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Life in, You Know, Solitary

Published on: 7 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 10 Aug, 2020

Tony Edwards

The Lockdown Diary of Tony Edwards

Time to Do Nothing for Charity

A cynical columnist on the Sunday Times once bet me £250 I couldn’t grab the national press headlines for a completely unknown Joe Schmo. Oh – and I had a week to do it in.

I took the bet. Enter Sean who lived with his yellow Labrador dog on a houseboat near Chertsey Bridge. He had the winsome good looks of the young Peter O’Toole, a quiet but resolute voice and, while describing himself as an occasional poet, freely admitted to being perfectly happy doing absolutely nothing – nothing whatsoever; zilch.

Sean was at pains to point out that doing absolutely nothing – not even twitching a muscle – for more than a minute or two was difficult. But he reckoned he could manage upwards of five minutes without so much as a blink of the eye. I took him at his word.

My call to the PR of a top London night club was brief. How would she like to book my rising star for her evening cabaret – a man who did sweet nothing, bugger all? She immediately saw the publicity potential and, following his debut appearance, my do-nothing protégé duly made headlines in the red top press for getting well paid to do nothing. Shades of the silent piano concerto.

A celebratory kiss from Faith Brown after doing nothing for charity. We seem to be wearing matching suits.

I mention this curious tale because, a month or so later, Sean’s unique achievement inspired me to invite a bunch of celebrities to “Do Nothing for Charity” at London’s Savoy Hotel – sponsored by the minute for staying perfectly still. Impressionist/ comedian Faith Brown, I recall, managed nearly ten minutes of supreme inactivity, raising money and grabbing some headlines for her chosen charity.

Many of us have been twiddling our thumbs at home for the past few months under a government regime of enforced idleness, when we could have been raising cash for our favourite charities, without leaving the couch. So the time might be right to do nothing for a good cause – if you’ve nothing better to do, that is.

Alexa, Baffled by ‘Brummie’ Accent

Recent news that Alexa seems to be having trouble recognising regional accents in Britain – failing to respond to questions – was bad news for people in Birmingham. The Brummie accent, we’re told, is one of the most difficult for Amazon’s smart virtual assistant, who is supposed to answer questions on demand.

Noddy Holder of Slade, never knowingly underdressed, is indecipherable to Alexa – and several others.

One solution would be to enlist a Brummie to up-date Alexa with “translations” of the local dialect. And I’d recommend one-time pop star Noddy Holder, the lead singer with Slade who, back in the last century, explained to me how “kipper tie” was the Brummie equivalent of “cup of tea”. (Geddit?) He had dozens of other Brummie translations which might help Alexa too.

Slade seems to have long since disbanded so Noddy may be up for the translation challenge.

Bare-Faced Foolery

The e-mail from my boiler company confirmed that their service engineer would be with me between 7am and 6pm on Tuesday. They’d send updates on the day but, in the interim, they wanted to assure me that they were taking the coronavirus very seriously indeed, in order to protect their customers and staff.

At 8am on Tuesday the online update confirmed that Keith – for that was his name – would be with me before noon. But Steve – for that was his real name – turned-up soon after 10am. “Oh…um… would you like me to wear a face mask?” Steve asked as I opened the front door wearing mine.

“Definitely,” I said. “I assumed it was company policy – protecting customers and staff, and all that.”

Steve forced one of those fragile, fake grins, through semi-clenched teeth and nipped back to his van. He returned wearing a mask, assuring me that “quite a lot of people aren’t really that bothered”. Down at the post office, the following day, people seemed to be wearing face masks – but not, apparently, the lady who runs the place.

Same thing at the newsagents, where the bare-faced owner seemed blissfully unconcerned about masks. I guess Steve is probably right – quite a lot of people aren’t really that bothered. And that bothers me quite a lot as a new study revealed this week that only 45% of us currently understand the government’s lock-down rules – compared with 90% in March.

Sharing the Pain

I decided I’d bite the bullet and check on how my shares were doing so duly logged-on to the scene of a bloody massacre – a sea of red on the LSE web site. With hindsight, I’d have invested in supermarkets rather than airlines and gold explorers in the Solomon Islands. But, as the great Mark Twain once said; “October is a particularly difficult month in which to invest in stocks and shares. Others include July, November, January, April, September, June, December, May, February, August, and March.”

Tall Story?

Back in March they said that “oldies” were most at risk from the Coronavirus. Shortly after they said men were more likely to die of it than women. Later they announced that black and ethnic minorities were more vulnerable than white people. And then, more recently, they prodded an accusing finger at the corpulent bellies of overweight people as another high-risk category. Last week researchers ‘discovered’ that tall men were up to twice as likely to become infected, after a survey of 2,000 people.

Co-author, Professor Evan Kontopanyelis from the University of Manchester, announced: “I’m 6ft-4 and was guilty of thinking that if I held my head high, it would not really be a problem if someone with Coronavirus sneezed.” (Seriously, prof?)

He went further and advised tall people not to feel better protected just because they are “up above other people”. So, if the prof and the other statistics are to be believed, short, slim, young, white girls will inherit the earth – if they don’t get trampled to death by tall, fat, old men with their head in the clouds, first.

No – I Don’t Know

The medical “expert” being interviewed on BBC News a few nights back had a complicated message for we lesser beings. Most of it went straight over my head and even the interviewer looked rather more than somewhat confused. Nothing new there then. But what really annoyed me was the way she peppered every sentence with two or three of those meaningless “you know” phrases.

Don’t quote me on this, but I think she said: “Evidence from extensive research by leading immunologists – you know – indicates an unexpected – you know – reversal of previous expectations – you know – where immune response levels are – you know – unreliable.”

I started to count the “you knows” after that but abandoned the tally when a small vein on my forehead began to pulsate and my right hand slowly clenched into an involuntary fist.

But she is most certainly not alone. William and Harry are among a growing army of people who seem to be following the David Beckham school of media speak. Did you know Becks holds the world record for largest the number of “you knows” ever uttered in a single sentence? OK, he doesn’t – but I’m sure he will one of these days if some “expert” doesn’t beat him to it.

The fact is – you know – I probably don’t know, so I wish they’d stop telling me I do.

Time to Take a Bow?

Shaking hands is a thing of the past – at least for the foreseeable future. It’s just too dangerous. But the Boris alternative of knocking elbows is a non-starter. It’s inelegant, clumsy and awkward and has connotations of giving someone the elbow – the exact opposite of what’s intended. It also hurts if you’ve got bony elbows.

Thumbs Up greeting

So I was interested to hear that a Belgian professor called Baron Plot wants us to take a lead from the Japanese and bow when we meet each other. He’s a microbiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine so probably knows what he’s talking about.

My brief experience of Japanese bowing was in a karate dojo where it is required etiquette to bend forward 20 degrees from the waist in a Rei (bow) prior to combat, as a demonstration of respect and humility. But you quickly learn to keep your eyes firmly fixed on your opponent throughout as they’re quite likely to have whacked you round the ear ‘ole with a Mawashigeri (roundhouse kick) before you’ve even straightened up.

Mind you, the origins of the handshake were less than polite. The idea was to shake any concealed weapons, like knives, out of the other man’s sleeve.

Perhaps we could all settle for a simple, uncomplicated “thumbs up” – or perhaps down – depending how we feel?

Vintage Ink

Printer ink is more expensive per millilitre than Champagne, Chanel no 5, Scotch Whisky, Petrol and Manuka Honey, according to a new report. A drop-for-drop price comparison between an Epsom cartridge worked out at £2.04p a millilitre of ink – almost seven times more than Dom Perignon vintage champers. Mine’s a double “Magenta and Cyan” on the rocks, thanks.

‘Red Tape’ and Green Belt

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick announced on Monday that planning regulations are to be relaxed, ensuring that massive housing developments can be waved through without “unnecessary red tape”. But he pledged to protect green belt land which, using the “Guildford Principle”, means that green belt status will simply be removed from the designated land before handing it over to the developers to cover in concrete.

Now you see it – now you don’t.

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Responses to Life in, You Know, Solitary

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 8, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Can we please have more of this. We all require a giggle during these tough times.

    A tour de force again Tony.

    As to the comment on the green belt status, I see this differently. The new policy requires GBC to rescind the designation of the thirteen villages as being “inset” from the green belt.

    Can they please get on with this?

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