Peter Rhodes on celebrity headlines and language lessons

The celebrity effect. China builds a bridge at its troubled border with India, facilitating troop movements and raising tension – small headlines. Davíd Baddiel puts cranberry sauce on his scone instead of jam – big headlines. No, I don't understand it either.

Daniel Kawczynski MP
Daniel Kawczynski MP

China's sabre-rattling on the Indian border at least makes the point that the old phrase “building bridges” isn't always a good thing.

The celebrity effect, when the world focuses on tiny issues and ignores big ones, is at the heart of that excellent new movie, Don't Look Up (Netflix). Two scientists, (Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) detect a massive comet heading straight for Earth. But the American president is focused on getting herself re-elected and the US public are more interested in a sex scandal. Finally the scientists get a brief slot on a morning talk show. As they prepare to tell the public that the world is about to be destroyed, the TV anchor urges them: “Keep it light, keep it fun.” Perfect.

That's right, the film plot has a female president (Meryl Streep). As we all know, the US public has a long and noble record of electing women as president. But only in the movies.

Penitent stool. I managed to get a name wrong a few days ago. The author of a new book, How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them is Barbara Walter, not Barbara Walters.

Of all the criticisms levelled at Tory MPs lately, the pillorying of the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, Daniel Kawczynski, seems the most unfair. He was not refurbishing a flat at the public expense, nor building an ornamental duck house, but self-improving.

The MP, born in Warsaw and now chairman of the All-Party Group for Poland at Westminster, speaks Polish but is weak on reading and writing it. Polishing up his Polish seems a perfectly reasonable use of public money even if the total sum, more than £18,000, sounds a lot. I'd like to think the MP shopped around wisely and did some haggling before paying up, possibly using that most useful Polish phrase: “To trochę strome, kolego.” (That's a bit steep, pal).

The Met Office is forecasting “enhanced winds” later this month. Enhanced with what? Perfume?

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