Fringe Box



Life in Solitary: U-turns and Winding Career Paths

Published on: 4 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 8 Sep, 2020

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

Winding Career Paths

The recent GCSE and A-Level results chaos reminded me of the anxiety and stress of attempting to plot a future career path while not yet even old enough to vote.

Vaguely inspired by Isaac Asimov – who famously observed that while “science can amuse and fascinate us all, it is engineering that changes the world” – I headed off to an engineering college where my original enthusiasm seemed to swiftly fade. By the end of my first year, I’d lost all interest in the grey, greasy world of engineering.

Then, one fateful day during a physics lesson, my attention wandered beyond the classroom window to the road outside the main gates where a motorbike seemed to have collided with a car. I edged closer to the window when an ambulance and two police cars arrived on the scene and a little crowd began to gather.

“Are you still with us Mr Edwards?” boomed “Jock” Ward, our physics master. “Obviously the events beyond our school gates are of more interest to you than anything I have to say.” My face reddened as he handed me a notebook and pen and sent me off to “report” on the accident.

“I’ll expect at least two hundred words by the end of the period,” he said through a fake grin, as my classmates collapsed in shrieks of juvenile laughter.

I handed in my “report” before the deadline and waited for the inevitable criticism. But Jock seemed impressed. “Have you ever considered a career in journalism?” he enquired with a look of genuine interest. “I believe you might find it more your cup of tea than engineering.” And he was right. I later became a journalist via a somewhat circuitous route which led me to PR, comedy scriptwriting and, eventually, penning a novel or two.

Three engineering students who chose different career paths.

Many of my fellow students also changed career paths along the way while others reached their engineering goals – like the chap playing trombone in a photo taken in the college gym’s changing rooms. He joined Handley Page before moving to the USA to work at Lockheed on the massive C5A Galaxy aircraft. But the clarinettist graduated to tenor sax and, when last heard of, was a professional jazz musician. I’m the chap on guitar – and still know next to nothing about engineering.

A Novel Way to Look Intelligent

The “Rent-a-Book” companies must be raking it in as business booms. Have you noticed how many Zoom interviews for TV news take place in front of an impressive, wall-to-wall run of bookshelves, suitably stocked with commendable reading? It’s no coincidence that Homer’s Odyssey, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and other classic tomes, seem to take centre stage when the cameras roll.

An ‘Oscar’ for Cocking a Deaf ‘Un?

There seems to be an official “award” for just about everything these days as society attempts to recognise and reward the pursuit of excellence. But where, I wonder, are the anti-accolades for the anti-heroes; those awkward individuals who swim against the social tide and totally ignore public opinion to achieve objectives which defy democracy and fly in the face of reason?

I’ve thought about it in the quiet of these lockdown days and concluded that they, too, deserve recognition – a formal acknowledgement of their tireless efforts to cock a deaf ear to logic and common sense and override the views of the “silent” majority?

An appropriate award for “cocking a deaf un” – shutting out the sound of sanity and the ring of truth, for motives which are not always entirely transparent, commendable or clear – could, perhaps, be a simple, easy-to-operate device to improve the hearing. An antique, brass ear trumpet, for example.

With in-built national media appeal, it would be a symbolic recognition of a failure to listen which might justifiably have graced the trophy cabinets of those who bulldozed Guildford’s controversial Local Plan into being. But, for the moment at least, I’m quietly confident that the new award won’t be relevant, as folk with more focussed minds seem to be listening and working towards a democratic and greener future for the borough. But I’ll keep my brass ear trumpet pristine and polished – just in case.

A Gory Success Story

I was sorry to read this week that the London Dungeon had been accused of ‘bad taste’ after offering free entry to anyone with the same name as some of our more infamous serial killers. Undoubtedly poor taste – definitely bad news.

But then the famous London tourist venue has changed dramatically since it was first opened in 1974 by Annabel Geddes as a historically accurate exhibition of torture and execution through the ages. I didn’t hesitate to accept when Annabel offered me the macabre task of organising the Dungeon’s national press publicity – from its opening through to the day she eventually sold it in the 1990s.

Although we set up a series of headline-grabbing media stories over the years, the story of how Annabel conceived the original idea for the gruesome exhibition is probably the most interesting tale of all. A recently-divorced mum, she’d taken her children to the Tower of London one rainy afternoon but quickly saw the disappointment on their faces. Where was the blood in the Bloody Tower? Where were the tortured and torturers in the dungeons? Where was the hooded axeman at the execution block? It was a gore-less letdown.

So, driving home, Annabel Geddes made a pact with fate – and her kids. If they passed any suitable premises on the way back to Chelsea, she’d establish a permanent and factually accurate exhibition of Britain’s most gruesome history. After crossing Tower Bridge, she turned right into Tooley Street and, there, under the arches of London Bridge Station, she found the ideal venue – the original home of the London Dungeon. Fate had sealed the deal just five minutes from the Tower – and the rest, as they say, is history. Great ideas can [and do] happen in an instant.

Beeb’s ‘Britannia’ Bashing

Banish the words of ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope & Glory’ from the last night of the proms bleated the BBC, claiming that the long-standing lyrics celebrated Britain’s colonial past. The new boss of the Beeb has now reversed that hugely unpopular decision but perhaps the BBC should be banned from calling itself the British Broadcasting Corporation when it so often seems to be ashamed of being British. Maybe the Biased Broadcasting Corporation would be more appropriate?

Playing it Loose.

I’d planned to read Donald Trump’s book The Art of the Deal this week but didn’t get beyond page five. “Most people are surprised by the way I work,” he reveals on page one, then goes on to explain: “I play it very loose. I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops.”

The book, which was first published in 1987 – before hotels and casino businesses belonging to Trump declared bankruptcy six times (between 1991 and 2009) due to an inability to meet payments or renegotiate debt. Playing it very loose has its drawbacks it seems.

Biden Babble

And if Donald Trump is the problem, Joe Biden certainly isn’t the solution. Part of his recent election address on behalf of the Democrats went like this. “Covid has taken this year… just since the outbreak…has taken more than 100 year. Look… here’s… lives. It’s just… when you think about it…more lives this year than at any time for the past 100 years.”

Well that’s clear, almost as error-free as his 2008 utterance: “One man stands to deliver the change we desperately need. A man I’m proud to call my friend. A man who will be the next president of the United States… Barack America!”

No Change

As we await the full economic impact of this year’s nationwide “Lockdown”, you may be interested to know what the media was saying exactly ten years ago, in 2010. “This will be a difficult year for the economy. After the deepest recession since the 1930s, the outlook is for a sluggish recovery with record levels of peacetime government borrowing and wide unemployment.” Could have been written this week.

Amazing Amazon

The paint, garden shears, vitamin tablets and kitchen roll I’d ordered from Amazon late on Sunday evening were on my doorstep by Monday afternoon. So while I keep telling myself that I must try to support Britain’s high street retailers instead of this ever-expanding, online colossus, the offer of next day delivery for almost anything I can think of outweighs the urge to get in the car, drive to the shops, find somewhere to park and don my face mask. But I’ll keep trying… honest.

Four New Words Which Mean Stupid





Parting Thought…

Just re-stocked with anti-bac hand gel and realised that my hands have probably consumed more alcohol than me in the past six months.

Share This Post

Responses to Life in Solitary: U-turns and Winding Career Paths

  1. Carol Maidlow Reply

    September 4, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Thanks to Tony Edwards for the smiles. I love reading his stories.

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 *