Peter Rhodes on keeping the Queen healthy, the horror of smog and men who look like thumbs

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Targets for the Melts
Targets for the Melts

We cannot see the methane, the carbon dioxide or any of the other substances that cause us so much climate-change angst. Things were so much simpler back in 1921 when dense, choking smogs were all too visible and hung around our towns and cities for days. Exactly 100 years ago the Times reported how the fog was so dense at one cinema that “the powerful lamps in use were unable to penetrate from the operator’s box to the screen.” And that’s inside the cinema.

Reach for the dictionary. Writing for one of the nationals, a disease specialist condemns overreaction to the latest strain of Covid-19 for “wrecking the economy and otherwise immiserating our lives.” No, I’d never heard of it either. Immiserate is a verb meaning “to cause to become poor or impoverished.”

The mystery of why the Queen suddenly cut back on alcohol a few weeks ago may have been solved. A “royal sommelier” who advises the Palace on wines, declares: “It’s bad for her joints and she can’t drink too much when she’s doing all these royal engagements.”

Well, that’s one possibility. My personal theory is that the Queen was generally out of sorts, and reducing the booze was one of a package of measures, including cutting back on engagements, designed by her doctors to keep any problems at bay during the crucial period of October 31 to November 12.

After all the planning and all the soaring hopes in Glasgow of a great global consensus on climate, imagine the shambles if HM had fallen seriously ill during the Cop 26 conference. The prospect of all those world-changing climate-justice statements being lost under the coverage of a national trauma was unthinkable.

Sarah Vine, the columnist and estranged wife of Tory big beast Michael Gove, worries about her physical and mental reserves and whimpers: “I honestly don’t think I can cope with a fourth lockdown.” She rails against face masks as “instruments of torture” deployed by “the machinery of oppression.” Sense of proportion, chuck?

Meanwhile, a Guardian reader defines shaven-headed males who refuse to wear face masks and who boo footballers for taking the knee as “men who look like thumbs,” which is wonderfully descriptive. Abbreviate “men who look like thumbs” and we have a new social grouping. The Melts.

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