Peter Rhodes on losing livestock, unwanted visitors and how much can you tell from a handshake?

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

You lost a what?
You lost a what?

If there's one thing you really don't need in a pandemic, it's strangers turning up at your door trying to sell you things. In an appallingly-timed campaign to recruit more customers, Scottish Power has been posting flyers announcing: “Our advisors will be visiting your area soon. They'll pop by for a quick chat.” Well, they may pop, they may knock. But they're not coming in and we're not going to stand on the doorstep and haggle. I may well invoke that charming Scottish greeting: “Awa' n bile your head.”

We all lose things. I wrote recently about mislaying the car keys. The smaller the object (rings, spectacles, keys, etc), the easier they are to lose. Big things tend not to slip down the back of the sofa or fall out of your pocket. So I was intrigued by the recent report of India releasing a Chinese soldier who crossed the border “while looking for a lost yak.”

If armed police opened fire with live ammunition and killed protesters in an American city, all hell would break loose and the US authorities would rightly be condemned around the world. Yet troops in Lagos, Nigeria, killed and wounded dozens of demonstrators last week and there's barely been a peep of protest. I thought Black Lives Mattered.

Our changing language The phrase "marriage lines" has almost faded from use. A few generations ago, it was an informal term for the marriage certificate. In the 1960s Richard Briers and Prunella Scales starred in a sitcom called Marriage Lines. Today it is little heard – but may be in for a rebirth with a different meaning. Network Rail has been spitting feathers (another obsolescent term) over a couple who posed for their wedding photographs on a stretch of railway line near Whitby. The company recorded more than 5,000 trespassing incidents between June and September, with many involving people using railway lines as a setting for photos. Behold, the new marriage lines, a backdrop for the newly wed - and the soon-to-be dead.

Network Rail condemns taking photos on the line as "plain stupidity.” This should not be confused with taking photos on an airfield which is, of course, plane stupidity.

A tribunal heard how a female teacher was allegedly passed over for a job at a boarding school near Oxford because a male rival had a stronger handshake. According to the claim, the headmaster found the man's handshake “firm and strong” which “inspired confidence.” This is clearly a pre-pandemic claim. I have not shaken anybody's hand since March and I dare say you haven't either. I'm not even sure that handshaking will ever come back into fashion.

And who says a handshake is a guide to character anyway? In the space of a few weeks I met two political leaders. One had a flabby handshake like a wet fish, the other a firm, warm, trust-me shake. The first was Tony Blair. The second was Gerry Adams.

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