Peter Rhodes on naming ravens, raising kids and a strange slogan for a newspaper

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Looking for a name
Looking for a name

Last week's item on the old Goon Show catchphrase “You can't get the wood, y'know” reminds a reader of a pal who went to a timber merchant for two six-foot lengths of 3”x2”.

The assistant said: “Don't you know we've gone metric?” The customer said: “Okay, then, I'll have two two-metre lengths of 7.5cms x 5cms.” To which the lad replied: “No, we can't do that. We've only gone metric on lengths, not widths.”

Never let the facts get in the way of a good slogan. The Guardian celebrates its 200th anniversary this year and its website carries the stirring words: “Times change but the Guardian's values don't.”

Sounds great, doesn't it? But let us hope it's not true. For if Britain's leading left-wing newspaper really does cling to its values of 1821 then it sees nothing wrong in profiteering from slavery or forcing striking employees back to work.

The Guardian's connection to the slave-based 19th century cotton trade are so well established and so troubling that the newspaper itself has ordered a full inquiry. The author Tony Parsons started an online petition and tweeted: “Shameful links to slave-owning Confederate south. Built on the profits of cotton fields. Shut down The Guardian Newspaper.” More than 24,000 people signed it.

If I ran the Guardian I'd quietly drop the slogan about ye olde values. In any case, there's nothing particularly noble about clinging to one belief-system all your life. Real progress comes in finding a better way, changing your mind and moving on.

Here's a cause for our age that the Guardian seems to have overlooked. Why have the public been offered a choice of only gender-specific names for the two newly-hatched ravens at the Tower of London? How dare we humans impose such outdated and sexist restrictions on birds who might self-identify as the opposite sex?

It is every chick's right be a cock and every cock's right to lay an egg. You cannot pigeon-hole a raven. The campaign starts now.

At this stage in writing the column I take a break to explain to our 15-month-old grandson that whacking Gran on the head with a helicopter made everybody very sad. This is the language of modern child rearing. Nobody is bad or naughty or angry; we just avoid things that make other people sad.

At nursery, the kids are taught to have “kind hands” and the old “naughty step” has become simply “the step.” In the meantime, being a repressive old reactionary, I have hidden the helicopter.

Builders working at a school in Queensland, Australia found a rare giant wood moth, a huge critter with a 12-inch wingspan. Teachers turned the event into a creative-writing project for a class of nine-year-olds.

The head teacher reported: “The students wrote some very creative, imaginative pieces of writing – including Mrs Wilson getting eaten by the giant wood moth.”

We are not told who Mrs Wilson is but I bet she's thrilled.

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