Rhodes on beautiful kites, dodgy degrees and 18-month NHS wait

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

A red kite. Photo: Janet Baxter.
A red kite. Photo: Janet Baxter.

You don't have to read former health secretary Jeremy Hunt's new book on preventable deaths to realise the NHS is in a disgraceful state. You have only to speak to other people.

Take, for instance, a reader who has endured the discomfort of a catheter for the past few weeks. He tells me he has just been referred to a hospital urology department as an “urgent” case. A few days ago he was informed that his appointment has been fixed for December, 2023 – more than 18 months from now. NHS: No Help Soon.

Our changing language. We Brits have a tradition of coining all manner of euphemisms for intimate moments. “Come up and see my etchings” has been with us for at least 70 years, “Ugandan discussions” was invented by Private Eye in the 1960s and only a few weeks ago friends of the disgraced porn-viewing MP Neil Parish famously protested: “He was looking for tractors.” Now comes a report of a student allegedly harassed by a cleric at Oxford University. She says he stroked her hair. He claims he was “putting in his eye drops at the time”.

Meanwhile, universities in England have been told off for awarding “excessive” numbers of first class degrees during the pandemic. The Office for Students (OfS) published research claiming that more than half of first class degrees awarded in 2021 could not be explained by “observable factors” such as prior results or social background of students. I suspect the more that kids are forced to pay for university courses, the more they will expect dazzling outcomes. So the reason for so many firsts may not be observable but it might perhaps be audible, in the crisp rustling of large cheques.

First we saw its shadow, a flickering patch of shade racing up the garden. Look up into the sun and there it is, hanging in the warm air with elegant outstretched wings and that distinctive forked tail. The red kites have arrived. They may be as common as pigeons where you live, thanks to an amazingly successful re-introduction project, but this pair are the first we have ever seen at Chateau Rhodes.

As the kites scoured the newly-cut hayfield for carrion, our resident buzzards circled lazily a thousand feet above. We are excited and delighted at the arrival of kites but I wonder what the buzzards make of it (“Fork-tails, eh? There goes the neighbourhood”).

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