Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on a space balloon, an insurance puzzle and walking under a horse

Paranoias of our time: the insurance auto-renewal. This is the one when your insurance company says you needn't worry about renewing your car policy because, this time last year, you authorised them to do it automatically. And yet you could have sworn you specifically opted out of auto-renewal.

Balloon with a view

It gets murkier. The company says it will take the renewal payment using the card number you gave them, which ends with 1234. But you possess no such card. You ring to point this out and a cheerful bloke says not to worry, everything is 100 per cent okay. So what I'm getting is an auto-renewal I can't remember, using a debit card I haven't got. Does this ring a bell with anyone?

Keir Starmer is reaching out, as they say, to the rural community. He tells us his first job, at 14, was picking stones off a farmer's field for 50p. Whether this was the daily rate or per stone is not made clear. But good luck to him anyway. As Countryfile (BBC1) reminded us last weekend with a day trip to Bakewell stock market, countryfolk are distinctly different from townies. Not better or worse, just different. A useful opening line for politicians venturing into farming communities is: “So this must be your worst year ever, then?”

If you're a bit short of the £45 million one US company charged to fly tourists to the International Space Station, a Japanese company has come up with a £150,000 budget option, a sort of Ryanair of the cosmos. That's the price of a ride in a helium-balloon capsule. Admittedly, it only goes up 15 miles but that's enough for glorious views of our planet and outer space. The operators describe their four-hour flight as “gentle.” That's assuming they keep well away from Joe Biden's airspace . . .

Our grandson Ruben has just turned three. That's the age when a little boy is never quite sure whether his full name is Ruben No, Ruben Don't or Ruben Stoppit.

It is also the age at which life-long memories begin. I was three or four when, confronted by the local horse-drawn dairy float outside our house, I took the most direct route to the door. Why do grown-ups make such a fuss about walking under a horse?