Fringe Box



Life in Solitary: Money – Who Needs It?

Published on: 25 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 23 Jul, 2020

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

In Praise of Filthy Lucre

Looks like we’re all set to adopt the unique monetary policy of Her Majesty the Queen – never carrying cash.  Yes, the proverbial “coin of the realm” is apparently doomed.  Already rejected as ‘dirty’ and a potentially dangerous carrier of the Coronavirus by shops and stores, cash is quickly becoming redundant in favour of tap-and-go cards in pandemic Britain.

It signals an end to the era where cash is king. Over the years it’s been known as readies, lucre, dough, bread, spondulix, moolah, wonga, loot and wedge, to name but a few.

A veteran market trader I know calls it “walking around money” – meaning cash-in-hand for a quick pint with the lads, a flutter on the horses, or tips for cab drivers, doormen and those attendants who insist on brushing the lapels of your jacket as you leave the gents’ toilet in some of the more up-market hotels and restaurants.

Who wants to touch filthy lucre?

But what about pocket money?  Not many kids accept American Express cards these days so it’ll have to be a somewhat soulless bank transfer to your five-year-old.  And how will we disengage all those supermarket and airport trollies which seem to be welded together until you feed them a shiny £1 coin.

Indeed the humble £1 can be a catalyst for the highest levels of waiter service in restaurants.   A mate of mine always stacks half a dozen of them on the table in front of him as he sits down to dine – adding to them as the meal progresses and ending up with at least two piles of ten £1 coins (often more) by the time the brandies arrive.

He firmly believes that tips should be seen to grow in response to prompt service and insists that the very word TIPS is merely an acronym of To Insure Prompt Service.  But you can’t do that without a few neat piles of quids.  Around a pony (£25) should do it, double it if the meal’s likely to cost more than a monkey (£500).

Social Media Style
The fact that this year’s Royal Ascot was staged without the spectators must have been a crushing blow for the well-heeled and fancy-frocked ladies who annually flaunt their style credentials for the press.  Instead, they took to social media to show off their flamboyant frills and outrageous outfits so we ordinary folk wouldn’t be too disappointed.

But I think I may have spotted a common symptom of the Coronavirus in quite a few of the pictures:  No taste.

Time Well Spent?

The lock-down presented us all with a unique opportunity to sculpt a perfect body, learn a new language, finish an overdue DIY job or, maybe, even write a best-seller.   A new survey, however, reveals that most men have spent their time growing a beard.

Not Going Out…

I won’t be taking a trip to the shops anytime soon.  Shopping has always tested my patience more than party political broadcasts, TV adverts, traffic jams and Robert Peston’s elongated vowels and prolonged pauses.

Even the relative calm of garden centres makes me want to abandon my carefully-selected trolley load of bedding plants and make a dash for the exit to escape the undeniable tedium of it all.

Million bells

I know I’m probably in a minority but the past few months of lock-down shop closures hasn’t bothered me one iota – not a jot. Not going to the shops has been an absolute pleasure and delight thanks to on-line service from Amazon and Ocado, and a home delivery of ten bags of compost with three trays of Million Bells plants from the local Squires.

But newspaper pictures of shoulder-to-shoulder, masked shoppers jostling for a chance to grab a pair or two of their “must-have” sports shoes from the Nike store in Oxford Street last week turned my tedium to terror.  Any pretence at social distancing had been surrendered to the mob and trampled into the gutter outside.

The following day brought the results of a worrying survey by the Office for National Statistics which showed that nearly a million people who’d been advised to “shield” in their homes during the lock-down because of poor health, totally ignored the rules by going out or receiving visitors.  They’re probably out shopping right now.

It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Shop ‘til you drop”.

D for Defence

Good to read that health chiefs are urgently reviewing the use of the sunshine supplement, vitamin D, as a potential Coronavirus life-saver.  I’ve been taking D3 tablets for nearly half a century – along with Vitamins B, C, E, zinc, selenium, iron, calcium and magnesium – to supplement today’s woefully inadequate levels of essential vitamins in our food.  Friends used to say that, if you listened closely, you could hear my wife and I rattle.

But for those who poo-poo the value of vitamin supplements, a quick reminder that vitamins are always top of the list of aid items sent to far-flung places following a disaster.

Sounds Like a Joke

How, I wonder, did a book of Coronarvirus one-liners get into print a full week before lock-down was even announced.  The paperback 101 Corona Virus Jokes was available from Amazon as early as March 17 at the curiously odd price of £6.51p.  I’ve checked, it’s not a joke.

A Natural Story-Teller

Brian Salmon’s dad was on a secret mission to Mars – at least that’s what he told our primary school teacher, Mrs Roberts, when she asked why he was late again. Brian was often late because he had to check everything was OK before his dad blasted-off from a back garden somewhere in North Wembley on his way to the planets.

On another occasion, he convinced his classmates that his dad was Tommy Price, the ace speedway rider we’d all seen at the Wembley Stadium dirt track –  but unrecognisable in his face mask, goggles, helmet and leather suit. He asked us to keep his secret and, on pain of death, we all obliged.

It was only when Brian’s dad came to collect him from school one day that we realised Mr Salmon wasn’t Tommy Price at all –  he was even a bit wobbly on a pushbike. And we never got the chance to try Brian’s special potion which, he assured us, would make us invisible.

Brian meant well.  He really wanted all his stories to be true, but they turned out to be nothing more than ambitious daydreams and wishful thinking.

I last saw Brian Salmon at the South Harrow jazz club when we were in our early twenties. He’d put on a bit of weight and his unruly blond hair looked as if his multi-talented dad might have now tried his hand at hairdressing. Fifty years later, I’m reminded of Brian Salmon in so many ways – whenever I see Boris Johnson assuring us about something which seems ever-so-slightly far-fetched.

A dressing down too far

Familiarity and Contempt

Do you remember “Dress Down Friday”?  It was an American idea which caught on all over the world in the mid-1990s when office staff, who normally wore formal clothes to work, were allowed to relax into jeans and casuals on Fridays.

It all went well for a while until the jeans and casuals were slowly replaced by downright “scruffy” clothes, more suited to a bit of gardening or weekend DIY.  Within two years things deteriorated even further and increasing numbers of office staff simply didn’t bother to turn-up at all on Fridays.   Familiarity had bred the proverbial contempt and “Dress Down Friday” had become “Stay Home Friday”.  The whole concept was axed shortly after.

As the two metres social distancing rule is reduced to “one plus”, I sense a new “Dress Down Friday” disaster.  Even before the pandemic, most of us didn’t get much closer to each other than a meter so the new “one plus” rule will leave us but a step away from all-out contact.  And that could be too close for comfort.

The First Cut

If you thought the manic scramble for toilet rolls was bad enough back in March, wait ‘til the hairdressers start to open next week – and 66 million people try to get a trim.

“Boris Shaped” – here pictured with brother Leo

The Shape of Things to Come?

In the week that a Weight Watchers survey revealed that over half of us have piled on the pounds during lock-down, the PM announced that pubs and restaurants will re-open their doors from next week.   Gyms, however, must remain firmly shut until further notice so we could all end-up Boris-shaped.

Raising the V-Rate

It took just eight seconds from the start of the BBC news last evening to the first mention of the “virus”.  But Channel 4 News managed it in under five seconds last week.

We need to get these new “V-Rate” timings up to well over a minute before we can begin to feel confident that things are moving in the right direction.  It was the same with Brexit when the “B-Rate” was around 10 seconds.

See Tony Edwards’ other Life in Solitary columns here.


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