Peter Rhodes on an inspired name, brave bystanders and what “one-off payment” can mean

In response to a spate of crimes against women, Plymouth has launched an “active bystanders” project encouraging males to challenge misogynistic behaviour and language. What a brilliant idea. But why stop there? We could form these active bystanders into an organised force and call them, for the sake of argument, constables. They could patrol the streets. We could call it “walking the beat.” I'm amazed no-one's thought of it before.

On the beat
On the beat

Terms for our time. “One-off payment,” as used by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, means “a payment I intend to be one-off but which may actually turn into a regular annual bung because no-one will ever be brave enough to scrap it.” By way of example, consider the £10 Christmas Bonus. Launched half a century ago in 1972 it is still paid every Xmas to every pensioner in the land, rich or poor. It costs the state £160 million yet most recipients barely notice it. No politician has ever been bold enough to scrap it. In politics, it's always much easier to turn the tap on than off.

After yesterday's item on the hazards of canals, I recall a trip down to Kinver some years ago. As my shipmate gently eased the narrowboat into its moorings, a woman confronted us. “How do you do that without hitting anything?” she demanded, indicating her much-battered boat, and adding: “We hit everything, every time.” Her tone implied that my crew and I were not entering into the spirit of narrowboating which she obviously regarded as a watery version of dodgems.

The untimely death of Goodfellas star Ray Liotta revived the yarn about a journalist who, while interviewing Liotta soon after the birth of the star's child, asked whether he'd considered calling the baby Tarka.

I must share with you the views of one reader which may be the kindest thing you'll hear about seagulls all summer. He writes: “Have you seen the behaviour of some British people when they are abroad? Even foreign seagulls are better behaved than some of our tourists.”

Pedant corner. Yes, I'm aware that technically there is no such thing as a seagull, only gulls. This explains the hilarious birdwatchers' joke: “A seagull walks into a sand bar. . . . no, he doesn't because seagulls don't exist.” Oh, spare my splitting sides.

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