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Ockhamite Diary: And It’s Goodbye from Ockham, for Now at Least

Published on: 3 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 4 Feb, 2023

A sidelong glance at the world from Tony Edwards

Did I hear that correctly?

My headmaster once told me that I needed to enunciate more as my words were sometimes unclear and confusing. His comments echoed down the years when, as a young reporter, I attended a formal press reception at a swish London hotel, accompanied by my photographer.

A master of ceremonies, immaculate in red-tailed jacket, politely asked us who we were before announcing our arrival to some 200 other guests.

“Your name sir?” he said.

“It’s, er, Tony Edwards,” I mumbled.

He nodded then flashed a questioning look at my colleague.

“Oh, I’m just his camera man,” he said, gently patting his camera bag.

And that’s when we were both ‘mis-announced’…

“Sir Tony Edwards,” bellowed the man in the red jacket. “And Justice Cameron.”

What’s that you said?

Enunciation and comprehension issues had reared their ugly head.

But the problems didn’t end there. My colleague, Rodney Bennett-England, was announced as ‘The Bank of England’ to hearty laughter from the guests so it may have been more a matter of poor hearing by the master of ceremonies than weak enunciation by we guests.

So I was interested to read a new report this week which claims that pop music is responsible for some of the most frequently ‘misheard’ words and phrases.

Elvis Presley’s ‘We’re caught in a trap’ is often ‘mis-heard’ as ‘We caught him a trout’ or ‘They call him a tramp’, while Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin – touched for the very first time,’ becomes a less virginal ‘Touched for the 31st time’.

“Touched” how many times?

I was racking my brain, trying to remember the name of a politician in the Blair government at the weekend when a friend jokingly suggested I might have ‘Old Timer’s Disease’. I assume he meant ‘Alzheimer’s’ Disease’.

Then again, it might be my hearing.

Sometimes you hear the words correctly but still misinterpret the meaning – like a colleague who was asked if he’d mind waiting for a while when he turned-up, half an hour early, at his favourite restaurant.

“No problem,” he answered, at which point the restaurant owner handed him a tray of drinks and asked him to take them to table six. He swears it’s true.

Time to enquire into Inquiries

It began with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asking his ethics adviser to enquire into the financial affairs of Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi. But then the chair of the Labour Party, Anneliese Dodds, called for an inquiry into whether Mr Zahawi had broken the ministerial code.

The Lib Dems joined the inquiry chorus soon after with a call for a full inquiry into the handling of the Zahawi inquiry

The Green Party will probably now enquire into setting-up its own eco-friendly inquiry into whether all these inquiries are sustainable and how the resultant hot air from the inquiries might affect climate change.

And the SNP won’t be able to resist demanding an inquiry into how the recent catalogue of inquiries has impacted on the cause of Scottish Independence.

I’ve been enquiring into petitioning for an inquiry into when parliamentarians will, finally, get back to the core business of running (rather than ruining) the country and give the cheap political point scoring inquiries a bit of a rest.

When all said and done, they tend to delay rather than decide the facts.

Mustard on the Moon.

Like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, my school friend Paul Chambers and I once dabbled in commercial space flight, with ambitions to reach the planets.

Vintage Colman’s tin now a collector’s item

We’d recently turned 13 when we worked out that a dozen or so Colman’s mustard tins, taped together to form a long, tubular casing, could be morphed into a small space rocket. And with a bit of ingenuity, a coat of red paint, half a bottle of methylated spirits, some cotton wool
and a box of Swan Vestas matches, the sky was literally the limit.

Like Richard Branson’s recent problems with Virgin Galactic, however, lift-off was not a total success and our rocket crash-landed on Paul’s dad’s garden shed almost immediately after take-off.

But an apparent decline in Colman’s mustard consumption in our neighbourhood meant that insufficient raw materials were available for a second shot at the stars.

I was reminded of our schoolboy space programme when I read this week that vintage, unopened, Colman’s Mustard tins are now collector’s items fetching up to fifty quid a time.

Obviously the world now recognises the vital part played by Colman’s mustard in the early days of the space race.

Where have all the Sparrows gone?

The not-so-common sparrow

The blue tits were out, in force, this week; a tight pack of half a dozen, squabbling over the peanut cake swinging from a tree in my garden. But no sparrows. None – anywhere.

In fact I’ve only just realised that I haven’t actually seen a sparrow in years; not since dear old Chippie, a pet sparrow who lived with a friend of mine in Kent for a couple of years before taking off for the big aviary in the sky.

Barbara Windsor, who was affectionately known as the “Cockney Sparrow”, once told me that sparrows were far too trusting for their own good. And with a recorded 60 per cent decline in numbers since the 1970s, I think she may have been right.

How affordable is ‘affordable housing’?

Antonis Pazourou undoubtedly knows a thing or two about housebuilding. He is, after all, Taylor Wimpey’s main mouthpiece when it comes to the company’s plans to build a ‘new town’ at Wisley.

But he seems slightly lost for words when it comes to the “affordable homes” he says he’ll build at Three Farms Meadows, the former Wisley airfield. And questions about their price remain unanswered.

Affordable housing

Since 40 per cent of the 1,730 houses planned would, according to Pazourou, be “affordable”, I’d have thought he might be able to give us at least a ball park figure by now but, instead, we’ll have to wait until early next year for an up-date on that, his office said this week.

So I’ve had a bash at totting up a few figures myself.

“Affordable” is usually defined as 80 per cent of market value so it carries a 20 per cent discount. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says the average house price was £316,000 last year so let’s knock-off £63,200, leaving us with an average discounted price of £252,800.

And if a first-time buyer manages to rustle-up a 10 per cent deposit of just over £25k, they’ll be left with a mortgage of £227,500.

They’d probably need to earn around £57,000 a year to qualify for that but ONS figures tell us the average salary last year was around £34,000.

So, even with joint incomes, a young couple would certainly be up against it. And that prompts the question is “affordable housing” just an over-used but meaningless phrase?

The reality is that house price growth has outstripped growth in wages in recent years and the trend looks set to continue.

And, let’s face it, if anyone did manage to buy a discounted “affordable” home, they’d almost certainly ask for the full market price when the time came to sell-up and move on.

So, in the real world at least, there’s no such thing as “affordable” housing as a concept.

A question of phobias.

A fearful naval.

The slightly touchy subject of phobias crops up in a new book by England rugby international James Haskell. ‘Approach Without Caution’ – a 5-step plan to take control of your life – is his sixth book and, among other things, shines a light on phobias and how to deal with them.

You may be interested to know there are around 100 named phobias – one of the more obscure of which is Omphalophobia, the fear of belly buttons. (No, I don’t get it either.)

But my favourite phobia is Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – the fear of long words.

Who’d have thought they’d have a 36 letter word for it?

Striking the right note?

No smiling faces in past protests.

Strikers protesting in London on Wednesday looked rather too happy in their work; all giggles and smiling faces as they laughed and joked together for the cameras outside Downing Street.

Foreign visitors to London might have been forgiven for thinking it was some kind of national celebration rather than an anti-government protest for higher wages. I half expected to see a contingent from The Campaign for Restraint, Patience & Moderation chanting their message…

What do we want?
Whatever seems appropriate.
When do we want it?
In due course.

What must Arthur Scargill think of it all?

Thought for the week

I’ve been wondering why we never read about psychics winning the big prize on the National Lottery.

So it’s goodbye from him…

This is the last in the current series of diary notes by this Ockhamite hack so may I take this opportunity to thank you for reading my disjointed ramblings over the past 6 months and let you know that I’m taking some time out to pen some fictional tales for a volume of short stories.

The only difference between a factual ‘diary’ column and fiction, of course, is that fiction has to make sense so it’ll be a challenge.

I wish you all that you hope for in these uncertain times.

Tony Edwards.

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Responses to Ockhamite Diary: And It’s Goodbye from Ockham, for Now at Least

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    February 3, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    I am certainly going to miss Tony’s tales. They always brings a smile when I read Ockhamite Diary.

  2. David Worsfold Reply

    February 4, 2023 at 10:33 am

    I’ll be sorry not to be able to read Tony’s astute and funny comments on the things around us. In a world apparently unrelenting in its efforts to bring us all down it was always refreshing to reflect on more light-hearted observations and finish reading the column with a wry smile and unconcious nodding.

    Anyway, how does the man who drives the snowplough get to work?

  3. Carol Maidlow Reply

    February 4, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I wish Tony Edwards good luck with his short stories. I have enjoyed reading a couple of his books.

  4. RWL Davies Reply

    February 5, 2023 at 4:08 pm

    Best wishes, have always found your contributions worth reading; if at at times very annoying; restart them when you have the time.

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