Peter Rhodes on email scams, packed motorways and the giggle-inducing art of judging beers

Read Peter Rhodes' latest column.

Jam packed – again
Jam packed – again

An email which arrived a couple of days ago claims to be from and looks very official: “Your bank has told us that your recent Direct Debit Payment has been returned as you have cancelled your instruction. As we have not been able to collect payment we have now cancelled your Direct Debit mandate and the vehicle is not taxed.” Yet it turns out to be just another scam, one of several new ones targetting car owners. Bin it.

Then what about the email that arrived soon after the above? It claimed to be from the NHS offering: “Apply now for digital passports to avoid restrictions.” Is it genuine? Who knows? A few days ago North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust warned people to be vigilant after reports of a circulating scam email regarding “digital coronavirus passports.” Confusion, confusion.

Thank you for your stimulating views on whether unwanted and over-wordy mail-shots are “bumph” or “bumf.” I always opt for the latter, on the grounds that the word is a short-form of “bum fodder,” or toilet paper. According to the online dictionaries, both are “UK, informal” but bumf has 513,000 Google references while bumph gets only 236,000.

In yesterday's gripping epistle on Russian “champagne,” I reported a 1970s encounter with a bottle of the stuff, much decorated with gold-award labels. I am always wary of such prizes, having once been recruited to a tasting panel to award gold, silver and bronze ratings to British beers. I forget how many we sampled, although the figure 43 seems to rattle around my memory. Point is, after the first dozen or so it became one long, seamless and giggle-inducing cascade of anonymous foaming libations. In the end I voted for the darkest one and the coldest one because they were the only two I could remember.

In my recent reflections on the Charles and Di wedding of 1981, I described a “tautological mini-grandstand” provided for the Press. A reader rightly points out that it was not tautological. We have agreed that it was probably oxymoronic. Erudite column today, innit?

Not much praise, I regret to report, for the new statue of Princess Diana, unveiled at Kensington Palace. During its first week on show it has been denounced as resembling David Bowie, Ken Barlow, Sean Bean, a traffic warden and “something Bart Simpson would have done.” I thought at first that it had to be better than the black-granite statue of Diana unveiled 21 years ago which I described back then as “bearing a passing resemblance to Denis Norden without his specs.” Yet the more I look at this new statue, the less Diana I see. And the more Norden.

Traffic levels are surely back to where they were before this pandemic began. Remember how gloriously empty the roads were during the “stay at home” days? Almost exactly a year ago I warned that this emotion would eventually emerge. Lockstalgia.

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