Fringe Box



Life in Solitary: And a Happy Christmas to You, Whoever You Are

Published on: 11 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 14 Dec, 2020

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

The Annual Christmas Card Mystery

I get one every year; a Christmas card from someone whose name I can’t quite read or don’t recognise. We all get them and then spend days trying to work out who sent them before realising it was that nice couple we met on holiday a few years back and wondering if there’s still time to send one back.

The first of his year’s mystery cards was simply signed Jeff and Suzie but the only Jeff I know is someone I haven’t seen or heard from for over 25 years. And he was gay so unlikely to be shacked up with someone called Suzie. I did once knew a ballet dancer called Suzie but she’d be around 115 now so probably not sending Christmas cards.

Festive wishes – but who sent them?

I checked my address book but there were no forgotten names starting with T. So I rummaged through the pedal bin to retrieve the day’s discarded envelopes and check for any post-mark clues. And there it was – an envelope addressed to a not-so-near neighbour who will, I’m sure, be pleased to hear from Jeff and Suzie now that I’ve popped their wayward card through the door – with an apology for opening it by mistake.

Which just leaves this week’s mystery card from Tony. It’s not from my old friend Tony in Barcelona, Tony from my ‘extended family’ in Canada, or my cousin Tony in New Malden. But the envelope is definitely addressed to me so there must be another Tony I’ve somehow overlooked. [Isolation can do strange things. Are you sure you didn’t send one to yourself? Ed]

Then again, I suppose the “n” could be a “b” but I don’t know anyone called Toby either – or Terry, Ted, Tommy, Todd, Tim or Troy. Fingers crossed I’ll solve the riddle by Dec 21st – the last day for posting a Christmas card back to Tony, whoever he may be.

Getting Straight to the Point

The Russians claim to be ahead of us with the roll-out of an anti-Covid-19 vaccine with their “Sputnik V” version. And, as some might recall, they’ve already perfected a method of inoculation, so swift and painless that most people don’t even realise it’s happened – quick jab in the leg with the sharp end of an umbrella.

Mark Drakeford – the rare version

A ‘Po-Faced’ Politician

This is a very rare photograph of Mark Drakeford smiling. It’s so rare you may not even recognise the left-wing politician who’s been First Minister of Wales for the past couple of years. Usually, he’s pictured with a sour expression, looking daggers at the TV news cameras while delivering his daily down-beat up-date on his latest Coronavirus rules for Wales.

The 66-year-old scowled for the cameras again last week when he told pubs in Wales they’d have to close by 6pm and banned them from selling alcohol of any kind. That seriously sober but patently potty edict got him instantly barred from over 100 Welsh pubs and he’s now a front-runner for a “Po-Faced Politician of the Pandemic” award. So I thought you might like to see him wearing a smile in case he finally forgets how to do it.

A ‘Phish’ Full of Dollars

Somebody’s sent me $8 million. I’m not sure who or why but a lady called Lilly from the Administrative Department of the US Mail sent me an email on Monday to say that they’d X-rayed a damaged parcel and counted $8 million in cash. They think it was intended for me as my name is on the label but the address is a bit blurred.

Lilly’s asked me to confirm my address, my age, and my bank details so she can transfer the money to me before Christmas.

She’s even used her personal gmail address to speed things along. I asked Lilly to syphon off $100 for herself as a small thank you but she wouldn’t hear of it; said she wasn’t allowed to accept tips or gifts but perhaps I should donate it to charity instead.

And if that’s not a story to restore your faith in human nature, I’m a Dutchman… “Ik ben een Nederlander”.

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

“This is the year I will make a name for myself,” was the ambitious new year’s resolution of a supremely confident gentleman on January 1st 1512. Unfortunately, while Tudor history records the event, it failed to mention his name so we’ll never know if he succeeded or not. But I can tell you that most of us don’t.

As we near the end of the disaster that was 2020, statistics reveal that 23% of us broke our new year’s resolutions within one week and a weak-willed 80% quit by the second week in February. But, by mid-March, the Coronavirus had forced us all to quit just about everything so this year doesn’t really count.

What will yours be?

One sure way of keeping your 2021 new year’s promise to yourself might be to follow Paul McCartney’s example. He once declared; “Mark my words, this is the year I will form a successful band and become a star in the music world.” But that was 1995, when he was 53. The success of Beatlemania had long since been and gone and he’d already enjoyed 25 years of international stardom in the music world. Uncanny, eh?

More realistic, perhaps, to follow Meghan Markle’s lead and resolve to “leave room for magic”. Or you could opt for Katie Price’s “vow of celibacy” or maybe Helen Mirren’s resolution to “stop procrastinating.”

But the best advice I’ve heard came from screen legend Cary Grant who once told his fans; “Never make a resolution that won’t be as important on April 8th or July 10th as it was on January 1st .” Finally, you might like to know that “Legally Blonde” film star Reese Witherspoon’s new year’s resolution for 2020 was one of the most ambitious yet. She decided to take time to think of “all the new projects I want to put in the world”. Can’t honestly say I’ve noticed any of her new projects in the world yet but, hey, she’s still got three weeks to go.

The Year that became a ‘Pig’s Ear’

I reckon 2020 will quickly become a derogatory phrase – on a par with “Dog’s Breakfast”, “Car Crash”, Screw-up” and “Pig’s Ear” – as in “It looks like Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, is making a right ‘twenty-twenty’ of the trade talks”, or “Fingers crossed Guildford Borough Council finally sorts out the unforgivable ‘twenty-twenty’ they made of the Local Plan”.

A Date with Destiny

My pulse raced as I swung into the empty car park, reversed into the space nearest the front door of the deceptively ordinary red brick building, and stared out at a dank, chill afternoon, waiting for the call. Dusk had just started to fall as a sudden breeze sent a flurry of fallen leaves scuttling for cover under a solitary bush at the far end of the car park and I found myself wondering if I should re-schedule the meeting for another time – or, better still, forget about it altogether. Either would do.

But the instructions were explicit; stay in the car, they’d said. Someone will call you when it’s safe to enter the building. And they did. At exactly 4pm, my phone rang out. “We’re ready for you Mr Edwards,” said a quiet but firm voice.

I quickly checked my wallet, switched-off my mobile, buttoned my jacket, gelled my hands and tried to convince myself that everything was going to be OK, as I slipped the loops of my face mask around my ears.

A matronly woman, wearing a mask and visor, met me at the front door, aimed a temperature gun at my head, squirted still more gel into my hands and gestured towards two people standing at the top of the stairs – dressed like first-responders at a nuclear incident.

One of them pointed to a small round sink in an adjacent room. “Please wash your hands?” she said flatly. I was about to explain that my hands already had a double coating of anti-bac gel, when the second person turned to face me. “We live in strange times,” he said as his accomplice handed me a towel then led me towards a chair in the middle of the room. I settled back, perfectly still, eyes shut tight, while my senses were bombarded by brain-numbing sounds normally associated with emergency road works on the M25. And then it was done.

But it wasn’t yet safe to leave, they said. I had to wait; someone was passing through reception. Nobody spoke until the ear-piercing buzz of the intercom finally sounded the all-clear for me to vacate the room – and the building.

I’m still not sure which was the most daunting – my date with dentistry and a rogue wisdom tooth, or our new, enforced regime of Covid-19 security. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the era of masks, handwashing and hygiene awareness extends well into our future lives as we come to terms with the possibility that another deadly virus could, perhaps, be just a sneeze away.

The iconic Peter Stuyvesant ‘soft pack’

A Special ‘Stop Smoking’ Soup

Seems to me smoking is one of the main causes of statistics. And there were more fag-related facts this week when it was announced that a million people in the UK have stopped smoking since the Covid pandemic began.

A further 440,000 tried to quit the habit, according to ASH [Action for Smoking and Health] – 41% of them as a direct result of Covid and fear of compounding matters if they became infected.

I stubbed out my last Peter Stuyvesant filter-tip cigarette well over 30 years ago but, for anyone still struggling to kick the habit, I can reveal that my silver bullet was a “potion” concocted from pumpkins.

Back in the 80s and 90s it was OK to smoke between courses at dinner parties – sometimes even during courses, if the mood took you. [Yeah, I know]. And it was during a smoke-filled Halloween dinner party in Highgate that I magically lost the urge to light-up after our host served a pumpkin soup starter.

To this day, I’ve no idea what witchcraft took place that evening but I drove home with an unopened pack of Stuyvesant cigarettes and have never smoked again. I kept the packet and the soup recipe – just in case.

Sharing a joke with William Roache

The Secret of Extended Youth

As TV news has been telling us throughout this week, actor William Roache has played the part of Ken Barlow in Coronation Street since the TV soap started 60 years ago. He’s 88 but could pass for 58 and says; “I’ve decided I’m actually getting younger.”

He’s in the “Guinness Book of Records” as the longest-serving male TV star in a continuous role and has no plans to quit “Corrie” any time soon.

“The body was actually designed to go on forever,” he once confided.

“Age has no ailments attached to it whatsoever. If you’ve got an ailment, it’s probably because you’ve been eating the wrong stuff or living the wrong sort of life.”

I leave you to ponder these words of wisdom as you plan your Christmas menu and festivities. But remember you could always balance any seasonal excesses with a few life-changing new year’s resolutions which might even last until mid-February.

A Matter of Life or Death

Lewis Hamilton’s comment that the car crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix was a reminder of the danger F1 drivers face each time they step into a car, prompted an e-mail from a former career soldier of 25 years who offered a danger/reward comparison to help put things into perspective.

I won’t name him, for security reasons, but I can tell you that he has served in more than a  dozen conflict zones, averaging two tours a year, plus other high-risk operations. As a member of 22 SAS, he was one of the heroes who successfully stormed the Iranian Embassy in London in May 1980 to free 26 hostages taken by Iranians.

He points out that a “crash” in the military usually means you’ve hit an Improvised Explosive Device – IED – and his average pay over 25 years was £300 a week – which compares with the average £770,000 a week earned by Hamilton, based on his £40 million a year (minimum) contract, plus sponsorship deals and endorsements.

When not on active service, this soldier had to train and complete courses so that during his 24 years of married life, he and his wife spent just six years together. And there were no private jets and 5-star luxury hotels.

He hasn’t asked for a round of applause or a pat on the back but thought this might be an opportune moment to compare his life/death prospects with those of an F1 driver.

Happy 25th

May I take this opportunity of wishing you a very happy whatever doesn’t offend you.

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