Peter Rhodes on Covid tests, preparing for WW3 and how Lionel dealt with a heckler

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Lionel Blair - winning smile
Lionel Blair - winning smile

I may have discovered why only 14 per cent of the 691 million lateral-flow tests issued to test and trace Covid 19 have been forwarded to the NHS.

I did my first Covid-19 test a few days ago. It proved negative but as a good citizen, I did as the authorities ask and went online to register my result, encouraged by the notes with the test which tell you you'll need the identifying number on the plastic test strip. What the notes don't tell you is that in order to register, you'll also need your NHS number (the one you can never remember) and your mobile-phone number (ditto).

If you stick with it, hunt those numbers down and report the result, 24 hours later you will be rewarded with an email and text both telling you: “Your coronavirus lateral flow test is negative.” Which is precisely what you told them 24 hours earlier. You begin to understand why so few people report their results.

Test and trace is described as the flagship of the NHS Covid-19 programme. The lesson of history is that flagships get sunk.

Incidentally, isn't it scary how far you can shove the test straw up your nose? I assumed the “mild resistance” I encountered was my skull.

I wrote some time ago about the well-recruited Territorial Army after the Second World War. Having been conscripted to fight in that catastrophe, why would so many ex-squaddies volunteer for the TA? An old sweat writes to explain. If you chose the right TA unit and gained a trade (in his case as an ambulance driver), you might get a cushy number in the Third World War. “I joined the TA,” he explains, “because if there was another war, I didn't want to go back in the infantry.” All is clear.

Way back in ye olden days I knew a chorus girl who became one of the Lionel Blair Dancers. As a result I encountered Blair, who has died at 92, a couple of times. He was fun and his dancers clearly adored him. At one of his shows I attended, some heckling drunk in the front row made a homophobic remark. Blair who was a straight family man, told him with a winning smile: “Don't bandy words with me, I'll crucify you.” The heckling stopped.

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