Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on the cold snap, Covid in China and the eternal dream of nuclear fusion

When the Communist Party imposed its zero-tolerance policy against Covid-19, China endured mass lockdowns. Finally the people rebelled and took to the streets. The policy was then relaxed and, naturally, a wave of infections has followed. I daresay the Chinese government will be delighted with this outcome. Get the message, citizens? See where rebellion leads? Remember - the Party always knows best.

Workers in protective gear gather for their duties in Beijing, November 2022. Photo: AP/Andy Wong

Last week's item on dismal attendances at signing sessions, even by famous authors, reminds me of one woman who attracted enormous crowds. It was at the Merry Hill shopping centre, Dudley, in 1999 and the (then) most famous woman in the world was signing her autobiography at the rate of 500 an hour. “She says she’s getting wrist-ache,” said one lady in the queue. “Makes a change from housemaid’s knee,” sniggered another.

No media interviews were allowed so I adopted a cunning plan, disguising myself as a member of the public to speak with a woman who brought down the most powerful man in the world. Her book may not have been the greatest political memoir ever written but on that day in Dudley, everyone wanted to meet Monica Lewinsky.

PS: How do journalists disguise themselves as members of the public? Simple. We remove the battered trilby with a card stuck in the hatband bearing the word “Press.” Never fails.

I cannot think of a time during my 50-odd years in journalism when nuclear fusion has not been just around the corner. “Electricity too cheap to meter” was the thrilling headline of the 1950s as scientists tried to replicate the energy of the sun in laboratories. Twenty-five years ago two scientists reckoned to have produced “cold fusion” but it came to nothing.

Today's excited claims of fusion working in a laboratory device in California are far removed from any workable, usable form of energy. The hunt for limitless emission-free power goes on and we all wish it well. There is a theory that a new Golden Age of peace, prosperity and comfort is awaiting mankind – if only we can make it through the next 30 years.

Meanwhile, a reader sends me an image of the global-warming activist Greta Thunberg which has gone viral. It shows her looking even glummer than usual with the caption: “I take it all back – it's ****ing freezing.”