Charles Moore

Manhole covers are not gender neutral. Does this bother Jeremy Corbyn?

Manhole covers are not gender neutral. Does this bother Jeremy Corbyn?
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Mr Corbyn’s hobby is manhole covers, on which he is an expert. I was about thoughtlessly to mock this leisure activity when I was prevented by the learned Christopher Howse. He speaks as a connoisseur of a distinct, but related genre — coal plates, which cover coalholes, and are often neglected. In the 19th century, a man called Shephard Taylor sketched 150 coal plates, and these were published as a book called Opercula: London Coal Plates, in 1929.

Christopher has now photographed 1,019 coal plates on his mobile phone and tweeted them (#opercula). Despite his preference for coal plates, Christopher is generous about students of manhole covers or (with which they must not be confused) drain covers. ‘Such interest,’ he says, ‘is fundamentally conservative’, so there ‘may be hope for Mr Corbyn’. I wonder if Mr Corbyn would like the manhole covers commissioned by my friend Greville Howard (Lord Howard of Rising) for his village in Norfolk. All of them bear his coat of arms. Probably Mr Corbyn would prefer to impose new ‘people’s’ manholes. In fact, I wonder if he is happy with the word ‘manhole’, which lacks gender neutrality.

This is an extract from Charles Moore's Notes. The full article can be read here