Fringe Box



Diary of an Ockhamite

Published on: 26 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 3 Nov, 2022

Tony Edwards who entertained us with his regular Life in Solitary column during the pandemic continues his new Diary of an Ockhamite, a light-hearted collection of observations from his Ockham viewpoint…

The long Bank Holiday

There’s another Bank Holiday on Monday (29th). And thanks to the Bank Holiday Act of 1871, which decreed that banks across the country could shut up shop on certain days of the year, your friendly local branch will be closed.

But, if like so many other banks, your local branch shut up shop and locked its doors a long time ago, to morph into another Starbucks or Costa Coffee, it’ll probably be open for a quick cappuccino or expresso as usual.

The new frontage of your old bank

When my bank manager of many years got wind that his branch was due for closure, he took off to open a nightclub in London, handing me a generous PR budget to organise a publicity shin-dig. This involved a bevvy of B-list free-loaders quaffing bucket loads of expensive Champagne and smiling for the cameras outside the entrance to the club.

And the club was a big success until the bank called in his overdraft, forcing him to close his doors in September 2008 – the month which saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the world banking crisis.

I never found out what happened to my bank-manager-turned-night-club -owner but I’d like to think his banking career went full circle – and that he opened yet another over-priced coffee shop on the site of a former bank

Mixed Messages

A friend received a text message one evening last week as she was preparing to go out.

“I’m here for you,” it said.

Here for you

“I really do appreciate that,” she answered hurriedly, without thinking.

“I’ve been going through a particularly difficult time lately.”

Then, unsure who the text was from, she asked: “Who is this?”

“Your Uber driver,” came the reply.

Do you speak Surrey?

I read this week that the Yorkshire accent is considered to be the most trustworthy sounding dialect in the country. According to new research, the Yorkshire brogue conjures up a feeling of both intelligence and caring, while the Geordie accent, we’re assured, is the most friendly. Apparently, the Scottish accent is the sexiest while the Liverpool twang comes in last in the desirability stakes as the least attractive accent in the country.

But there was no mention of a Surrey accent. Not a word. Surrey was completely ignored as if the entire county might have accidentally pressed the mute button.

I migrated to Surrey from Middlesex, via west London, many years ago when I first detected a more vibrant tint of green in Surrey’s countryside, so I may have picked up a little bit of the local accent by now.

It’s fairly easy to recognise, I’m told, and is described by the accent experts as “Not quite posh but not not posh”. It’s called Received Pronunciation (RP), better known as the Queen’s English – a diluted extract of Her Majesty’s regal tones.

Sheep viewed at a safe distance.

The same experts say that you know when you’re in Surrey because the sheep are always in the distance and never up close. They also say that Surrey youth migrates to Clapham (say Clarm) when they’re done with Uni.

Surrey residents, they allege, always live “Just a few miles off (insert junction no) on the M25” and give directions via pubs. We live near cricket pitches, have a doctor as a close neighbour, and know someone with a Range Rover. They also claim we all own a gillet and a fluffy hat and, while we don’t know the difference between a golden retriever and a labrador, we all think we’ll probably own one at some point in our lives.

I don’t believe any of it. But I must admit I’ve noticed that when Surrey folk have an empty field, they usually pop a horse on it. And most of us can tell, by smell alone, when we’re in Waitrose.

When chess gets physical

I missed the Dive Chess World Championships last Sunday but there wasn’t much to see anyway as it was played underwater in a London hotel swimming pool. The winner of the four hours tournament, in which ten finalists took it in turn to dive and play chess while holding their breath, was 33 year old Michael Mazurkiewicz from Poland.

Invented by chess master Etan Ilfield, Dive Chess involves specially weighted chess pieces which are magnetically fixed to the metal board, and, most importantly, a pair of healthy lungs.

But for an even more bizarre form of chess you need look no further than Chess Boxing. It’s a hybrid sport in which contestants step into a boxing ring to slug it out over six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. There have been three main UK tournaments so far this year with the winners decided by either a check mate or a knock out.

Chess Boxing competitor

It’s not yet been officially recognised as a new sport, but Football Head Butting seems to be catching-on in the Premier League. Anyone for Chess Tennis?

Christmas beckons

Still only August but 2023 calendars are in the shops, a garden centre in West Horsley has some early Christmas decorations on display, and two restaurants have started emailing me about Christmas menus and early bookings. And why not? There are only 100 shopping days ‘til Christmas.

Some yearn for the so-called good old days when you stopped Christmas shopping when you ran out of money, instead of buying this year’s presents with next year’s overdraft. It was truly the season of goodwill.

But not everything was good about Christmas back then. When I was six, my least favourite aunt called me away from my friends to present me with a crumpled brown paper parcel – the words Merry Christmas scrawled in blue biro across the front, a pair of grey socks inside. Since then I’ve always felt there’s nothing quite so mean spirited as giving a child “something useful” for Christmas.

Mistaken identity

Some chap was starring hard at me in the Post Office. “Didn’t you used to be Nick Denson?” he asked eventually. I’m fairly sure I’ve never been anyone else but me and I’ve never heard of Nick Denson, so I gave him an emphatic no, but I asked why he’d used the phrase “used to be”.

He looked at me for a moment then said; “Oh, it’s just that you looked a hell of a lot younger back then so I wasn’t sure.”

“I think you’ve got the wrong person,” I said flatly

His eyes quickly searched my face for signs that I was joking before he gave a little grin and turned towards the greetings cards rack. “OK,” he sighed. “But say hello to Judy for me.”

I don’t know anyone called Judy either so I couldn’t pass on the greeting. But I guess he was probably right about Nick Denson and I looking a hell of a lot younger back then. Didn’t everyone?

If you know a Nick Denson, perhaps you’d give him my best wishes. And maybe you’d say hello to Judy too?

Our survey said…

I don’t trust surveys. Seems to me they exist only to demonstrate that the answers to a series of questions, asked at random, conclusively prove almost anything you’d care to mention.

Take some of the most recent survey results. One claims that one in five of us would think it OK to have sex with a robot. (Never given it a moment’s thought). Another tells us that more than half of vegetarians admitted to eating meat and poultry in the previous week. (Then they weren’t vegetarians, were they?)

And there’s more. We’re assured that 43% of us prefer bacon to sex (we vegetarians don’t) and that half of all Americans think they are brighter than the average American. (Surely everyone’s brighter than the average American?).

Apparently a stupid one in ten of us think HTML is a sexually transmitted disease (Isn’t it?) and nearly all of us believe we’d make excellent MPs if only we had the time. (No problem. You’d have all the free time in the world if you were an MP).

Facial recognition

And while MPs have been enjoying even more free time during the summer recess, I thought I’d attempt to test a handful of them on their powers of observation.

Surprisingly I managed to catch-up with a few members from both sides of the House via a cryptic e-mail which asked, “Does Big Ben have a round or square clock face? (No peeking). Then I asked if the numbers around the face were Roman numerals or everyday Arabic numbers.

Unsurprisingly our political representatives largely ignored me, no doubt preferring to soak up the sun on exotic beaches somewhere instead. But six – who probably cheated anyway – got the answers right. Only one member, of my sample of thirty, got the face shape wrong but the numerals right. He admitted that he’d never really looked too closely.

A round face and Gothic Roman numerals

And that’s the point. Apparently we rarely look up and, when we do, it’s to pray to our god or avoid swooping seagulls. Most of us, according to the experts, don’t look higher than the average shop facia sign and would probably only see Big Ben on News at Ten.

But, if you’re interested, the Big Clock, to call Big Ben by its correct name, has a round face which is set in a square frame. And the numbers are Gothic Style Roman.

Living in a show house

I saw a Sits Vac advert for a show house manager at the weekend. The house builder who placed it will probably employ someone who lives in an entirely different area to the show house, who will therefore know nothing whatsoever about the local amenities and who’s never actually lived in the show house, or any of the other houses on the development they’re trying to sell.

It’s a problem I confronted a few years back when publicising 18 new houses in Berkshire for a Scottish developer. What was needed was a Show Home rather than a Show House – a place where people lived rather than merely visited, where the flowers in the vases were real instead of plastic, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee camouflaged the lingering smell of mortar and plaster.

So a press statement was issued to the national media offering a retired couple £200 a week to take up residence in the show house and make it…well…more homely by giving it the lived-in look. The story was picked up by both the tabloids and the broadsheets along with national and regional TV and radio and the position was soon filled by the Ewarts, a retired company director and his wife.

People flocked to the show home, following all the publicity, and all 18 houses were sold within three weeks so the Ewarts were soon out of a job. But, when asked by The Times newspaper why she’d taken the job in the first place, Mrs Ewart gave the spontaneous but memorable reply: “I just felt I needed to get out of the house.”

Last heard of, the show house couple were giving the lived-in look to some luxury penthouse apartments in Spain and carving a lucrative career out of lounging around in show homes.

TV health warning

Time to cut down on your telly time? A professor from the University of California warns that too much TV increases your risk of dementia. Twelve years of data reveal that people who developed dementia had been watching three hours, 24 minutes of TV a day, so being a bit more selective with your viewing might be a good idea.

I wish I hadn’t wasted my time watching the appalling BBC drama series Marriage which had no story line, no plot, bad lighting, inaudible dialogue, gratuitous swearing and no point. Certainly not worth the risk of dementia.

Not in Notting Hill

It’s the return of the Notting Hill Carnival this weekend. But as someone who lived in Notting Hill for a few years, I remember Carnival as the time when most residents got themselves as far away from the area as possible.

Thought for the day

It’s a sure sign of a good summer when your chair gets up when you do.


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Responses to Diary of an Ockhamite

  1. Carol Maidlow Reply

    August 27, 2022 at 8:25 pm

    Good ones, Tony. And you and I both know that Big Ben is the bell and not the clock.

    Also from a Brit living in Southern California for 57 years, I have to say that most Americans are quite bright.

  2. Jan Messinger Reply

    August 30, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    I have missed Tony’s pieces. Great read and always amusing. After all, we all need something to smile about and this made me smile.

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