently Frightened Flyers Fraternity), I like to know there's a pilot on board.

Of all the four-letter words in the English language, you might think “just” is one of the least offensive. And then I discovered an angry online debate about news organisations using it in front of the daily Covid-19 casualty figures. Thus “42 dead” becomes “just 42 dead.” It's probably nothing more than a hack trying to look on the bright side. But dead is dead and if the “just 42 dead” includes your loved one, it is a 100 per cent tragedy and “just” is just the wrong word. Just think.

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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