Peter Rhodes on warm spaces, untrained officers and the Tory sent home for insulting Birmingham

In the wee small hours of the morning, a Russia expert on BBC World Service was explaining a curious detail about Putin's nuclear arsenal. Apparently, under the old arms-reduction agreements, some missiles have been locked away in sealed warehouses for the past 30 years, meaning a whole generation of Russian officers has grown up not knowing how to use them.

Brum a dump?
Brum a dump?

Does your mind not fill with images of naïve young officers poring over the missile instruction manual to decipher the nuclear equivalent of “light the blue touchpaper and retire immediately”?

A century from now someone may uncover the above item and ask: “How could they be so flippant about nuclear war? The answer, my 22nd century friends, is that we were all fully occupied with something called Strictly.

Warm spaces are the latest Whitehall wheeze to fight the freeze. All over the UK, councils and community organisations are preparing libraries, sports clubs and other buildings as “warm banks” where vulnerable folk can gather together for tea, cake and a chat. I dare say they will be packed with folk – but it won't have much to do with heat.

Who in their right mind would switch off their own heating to save money, trudge through a cold town to the warm space, get nice and cosy for a few hours and then trudge home, losing heat all the way, to a house which by now is frozen? I bet people will use warm spaces in their thousands. But it won't be to save money or conserve heat but to seek out what they really crave - the other sort of warmth, the one we call companionship. There is a nationwide shortage of good company and you can't begin to measure the calories in a kind word.

A Tory youth leader tweeted: “Birmingham is a dump.” He was promptly sent home from the Conservative Conference in Brum. So free speech is safe under the Tories, then?

Our changing language. One report on Virgin Atlantic's plan to let cabin staff wear gender-free uniforms says the company is also “developing a plan to ensure that the airline can address customers by their preferred pronouns across all touchpoints.” Preferred pronouns are confusing enough, but touchpoints . . . ?

You know, I'm not sure I want to think about Richard Branson's touchpoints.

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