Fringe Box



Life in Solitary: How Are Your Quirks?

Published on: 5 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 6 Mar, 2021

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

Questioning Our Quirks in Lockdown

I’ve noticed lately that I reach for my specs when I answer the telephone.  I know – sounds a bit loopy, doesn’t it?  Perhaps I’m subconsciously preparing to jot down some notes or read out my credit card number to someone.  Not sure; I may have been doing it for quite a while –  just never thought about it before.

But there’s more. I now take a deep breath before drinking a glass of cold water – not whiskey or wine, just water.  Weird or what?  And on Monday I found myself reading the newspaper while simultaneously watching the News at Ten, so I was reassured to hear that behavioural scientists reckon we’ve all started to become more aware of our little quirks during lock-down; noticing odd things about ourselves perhaps for the first time.

The boffins who know about these things have also been shining a light on some even more curious habits of certain superstars and celebrities. And while I can’t honestly say I’ve noticed George Clooney’s head “wobbling” when he delivers important lines, or that Jennifer Anniston frequently coughs before delivering her lines, I’m assured they most certainly do.

The “Clint Squint” is a reaction to sunlight.

Apparently, they’re both unconscious gestures – like Harrison Ford’s “angry index finger”.  Celebrity watchers say he jabs it at his co-stars when delivering lines in most of his films. And then there’s Clint Eastwood’s famous “Clint Squint” – the trade-mark narrowing of his eyes.  It’s most certainly not a conscious gesture either but, according to Clint, because he’s always been sensitive to sunlight.  That’s also, incidentally, why Bono wears dark glasses.

But some quirks are quite deliberate. Take Marilyn Monroe, for example; that hushed, sexy whisper was to disguise a life-long stammer. They say Mark Zukerberg wears one of a wardrobe of grey T-shirts every day because he doesn’t want to waste time and energy deciding what to wear, while Donald Trump refuses to exercise because he believes we only have finite levels of energy and exercising will “flatten the battery”.

And if you’ve ever wondered why Morgan Freeman always wears a gold earring, I can reveal that it’s so he can afford a coffin if he were to suddenly die in an “unusual place”.

So, all things considered, I guess putting my glasses on when the phone rings is not completely doolally.  And, anyway,  I’d have a permanent “Clint Squint” without my specs to put the world back into focus.

Race for Pandemic Records

As a nation, we’ve been in the mood to break world records during the three lock-downs.  Nearly 5,300 Brits had a go at setting a Guinness World Record in 2020 – with some attempts allowed at home during the pandemic.  Successful attempts included a time of 1.49 minutes to drink a litre of gravy last June and the fastest motorised garden shed.  I’m not sure how the “shedmobile” works but the record is 106.1 mph, if you’re interested.

Craig Glenday of Guinness World Records says the pandemic has inspired people to tackle new challenges so you may feel inclined to have a go at being a world beater yourself.  Some of the easiest challenges include putting the most socks on one foot in 30 seconds (28 socks to beat), the fastest time to arrange the alphabet from a can of alphabet spaghetti (3 mins 21 secs), and clipping the most clothes pegs to your face in 60 seconds. Amazingly, the record is currently 51 – presumably set by someone with elves ears, fish lips and a Pinocchio nose.

Mr Zukerberg would need more than 260 T-shirts to beat the record

Grey T-shirt enthusiast Mark Zukerberg might like to have a bash at beating the current world record for putting on the most T-shirts in 60 seconds.  He’d need to top 260 to beat the current world record.

The Tale of “Runge Teddy”

My eldest son found his childhood teddy bear in his attic last week, during a clear-out for a house move from Richmond to Dorking; an unremarkable discovery which wouldn’t normally warrant a mention in a lock-down diary.  But this was a somewhat special bear with an unusual tale to tell.

A ‘frightening’ bear?

To begin with, (see picture) he’s a dull shade of “Orange” – a word which my then three-year-old son couldn’t pronounce and so affectionately christened him “Runge Teddy”.

Indeed we all called him “Runge Teddy”, including Elaine, our young au pair/nanny. But what we didn’t know back then was that, in a unique and unexpected role reversal, this tiny tot regularly told her bedtime stories about “Runge Teddy’s” late night antics; tales of how the bear had magical powers and crept into her bedroom to “get her” while she slept.

This all came to light late one evening when he secretly lowered “Runge Teddy” from the upstairs landing on a long string so that the bear was hanging at face level when Elaine came out of the kitchen. Her piercing scream was the first anyone heard about it. She left us soon after.

You may be interested to know that the budding “Stephen King” toddler grew-up to become a lawyer and “Runge Teddy” has probably settled-in to his new home in Dorking by now – so all’s well that ends well.

But I’ve often wondered if he’s a bear with the potential for literary fame like Rupert, Paddington, Poo and the rest of them – but with a subtle twist.  “Runge Teddy’s Scary Stories” would be an interesting variation on the usual children’s tales involving bears with red jumpers and yellow check scarves, marmalade sandwiches, pots of honey and poo sticks, don’t you think?

Say Yes If That is What You Mean

Have you noticed lately how many politicians avoid saying “Yes” when giving affirmative answers in TV interviews?  The simple, straightforward, honest-to-goodness “Yes” word appears to have been totally deleted from the ministerial vocabulary –  replaced by “absolutely”.  That’s absolutely as in; “You’re absolutely right and I agree with you –  but, please note, I didn’t say yes.”

While “absolutely” might reasonably be taken to mean undoubtedly, completely, utterly, extremely, totally etc, I think it’s being used as a psychological side-step around the more decisive and irrefutable “Yes” word.  In short, politicians don’t like to say “Yes” – it’s too definite.  But it’s by no means a recent phenomenon; Matthew 5:37 has something to say about it too; “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Anything more comes from evil.” Absolutely.

Joust the Sport for “Knight School”

I caught the end of a very old film version of “Ivanhoe” on TV last week.  Walter Scott’s classic yarn about dastardly deeds in mediaeval England at once reminded me of one of my more off-beat PR clients from the past –  a man called Max Diamond.

While Max achieved a degree of celebrity status for co-writing the hit comedy song “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back” with comedian Charlie Drake, his main line of work was as a stunt man in a string of swash-buckling movies.

He’d previously been an assault commando with 4 Troop, wounded in action three times which, as his old brigadier pointed out, “seemed to indicate that he was not unduly cautious”. And it was probably this distinct lack of caution that eventually led him to the world of mediaeval jousting.

The late Max Diamond ©Combat Through the Ages

I first met Max at Chilham Castle, in Kent where he staged, and I publicised, the first-ever international jousting tournament – England – v – France. Max had already founded the Jousting Association and set up a  special “Knight School”, where aspiring jousters learned how to do battle with sword, quarterstaff, mace, axe, flail, lance, longbow and spear.

Sadly Max is no longer with us but his son Peter continues his work through an organisation called Combat Through the Ages, based in Bideford, Devon, where people who fancy their chances at jousting can take part in one-on-one or group training from April/May – Covid restrictions willing.

“Knight School” students may ride their own horses or a mount from the school where they’ll learn the art of riding without reins, horse control from the seat, mounted archery and, of course, mediaeval jousting skills.

My enduring memory of Max Diamond – pictured here in his black knight armour – is with a series of broken ribs, arms, ankles or other bones, all of which were brushed off with a raucous laugh as “just a scratch”.  Peter Diamond seems to be a more cautious man so you’ll be in good hands if you decide that jousting might be the post-lock-down sport you’ve been looking for.

Anaemic National Anthems

If like me, you’ve been watching Six Nations rugby on TV during the past few weeks, you’ll have sat through some woeful renditions of the Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Italian, French and English national anthems.

With the possible exception of the French La Marseillaise which, unlike the other five, sounds as if it might actually mean business, the rest are altogether  bland, anaemic and supremely unmemorable; indeed so uninteresting are they that even the national teams seem unsure of the words.

The Italians looked particularly confused during their anthem last Saturday, with one player gripping his nether regions like a small boy caught short during hymn practice.

OK, the English team seemed reasonably familiar with God Save The Queen but, as comedian Billy Connolly once observed, the tune is such a slow-moving dirge, the English Olympic team could easily get lapped during the opening ceremony march past.  He suggested the music should be replaced with the more lively theme tune from The Archers.

Personally, I’d go for a bit more drama, like the music from Star Wars or The Great Escape and, while I’m all for God saving the Queen, I think we might have a go at revising the words too.  All suggestions welcome.

Going Viral

Will anyone who believes the Covid jab could, contain a micro-chip from Bill Gates, alter their DNA, take control of their mind, or enable the government to monitor their sex lives, please raise their right hand – and slap themselves with it.

Stupidity, it seems, is transmitted faster than the virus.

Get Hitched in Spectacular Style

Covid restrictions put the kibosh on big family weddings but, as we move towards a relaxation of lock-down rules from the end of the month, would-be brides and grooms might like to think about making it an even more memorable occasion by getting hitched in a uniquely unusual setting.

It’s perfectly legal to have your wedding ceremony almost anywhere these days, provided the premises are licensed for marriage and civil partnerships and the proceedings are “seemly and dignified”.

Alternative venues listed in Surrey include pubs, golf clubs, barns, warehouses, and breweries and a proposal by the Law Commission, announced this week, would make it legal to have a wedding ceremony in the privacy of your own home.

The shopping mall bride was a TV star

I arranged the first-ever wedding in a shopping mall a few years back, promoting the idea that the wedding present list could include anything and everything on sale at The Belfry in Redhill.

The happy couple became instant TV stars when the media turned-up in force to cover the unique event.    But they decided to postpone the honeymoon due to work commitments so, the following day, the conscientious bride returned to work – as a sales assistant in one of the shops.

Cash Offers from the NHS & HMRC

The NHS offered me a million pounds yesterday.  The e-mail said I’ve been shortlisted to receive a “Covid Variant Health Grant” and would I send my personal details via a Spanish e-mail address to someone called Martinez, who’s obviously working from home during lock-down.

Earlier in the week Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) told me I’m eligible for a £2,500 to £7,500 Covid 19 hand-out. Their e-mail included instructions to download and complete two banking forms and confirmed that all content was available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. so it was official and could be trusted. And, besides, it was signed by HMRC CEO Simon Stevens –  who also seemed to be working from home, using a HotMail address.

At this rate, Covid’s going to make us all multi-millionaires.

Farewell to Joker Johnny

He was probably better known as the brash cockney Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street but actor Johnny Briggs, who passed away this week, could always put a smile on your face.

He trod the Corrie cobbles for 30 years before leaving in 2006, receiving an MBE the following year.  An accomplished actor, he appeared in a long list of films over the years, including HMS Defiant, 633 Squadron, The Office Party, The Lavender Hill Mob and a string of “Carry On” and “Doctor” movies.

Johnny Briggs always spoke fondly of Coronation Street although he felt the long-running soap had lost its sense of humour in recent years. “There’s no laughter in the scripts anymore,” he told me a few years back.

Sharing a joke with Johnny and his daughter

Humour was important to him and he was always the joker with a string of stories to set you laughing – as you can see from the picture.  I don’t remember exactly why we were laughing back then but it was probably something extremely silly like “The Lone Tomato” joke – what’s red and round and rides a big white horse?

The Wisdom of Boris?

Boris obviously had a comb when he was at Oxford

It’s almost certain that Boris owned a comb when he was at Oxford, although he appears to have mislaid it soon after.  He was also sufficiently well-turned-out and dapper in his university days to be accepted as a member of the notoriously upper-crust Bullingdon Club, so I find myself wondering what went wrong.

These days his jackets appear to be a few sizes too small, he walks with his hands thrust deep into his pockets, head stooped, shoulders hunched, and can often be seen deliberately ruffling-up his wayward hair – usually when he knows the cameras are focussed on him.  It’s almost as if he were trying to look his worst with this clearly contrived imagery, especially when the tail of his shirt hangs down below his jacket.

Could he, I wonder, be looking to Norman Wisdom or perhaps Charlie Chaplin for a style lead? Both successfully endeared themselves to the general public by wearing ill-fitting clothes and playing the loveable fool. And both received knighthoods and the ever-lasting appreciation of an adoring nation.

Harry’s Bus Ride

Following his interview on a bus with James Corden for the Late Late Show, I wonder if Harry now imagines all buses serve afternoon tea on the top deck.

Share This Post

Responses to Life in Solitary: How Are Your Quirks?

  1. John Lomas Reply

    March 5, 2021 at 12:54 pm

    With reference to Tony’s observations on politicians, many years ago Will Rogers made a lot of observations on the vagaries of politics. Among them are:

    “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”

    “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

    Or as Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said in 1849: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *