Peter Rhodes on a New Year resolution, a raunchy history lesson and first-name terms on the news

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) in Bridgerton
Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) in Bridgerton

New Year Resolutions? Just the one. It is a big one, guaranteed to take some of the hair-tearing stress out of life. I resolve not to expect too much of the Great British Public.

You see, half the anguish of this coronavirus is the result of expecting people to be better than they are. I don't know why we do it, although folk sometimes refer to the Blitz spirit, something back in the 1940s when nothing brought out the better side of people than a nightly load of high-explosives being dropped by hundreds of Heinkels. But if you read newspaper archives of the Blitz, you'll find that thieving, fiddling, work-dodging and desertion were popular pastimes. We are stuck with the fake race-memory of blitzed Brits all pulling together. Is it any wonder we get depressed when today's covidiots fail to live up to those impossibly high (and usually apocryphal) standards?

Truth is, we have not covered ourselves in glory. Remember the advice right from the start of the contagion when doctors realised that obese patients were dying like flies and urged us to get slimmer. Has it happened? Has it phooey. By now, we should be a nation of snake-hipped, iron-hard, Covid-proof warriors. Instead, according to the latest survey, we have spent the past nine months pigging out on red meat, lager, bacon sarnies and spirits. As the Government unveils the latest life-saving rules, remember that some of the audience would rather be fat than alive.

I was surprised to see Lucy Hockings, the BBC News presenter, introduce Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, as “Donna.” It seemed oddly matey but was it perhaps a one-off slip in a live broadcast? Apparently not. Hockings' next interviewee was the Lib-Dem MP Layla Moran. Again, she was introduced by her first name, “Layla.”

So can we assume that if the next guests had been the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition, they would have been greeted as “Boris” or “Keir?” And if not, why not?

Having enjoyed Dickensian (BBC) over Christmas, we turned, naturally enough, to Bleak House, the 2005 adaptation by the BBC. It was arguably the finest costume drama the Beeb ever produced. The scene where Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson) reveals the plot's central secret to Esther (Anna Maxwell Martin) is a moment of unmatched poignancy. Does the Beeb ever worry that its best stuff is all behind it?

Bridgerton (Netflix) is a cross between Pride & Prejudice and Emmanuelle, and none the worse for that, apart from occasional credibility-slips. For example, does anyone believe that Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) would have needed any tips from Simon, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page ) on how the female body functions? It was about as likely as Daphne explaining to Simon how Puffing Billy works.

Puffing Billy was an early steam locomotive, circa 1812. Why, what were you thinking?

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