'Alexa, do something rude': Peter Rhodes on gizmos, Gove and an unforgettable night at the theatre

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

MY quarterly BT bill has just arrived online. If you print it off, it appears on six sheets of A4. The last one declares: "This page is intentionally left blank." But it isn't blank, because it bears the words: "This page is intentionally left blank." Clearly, greater brains than mine have been at work.

Michael Gove

I REPORTED a few weeks ago that my computer spell-check had suddenly packed up. A number of readers advised me to use an online checker. Sure enough, I found one which seems okay. In fact the only snag is that the online internet spell-checker I found on Google does not recognise the words 'online', 'internet' or 'Google'.

IT is good to see Environment Secretary Michael Gove preparing to replace the EU system of agricultural subsidies with something home-grown and more palatable, post-Brexit. It always struck this reluctant EU taxpayer as odd that my taxes were handed to wealthy landowners, effectively paying them for being rich. We can surely do better than that.

AFTER last week's item on the foul language used by women on the Mumsnet website, here's a reminder of how much things have changed. In his book The Fateful Year, historian Mark Bostridge recalls a 1914 production of Pygmalion in the West End which pushed back the frontiers of taste by containing a word 'widely condemned as blasphemous'. No-one knew how an audience would react to the word. On the day of the show one London newspaper warned its readers that 'a dreadful word' would 'fall with bombshell suddenness'. A last-minute appeal to the actress, Mrs Patrick Campbell not to utter the word was refused. The tension was unbearable.

WHEN the word was finally spoken, the audience laughed themselves into 'utter abandonment and disorder'. The stage manager timed the reaction with his watch. The uproar went on for 76 seconds and may well have been 'the longest laugh in English theatrical history'. The word? Bloody. Come a long way, haven't we?

I HAVE a reader in Canada who regularly compares his wonderful adopted home with poor old backward Britain and suggests our food banks could be closed if only we created 'a better society where folks can earn enough to pay their own way'. And who can argue with that? However, it's worth noting that his state of British Columbia opened its first food bank in 1982, feeding 250 people per week. By 2016 that figure had soared to 103,000 per week - in a state with a population of just 4.6million. If you think food banks are solely a UK issue or that other countries have cracked the problem, think again.

WE have had young visitors at Chateau Rhodes. They came equipped with all the necessary online hardware, including the Amazon gizmo Alexa which plays any music you want and answers any questions you care to ask it. With teenagers in the house, how very quickly the level of discourse plummets. It took only five minutes to go from 'Alexa, sing the Russian national anthem' to 'Alexa, do a fart'. Hilarious.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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