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Life in Solitary: Beware of Masked, ‘Musical’ Tradesmen

Published on: 19 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 26 Mar, 2021

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

My Masked Singer Service Engineer

The man who came to fix the washing machine this week had Van Gogh’s ear for music.  I know this because, despite wearing a Covid mask, he insisted on singing while he was working; not loudly, you understand, but loud enough to set your teeth on edge.  And the songs were ever-so-slightly operatic and definitely off-key.

He obviously fancied himself as a bit of a tenor, although I suspect he was the sort of chap who can’t listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of The Lone Ranger, so not what you might call a classical connoisseur.  And certainly no Andrea Bocelli either, but he didn’t seem to have a mute button so he warbled on, uninterrupted, for a good half an hour.

He was mercifully quiet while sorting out the bill so I asked if he always sang on the job.  He thought for a moment, checked his watch, then his worksheet and said; “Only when I get to my last calls of the day.”

I’ll make sure I get an early morning appointment next time.

Wanted – A Minister for the future

What we need right now is a good clairvoyant; someone to give us all a glimpse into the future and point us in the right direction as we struggle free from what seems like a life-time in lock-down. I wouldn’t say I was superstitious, but I’m certainly a bit stitious and the idea of peeking into the future has always intrigued me.

I once even wrote a pilot for a situation comedy about two clairvoyants called “You’re Fine, How Am I?” although TV producers failed to see much of a future for it.  But in the real world, I’ve been lucky enough to know a couple of truly gifted clairvoyants, one of which was an Irishman from Limerick called Tom Corbett who numbered the Queen Mother among his international clients.

Irene Ison – Clairvoyant

The other was Irene Ison, a woman from Coventry who walked into my Grays Inn office one afternoon and asked me to handle her press publicity. Then she asked me for my wallet and, without even opening it, described its contents in detail –  including a doctor’s prescription.  “You don’t need the medication,” she said, at once, explaining (correctly) that the niggling pain in my belly was nothing more serious than the result of too many missed or snatched meals.

My PA rolled her eyes and sniggered as Mrs Ison turned to her. “Don’t send the letter in your bag to your mother,” she told her.  “You’ll start a family feud and upset your pregnant sister. Oh, and don’t worry about the rash on your thighs. It isn’t what you think.”  Visibly shaken, my PA quickly left the room.

During a two year PR campaign, Irene demonstrated that she could “diagnose” many ailments quicker than most doctors, worked alongside the police in crime detection and was also responsible for unearthing key evidence in a high-profile murder enquiry in Hampstead.

But she was always happiest helping ordinary people who’d reached a crossroads in their lives, offering insightful advice on what they should do next. A Daily Mirror journalist once wrote that a  clairvoyant like Irene Ison should be recruited by the government as Secretary of State for The Future and, as the world heads towards a new but uncertain post-Covid “normality”, I tend to agree.

Hitting the Right Note in Lockdown

I’ve been a fan of Jacob Collier for a few years now so was particularly pleased to see the 26-year-old, multi-talented musician win another Grammy award this week. A track from his record, Djesse Vol 3, won for best arrangement, instrument and vocals, achieving what no other British musician has ever done – including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John, Coldplay, Adele, and Amy Winehouse – win a prestigious Grammy for each of his first four albums.

Jacob Collier with another Grammy  Photo Getty Images

The North Londoner is something of a one-man band, playing guitar, keyboard, bass and drums while also doing all the writing, vocals, recording, arranging, producing and mixing.  Yet he still lives with his mum, Susan, a violinist and teacher at the Royal Academy of Music and works in a tiny “home” studio.

The national press finally latched on to Jacob Collier’s unique music this week, asking how this “unknown” had suddenly come from nowhere.  The answer is he wasn’t “unknown” and it wasn’t sudden; he’s been recording since he was just six years old. I first saw him in July 2018 when he wowed the BBC Proms audience at the Royal Albert Hall – two and a half hours of magic.   So if you haven’t yet heard this musical magician I urge you to check him out.  He’s just the tonic for the Lock-Down Blues.

Politics & Nurses

Whenever MPs are embarrassed by their inflation-busting salary increases, they swiftly point out that it’s nothing whatsoever to do with them. They tell us it’s completely out of their hands; something over which they have no control because it’s supervised by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which not only fixes MPs’ salary levels but also oversees their gold-plated pensions.

“We wish the IPSA would stop forcing salary increases on us,” MPs protest. “But there’s absolutely nothing we can do to stop them.”

I approve of open-minded politicians, but not so open that their brains fall out.   So perhaps we should let the IPSA deliberate on nurse’s salaries instead, then set-up a public vote to decide how much MPs should be paid.  It’s always important to remember that politics is, in fact, two words – POLI, Latin for many, and TICS as in blood-sucking creatures.

How “Auntie” Squanders Our Money

If you think the BBC Licence Fee is a rip-off, you’re not alone.  More than half of us think so too, according to a poll last week for the campaign group Defund the BBC.  They report that 51 per cent of British adults think the Beeb is “bad value” with a third of us describing the rise next month from £157.50p to £159 as “very bad value”.

The problem seems to be a combination of poor management and mammoth salaries for mediocre talent which I witnessed, first hand, back in the late 70s. I’d been called in to see Bill Cotton Jnr, then head of BBC Light Entertainment, who introduced me to another scriptwriter called Tony Hertz who, like me, had contributed to The Two Ronnies and Dave Allen at Large.

Despite the fact that we’d not only never written together before, we’d never even met, we were jointly charged with writing a one hour show for The Osmonds who’d been booked by the BBC for a one-off TV spectacular.

Having mutually decided that we should return to our typewriters alone, work out some ideas separately, and meet up again in a week, we were surprised to discover that we had very similar ideas and so the “Two Tonies” finally produced a working script for which we were handsomely rewarded.

But “Auntie” seemed blissfully unaware that The Osmonds had already commissioned their own scriptwriters in the USA and arrived at the BBC with an alternative show to ours so the production budget went through the roof – paid for, of course, by the licence fees of the long-suffering public.

But paying retired footballer Gary Lineker a massive £1.8 million a year for commenting on the game and handing a £1.4 million pay packet to Zoe Ball, who managed to lose one million listeners to Radio 2’s Breakfast Show when she took over from Chris Evans, makes the Osmonds fiasco pale into insignificance by comparison.

R for Education

It suddenly occurred to me this week that of the “Three Rs” – Writing, Reading, and Arithmetic – only one of them begins with R.  Is it any wonder that standards of education appear to be on the decline?

A 21st Century Fairy Story

Once upon a time, in a kingdom called Inger Land, there dwelt a handsome prince who spent his days in a palace but his nights at Mahiki and Tramp where he dallied with fair maidens until sunrise.   But, in the mornings when he slumbered, he dreamed of meeting a beautiful Thespian starlet to make his princess.

And fate brought him a starlet from a far-off land called El Lay who at once took his hand and opened his eyes so that he was well and truly “woke”.  But the starlet became depressed and disappointed because she wasn’t offered the job of queen or even princess in Inger Land so she took her prince by the hand again and ran off to live in El Lay.

And in El Lay the starlet was offered pots of gold and talked for over three hours with her fairy godmother, who was a billionaire TV presenter, where she kissed the handsome prince and turned him into a frog.   But they lived happily ever after, speaking their truth and saying sticks and stones may break my bones, but we’re with BUPA.

Separated by a Common Language

The American media was at it again last week – “inventing” new words by twisting and contorting the English language. Talking about Meghan’s outpouring of allegations on the Oprah Winfrey interview, a CNN reporter explained how Meghan had “aligated” that the royals ignored her cry for help. She went on to refer to the royal family as the “royalties”.

Echoes of George W Bush, who famously announced that he’d been “misunderestimated”, Mike Tyson who said he was probably going to fade into “Bolivian”, or Christina Aguilera who wondered where the Cannes Film Festival was being held this year.

Paris Hilton was adamant that she didn’t go to England. “I went to London,” she said. Cameron Diaz once revealed; “I’ve been noticing gravity since I was very young.”  And Brooke Shields solemnly warned; “Smoking kills. And if you’re killed you’ve lost an important part of your life.”

Jet lag cure?

A Cure for Jet Lag?

As the world’s top airlines announce plans for getting back to normal after lock-down, and travel-starved people begin to plan their escape on long-haul flights to exotic climes, my mind wandered back to a meeting I once had with the great international traveller, Alan Whicker.

He’d been touring the world for 25 years – a man who actually had literally been everywhere interviewing the rich and famous. He even had his own Alan Whicker Appreciation Society.  So I asked him the big question –  how do you deal with the problem of Jet Lag?

“It’s easy,” he said. “You get on board your flight of choice, order a very large whiskey and soda, and instruct the in-flight staff to keep ’em coming until you land.”

“Sounds like a recipe for an almighty hangover,” I suggested.

“Definitely,” he said, without hesitation. “But, with or without whiskey, Jet lag will feel like an almighty hangover, so it’ll make no difference if you have a few drinks on your long-haul flight.  At least you’ll enjoy the journey.”

Weeds welcome

Monty Don’s Uncut Lawns

In between the showers this week, I heard the first clattering chorus of lawnmowers.  I shall probably be at it myself this weekend now that the lawn care people have sprayed their moss and weed killer and given the grass a Spring feed.  But Gardeners’ World TV presenter Monty Don tells me I should remove the clippings box from my mower before giving the lawn a trim  – leaving the clippings to “rot down” naturally as cut grass apparently has all the nutrients my growing grass needs.    But he not only questions the need to pick up the grass clippings but also wants us to leave the weeds alone too as they assist wildlife diversity.

I’m not short of wildlife diversity on my lawn.  Humphrey the squirrel has just finished the annual job of burying Autumn’s conkers, Mr Mole seems to be setting the scene for a remake of The Great Escape, two young rabbits regularly drop in from the farm next door for tea, and a fox regularly uses my lawn as a public toilet. I won’t get started on the sub-turf leather-jacket invasion which attracts squadrons of screeching crows to vandalise the lawn.

Monty Don may be right in describing my attitude to lawn care as “controlling” rather than “embracing” but, from the way things are going, I may even consider the more “relaxing” alternative of artificial turf.

Thought for the Day

The old adage that “Nothing is Impossible” is rubbish. I’ve been doing it for the past year.

Happy Anniversary

It’ll be a year next week since lockdown first squeezed most of us into a new stop-at-home life.

So happy anniversary and remember that a diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.

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Responses to Life in Solitary: Beware of Masked, ‘Musical’ Tradesmen

  1. Neil Lindsay Reply

    March 19, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Amusing and insightful commentary as always.

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