Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on the Bard's errors, fridges from Germany and finding the backbone of Britain

I was surprised to see one newspaper reader referring to the crowds lining the various funeral routes in England and Scotland as “the backbone of the nation.” That's unfair.

The queues in London

There are basically two sorts of people: those who instinctively join crowds and those who, just as instinctively, keep away from crowds. It's probably rooted in family traditions. In 1943 my father trudged in the endless queue to see the Sword for Stalingrad on display in London (in those days the Russians were on our side) and solemnly swore, as long as he lived, never to join another queue. It may be coincidence but none of his five sons became great queuers.

I covered both the Charles & Di Royal Wedding in 1981 and Diana's funeral in 1997 and was privileged on both occasions to meet masses of people who were prepared to wait for many hours in the streets for just a glimpse of history. But I'm not sure that wanting to be cheek-by-jowl with your fellow citizens and close to royalty makes you a better person than those who prefer solitude.

The real backbone of the nation is that huge, but generally silent, cohort who pay their taxes, help their neighbours, work for charities and don't break the law. Many of those good people will have joined the queues in London and Edinburgh. And many fine people preferred to stay at home and watch it all on the telly. No better, no worse.

Germany has been criticised for promising masses of military hardware to Ukraine but delivering very little. Its latest consignment was four anti-aircraft guns and 65 refrigerators. And coming next? Three airguns and a dozen toasters, perhaps?

I suggested last week that Hamlet could be improved by ending the play with Shakespeare's line about “flights of angels,” as quoted by King Charles. I am upbraided by a reader who says: “I think it's safe to say that Shakespeare knew what he was doing.”

You reckon? This is the same Shakespeare who writes about a clock striking in Julius Caesar and refers to billiards in Antony and Cleopatra, centuries before either were invented, who talks of the (non-existent) coast of Bohemia and thinks land-locked Verona is a port. Shakespeare was usually good but sometimes he was bard.