Peter Rhodes on masking in pairs, how the Bard overlooked fatherhood and the ultimate confidence-builder – a rifle

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Anything for a quiet life?
Anything for a quiet life?

Misleading headlines of our times. From Sky News: “Unthinkable students could be locked in for Christmas.”

Masking-up goes in pairs. If one half of a couple wears the anti-Covid mask, so does the other. So you'll see masked couples and unmasked couples but mixed-mask couples are rare. What we may never know is how many individuals genuinely share the wear or no-wear opinions of their partners – and how many simply go along with anything for a quiet life. (And you probably think she votes the same way as you, right?)

I was playing with our little lockdown grandson. Ruben is now seven months and the proud owner of six building blocks, a book and a plastic lorry, any of which, produced with a flourish, generates wild squeals of delight. Ruben is also the only person I know who gets excited at the prospect of me singing. The Scarecrow Song? Again?

At seven months, life is just one surprise after another, for baby and grown-up alike. It is a wonderful time. It has always struck me as odd that Shakespeare, in his famous Seven Ages of Man speech, describes males growing from baby, via schoolboy, lover, soldier, magistrate and pantaloon, into knackered old crock but makes no mention of fatherhood or grandfatherhood on the way. It's a strange oversight because raising kids is the most important job. It also brings some interesting employment opportunities. In the hours before writing this, I have been a lorry driver, brick stacker, page turner and Dingle-Dangle Scarecrow with a Flippy-Floppy Hat.

As part of the Covid-19 safeguards, some minor offences are being tried by magistrates sitting alone at home. If they need legal advice, they can summon a court clerk online. So are we absolutely sure that all the JPs using computers and other devices to hand out fines for non-payment of the TV licence are themselves covered by a valid TV licence? As the Romans put it: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

As always with Latin, this phrase can be translated in several ways. “Who will guard the guards themselves?” is acceptable. So is“Who watches the watchers?” But be suspicious of any translation involving custard.

A regular reader writes on a familiar theme about how much better everything was 50 years ago. It always was. I recall an impassioned old bloke complaining that during the war he felt perfectly safe walking from the station to his house but these days (the 1990s), he felt afraid. It turned out that during the war he was an infantrymen as fit as a butcher's dog and when he came home on leave he would walk from the station carrying a .303 rifle and a bayonet, two great aids to self-confidence.

A couple of days ago I referred to “the veteran pundit Charles Moore.” I have since discovered he is six years younger than me.

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