Peter Rhodes on a Christmas classic, a mystery cold and protecting urban myths

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Censored? The Pogues
Censored? The Pogues

It may be time to launch a campaign for the preservation of urban myths. If you're going to repeat them, do try to get them right. A report on the perils of AI (Artificial Intelligence) selecting goods for online shopping tells us: “Someone who ordered a pair of latex gloves got a packet of condoms.”

No, no. The correct version of this whiskery old urban myth is that the buyer ordered a packet of condoms and was sent a box of latex gloves and a pair of scissors. The accurate version of this cheerful whopper should be preserved in the same file as the much-loved and oft-repeated yarn of the online shopper who ordered kiwi fruit and got Kiwi boot polish.

So let us get this straight. Radio 2 and 6 Music will be playing the original version of the Pogues' hit Fairytale of New York over Christmas, complete with the words faggot and slut. But on Radio 1, the controversial words will be muted. What are we to make of this judgment from the BBC? Is it that Auntie is desperately trying to protect the kids who listen to Radio 1 from such language, but has pretty much given up on us oldies?

Speaking as an oldie, I'm not sure the right to belt out “faggot” is a right worth defending, especially at a time of goodwill to all. But then the entire Fairytale of New York is a drunken, rollocking, stereotypical parody of the Irish. Are the Irish offended?

Note the use of the word “offended” above, without any qualification. It is a rare thing these days. As a rule people claim to be profoundly, deeply or gravely offended. When was the last time you heard anybody complaining they were simply offended, or even mildly, slightly or moderately offended? We live in an age of extremes.

Whatever else the former New York mayor and political giant Rudy Giuliani does in this life, he will be forever remembered as the guy with the melting hair dye. His barnet toner ran down his sweating face during a briefing in Washington, a reminder that whatever it says on the bottle, tinkering with your grey locks can be fraught with uncertainty.

I write from bitter experience, having dabbled with dye 30-odd years ago. The odd thing was that while women's hair colourants took about 20 minutes to apply and rinse off, the male equivalent took only four minutes. Timing was deadly critical. Too little and nothing changed. But a few seconds too much and you emerged with dazzling hints of plum, or as my four-year-old daughter put it: “Mum, why has Daddy's hair gone blue?” That was the last time I used it.

Coronavirus is spread by coughs and touch, in exactly the same way as a cold. A friend tells me: “I've been masked up, washing my hands and social distancing to stop Covid. So how come I've caught a cold?”

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