Peter Rhodes on rubbish from BT, gender targets and the toughest audience to please


Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.
Tough audience – David Blaine

A friend has had the chainsaw gang in, felling a few unwanted trees. In these tree-huggy times he naturally feels some eco-guilt. I can merely pass on my admittedly unfashionable view that some trees are greatly improved by being felled. If you have a tree, you have nothing more than a tree. But if you chop down a tree, you have the sky.

There are only three words that adequately describe BT's new email service: rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. And the only consolation is that you are not alone. Go online and you'll find wall-to-wall anguish from BT customers.

Quite suddenly, without any warning or choice in the matter, my old BT Yahoo email has become just BT. In the hallowed tradition of e- progress, it is worse than what went before but probably better than what is to come. One of the most important functions, the ability to search the In and Sent boxes, simply doesn't work but tells you: “An unexpected error has occurred.” Ah, but it's not unexpected, is it? It's entirely expected in a system that would have been an embarrassment in the 1980s. I would send BT a stern email, if only I trusted it to arrive.

Sorry, but I still don't get how testing millions of us every day in Boris's £100 million “Moonshot” project, will save the nation. The theory seems to be that if people test negative for Covid-19 they will feel confident enough to travel, commute, get back into the workplace and thus kick-start the UK economy. Isn't it more likely that if you know you're negative you'll hunker down and do everything possible to stay negative?

More to the point, how will people in Operation Moonshot react to discovering they have the virus, especially if they have no symptoms? Will they dutifully self-quarantine? Or will they convince themselves that they deserve a little cheering-up – and head for the pub?

David Blaine, the illusionist, magician and now billed as an “extreme performer,” floated several miles high over Arizona with a cluster of helium balloons before parachuting back to earth. It was screened live on YouTube and witnessed by millions. And the snag with a truly global audience is that some of them will never be satisfied. In some respects, a performer playing YouTube is the modern equivalent of an English comedian playing the old Glasgow Empire. After watching Blaine's heroics, one viewer commented: “The magic would be him not using a parachute.”

Meanwhile, the NHS is fighting another battle, having missed its own target of having 50:50 gender equality in membership of NHS management trusts. Has anyone given any thought as to how these gender targets can be met in an age when gender-fluidity and sexual self-identifying become the norm? All it takes to balance the gender books is to phone Charles to tell him he's got the job: “And there's only one tiny condition, Charlotte . . .”