Peter Rhodes on lost hammers, risky smartphones and beating swords into ploughshares

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Grassing you up?
Grassing you up?

I wrote last week about dropping a hammer inside a brick column I was building and being unable to recover it. A reader writes: “Why didn’t he use a big magnet on a length of string to get his hammer out the hole?” Simple answer is that the hammer in question was an indispensable aid to bodge-it-yourself bricklaying. A rubber hammer. (Some people prefer a spirit level).

Here's a little prediction. Between today and next Monday, July 19 which has been designated “Freedom Day,” the Government will do an about-turn and decide that “Freedom” is not worth 100,000 Covid cases a day. Just a guess.

In the meantime, the most chilling text a smartphone owner can behold is that message from the NHS Test and Trace system: “Your app is acting and scanning.” Not only active and scanning, folks, but hell-bent on grassing you up for a spell in quarantine. I wonder how many people have taken to leaving the smartphone at home and are using an old mobile dumbphone instead.

Now it's all over and England put up some glorious performances, can we please consign the phrase “Fifty-five years of hurt” to the dustbin of history? It is a weedy, whingeing, self-pitying, snowflake line which implies, nonsensically, that between 1966 and 2021 England were persecuted, cheated and robbed of championships that were rightly theirs, or struck by some unfair, goal-denying disease. It is a phrase for wimps. Bin it.

We are supposed to rejoice at the biblical principle of turning the hardware of war into the tools of peace, known as beating swords into ploughshares. But it's not always a pretty sight. An old TA pal sends me a photo of our drill hall or, rather, a pile of rubble where the drill hall used to be. It stood for more than a century, training young Territorial Army volunteers for two world wars and the Cold War, first on horseback and later in tanks. It represented a thoroughly British tradition of “weekend warriors” and it introduced me to the British Army and to some of the best people I ever knew. I joined on a whim in 1976 and stayed for 15 years. Thankfully, my generation was spared combat. Yet we kept alive the memory, the spirit and the traditions of our yeomanry forbears who charged the Turkish guns in 1917 and shattered Rommel's finest at Alamein.

And now the drill hall has gone and the site will be developed with new homes for new families who have probably never heard of Alamein. I wish them well. And I hope someone tells them about what went before and how, every drill night and weekend, the place echoed to radio tuning, weapons training and the sergeant-major bringing things to a conclusion with a crisp: “Get on parade!” Tread softly for you tread on our memories.

  • Peter Rhodes' new book, Bloody Adjectives, is published by Brewin Books at £8.95

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