Peter Rhodes on a grisly voyage, gin across the universe and the best, and worst, of care homes

Rough sex, murder, mutilation, drug abuse, harpooning whales and bashing in the brains of seals. North Water (BBC2) is supposed to be an authentic depiction of 19th century polar hunters. But at what stage does “authentic” become sheer unpleasantness?

Gin across the universe
Gin across the universe

My recent ruminations on gin reminded a reader of the late great Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, who had some views on the subject. Adams told us that about 85 per cent of all known worlds in the galaxy have invented “a drink called jynnan tonyx, or gee-N'N-T'N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand variations on this phonetic theme.” I would not care to live on a planet that had missed this particular step in evolution.

When the new E10 petrol with extra ethanol arrived, rather than opt for the new brew, I filled up with old-fashioned, high-octane Super. My fuel consumption improved to 42 mpg instead of the 37mpg or so on lower-octane petrol. I've no idea how many miles a gallon of E10 will deliver but if it's much lower than Super, as I suspect, in what possible way is it greener?

The debate about social care keeps referring to “residential care” as though it were a fixed and guaranteed facility. It is no such thing. Some care homes are little palaces with well-motivated staff and a passion for cleanliness. Others are grim, hostile places stinking of cabbage and pee. If Boris Johnson's much-vaunted insurance policies ever appear, what standards will they guarantee? Will you be paying a premium of thousands of pounds a year to reserve a chic little suite in The Old Manor with its Michelin-starred chefs and day trips to Glyndebourne? Or are you destined for the lean-to annex of Camp Despair? Before handing the insurance company a penny, look very closely at the small print.

Incidentally, what a difference a week brings in politics. Seven days ago we had no idea whether Boris's splurge on social care would be paid for from income tax, National Insurance or council tax. Now, the mud clears and the answer is revealed. All of the above.

I used the word “smidgeon” recently. It occurs to me that younger readers may not understand it. A smidgeon was a pre-decimal quantity, chiefly used for measuring ginger beer. Fourteen smidgeons equalled one lashing. When I was young I often promised myself that when I was old I would not wind-up younger people. Funny how things turn out.

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