Peter Rhodes on election results, a classic movie from the 1980s and the difference between sideboards and sideburns

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Where's the old magic?
Where's the old magic?

A new week, a new month. And who can guess what horrors it will bring? A politician who tells lies? A politician who pays for his own wallpaper? I really must have a lie down.

My guess is that all the frenetic Whitehall bubbling will suddenly calm down this Thursday as the results come in from the by-election in Hartlepool. Labour has held this seat since it was created in 1974.

To lose it to the Tories at any time would be a blow. To lose it to a Boris-led Tory government under fire from endless allegations of sleaze and heartlessness would be a catastrophe because it would suggest that real-life people, as opposed to political pundits, aren't too bothered about what politicians say in private or who pays for the decorating (so long as it isn't us).

If I were a gambling man I'd bet on Labour holding Hartlepool, because Boris deserves a quick boot in the pants. But then election results often have nothing to do with fairness. And I do have this troubling, 40-year track record of getting election forecasts wrong.

The Beeb has just added that classic little film Gregory's Girl to its list of iPlayer movies. Time for a little heart-warming nostalgia. And yet Bill Forsyth's 1981 tale of teenage love and football, has not aged well. As I watched it again, I wondered what had happened to the old magic.

Back then, boys and girls regarded each other almost as separate species. The opposite sex was mysterious, puzzling, enchanting, breathtaking. Today's kids mix together in a coarse world of cyber-bullying, body-shaming and sexting, proving the old adage that familiarity breeds contempt.

On first seeing Dorothy today, Gregory would not whisper to his best mate:“She's gorgeous,” as he did in 1981. He'd post a message on social media which would be instantly sent and re-sent to create an avalanche of mischief and mockery, and no happy ending. What's vanished between 1981 and today? Innocence.

Our changing language. I referred last week to facial hair as “sideboards.” A reader posted: “You are the latest victim of autocorrect,” suggesting the correct word is “sideburns” and that a sideboard is a piece of furniture.

In fact, both words are correct and the one you use probably depends on where you live and/or how old you are. To complicate things, those of us of a certain age don't have sideboards among our furniture. We have dressers.

One of the rare bits of good news from this pandemic is that people are reading more. So if you enjoy these daily columns, you may like my new book, Bloody Adjectives (Brewin Books, £8.95).

It's a personal reflection on 50-odd years in journalism from passionate politics to several wars, lots of celebrity interviews - and the strange story of Princess Anne's “fairy grotto” loo. It's available at Brewin Books Ltd - Publishers of Midland Regional History interest - Non-Fiction & Fiction.

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