Fringe Box



Life in Solitary: Can We Skip This Year?

Published on: 16 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 19 Oct, 2020

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

The Terrible Tale of 2020

I’m beginning to believe the year 2020 was written by Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King, perhaps both. It has all the hallmarks of one of their creepier horror stories, directed by the master of terror, Alfred Hitchcock. A tale of people locked-down and isolated while a virus stalks the world and economies are close to collapse.

It’s a weird world where our bodies have absorbed so much anti-bac gel, sanitizer, soap and disinfectant, we automatically clean the toilet when we go for a pee.

But there’s no reason why we should acknowledge this year ever happened or add it on to our age as we weren’t able to use it. It didn’t work properly so it doesn’t count. And while we confidently assure each other that all things must pass, this particular thing will probably pass more like a kidney stone than an autumn shower.

The book the horror writers might have written.

We’ve all said a sad goodbye to ‘high fives’, handshakes, hugs and kisses and hello to the ridiculous greeting of knocking elbows, while most of us have not so much “seized the day” as prodded it with a two-metre stick. And at a time when our outdoor shoes think we’ve probably died, we’ve remained socially distanced and stayed away from loved ones and other important people in our lives – because the government told us it was the right thing to do.

The most vigorous exercise I get these days is shaking my head in sheer disbelief at the crazy, cack-handed way some people wear their protective face masks under their chin, and others who don’t even bother to wear one at all. But at least I now understand why condoms don’t always work.

So roll on 2021 and a new and more magical tale to tell. Maybe JK Rowling could have a bash at it?

Troubles with Telephony Felony

My home telephone rang out just once at around ten o’clock on Wednesday morning and then stopped, abruptly, like a swatted fly. Less than half an hour later, it did it again – just the one ring and then nothing.

So I Googled: “Why does my landline ring just once and then stop?” The general consensus was that I had something called “ring trip”. Happens all the time, apparently, and there are many different ways of resolving the problem, all of which seem to require a degree in astrophysics and none of which made much sense to me. So I forgot about it.

The ‘phone rang out again an hour or so later but, this time, it kept ringing, so I answered it.

You can’t hack our early communications systems.

“Your computer has been compromised,” said an urgent but barely audible voice from someone who sounded as if he was working in a Mumbai street market. He gave me a lengthy spiel about my computer being under threat from hackers and how he was from BT’s head office and could save me from attack if I’d follow his instructions and, no, he didn’t have my BT account number to hand at the moment as this was a very urgent call.

I’m not too sure what my friendly scammer said after that as he spoke in increasingly clipped, jerky words which tripped and tumbled into incoherent piles at the end of each meaningless sentence. So I asked him if he had a pencil.

The question clearly wasn’t on his con-artist crib sheet and stopped him in mid-flow. “What do you mean… pencil?” he stammered. “Those thin, wooden things with lead running through the middle that people write with. Do you have one to hand?” I repeated. “Yes, I have a pencil,” he said. “But I’m telling you about…” “Excellent,” I quickly interrupted. “Then perhaps you’d be so kind as to sharpen your pencil to a fine point and stick it…”

The phone went dead before I could finish the sentence. Probably something to do with my “ring trip” problem. I must get that fixed.

A Fast Car from the Past

Once, when I had more get-up-and-go than common sense, I got-up-and-went on a marathon drive from London to Barcelona, in a metallic blue, Austin Healey 3000 Mk 11, sports car I’d recently purchased from the, then, top shop in “open tops” – the Chequered Flag in Chiswick. (Now, sadly, a block of flats.)

The Healey 3000 in 2020.

We flew with the car from Lydd in Kent to Le Touquet, it wasn’t too expensive, before driving to Paris and on through France into Spain where I spent a couple of weeks ignoring the speed limit before returning home.

I’d often wondered what became of the Healey 3000 after I traded it in for a more sensible Jaguar 2.4 saloon so, on a bored Sunday afternoon in lock-down, I idly Googled the registration number – LGY 585D.

The car featured in the ‘Daily Mail’ with my chauffeur/secretary.

And there it was, on display at a classic cars rally near Southampton, looking every bit as showroom shiny as when I last saw it over 50 years ago (see above).

I’ll probably try to make contact with the current owner to up-date them on the car’s chequered history since its Chequered Flag beginnings – like the time it was stolen from outside Holland Park tube station and found, more than six weeks later, outside Holland Park police station, minus its radio.

The police claimed they hadn’t noticed it parked outside their own front door or the open driver’s window and the pile of soggy autumn leaves on the front seat.

Then there was the time my secretary was pictured in the Daily Mail as my temporary chauffeur after I damaged my ankle during a photo-call with Henry Cooper. (It’s a long story.)

But, in this disposable, throw-away world, it’s good to know that some things survive the traumas of time – although I’ve since Googled a few of my other pet cars from the past without success.

A Problem Shared…

“You are soooo lucky,” proclaimed the e-mail from a friend who lives in Shepherds Bush. “I so envy you – surrounded by fields and farmland while I’m looking out on concrete and curtains,” he said.

“Lucky?” I protested. “Maybe – for the moment. But London’s concrete and curtains are heading straight for leafy Guildford.”

“Not in this century,” he assured me, then quickly changed the subject to a rant about the bleak future of London’s theatreland.

But I persisted, explaining how Guildford snatched more land from the country’s green belt than any of the 15 local authorities reporting land status changes in the year to March 2020. And that wasn’t hearsay but chapter and verse from the new report by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and whatever else they call themselves.

I hammered home the fact that massive 1,470 hectares of green belt was removed from Guildford’s 2019 total of 24,110 hectares. And how that represents nearly half [46%] of the national total of green belt lost in the last year.

He countered with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s prediction that commercial theatre won’t survive the lock-down and will be lost forever unless something is done about it right away…this instant.

“Ditto,” I said. “Once you build on fields and farmland, they are lost for all time so something must be done, now, to reverse the green belt grab.”

We finally agreed that building houses on farmland, when a potential world food shortage loomed ahead, was a reckless act of blatant stupidity by irresponsible politicians, and that the loss of our theatres would be an irreversible cultural catastrophe bar none

We didn’t really have time to discuss how we hoped to change things so we changed the subject, instead, and talked about things over which we had no control, like the weather, Garry Lineker’s BBC salary, the avalanche of TV repeats and Covid 19.

But I don’t think my friend still thinks I’m soooo lucky to live in leafy Guildford while the green belt grab is underway. At least his London theatres won’t be demolished to build ‘executive’ homes and blocks of flats – probably.

Learning to speak ‘Young’

I‘ve been learning a bit of ‘Young Speak’. Not so much a ‘foreign’ language as an ‘alternative English’ language – a lexicon of words and phrases used by people who tend to be in their teens.

It all seems a bit contradictory. For example, if I say you are ‘well fit’, it means you are sexually attractive.

But if I want to say I’m ‘fit and well’, I’d say I’m ‘good’. Then again, if I think someone is looking good, I’d say they’re ‘snatched’, or ‘fire’ if they are looking really good, when they might ‘flex’, or show off a bit.

In my uncool era, a ‘dope’ was someone who was a bit stupid but in ‘Young Speak’ ‘dope’ now means cool or awesome. And a ‘goat’ used to be a lecherous old man where today it’s an acronym for Greatest Of All Time. How times change.

Clockwork Car Care

The text message from Mercedes, Brooklands was brief but specific. “We’ll collect your car between 8am and 11am tomorrow for its annual service.”

A lady wearing a Covid mask rang the doorbell at exactly 11am, took photographs of alleged “scrapes and scratches” on the car’s bodywork, [none of which are visible to the human eye] and drove off, leaving her courtesy car in the drive.

Half an hour later, at 11-30am, I received a text from the service manager to assure me that my car had arrived safely and on schedule at Brooklands. There was another text at 11-50am to confirm that a service technician had now been allocated to my car and that work was about to commence. He’d contact me if there were any problems.

Another lady, with the soft, reassuring voice normally associated with a hospital matron or Joanna Lumley, telephoned at 2-20pm to run through the bill and to check my American Express details. She was pleased to report that my car was now being washed and valeted after a successful service. The patient would be back home with me within the hour.

In the ultra-efficient world of Mercedes-Benz it turned-up less than 40 minutes later, arriving just before 3pm, when I also received a text from my service technician, with a link to a video report of my car’s ‘mechanical health check’. One of my rear tyres is, it seems, very slightly more worn than the other but, apart from that, the car passed its Mercedes medical with flying colours.

This impressive schedule of customer communications clearly shows that my car’s service actually took only two hours in total – between noon and 2pm. But the four hours ‘customer counselling’ programme made a relatively pricey bill seem like value-for-money.

I started to get a bit concerned when, the very next day, I received yet another text from Mercedes, inviting me to complete a survey about my service experience. I texted back, suggesting that they could probably cut their man-hour costs by reducing the number of texts sent to customers during their annual service.

Yesterday I received another text from Mercedes thanking me for my text and pointing out that there was still time to complete the post- service, customer satisfaction questionnaire – by text.

‘Zoom’ in the 1970s

Back to the Future

It turns out that old 1970’s TV quiz programme ‘Celebrity Squares’ was years ahead of its time – the original Zoom meeting.

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Responses to Life in Solitary: Can We Skip This Year?

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 16, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    I totally agree with Tony Edward’s comments on the depressing outlook for our green fields in Guildford borough. Let’s hope R4GV can reverse this,

    This also provoked memories of flying cars, as I used to fly my Sunbeam two-seater between Ostend and Southend, on British Air Ferries each term to Uni in London in the 70s. Happily, I hung onto mine, and am still driving it 50 years later.

  2. Jeff Williams Reply

    October 19, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    Tony Edward’s comment that one of the rear tyres on his car was slightly more worn than the other one amused me. Had a similar experience following an MOT last week. An advisory stated that the rear nearside tyre was worn on the outer edge more than the other side. Just back from the tyre depot and told that both tyres are in very good condition. Maybe they need to assure customers that they really have done something to justify their charges?

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