Peter Rhodes on history, pre-history and a recurringly explosive lesson from history
Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.
War, like history, tends to repeat itself. And if there's a recurring theme in the war in Ukraine, it's the one where highly-respected Western experts tell us that Putin is running short of missiles followed, a few days later, by Putin demonstrating that he's got shedloads of the things.
When this bloody war is over, as it surely will be one day, millions of tons of grain will again flow from Ukraine and billions of barrels of gas from Russia. Inevitably, food and energy bills will be cut and an entire European country will need rebuilding. How long can this war last when there is so much money to be made from ending it?
Qatar may well deserve a lesson, armbands and all, in human rights and inclusivity. But are we sure that English professional football has any right to do the lecturing? Our bitter experience is that some of our pampered and grossly overpaid players are not exactly beacons of moral enlightenment.
I have some sympathy with the “blundering barrister” who was upbraided by a judge for arriving at court in Newport in Wales when he should have been 150 miles away for a case in Newport on the Isle of Wight. Upbraid: good word, not used enough.
Anyway, there are an awful lot of Newports, including towns of that name in Yorkshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Highlands, Pembrokeshire and Shropshire. To add to the merriment there's Newport-on-Tay in Fife and Newport Pagnell near Milton Keynes. Yet there is no evidence of what these places were called before they became Newports. Scouring the AA road atlas, I can't find a single Oldport. An historical mystery.
Which leads neatly on to the new TV series Ancient Apocalypse (Netflix) in which author, former journalist and alternative historian Graham Hancock suggests highly advanced civilisations were on this planet tens of thousands of years before most historians believe. I interviewed Hancock a couple of times in his early career and he was always good value. In 1995 he told me how the ancients' fascination with the afterlife challenged his own atheism. In a sobering moment he said: “I think it is more rational to keep an open mind. You would be wise to put money on the probability of life after death.”
Assuming, that is, you could find someone to accept the bet.