Peter Rhodes on the Tebbit Test, planting trees at 93 - and what does an ambassador actually do?
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
THE Queen was supposed to "supervise" the planting of a tree at a visit to Cambridge this week. Instead, she declared: "No, no, I can still plant a tree" and duly wielded the spade. Why are we surprised that a fit 93-year-old can do such things? It was the writer Alan Bennett who once observed: "If you live to be 90 in England and can still eat a boiled egg, they think you deserve the Nobel Prize."
MY sciatica? Kind of you to ask. It is still blazing away like a blowlamp on the femur but seems to be gradually easing. The online consensus is that sciatica usually clears up within three or four weeks and I'm now in the third week. I get lots of advice from people urging me to see their physio, chiropractor, acupuncturist or whatever who is apparently brilliant. But most of these endorsements end with "I've been seeing him for years," which doesn't inspire confidence. I don't want a lifetime of therapy, thanks. I want somebody with a magic wand.
TESTING The Tebbit Test (Radio 4) was a fascinating study of cricketing loyalties among British Asians, nearly 30 years after the Tory MP Norman Tebbit criticised some communities for supporting India or Pakistan in Test matches rather than England. But it began with a claim that suggests there is another, equally fascinating Tebbit Test. Presenter Rajan Datar said Tebbit was probably best known for his "cricket test" words. Really? Is he not better remembered by millions of folk as the battered victim of the 1984 Grand Hotel bombing at Brighton being stretchered to safety, not knowing whether his critically-injured wife Margaret was alive or dead (she was disabled for life). These are images we should always remember. The issue of community relations rightly commands attention and remains centre-stage. Yet there seems almost a national conspiracy to forget the 30-year campaign of murders by the IRA.
WHAT exactly does an ambassador do, apart from the obvious job of handing out the Ferrero Rochers? Given our Special Relationship with the United States, I imagined that Kim Darroch was forever dropping round to the White House, schmoozing with The Donald and keeping him abreast of all the goings-on and gossip in Her Britannic Majesty's realm. In a rather under-explained aspect of this week's row, ending with the resignation of Sir Kim, Donald Trump tweeted: "I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S." Hang on. So Trump didn't even know our man in Washington? That's not special. That's not even a relationship.
IN some versions of this column on Wednesday, "Staffordshire Hoard" appeared incorrectly as "Staffordshire Horde." To make it absolutely clear, the pile of Anglo-Saxon gold dug up near Lichfield 10 years ago is the Staffordshire Hoard. Readers in that county who rang, emailed and texted to point out the error are a Staffordshire Horde.