Peter Rhodes on the demise of a police choir, the meaning of bias and a heroic presenter
Least biased or the one you most agree with?
JEREMY Clarkson tells the story of a lad who was horrified to find so many deductions from his first wage packet. It was explained that this money was taken to pay for hospital, schools and so on. The boy accepted it stoically. But the next week, when his second wage packet arrived, he rang home in despair: "Mum - they've done it again."
SERENDIPITY. We are off to Chester for a few days, never having been there before. By chance, Chester was the first stop in Alice Roberts' new series Britain's Most Historic Towns (C4), screened at the weekend and an excellent introduction. Roberts is a hero of mine, mainly because she goes into terrifying confined spaces that we claustrophobics shun. This time it was a deep, dark Roman copper mine. Beyond scary.
AS police are allegedly given new powers to remove traveller encampments, do councils make it too easy for the invaders? I know a public park which is routinely taken over by travellers. After the last incursion, the council began erecting the ultimate anti-caravan barrier. It is a massive steel-girder creation and it would probably stop a Challenger tank. However, it is flanked for 50 yards on either side with a decorative chain fence which could be stamped flat in a moment.
SO farewell, Derbyshire Constabulary Male Voice Choir. The Chief Constable decided the group was "incompatible with force policies" and it was invited last year to become a mixed-voice choir. The choir said it wasn't possible to recruit enough women to balance the sound. And so the choir changed its named to Derbyshire Community Male Voice Choir. This is a story with "Freemasons" written all over it. Senior officers are wary of any organisation where only certain members of their workforce are admitted. and it doesn't matter whether it's a masonic lodge or an all-male choir. In this case, the Chief Constable Peter Goodman wanted "no enclaves where people from different backgrounds cannot go." So if there is any male plotting in the choir, it is no longer done under the name of the constabulary. The next step for determined male police plotters is to create sinister underground organisations that are open to women but that no woman would ever dream of joining. Anyone for the Constabulary Model Railway Society?
MEANWHILE, in their Welsh homeland, the number of members of male-voice choirs is said to be falling sharply. I hope they survive. Back in the 1960s the first musical event I was sent to cover as a reporter was an evening with the Cwmbach Male Voice Choir from Aberdare. I can still hear the low growl of devotion as they began the Battle Hymn of the Republic: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." Some things you never forget.
MY RECENT item on alleged bias in the BBC has sparked an online conversation with readers naming the "least biased" radio stations they know. I can't help thinking that in this context "least biased" means "the one I most agree with."