Peter Rhodes on yet more bumf, our paralysed legal system and a pair of pals at the bird table

The latest column from Peter Rhodes.

The handsome jay
The handsome jay

I've just had breakfast sitting 10 feet from a jay on our bird table (I mean the jay was on the bird table, not me). The curious thing is that this handsome chap turns up with a mate, a huge crow. It appears that while one eats, the other waits. Do birds have friends?

Yesterday I invented the word Greenflaggery to describe letters from companies (in this case Green Flag roadside assistance) explaining some arcane changes in their corporate structure which mean absolutely nothing to the average customer. Within 24 hours another example dropped through the letter box to inform us that the energy company E.ON has become E.ON Next.

The first sentence promises “brand new systems and a new brand to build a better, brighter tomorrow” (as opposed to a duller, worse tomorrow?) while most of the rest of the letter assures us that nothing much is changing. As with Green Flag, you get the impression it's written mostly for the lawyers.

At my local petrol station this week, there were three of us in the queue dutifully wearing face masks and one customer, a 30-something male, defiantly unmasked. It was not an oversight. When the till operator made a half-hearted rebuke, the customer laughed in his face, paid for his petrol and stalked out. As figures released this week show, we can be thankful this display of petulance didn't escalate. A report by the Commons Home Affairs Committee logs a steady rise in violence against retail employees, including threats with knives, firearms and even syringes. The committee is calling for legislation making it a criminal offence to assault retail workers.

It's a typical politician's response: pass a tough new law and all is solved. But it isn't. We don't have enough police to respond to 999 calls from stores, senior cops aren't interested in what they regard as minor assaults and, even if anyone were arrested, our courts have a two-year backlog of cases. The entire system is paralysed by indifference and apathy and the thugs have nothing to fear.

Fill a house with students. Issue them with examination questions. Allow them 24 hours to answer them. What happens next? According to some lawyers, household cheating has become endemic. And yet if cheating has taken off, so has whistle-blowing, with students denouncing each other to university authorities. No-one seems to know how to tackle the problem. However, I see great scope for a new board game, based loosely on snakes and ladders. Cheaters and Grassers: The Ultimate University Challenge. You read it here first.

What a glorious, uplifting film is Silver Skates, the first Russian movie to be acquired by Netflix. It's a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, set on the frozen canals of St Petersburg. The special effects and the skating skills are dazzling. It's a great way to pass a couple of hours as we wait, and wait, for those hot summer evenings to arrive.

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