Peter Rhodes on kindness to animals – but not to students – at Christmas

Taking a break from Proust, my eyes fell on an online manual for a storage heater and the words: “the child-lock setting is perfect for childcare facilities and landlords with student residents”. Can you not almost hear the dry rustle of avaricious landlords rubbing their palms as they turn down the dial from tepid, to chilly, to humbug?

Scrooge – turn down the heaters
Scrooge – turn down the heaters

Unesco has added the French baguette to its list of world heritage treasures. After the decision was announced, President Macron declared the baguette is “250g of magic and perfection in our daily lives”. On this side of the Channel in a land of granary loaves and Hovis, the long white and crusty French loaf is seen as an occasional treat, for good reasons. There is probably no French version of the English granny's old advice: “The whiter your bread, the sooner you're dead.”

According to a survey, almost half of drivers avoid using the left-hand lane of “smart” (for smart, read lethal) motorways. The RAC points out that this completely undermines the logic behind turning the hard shoulder into a carriageway, to boost road capacity. So why do so many drivers shun the lane? Most of those questioned said it was to avoid running into stationary vehicles. Which suggests most drivers are a damn sight smarter than some experts.

Twenty years after Love Actually appeared, screenwriter Richard Curtis admits the “lack of diversity” embarrasses him. As well it might. I seem to recall back in 2003 a number of us were puzzled to see barely a black or brown face in the movie. After all, isn't Notting Hill the place where they have some sort of festival? Anyway, better late than never. Curtis says the film now makes him feel “uncomfortable and a bit stupid” But also very, very rich, I dare say.

My reader with a fondness for reciting poetry recommends two stirring poems, Mandalay and the Night Mail. At this time of year I polish up Kipling's wonderful little nativity poem, Eddi's Service. It contrasts the reluctance of humans to go to church at Christmas with the thankfulness of a storm-drenched ox and ass, grateful to find shelter in a chapel. A perfect Xmas story.

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