The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards
Another Lockdown Birthday
I’m an Aries (March 21 to April 20) so I celebrated my second birthday in lockdown last week – not having a couple of sharpeners at The Coach & Horses and not enjoying a celebratory meal with friends at the Sale-e-Pepe where the waiters didn’t sing “Happy Birthday” or top-up our glasses with Dom Perignon and didn’t deliver a surprise birthday cake to the table to round things off.
And I didn’t end up at Ronnie Scott’s for a final jar or two at the end of the evening either. The good news was that nobody drank too much or got arrested for insulting behaviour or affray.
Elton John’s an Aries too – born on the same day as me – but I doubt if even he managed to fly an entourage of celebrity mates down to the San Clemente Palace Kempinsky hotel in Venice for a week of non-stop partying so, all in all, things have been pretty quiet, birthday-wise, for we Aries folk.
I’m proud to say that some other well-known Aries include Thomas Jefferson, Charlie Chaplin, Leonardo da Vinci, Russell Crowe, Harry Houdini, Steve McQueen, Vincent van Gogh, Marlon Brando and Jackie Chan. Adolph Hitler was a very late Aries (April 20th – almost a Taurus) so he doesn’t count [I think he does, you both have crumb-catchers. Just saying. Ed].
Being born under the Aries star sign means we’re meant to be confident and courageous with strong leadership qualities so I was interested to read a slightly off-message report on Aries characteristics from an “Alternative Astrologer”. He says that absolutely everyone in prison was born under the sign or Aries and that most of us are murderers or drunks – or both.
Aries use guns to describe philosophical concepts and are never born, but skip, gaily, from their mothers’ wombs. This may even involve rollerblades. They’ll proudly point out to anyone who’ll listen that the word Verb is actually a Noun and hold grudges about things that never actually happened. It’s rumoured that the first computer hacker was an Aries.
He neglected to mention that we Aries chaps are getting fed up with living through a major historical event and would like to have a normal birthday next year. Being infallible, God is probably an Aries too and should be able to fix that for us.
And talking of God, does anyone know what page of the Bible explains how to turn water into wine?
Dealing With A “Lack of Pies”
I once spent a year in Croydon; I think it was a Saturday. I only mention this because of a telephone conversation I had this week with a London insurance broker. “Ah, yes, Guildford,” he repeated after I’d told them where I live. “Isn’t that the place they’re planning to transform into another Croydon?”
Although I’ve heard most of the usual quips about how Croydon isn’t so much a place as a state of mind, that it’s twinned with Chernobyl and that it’s been banned from Google Earth, I hadn’t realised that Guildford’s planning fiasco is becoming the stuff of satire and the butt of corny jokes too.
And Guildford politicians seem to have learned so much from their past mistakes, they’re seriously thinking about making a few more. It’s in danger of becoming the sort of place where they cut down trees to build houses, then name the houses after the trees.
It’s surely time to inject a bit of sanity into Guildford’s loony Local Plan which was – to use an appropriate Spoonerism – based on a “Lack of Pies”.
Cinderella – The Musical
What the world needs now is a good fairy story and who better to bring it to the masses than Andrew Lloyd Webber? He announced last week that he’s created a new musical based on the centuries-old tale of Cinderella – a girl with two dodgy sisters and extremely small feet who can’t even find her way to a party without magical help.
There have been 345 different versions of Cinderella but the story we know was originally penned by a Frenchman called Charles Perrault in 1697. It was updated more than 100 years later in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm but 73-year-old Lloyd Webber says his new stage version will be a “total reimagining of the classic story” and is scheduled to open this spring.
I think he’d have been better-off reimagining any one of a dozen or so other fairy stories instead. Let’s be brutally honest about this; people who lose their shoes at midnight are usually p*ssed.
I’ve been watching – but not fully comprehending – the BBc’s new Line of Duty. To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on. While I eventually twigged that AC-12 was the Anti-Corruption Unit and that OCG was the Organised Crime Group, I only worked out the MIT was a Major Investigation Team when I Googled it a few days later.
And that was when I also discovered that the Daily Mirror and Metro newspapers had actually published “translations” of the numerous acronyms and abbreviations used in the series to assist confused viewers like me.
There’s the AFO, the SFC, DIR, FI, IOPC, and TFC, to name but a few. And unless you are up to speed with them, you won’t really know who’s doing what. But the one that caused most confusion for me was CHIS – the Covert Human Intelligence Source. I’d assumed they were saying “Cheers!”.
Peter Cook and the Beyond the Fringe team managed to inject a bit of humour into the excessive use of initials with a memorable sketch about an RSM called DL who’d been cured of TB in the USA but later went AWOL from the FO in the UK and died of VD in the USSR. But LOD (Line of Duty) needs to CDO (cut down on) the EUOB (excessive use of abbreviations) so I can reduce my FR (frustration rate) from my current 30 WTF’s an hour.
It looks as if “Wow!” is beginning to eclipse “Amazing!” as the most over-used word in the English language. It’s a lazy way of saying something is magnificent, wonderful or even fantastic but materialises more as a sound than a word, as the mouth opens in shock and awe and forms an O shape.
Just tune-in to any of those garden make-over programmes on the telly, where a family returns from a week-long, enforced exile to find that Alan Titchmarsh or Charlie Dimmock has totally ripped-up their back yard and re-arranged it to include a small pond, a sandpit, a shed of some sort, and a yellow brick road running through the middle of it all, and ending up at a special seat.
Their very first words are always “Wow” and then “Wow!” again. And that’s all, usually.
So I looked it up. Turns out it’s not a word at all but yet another Line of Duty-style acronym. Take your pick from World Of Wonder, Words Of Wisdom, Wonder of Wonders, Walks on Water, World of Work, Word of the Week and Wish Only Well. The last “Wow” offering appears to be well-established for texting.
Weird or What?
Saving an Endangered Species
I don’t know if you noticed, but yesterday was April 1st – All Fools’ Day. It’s a date that was always earmarked in my diary during the “Silly Seventies” for an off-the-wall publicity stunt or two to rack up some light-hearted column inches for some of my PR clients – like the packets of denim seeds for growing your own jeans, or the situations vacant advert for a ghost placed on behalf of a stately home. But, like all good ideas, they can sometimes misfire.
One such time was when we launched a campaign to save the “Mo” – the little-known but endangered creature whose soft fur was used for mohair suits.
My client, top suit maker Mr Harry, made an impassioned plea to men to turn their backs on mohair and opt for more sustainable wool, cotton and man-made fibres to safeguard the future of the Mo. The media statement was even accompanied by a picture of a “Mo” – a small, rat-like creature – and the media played along, running the tongue-in-cheek story on April 1st. So far, so good.
So when a researcher for LBC radio’s breakfast programme invited me to come in and discuss the “Save The Mo” campaign, live on air, I was happy to oblige. But that’s when things started to go wrong.
It was clear from the questions and the general tone of the interview with Bob Holness that they’d missed the point and seemed to have swallowed the story wholesale. And when Bob thanked me and the Mr Harry campaign for taking a lead in Mo preservation and asked about practical measures each of us could take to save the creature, I realised we had a problem that could only be solved by explaining the April Fool hoax in a bit more detail.
It didn’t go down too well and, from the black look Bob gave me from the opposite side of the LBC interview table, I got the impression that publicity consultants might soon become an endangered species too.
As a fashion footnote I can confirm that mohair suits for men have never really found their way back into fashion since that time but Bob and I remained friends for many years.
Eamonn Holmes is 61 and thought to be worth around £4m, yet he talks about raising some much-needed cash on his house in a TV advert for Age Partnership equity release.
But then he bemoans his leg pain and foot problems in another lucrative TV ad in which his wife, Ruth Langsfield, steps forward with her Revitive foot massager to help get him back into his stride.
The two adverts made by this TV duo, who will be fronting ITV’s This Morning show again after Easter, must surely rank as some of the most unconvincing and annoying ever made – apart from maybe the one where three gangly girls in white dresses with daisy chains on their heads, prance around a field chanting “daisy, daisy, daisy, daisy…” for Marc Jacobs perfume. Bit strange.
Jack of All Trades
The sun shone on Tuesday morning and a man turned up on my doorstep wearing a Hawaiian shirt and white Bermuda shorts. He said he was a roofing expert and that the lead flashing on my chimney had “gone”. Not “gone” as in no longer there, you understand, but “gone” as in worn out.
His expert, professional eye had apparently spotted the problem as he drove past my house so he thought he should warn me – and offer to fix it. I suggested it might be safer if he kept his eyes on the road instead of my rooftop.
Undeterred, he gave me the good news; he had some spare lead on board from a job he’d done just down the road so he could fix my flashing at a “nice” price, but only if he could do it today, right now, so to speak. I explained that a highly reputable roofing company had checked out my entire roof late last summer when they replaced some ridge tiles so I’d have to say no to his kind offer.
“I could do a nice job lopping that oak tree,” he countered, pointing to a large sycamore. “And I could do that today too.”
I shook my head and started to close the door. “How about asphalting the drive?” he muttered. “Nice white chip finish?”
My expression changed from disinterest to disbelief at that moment. “And what do you suggest I do with my existing shingle drive?” I asked him. The man in the Hawaiian shirt stared down at the shingle as if he hadn’t previously noticed it. “I could take it away in part-exchange,” he declared. “Give you a nice price too.”
My brief but concise response sent him back down the drive, promising to ” swing by” later in the year to talk about lopping that oak tree.
“Sycamore,” I shouted back. “And it doesn’t need lopping.”
I don’t think he heard me.
I’ve noticed lately that my hair looks a bit like Boris Johnson’s when I first get up in the morning. My barnet is more steel grey than bombshell blonde of course but my new lock-down length gives me his Worzel Gummage, scarecrow look which, amazingly, seems to hide thinning hair and receding hairlines.
And that makes me suspect that Boris may have created this unique hairstyle to disguise the possibility that he’s going bald. But bald’s not a bad look for a man who strives to emulate Sir Winston Churchill.
My ‘To Do’ list seems to be getting longer, suggesting that the rate at which I tick-off completed items is getting slower. A friend suggests I could be suffering from “brain fog” – a grey mist which shrouds the thinking process – but, in my case, I think it may be a bit of a “pea-souper”.
Take yesterday, for example. There I was cleaning my teeth in the bathroom when I remembered that I needed to book a boiler service. So, after my final floss, I nipped downstairs to the kitchen to add it to my list, but by the time I’d found a pen, I’d forgotten what it was that I needed to remind myself about in the first place.
I thought about it for a while, ran through some possible options, but it wasn’t until I was on my way back upstairs that I remembered about the boiler and how the guarantee would be compromised if it’s not serviced within due dates. By then, however, I was trying to remember why I was going back upstairs.
My friend says he has the same sort of problems. We all do, he assures me. It’s something to do with lockdown or, maybe, advancing years. Or maybe both. Anyway, I added “Book Boiler Service” to my scribbled ‘To Do’ list at number 18, just below item 17, “Pat the Sheep Dog”, which made no sense at all as I don’t know any sheepdogs.
But after ten minutes deciphering my scribble, I think I probably meant “Paint the Shed Door”. Not sure why. It looks OK to me.
While we’ve yet to discover what Taylor-Wimpey hopes to build on Three Farms Meadows, the former Wisley airfield, it now seems likely that there were farmers living on the land over 6,000 years ago. A 50m x 50m dig nearest to Old Lane has unearthed what could well be a Neolithic dwelling.
I’m told it’s not much to look at and has yet to be confirmed, but dark areas on the ground, post holes, and a partially uncovered earthwork ramp or ditch which forms some sort of a perimeter, are raising hopes. Indications extend beyond the excavation site and there are two other digs at earlier stages.
In mid-March T-W’s project manager, Antonis Pazourou, told me: “We have yet to conclude the archaeology works and are therefore unable to comment as to whether the site is of historic interest.”
The Neolithic period, of course, marked a switch from nomadic hunting and gathering in favour of farming with support dwellings – pretty much the story of Three Farms Meadows ever since that time.
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