Peter Rhodes on breaking bad news, Covid-free plumbers and a strange encounter on the last line of defence

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Saddam Hussein – unleashing Scuds
Saddam Hussein – unleashing Scuds

Told you so. I noted some months ago that the Government would not need to issue “I've been jabbed” certificates because business would do the job for them. Sure enough, Pimlico Plumbers has announced a “no jab, no job” policy requiring all of its workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. What else could it do?

This is a company that sends hundreds of plumbers into people's homes. Potential customers (not to mention the firm's insurers) want some guarantee that the bloke fixing the ballcock is not dripping with virus. Watch out for “no jab, no job” contracts to become the norm.

Nurses on Covid wards are at breaking point. According to their own testimonies, the most stressful part of the job is contacting relatives to tell them their loved one has died. It must be emotionally mangling. But whoever decided this task should fall on medical staff? Wouldn't it be better done by professional counsellors?

Philosophical old game, innit? I suggested a couple of weeks back that footballers might try behaving like the rest of us in this pandemic and stop hugging after goals are scored. But apparently it's (Covid phrase alert) baked into the system.

Pep Guardiola tells us: “Sometimes the brain is a subconscious one and you are just there in the moment, you are not thinking.” Anyone else reminded of that other great philosophising footballer Eric Cantona who declared, among other things: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”? Quite so. And when £200,000-a- week footballers form a human huddle they know that they will not be thrown into the sea like sardines, nor even put on the subs' bench. They will continue to be paid the earth while bending the Covid rules and setting a deadly example.

In truth, the post-goal huddle is a simple issue of behaviour in the workplace. In the real world, workers have to accept changing rules. There is no place for sexist banter, smoking or lunchtime drinking. Enforcing such changes is called managing. It's a job for managers.

Blink and three decades slip by. It really is 30 years since the First Gulf War and a strange encounter on the last line of defence. Defence, like onions, comes in layers. I was reporting from Bahrain with the RAF. Hundreds of miles north of us, layers of Allied radar, Tornado jets and anti-missile missiles were watching for any sign that Saddam Hussein was unleashing his air force.

If by any chance an Iraqi bomber or Scud missile had slipped through those layers to attack the RAF base, the very last hope lay with a single machine gun on the airfield perimeter manned by a cool corporal from Wolverhampton called Spike. He was filling an idle off-duty hour under the desert sun, making a snowman out of chicken wire and loo paper as we chatted about wars and waited for Armageddon.

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