Peter Rhodes on a wet winter, a victory for Essex Girls and making your home look perfect for telly

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Rory Cellan Jones (Photo: Martinp23)
Rory Cellan Jones (Photo: Martinp23)

If we believe the BBC forecast, there's not a chance of a white Christmas. It's mild and very wet all the way to Yule. Which presumably means some poor devils will be flooded out for Christmas. Unless, of course, all those amazing flood-control schemes we were solemnly promised in the last inundation are up and working.

BBC News took us to the home of Rory Cellan Jones where the Beeb's technology expert was reporting while in lockdown. It looked strangely familiar. Obviously, anyone being interviewed on the telly wants to be seen against the best background. And the look for 2020, seen in house after house, seems to be classical painted wood bookshelves (none of your cheap flatpack stuff), adorned with a selection of Significant Books and one or two arty vases or sculptures.

The backdrop look is neat, classy, learned. And not at all like my own dear study where a jumble of books from Just William to How to be a Complete Bitch by Pamela Stephenson rub shoulders with a blood-pressure monitor, two bottles of wine and my lockdown emergency reserve tin of Quality Street.

The term “Essex Girl” has been removed from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a book used to teach non-native English speakers. Until now, the dictionary defined the expression as “a name used especially in jokes to refer to a type of young woman who is not intelligent, dresses badly, talks in a loud and ugly way and is very willing to have sex.” Oxford University Press dropped it after something called the Essex Girls Liberation Front denounced it as “very offensive.” Well, so what?

A dictionary is an aid to education, and you don't educate people by removing information. It would have been braver, and far more useful, to re-print the old definition of “Essex Girl” and then add in brackets (“archaic, very offensive”). If a society surrenders on small matters like this, how long before the book-burnings begin?

Government scientists say the controversial bedroom tax should be “revisited” because it could be making Covid-19 transmission worse by creating overcrowded homes or forcing families into smaller properties. Here's a better idea. Scrap it altogether. Even before the pandemic struck, bedroom tax was a nasty, mean-spirited tax, unworthy of any government.

It appears I am destroying the planet. I'm one of those emailers who likes to acknowledge a kindness and show I've read a message. But according to research by the National Cyber Security Centre, all those polite little emails saying no more than “Thanks” or “OK” are creating a global carbon footprint. So that's no more nicies from me. The future is green. The future is rude.

Here's a question to ask your surgeon: when's your birthday? According to research in the British Medical Journal, the odds of a patient dying after an operation performed on the surgeon's birthday are about 20 per cent higher than normal. I recall a warning many years ago that patients fared better if they were operated on before lunch rather than after. Okay, nursh. Shcalpel. Forcepshshsh . . .

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