Fringe Box



Life in Solitary: New Normal, New Greetings, Same Old Green Belt Battles

Published on: 16 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 20 Apr, 2021

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

Preparing for the New Normal

Waitrose has stopped selling shoe polish due to a fall in demand. They say lock-down workers have been wearing woolly slippers at their kitchen table “desks” instead of polishing up their best leather brogues for the office.  No surprises there then.

My outdoor shoes probably think I’ve moved house without them so I’ve certainly got a bit of personal shoe-shining to catch up on. And a couple of business suits, which were scheduled to go to the dry cleaners late last year, still hang limply in the wardrobe because “non-essential” shops have been out of bounds until this week. So I’ll need to brush down my pin-stripes as I lurch towards the new “normal”.

I’ll have to brush up on my expletives too as I haven’t been swearing so much during lockdown –  mainly because I haven’t been driving so much. Let’s be honest, you never really learn to swear properly until you learn to drive and realise there’s always going to be a road-troll driver behind you who wants to go 5 mph faster than you.

We quickly learn that anyone who overtakes us is a raving maniac while drivers who dawdle in the outside lane are total morons, so driving demands not only concentration but a creative vocabulary of verbal abuse to hurl at our fellow motorists too.

I should stress that you mustn’t feel guilty about spewing forth a few well-chosen oaths.  To err is human;  it takes a computer to really be offensive and foul things up.

Don’t let them get the upper hand

So if, like me, you’ve recently taken delivery of a desktop upgrade to help you kick-start your impending return to “normal”, remember the golden rule is to keep things simple.  I even thought about using “INCORRECT” as my password so that when my new computer inevitably tells me my password is “incorrect”, it’ll remind me.

And as the paperless office has about as much chance of catching-on as a paperless toilet, I felt obliged to install a new printer too. And here I’d like to offer a tip;  never let your new printer know when you’re in a hurry. It’ll suddenly decide it needs a magenta cartridge changed or, more often than not, organise a paper jam.  Printers smell fear.

So, as we move forward to the brave new “normal” world which awaits us, it’ll be important not to let the new generation of smart-arse computers imagine they are in any way superior to we humans.  While I freely admit that a computer once beat me at chess, it was no match for me at kickboxing.

Rubber Bands for a New Greeting

I’ve been practising my handshake – by which, of course, I mean an “alternative” to shaking hands.  Let’s face it, kissing, hugging and shaking hands will be strictly taboo in the new “normal” for the foreseeable future so we need to agree an acceptable socially-distanced greeting.

Mr Spock demonstrates the Vulcan greeting

And what could be better than a greeting which is already well-established among large sections of the community all over the world – and in many other worlds too?  It is, of course, the greeting made famous by the half Vulcan, half-human, Mr Spock on his travels through the galaxy aboard the starship Enterprise in the Star Trek TV series.

Rubber bands help to train unskilled hands

It apparently means “Live long and prosper” and involves raising the right hand, palm forward, thumb extended, and making a V-shape between the second and third fingers.

But it’s not as easy as Mr Spok would have you believe.   In fact, for some of us (like me), it’s close to impossible so you might need to grab yourself a couple of elastic bands to pre-set your fingers while you practise the Vulcan salute.  I’ve been practising all week but I don’t think I’ll be ready to bin the V-bands until at least the end of the month.

You might like to know there’s a factual back-story to the Vulcan salute.  Leonard Nimoy, who plays Mr Spok in the sci-fi franchise, was inspired by a gesture he witnessed during a Jewish religious service when he was a boy.

Jewish priests perform the gesture with both hands to form the letter shin which, in Judaism, stands for Shaddai – meaning God.  Mr Spock first used the salute on-screen in 1967.

The Test of Time

I think I mentioned it was my birthday last month.  I forgot to mention that I received a birthday card from a girl I sat next to in school when we were just six. I mention it now because her birthday wishes included a note pointing out that she’d reached my milestone age over a year ago –  so it seems like one of us must have been in the wrong class back then.

But I didn’t need her to remind me of my advancing years – I have a bladder to do that.  It would have been more helpful if she’d mentioned that rigor mortis starts to set in while you’re still alive and that, socially, the older you get, the earlier it gets late.

At least we were young and stupid at a time before we had cameras on our ‘phones to prove it – part of a generation which took exams long before Google or Wikipedia were invented and middle age was still around 39.  These days they say it’s nearer 59 but I’ve yet to meet anyone of 118.

The Evergreen Issue of Green Belt Battles

Rummaging through some faded press cuttings during a spring clear-out this week I was reminded that St George’s Day (next Friday, April 23) will mark 35 years since my first involvement in campaigns to protect the green belt.

I’d recently moved from Wonersh to Esher where I was invited to join some independent Elmbridge councillors and local residents planning to make a stand against an avalanche of threats to the borough’s green fields and urban open spaces.  We called ourselves Evergreen and we chalked-up an impressive list of major victories against some major builders and developers during the following ten years.

As part of Evergreen’s awareness campaign, we introduced a set of annual awards which turned a national media spotlight on housebuilders with their sights set on grabbing green belt.

The Tree Stump Award for destroying the green belt (click on image to enlarge)

These included a Screwball Award, a golden ball skewered by a corkscrew in recognition of the screwiest planning application of the year, and a Tree Stump Award, a stump sprayed gold, recognising a plan to fell the highest number of trees (see pic).

Fast forward 15 years and a move to Ockham where I quickly joined another, already active, group of local campaigners dedicated to protecting green belt agricultural land at Three Farms Meadows, the former Wisley Airfield.

The Wisley Action Group (WAG), as Guildford residents will know, has managed to fend off an ongoing series of large-scale threats – despite the local council removing its green belt status.  The battle – and WAG’s resolve to win it – continues ten years later.

I mention these two campaigns, separated by a couple of decades, to underline the sad but undeniable fact that the protection of Surrey’s green fields looks set to remain an ongoing battle while it’s still more profitable for greedy developers to build on green, virgin land than brownfield sites.

Mahatma Gandhi summed it up well when he said; “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need – but not every man’s greed.”

Problem Solving

The experts say that alcohol never solves our problems.  But, without getting too technical, our school chemistry class taught us that alcohol was a solution.  Just saying…

A Spare-time Career

Former foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan has been no stranger to Twitter lately. Last week he tweeted; “Don’t miss the final instalment of my private diaries in the Daily Mail.” Then he told us the book of his “explosive revelations”, In The Thick of It, would be published on April 15th (yesterday), priced at £25 and to “place your order now”.

The offending tome

I didn’t, nor will I, order his book but I’ve skimmed through the Mail’s multi-page serialisation instead.   In it he describes Andrea Leadson as “Sarah Palin on crack”, Gavin Williamson as “a venomous, self-seeking sh*t” and Ann Widdecombe as a “Cranky old bat”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg apparently has “An ego the size of a planet” and he compares Boris to “Harold Wilson’s George Brown without the alcohol”. Theresa May is simply written-off as a “Flaky old pit prop”, so there’s lots of schoolboy mud-slinging but very little constructive comment, and no big surprises.

What does surprises me is how this highly paid (plus expenses) public servant ever found the time to do his job as a government minister.  In between scribbling his daily diary notes on the failings of his colleagues, he also wrote two books – An End To Illusion and Saturn’s Children, in which he outlined his support for the legalisation of all drugs. (The details were later deleted).

He appeared four times on Have I Got News for You and became a regular panellist on BBC TV’s Question Time and Radio 4’s Any Questions.  He also wasted considerable time on a failed leadership bid in 2005 – and then there were all those parliamentary holidays.

Seems to me there’s only been one man in history who entered parliament with single-minded, political intentions – and he was hung, drawn and quartered in 1605.

Worried About Big Foot

Don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any pictures of the Abominable Snowman lately. Hope he’s OK.

Wise words from a witty man

Wise Words from a Joker

I don’t suppose the teenagers who’ve been rioting in Ulster have the vaguest idea what the Good Friday Agreement was all about.

They weren’t even born 23 years ago, this month, when it was signed in 1998 but the levels of pre-planning and orchestration of the firebomb attacks and the hazy silhouettes of clapping adults in the background, all point to paramilitary involvement.

Pictures of the pandemonium and destruction reminded me of something Irish comedian Frank Carson once told me during the height of the Troubles.  “There are too many Catholics and too many Protestants but not enough Christians,” he said.  Sadly, he wasn’t joking.

Taxing Online Sport

My main sports activity these days is tracking my online orders, so I was concerned to note that a 2% tax on goods bought online is planned in the Autumn budget.

How Do You Spell Stewpid?

I read this week that university students will not be marked down for poor spelling, grammar and punctuation in exams – because that would be “elitist”.  A new policy at Hull University criticises the level of proficiency in written English as being “homogenous, North European, white, male and elite” so that staff marking written work should “actively accept” mistakes.

Something similarly stupid is going on at Worcester University too so sum peepol will be well pleezed ta get mor lade bak universiee digreese and kwalifeekayshuns dat get reespekt at like the howses of parlymint and stuff like that so that praps stewdents cood get to be like the numba won dude in downin street wonday or the charnseller of the Xchecker maybe. Well wiked. [Our sub-editor has just passed out but I am sure I’ll bring him round with our special “Essence of ink monkey” smelling salts. Ed]

Maybe Next Year?
Physically I’m in Ockham right now.   Mentally I’m in Marrakesh at La Mamounia, breathing in the heady aroma of orange blossom, sipping mint tea under 700-year-old olive trees in the 20-acre gardens, and listening to a quartet of young French musicians who totally capture the essence of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s 1930’s Paris.

La Mamounia indoor pool Image Wikipedia

Once described by Winston Churchill as “the most lovely spot in the whole world”, La Mamounia has been the subject of a $180 million facelift over the past three years so I sincerely hope they haven’t managed to destroy the Mamounia magic as it’s top of my list of holiday haunts when travel restrictions are finally lifted.

That said, March and April are, for me at least, the only months to visit Marrakesh so, sadly, this year is out.  But here’s to 2022 – maybe.

Thought for the Day

Everyone has a hidden talent they didn’t know about until they drink too much Tequila.

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