Fringe Box



Life in Solitary: Isolated of Ockham

Published on: 20 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 20 Aug, 2020

Tony Edwards.

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

Lights, Camera… Say Aah

They sent a camera crew up my nose last Thursday on the first leg of a brief trip down my throat to where the filming was to take place.

The script called for very little dialogue but the director asked me for a few ‘ahhs’ while my vocal cords were in close-up. I added an unscripted ‘ouch’ or two as the film crew withdrew.

The ‘location’ was St Anthony’s Hospital where I’d arranged a face-to-face consultation with an ear, nose and throat surgeon to investigate why my voice had been sounding like Al Pacino with a mouthful of puffed wheat.

On arrival they took my temperature, before I was given a face mask and a large dollop of hand gel in what was clearly a highly organised, anti-virus operation, carried out with military precision.

I followed the ‘red’ path as instructed, then the ‘purple’ path to a reception desk which looked like a Nat West cashier’s window back in the days when bank robbers were men with machine guns rather than faceless computer hackers. Another dollop of hand gel and on to a single-occupancy waiting room – just me and a nurse.

After a brief wait, another nurse handed the doc and I unflattering mauve gowns in an adjacent room which had apparently been left vacant and sterile for 24 hours before the endoscopy cameras rolled.  In any event, the doc seemed happy with the rushes.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that St Anthony’s Covid precautions worked, but I left thinking that if all hospitals could maintain these incredible hygiene levels when we finally get back to ‘normal’, that other killer, the dreaded MRSA hospital ‘superbug’ [remember that one?] could be sent packing along with the coronavirus.

Faceless Shoppers

I said hello to someone I thought I knew near the fish counter in Waitrose this week. He turned, hesitated for a moment, then raised his hand in acknowledgement and gave a little nod.

But, having thought about it since, I’m not convinced either of us were entirely sure who we’d just met. And that’s the sad reality in a pandemic world where 75% of our faces are obscured by a mask.

In future, I’ll state my name, sex and date of birth before speaking to someone I think I know while wearing a mask – in case I don’t.

Guildford ‘Twinned’ With Luton?

Guildford has almost nothing in common with Luton. OK, they each have a university and they’re both within 30 miles of London, but that’s surely where the similarities end –  isn’t it?

Luton goes literary press coverage and the book Junction 10.

Well, not quite. As I pondered what Guildford might look like in the next few decades if certain nightmare ‘developments’ ever become a waking reality,  a ‘vision’ of Luton dawdled across my mind – a muddle of ugly, depressing, architecture and bodged planning that earned it the dubious title of Britain’s ‘Crap Town’ of the year a while back. And not for the first time.

Guildford, of course, won the equally dubious title of ‘Rotten Borough of the Year’ in the annual awards list from Private Eye magazine, which focussed on the ‘goings-on’ at Millmead during the agonising birth of the controversial Local Plan. So both places have been handed doubtful accolades.

When Luton asked me to organise their national PR response to the ‘Crap Town’ label, I invited aspiring authors from across the UK to visit Luton, take a look around, and then pen a short story highlighting a positive aspect of the town. The resultant volume of pro-Luton stories was duly published to a fanfare of national publicity and positive media comment a few months later.

The book was called Junction 10 – a reference to the access to the town from the M1 motorway.

Guildford can, of course, be accessed from another Junction 10, on the M25 but, unlike Luton, there is still time to avoid the planning catastrophe that could one day see Guildford awarded the ‘Crap Borough’ of the year title.

…Come Again Another Day

The window cleaner had just polished the panes to a sparkling finish. I’d completed a marathon watering of a sun-parched garden, and the recently polished 1972 Mercedes 350 SL gleamed proudly in the drive like a grand prix star waiting for the off.

But then it rained. Correction – it bucketed down without warning. And with the rain came an avalanche of falling leaves, wrenched by the sudden wind from nearby trees and sticking, like spots on a leopard, to the sleek, cream bodywork of the prized convertible.

We certainly needed the rain but it seems the esteemed law of ‘Sod’ prevails when it comes to timing.

The New Name Game

If people continue to name their children after the place in which they were conceived –  Paris, India, Chelsea, Adelaide, Brooklyn, Jordan, Lourdes – the firm favourite for 2020-21 will be ‘Lockdown’.

Infectious Laughter

While much-loved comics like Bob Monkhouse, Ken Dodd and Frank Carson have sadly left us for that ‘comedy club’ in the sky, top ‘gag merchant’ Barry Cryer is still very much alive and chortling. His favourite pandemic story involves an airline pilot addressing his passengers.

“Our cruising altitude today is 35,000 feet,” says the pilot. “The weather is set fair with just a possibility of light turbulence, so do keep an eye on the ‘fasten seatbelt’ signs and enjoy the flight. In accordance with government guidelines, I’m working from home today.”

An Englishman, an Irishman, and a few glasses of wine.

One of Frank Carson’s silliest stories was about a lady tortoise who’d been molested by two delinquent snails. On arrival at the crime scene the police asked her if she could describe her assailants. “Sorry, no,” she said. “It all happened so quickly”.

It was, of course, the way he told ‘em. But Frank was also a tireless fundraiser for worthy causes as Mayor of Balbriggan in north County Dublin, where he lived for many years.

Government Failure During Heatwave

There have been calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to face an independent inquiry into the handling of last week’s heatwave, with opposition MPs claiming that the government knew about the approaching hot spell days before it reached our shores yet did nothing to mitigate the impact.

An opposition spokesperson said: “The Meteorological Office gave Downing Street more than adequate warning to stock pile essential PPE equipment like sun glasses, electric fans, tanning lotion, ice cubes and chilled lager. Yet the response was woefully inadequate with bikinis and ‘speedos’ in shamefully short supply.”

Crowds who’d gathered on Brighton beach last week voiced their fears to the media. “It’s like – you know – the uncertainty of it all,” said a lady from Purley.

“We don’t even know if it’s, like, safe, to be outside, or whatever, and nobody has told us what we’re meant to do.

“I think Boris is – you know – totally to blame. He ought to pay us, like, compensation and stuff like that.”

Meanwhile the BBC focussed on the “environmental devastation” of dead or dying lawns across the worst hit areas of the South East of England.

A special report claimed that the heatwave had spotlighted a deep social divide.

“While better-off sectors of society are able to splash out on expensive garden decking and sun loungers, many, less fortunate, are forced to make do with a patch of parched grass and old –fashioned striped deck chairs?”

The Meteorological Office last night warned that a second spike in the heatwave could be with us within days, adding that they have advised Downing Street to expect colder weather by December when stocks of warm, woolly clothes might be needed.

AWOL – Absent Without Leaflets

Only one in seven civil servants at the ministry which reports directly to Boris Johnson are estimated to have returned to the office.

And it could be as few as one in 10, according to a Freedom of Information report. This means, of course, that they have been unable to issue public information bulletins and leaflets urging the rest of us to get back to the office as quickly as possible.

I think they should be told to stay at home – for good.

Social Distancing in the 1840s

Now I know why Victorian ladies wore crinolines.

Lockdown Music

A Virgin Media survey informed me this week that my favourite tune for dancing is Abba’s Dancing Queen with It’s Raining Men and Come On Eileen up there in the top three.

Absolute rubbish. Apart from Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, I’ve never even heard of most of the other contenders on their alleged top 20 hit list so I’ve jotted down a few of the tunes I’ve been listening to while in lockdown.

Top of my lockdown selection has to be Miles Davis playing his own composition So What? – a jazz classic.

Second – the great Erik Sartie’s haunting Gymnopedies, followed by Claude Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair.

Gerry Mulligan / Chet Baker’s Funny Valentine runs a close fourth, with Humphrey Littleton’s unique rendition of Bad Penny Blues, at number five.

The Dave Maskell Quartet. I’m on Vibraphone.

Having played vibes with a copy-cat MJQ line-up in my youth, Django by the Modern Jazz Quartet was, of course, always going to be on my play list.

They say we remember the past through music so I’ll probably recall a few quite hours in ‘isolation’ listening to these musical giants.

Film Footnote

Predictably, they’re making a movie about Covid 19. It’ll be released shortly after Christmas so there’s still a bit of time to catch up on Covid 1 to 18.

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Responses to Life in Solitary: Isolated of Ockham

  1. John Lomas Reply

    August 20, 2020 at 9:53 pm

    Your story of Frank Carson reminded me of an occasion when I spent some time in his company, but in a totally serious situation; but he never seemed to turn the comedy off.
    Frank Carson was Frank Carson was Frank Carson, you got what it said on the tin.

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