There is a comforting theory among academics and some woolly politicians that mankind is past the age of warfare. These days, everything hangs on trade, growth, profit and debt. In the 21st century, they will tell you, we do not need tanks, because we have banks.
Which is all fine and dandy if everyone is living in the 21st century. But to see the evidence of torture and massacre in Myanmar, or to witness the massive military parades in North Korea or Beijing, or the squalid trenches on the Russia-Ukraine border, is to be reminded that some regimes have not signed up to the “banks not tanks” ethos. Their views are firmly set in the 19th century, or earlier, and they are actually banking on tanks. So I can only repeat my perennial New Year's plea for the West: If we want a safer world, start by building bridges with the Russian people, if not their leaders. We were friends once. We should be again.
That glorious Victorian poem The Lost Chord tells of an organist who plays a musical chord of great power and beauty but, not having made a note of the notes, can never find it again: “I have sought, but I seek it vainly, / That one lost chord divine.” That's how it is with soup.
In this annual post-Xmas orgy of devouring leftovers, I write this after a bowl of my home-made pheasant and vegetable soup. It was as close to perfection as any soup can get but, because the ingredients were chucked in the pan rather than measured, I can never recreate that exact taste or texture.
However if you'd like to have a bash at it, boil a couple of cooked pheasant carcasses in vegetable stock for an hour. Remove bones. Add celery, butternut squash, carrots and sprouts to the liquid. Simmer until soft then liquidise. And don't make my mistake of failing to measure and note your ingredients or you will face the same disappointment as the organist. I have sought, but I seek it vainly, / That one lost soup divine.
Peter Rhodes' book, Bloody Adjectives, acclaimed by the Times as “a fantastically entertaining new memoir,” is published by Brewin Books.