Peter Rhodes on birthday cards and the passing of a great story teller

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Bob Hall – fondly remembered
Bob Hall – fondly remembered

A friend's birthday approaches and you can't help noticing how unkind greetings cards get after a certain age. My eye was caught by one which describes the recipient as someone who is “really going places”. It then lists the places: “Optician, Clinic, Pharmacy, Toilets.”

Meanwhile, if your friends don't humiliate you, your car just might. I suggested some time ago that if a car has the technology to spot speed limits, it probably has the memory power to tell the cops if you've been speeding. Now comes news of a driver who crashed his car while three times over the drink-drive limit. To his surprise, his new Mercedes automatically summoned the emergency services – including police – to the scene. Result: £1,500 fine and a two-year ban – and serve him right.

I, too, drive a Mercedes. The difference is that mine is very old and has a concealed drawer containing an Acme Thunderer whistle marked: “To be blown only in emergencies”. You mean you haven't found yours yet?

I made up that last bit. But it is a fact that many of us own the same car for years without discovering all the accessories. The answer, as I found this week, is to release a two-year-old toddler into your vehicle. In the space of a few minutes our live-in grandson Ruben not only found that the rear headrests are spring-loaded but discovered two drinks holders I had no idea existed.

Being on holiday, I missed reports of the sudden death at 76 of Bob Hall, one of the Midlands' best-known sports reporters and broadcasters. We worked together for a few months after his bosses “let him go” in 2004. I remember him fondly for his huge fund of anecdotes. Some journalists spend a lifetime in this job and don't have a single funny story to tell. But Bob Hall had a treasure chest of tales, including this one about a young reporter called Mark on a Yorkshire paper in the 1970s who played in a band and was finding it hard to reconcile night jobs with bookings.

“So what's the name of your group?” asked his news editor.

“Dire Straits,” replied Mark.

“Aye, and you'll be in bloody dire straits if you don't get your career sorted out.”

Mark Knopfler. A great yarn, told by a master.

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