Peter Rhodes on dressing the tree, an unlikely name and will we ever see an end to poverty?

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Next fight, Gabriel
Next fight, Gabriel

So that's the tree up and decorated. We have that most popular of species, the Norwegian Scrooge which lives in a pot in the garden for 350-odd days of the year and is hoiked indoors each yule.

Baby Ruben, our little lockdown grandson, was eager to help with the tree, in much the way that our late, great old cat liked to assist, especially if it involved shredding the cardboard nativity figures. There is no more stressful start to tree-dressing than a two-stone tabby picking a fight with the Archangel Gabriel.

Ruben, who was only a bump this time last year, is a fine grabber which is what you'd expect from any little primate. The grip instinct that fastens tiny orang-utans safely to high branches is the same instinct that makes a ten-month old human grab at the Christmas tree. Thankfully, as in the original story, the Holy Family has survived.

Regular readers will be aware of my tireless hunt for unlikely names for TV detectives (to date: Adverse Camber, Sticker Foxhole, Faecal Plume, Hurst Greenshaft, etc). A new contender joins this glittering assemblage. My thanks to the reader who drew my attention to the fact that the daughter of golf legend Jack Nicklaus has married Todger Strunk.

After a recent disturbance in the Black Country, the ambulance service explained: “We sent the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART).” So do they also have a Fighting Area Response Team? Thought not.

Sir Michael Marmot, an expert on how social issues affect health, says in a new report that pre-existing social inequalities contributed to the UK recording the highest death rates from Covid in Europe. He warns that many children's lives will be permanently blighted if the problem is not tackled. “The problem” is, of course, poverty and it has hounded mankind for all time. Generations of reformers have tried to separate the deserving from the undeserving poor, without much success. And today, how can it be that, while one low-income family manages well, teaches the kids respect and sends them to school in decent clothes with a full tummy, a family next door with the same income produces feral, half-starved mites, programmed for prison before they're out of the cot? It is a dilemma and it is probably unsolvable. Which may account for that shockingly worldly and pessimistic comment by a holy man which has sparked endless analysis and arguments over the past 2,000 years: “The poor will always be with us.” If the preacher from Nazareth saw no end to poverty, should we?

Predictive-text horrors. A single keystroke saved the above item from referring to “a holy Manchester.”

I heard from a grandmother who, contrary to the stereotypes, was not looking forward to spending Xmas with her children. She tells me of the pure joy she felt a few days ago when they admitted they didn't want to meet up either. Golden rule of lockdown: Just because you can, it doesn't mean you must.

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