Fringe Box



Life in Solitary – So It’s Goodbye from Him…

Published on: 30 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 2 May, 2021

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

There Used to be a Word for That

There’s quite a lot of nidification going on in my garden this week.  And, no, I didn’t know what it meant either but it turns out it’s what the resident wrens, robins, blackbirds and thrushes do every spring –  Nidification (noun) the act of building a nest. 

Nidify (verb), is from the Latin Nidus (nest).  It’s one of 47,156 words in the latest Oxford English Dictionary which we’ve effectively written off as obsolete or archaic – compared with the 171,476 words in current use and which include new additions like LOL (laughing out loud).

Nidification in progress.

John Lennon would have approved of LOL.  He argued that keeping it brief was the best policy, saying; “When you’re drowning, you don’t think: “I would be incredibly pleased if someone would notice that I’m drowning and come and rescue me.” You just scream: “HELP!”

But while new “buzz words” creep into everyday use, many of our classic words are being “cancelled” by the “woke” brigade.  Take last week, for example. The word “mistress” was banned by the giant Associated Press news agency which argued that it implied women were solely to blame for affairs.

I’d have thought it was obvious that it generally takes two to tango but the agency’s stylebook, which governs how its 3,300 employees around the world should write, instructed its hacks to use alternatives such as “friend” or “companion” and to provide additional details later.

In strictly un-woke, “archaic” language, I’d say this was all about some chuffy (puffed-up) vinipote (wine drinker) who got into a bit of a panshard (rage) while he was a tad intoxicated (hammered) after his mistress (friend) became discountenanced (got huffy) about his failure to honour his commitments (get hitched).  So there’ll be no nidification between these two love birds.

It’s Not Unusual

And while we’re on the subject of mistresses, you might spare a thought for poor old Tom Jones who’s made no secret of the fact that he slept with a guestimated 250 women a year at the height of his fame.  How, I wonder, has he been managing in these socially distanced times?

Deleting the Vowels

Standard Life Aberdeen announced plans this week to delete most of the vowels from its name and re-brand as Abrdn.  The company, one of Britain’s largest fund managers, reckons the change will create a “modern, agile, digitally-enabled brand” for a post-pandemic world, while critics have pointed out that Abrdn will probably be pronounced “a burden”.  Personally, I think it’s a load of bllcks.

Missing the “Cabbie” Conversations

Long before Uber and even before there were mini cabs, there were black cab drivers like Al Fresco to zap you around London in the shortest possible time and with the minimum of fuss.  He’d done “The Knowledge” in 1966, earned his black cab badge, and even edited the taxi drivers’ newspaper for a couple of years.

A “Cabbie” entertainment capsule.

But it wasn’t just his familiarity with every side street, short cut and back alley through both the City and the West End that made a quick cab journey with Al such a pleasure, it was his running commentary on the world in general.

He was an all-round entertainer; a broadcaster of news bulletins, an insightful commentator, a philosopher who could put the world to rights in a moment, and a comedian worthy of star billing at the London Palladium.

And then there were his no holds barred “Guess who was in the back of the cab this week” celebrity revelations to brighten up a wet London morning and make the then News of the World newspaper headlines look tame by comparison.

But it was his traffic reports that always hit my funny bone.  “Oh deary me,” he’d sigh wearily with a glance in his wing mirror. “We’ve got Stirling bloody Moss and bleedin’ Fangio coming up on the outside lane.” At which point two boy racers would inevitably try to squeeze past him, horns blazing, headlights flashing. “It’s Baker bloody Street, not Brands Hatch,” Al would shout as he wound down his window to offer a victory sign to the “Formula Pillock” drivers, as he referred to them.

And then, with barely a pause for breath, he’d switch to an analysis of the latest budget and how the PM should fire the chancellor cos he’d got it all wrong. “Lost a few beads off his bleedin’ abacus, he has,” Al would declare.  “That’s assuming he’s still got one.”

He’d had Jeffrey Archer in the cab, I recall. “Nice enough bloke but didn’t seem to want to talk too much,” Al said.  He thought he was probably a bit tired. And as for that Helen Mirren. “Lovely lady, she was.  Could have talked to her all afternoon but we only went as far as Bond Street. Dropped her outside Fenwicks.”

I miss the impromptu cab banter and insider information that was once so much a part of my day before I moved my office out of London.  But, following more than a year of lock-down, taxi chat today is more likely to be about the appalling rash of road closures and the sudden introduction of one-way systems, so the usual politics, comedy and philosophy may have to take a back seat for a while.

But I’m confident that a new generation of black taxi drivers will carry on the unique legacy of east ender “cabbies” like Al Fresco and his mates when we finally get back to “normal”.

My Love Affair with Lorita

I fell instantly in love with Lorita in the early 1970s.  She was bobbing about in the water at the W Bates boatyard in Chertsey – 35 feet, teak cabin cruiser, built at Thornycroft’s Southampton boatyard in 1923, and in dire need of some TLC.

I don’t remember what I paid for her but I know I subsequently spent close to £10,000 on renovations, which included repairs to the hull, new decking, an engine overhaul, bucket loads of varnish, and new red hide upholstery.

Lorita. Still going strong after nearly 100 years.

After her re-launch, the Sunday Times got a bit poetic, describing her as a “symphony of brass and teak” and the prime motivation for the creation of the Historical Motorboat Society (HMS) by Ian Wellcoat, the man who’d originally introduced me to Lorita, boating historian Kevin Desmond, marine architect Frank Bandy,  powerboat racing champion Fiona Gore, Countess of Arran, and yours truly.

Fiona, by the way, became the fastest woman on water when she achieved a speed of 102 mph on Lake Windermere in 1980.

Soon after I found a 26 ft Windermere day boat called Dorothy and another costly renovation process began – funded, this time, by the reluctant sale of Lorita.  I’d often wondered how the years had treated Lorita so was overjoyed to discover this week that the 98-year-old is looking lovelier than ever, still cruising the lakes, and back on the market at a bargain £55,000 (see pic).

The HMS is no longer operational but its ambitions continue through the Classic Motor Boat Association (CMBA) which is staging a casual test day for old boats at Thorpe Lakes, Chertsey, today (Friday, April 30th).

Werewolves of Westminster?

I don’t know if you noticed, but there was a full moon on Tuesday (April 27th) at 4-33am. I was sound asleep at the time but, I’m assured, it was the biggest and brightest of the year.   Now new research by scientists from Tunisia and Qatar say it could have caused changes in brain activity and blood chemistry for men.

Sending politicians into orbit?

“Our study confirms, for the first time, that the lunar cycle affects the hormonal and haematological profile of men,” said Ismail Dergaa, co-author of the study which took blood samples from a large group of men at the full moon.

We’re not quite talking Werewolves here, but some prominent politicians seem to have formed a wolf pack to hunt down the Prime Minister this week, including Dominic Cummings, Kier Starmer, Jonathan Ashworth, Ed Davey and Sadiq Khan – to name but a few.  They’re all baying for blood and howling at the moon, but it’s probably just a phase.

The Lockdown Penny Farthing

Barclaycard reckons we’ve spent over £40 billion on items to lift our spirits during lockdown, with men shelling out an average £1,014.08p each and women averaging a more cautious £571.58p.

A bike to lift lock-down spirits.

Among the most bizarre bargains bagged were apparently a penny farthing bike, an antique diving suit, an inflatable pub, a gas mask from the last world war, a stuffed crocodile and a horsehair shirt.

Meanwhile the less adventurous of us spent most money on take-away food and drink.  Other popular purchases included lingerie, indoor plants and new pets, a puppy or kitten being top of the list, and a third of us told Barclaycard that the products bought made lockdown more enjoyable.

Jacob Rees-Mogg apparently snapped up the penny-farthing – along with a pair of Savile Row Lycra long-johns, of course.

Time for a Nap After Lunch?

My friend Tony Corsini was ten minutes late for our scheduled mid-afternoon video call last week –  because he’d overslept.   I should probably explain, right away, that he’s not a night worker who sleeps during the day but a long-term resident of Spain who’s been taking siestas after lunch for the past 55 years.

Siesta time

And while he lives in Barcelona, where the traditional siesta is nowhere near as popular as it once was, due mainly to fear of unemployment, other parts of Spain seem to be sticking with the age-old tradition.  Indeed the mayor of Ador, near Valencia, enshrined the right to an afternoon nap into law just a few years ago in 2015, so there may be something of a north/south divide on the subject of post-lunch snoozing.

But as we head back towards “normal” working arrangements, after a year of pandemic pandemonium, we might perhaps consider introducing a 30-minute nap as part of a 90-minute lunch break in the UK. There’s a lot of medical evidence to support the idea with a recent report claiming that the risk of heart disease could be reduced by up to 34%.

My friend in Barcelona says his daily siesta gives him a welcome energy boost for the rest of the day and, combined with an average seven hours sleep at night, gives him the “stay lively – live longer” eight hours sleep recommended by health experts.

I’d say he’s got a point. We could have our 30 minutes siesta at the same time as we charge our phones –  the perfect break to re-charge our batteries in unison.

A Quick Word
I’ve just invented a totally new word – Plagiarism.

A Penchant for Scrutiny

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion – but not to their own facts.  Unfortunately, some government departments, politicians, housebuilders and would-be property developers have been known to disagree, clinging to the notion that it’s OK to fabricate a “fact” or two, sprinkle them into seemingly innocuous sentences, and weave them into protracted reports designed to numb the brain of the reader and blinker their minds to potential subterfuge.

So it takes a special talent, limitless patience and eons of time to both read and comprehend the mountains of reports associated with local planning issues –  and then point the finger at any perceived jiggery-pokery.

I’m not very good at it; not many people are.  My feet itch, my vision blurs and my mind starts to wander within minutes of my eyes focussing on a wall of words.  And then I usually remember something more important I should be doing instead.

But local campaign group WAG (Wisley Action Group), of which I am a member, is currently looking for dedicated document readers and “translators” of official jargon or, indeed, anyone who’d like to help defend Three Farms Meadows (the former Wisley airfield) against inappropriate development.

So It’s Goodbye from Him

If I’m ever considered to be the voice of reason, things must be worse than any of us thought so it was with more than a smidgen of guilt that I originally accepted an invitation from The Guildford Dragon NEWS to pen this column just over a year ago.

While I freely admit to being a glass-half-empty type of bloke, it’s only because I drink too quickly. And I discovered years ago that Mark Twain was right when he said writing was easy – all you have to do is cross out the wrong words.

So I’ve enjoyed pouring a glass or two, taking a sideways glance at a year of pandemic pandemonium, and crossing out more words than were eventually published in this Lock-Down column since April 7th last year.

But we’ve all probably heard quite enough about life in lockdown to last us a lifetime, so this seems to be an opportune moment to draw a line under my self-indulgent ramblings and sign-off from Life in Solitary with a genuine quote from Elvis Presley at the very last press conference he ever attended.

“I hope I haven’t bored you,” he said.  I’d just like to say amen to that.

Thank you very much Tony. I know there will be readers who will miss your column but, hopefully, we might hear more from you once there are less pressing demands on your time. Ed

Final Footnote

After a year of Covid restrictions, many of us are still walking around as if everything is just fine but we know that, deep down inside one of our shoes, a sock may be slowly sliding off our foot.

So always remember these wise words from Kevin Sockratees; “Great things are afoot if you pull your socks up.”

Share This Post

Responses to Life in Solitary – So It’s Goodbye from Him…

  1. Carol Maidlow Reply

    April 30, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    Sorry to hear this is your last column, Tony. I look forward to them every week. Stay safe and well.

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 *