Peter Rhodes on Boris's trousers, a national ship and the cool / warm / draughty homes of the future

Read Peter Rhodes' latest column.

£200 million well spent?
£200 million well spent?

A friend whose son attends a seriously posh school tells me the prize-giving, prom and farewell events will last three days. Three days? I seem to recall my class of '69 celebrated by burning our school ties. It took all of two minutes.

Great job titles of our time. A court report from Dudley included a comment by a councillor who rejoices in the title of “Cabinet Member for Public Realm.” Sounds like something from Ivanhoe.

Quote of the week, as a Catholic worshipper explained to PA Media the significance of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds marrying at Westminster Cathedral: “He’s now married in the Catholic church so he can’t get married again . . . So let’s hope he keeps his trousers on and behaves himself.”

We are a maritime nation, endlessly drawn by the lure of the sea. A national ship, seen by some (but not by the Queen, apparently) as a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, is a much better way to blow £200 million than some barmpot white elephants we can think of. It will create employment in a British (preferably English) shipyard and, used sensibly, could provide travel opportunities and leadership experience for a new generation of sailors. And if it occasionally took the monarch off on a mini-break to the Orkneys, who's going to complain?

Why “preferably an English” shipyard? Because the design life of this ship is 30 years. Assuming it comes with a warranty, you don't want to be faffing around for repairs with a foreign company run by stroppy nationalists in the People's Republic of Scotland, do you?

The rock is about to hit the hard place, and then collide with another rock. Here's the conundrum. To keep our zero-emissions homes warm using new-fangled heat pumps, we need maximum insulation, zero draughts and triple glazing. But to reduce the risk of Covid-19 we need plenty of open windows and good, healthy draughts. And now comes a warning from health experts that climate change will kill thousands of people in summer heatwaves unless we can make our homes cooler.

As a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine put it a few days ago: “Energy efficiency measures can actually exacerbate overheating risk.” Fine. So all we need is hot houses in the winter, cool houses in the summer and draught-free rooms, with occasional draughts, all year round.

Where will this lead? Probably to a new generation of hermetically-sealed homes with heat pumps that don't work, plus ruinously expensive heaters that gobble up electricity faster than we can make it. Augmented, of course, by endless hot air from old people banging on about this magical stuff we used to call North Sea gas.

“So why did they stop using North Sea gas, gran?”

“Blowed if I know. After you with the blanket?”

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