Peter Rhodes on faint praise, good intentions and a charred reminder of Boadicea
I wrote a few days ago about traditional expressions (pearls before swine, nailing colours to the mast, etc) which now mean nothing to younger folk.
Let's add a couple more, inspired by recent reports, which may baffle the under-30s.
How about that venerable term “damned with faint praise”? This is perfectly demonstrated by the Rev Colin Corke, chairman of Allegro Club International, speaking on the 50th anniversary of the much-mocked Austin saloon. Here is his damning faint praise about the Allegro: “Everybody said it was rubbish, but it wasn't a terrible car.” I bet Mr Corke has never worked in advertising.
Next, how about that ancient saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”? The Government gives us a classic example with its new Renters Reform Bill. This gives tenants greater protection from eviction, makes it easier for them to keep pets and ensures rents can be raised only once a year. So much for the good intentions. But many landlords warn of hellish consequences, as thousands of owners simply sell up, preferably before 2025 when some rental properties will have to meet impossibly high energy-efficiency levels
My recent piece on Boadicea burning Roman London to the ground reminded one reader of the 1970s when he was an apprentice working on a building site in the City of London. As the excavators sliced through the soil they uncovered two layers of compressed ash, cinders and charred timber, one ten feet below the surface, the other 20 feet deep. He recalls: “ I found out a few years later the lower one was from the burning of London by Boadicea in 61AD, and the upper layer from the Great Fire of London in 1666.”
It's a reminder that while Britain is stuffed with ancient castles, palaces, bridges and towers to behold, some of the greatest monuments to our history are still hidden beneath our feet. Onward, detectorists.
Meanwhile, Keir Starmer, aiming to win the next general election, is promising huge reforms to Labour to make the party “the natural vehicle for working people, an agent for their hopes and aspirations, a party of the common good”. Hang on. Isn't that what used to be sold as “one nation Conservatism”?