Peter Rhodes on weaving wicker, swimming in sewage and the moment when humans overtake dogs

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Sky-high baskets
Sky-high baskets

Raw sewage is being pumped into English lakes and rivers. A reader says while some tourists go swimming, others go through the motions.

I wrote a few days ago about opting for super-grade 99 octane petrol rather than the new E10 plant-based fuel. This makes me a member of a minority and minorities tend to get exploited. I filled up on super-grade last week and found, barely mentioned in any news reports, that it now costs 161p per litre. How did that happen?

I passed a lorry which was delivering a big, woven structure to its new owner. Don't you find it strangely reassuring in this cyber-dominated age, that some folk are still manufacturing baskets for hot-air balloons?

Professor Michael Biggs, a sociology expert at Oxford University, says all new students should be told that a university exists to uphold academic freedom “and if they are unhappy about that, they need to leave.” Good luck with that. But times have changed. The 20th century was the era of the individual when the right to say or do pretty much what you liked was to be defended at all costs. Today's kids have been raised in a culture of group-think, as seen in the “toxic” campaign which resulted in Professor Kathleen Stock resigning from Sussex University after being denounced for transphobia. College students today may preach about diversity but it often seems there is no diversity in their views and some of them regard any opposing views as hate crime. Cry freedom by all means. But I'm not sure many kids know what it means.

Research in Hungary suggests that dogs learn human language in much the way that babies do. If you've ever raised kids and dogs together, you'll have noticed that the dog has a perfect working knowledge of walk, food, stick and sit long before the human infant utters its first mama. If a visiting Martian had to guess which was the superior species, judged at six months, he'd probably put his money on the dog.

And then one day you point at something and say: “Look at that.” Your dog looks obediently at your finger but your toddler looks at where you are pointing. And the Martian realises he has not only lost his bet but encountered the scarily-clever life-forms who will one day colonise his planet.

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