Peter Rhodes on the Blackpool enigma, unwanted photos and the truth about smart meters

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Kill Me Quick – Blackpool
Kill Me Quick – Blackpool

The spirit of Cheltenham lives on. Just as somebody thought it was a brilliant idea to hold Cheltenham Festival as the Covid-19 virus was spreading in spring, so Whitehall thinks it's a good idea to impose lockdown on parts of the North West – but not Blackpool. If you wanted to create the perfect packed, boozy, snoggy conditions for a pandemic, you could do no better than good ol' Blackpool.

Knowing the bleak Northern humour of Blackpool, I'd be amazed if some bright spark has not yet reprinted the resort's famous “Kiss Me Quick” hats to “Kill Me Quick.”

A reader wrote a wonderfully lyrical letter on the joy of generations. He has photographs of six generations of his own family, from the 1870s to the present day. I have the same, from great-grandparents Ted and Sarah, who farmed and ran the village pub, and their soldier son John Willie who survived a mustard-gas shell in the last days of the Great War, through his daughter who raised five sons including me, and on via our daughter to her son, just seven months old. From the dawn of popular photography to the year of the pandemic, many families are numbered in six generations. The rule of six.

Those old sepia images mark a social revolution. Before the box camera arrived, only the aristocracy recorded their faces for posterity, in oil paints. Kodak and their competitors gave us common folk a sense of dynasty. So you might imagine these images of our forbears would be cherished as family treasure. If only.

I have a friend who clears houses and gets depressed at how many old photos, including soldier-boy snaps of the world wars, are chucked on the skip or flogged to antique shops. His latest job includes albums tracing a well-off family's history from 1911 to the 1950s. They pose stiffly, showing off their Sunday clothes, their latest cars and their fine young son in his officer's uniform. They are strangers but as you turn the pages and discover the lad survived the 1914-18 conflict, you utter a word of thanks. So many images, so much history. And all unwanted.

It doesn't have to be this way. The enforced idleness of lockdown is a great opportunity to dig out your photos, add captions and make enough memory-sticks for all the relatives. In this digital age, preserving six generations can be a five-minute job.

From the Daily Telegraph on Friday: “Smart meters could allow energy networks to switch off central heating systems.”

And from this column in November 2015: “A pal who claims to knows about such things says the real purpose of smart meters is to figure out which houses to switch off first when the power cuts come. Get your candles now.” This is conclusive proof that if you read this column long enough, everything in it will come true, except the stuff that doesn't.

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