Peter Rhodes on rats, larks and a reality check on life in the ballet

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

The offending poster
The offending poster

Rats are thriving. According to Rentokil, the rodents are bigger and bolder than ever and have started entering houses through letterboxes and lavatories. Jack Russell by the letter box, brick on the loo seat. Sorted.

More nature stuff. Walking up a farm lane on the first dry and sunny day for a while, we were suddenly surrounded by dozens of little brown jobs hurling themselves into the sky and singing their hearts out, mad, glad and happy to be alive. I assume this display is the origin of the expression “larking about.”

Just another day in Denver, Colorado, where a security guard protecting a TV crew is slapped by a protester who then attacks him with pepper spray. The security guard draws his gun, shoots the demonstrator dead and is charged with murder. One of the huge differences between the UK and the US is that we are shocked by such incidents and they are not. Give thanks for that.

Few things have pressed the national sympathy button quite like this week's poster from the Cyber First campaign. It showed a young ballerina with the caption: “Fatima's next job could be in cyber (she just doesn't know it yet).” Shock, horror, outrage. How dare the authorities suggest a young person pursuing her dream should give it up for a job behind a computer?

Labour's shadow mental health minister, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, tweeted: “Fatima, you be you. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you aren’t good enough because you don’t conform to their preconceived social norms.” (Come off it. Nobody was even suggesting that).

Charlotte Bence, from the trade union Equity, said: “Fatima doesn’t need to retrain – what Fatima needs is adequate state support as a freelance artist.” The writer Caitlin Moran accused the Government of creating a “Hopes & Dreams Crushing Department.” The offending poster has been withdrawn. A victory for woke Britain? Time will tell.

But here's a reality check. Only about 10 per cent of young dancers who want a career on the stage ever become professionals. Those that do can expect to retire as early as 30 after a 12-year career often bedevilled with pain and injury. And as they rarely have a degree or higher education, ex-dancers can be at the back of the queue for jobs.

How easy it is to get all gushy and Red Shoes sentimental, and urge Fatima to follow her dream, as though life were a movie. How much more responsible it is to advise her to get some transferable skills, just on the off-chance that the UK economy, facing the worst slump since the Second World War, will need more cyber teams than dying swans.

Strange language, English. A Daily Telegraph headline tells us that some jobs scrapped in the pandemic will be “lost for good.” So it's for good. But that's a bad thing . . .

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