Peter Rhodes on laughing computers, making up celebrities and the importance of clicking in Cheadle

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

While we all focus on Brexit, the dazzling prospect of a dementia-free world is barely noticed.

The wisdom of Dot

AMAZON promises to stop its Alexa gadgets emitting unexplained "witch-like" laughter. I bet there's a simple explanation. Alexa is merely one device in households which are increasingly fitted with appliances using smart technology. These gizmos have probably started chatting to each other. If Alexa laughs it's probably because the fridge has just told a joke.

DO you sometimes flick through the news and think: "Shouldn't this story be given a bigger showing?" Two items of global importance were tucked away a few days ago. The first was the Alzheimer's expert Professor Michel Goedert predicting that within a few decades the disease will "disappear as a major problem from society," thanks to new drug treatments. Next to it was a report that sperm counts in men from America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have dropped by more than 50 percent in 40 years. While we all focus on Brexit, the dazzling prospect of a dementia-free world is barely noticed and nor is the suggestion that, in or out of the EU, we humans may be an endangered species.

I WROTE recently about people who are allegedly famous but we've never heard of. They are usually introduced on the telly or radio with words such as iconic or legendary. This creates the impression, for example, that a third-rate musician in a long-forgotten band is someone we all remember, or at least should remember: "Josh Slackwart, the legendary drummer in the iconic 1970s acid-skiffle group Purple Truss, has died."

AT times like this I am reminded of a genuine celebrity, Patricia Routledge, whose character Dot, the busybody housewife from Cheshire, delivered a magnificent put-down to someone claiming to be famous: "Well, he's yet to click in Cheadle." Dot' s scripts were written by the late, great Victoria Wood, and you could hear it in every lugubrious North Country phrase. Dot had a grumbling ovary and "walked the Pennine Way in slingbacks to draw attention to mental health."

I THOUGHT of Dot a few days ago when Radio 4 announced a new exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum featuring the wardrobe of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who, according to one account, was "a boundary-smashing, progressive, feminist figurehead . . . . one of the first to create her own personal brand." Kahlo (1907-1954) was a painter, fashion icon, communist and peace campaigner who was famous for her eyebrow pencil. She suffered appalling health and, after losing a leg to gangrene wore a false leg with a stylish red boot decorated with bells. And I'd never even heard of her. The lady with the bells on her leg didn't ring a bell. Oh, the irony. As so many times before, I am left feeling an ignoramus.

SO I am thinking of redressing the balance by inventing some celebrities of my own and solemnly announcing their passing from time to time, just to see how many people claim to have heard of them. Farewell Juan Cojone, legendary curator of the celebrated Bogota Eyebath Museum. He will be widely mourned, although possibly not in Cheadle.

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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