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Ockhamite Diary: If I Get To 100, Will It Be A Mandatory Merry Festival?

Published on: 16 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 18 Dec, 2022

A sidelong glance at the world from Tony Edwards…

Scoring a century – or more

I’d always planned to age like a fine wine rather than an over-ripe banana. But I was born in an era when emojis were called hieroglyphics, so there isn’t too much time left for me to do either.

And while I was brought up to respect my elders, most of them are now dead so I won’t need to bother.

But will I reach 100? That’s probably pushing it. I don’t think I’d have the stamina to blow out 100 candles but if Vera Lynn, Kirk Douglas, Bob Hope, George Burns and my aunt Dorothy (to name but a few) can live for five score years, why not me?

Happy 100th birthday. But no off-the-shelf cards if you are 118

Centenarians are a growing band and an expanding market, with the number of 100-year-olds in the UK rising by 58 per cent in the past two decades to close-on 16,000, according to official stats. And you may be surprised to know that 237 people were 110 at the last count.

If you don’t know any centenarians, you may not have noticed the wide selection of 100th birthday cards nestling among the Christmas cards this year. And there are special birthday cards, too, for every age between 100 and 116.

But there are no off-the-shelf 118 birthday cards for the French nun, known as Sister Andre, who is officially the oldest living person in the world. And she even managed to survive a bout of Covid last year!

Real name Lucile Rawdon, she was born on February 11, 1904, ten years before the start of the First World War.

She says wine and chocolate are the secret of her longevity but refuses to concede that she is old, saying that she’d like to establish a new world record for staying alive. That would involve topping the 122 years set by another French woman, who was also a bit of a wine drinker. I think
there’s a clue to the secret of longevity in there somewhere. Cheers.

Don’t mention the C word

Festive celebrations and a woke New Year

Civil servants have been instructed to moderate their language when it comes to Christmas greetings as part of a woke guidance on inclusion.

The word Christmas is taboo, for starters, and any parties should be alcohol-free so that different faiths are not excluded or offended.

The official Civil Service “faith and belief toolkit” permits Christmas parties but the suggestion is that they should avoid the C word referring, instead, to “festive celebrations”.

So when Father Festive Celebrations turns up to leave the festive celebrations pressies under the festive celebrations tree on festive celebrations eve, they can turn on their tellies to watch Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghost of festive celebrations past – and wonder if, at this rate, the ghost of festive celebrations yet to come will be out of a job.

The great Christmas card race

They say sending Christmas cards is a good way to let your friends and family know they’re worth the price of a stamp. But with first class post nudging a quid a time, a long Christmas card list might involve a second mortgage.

Sun and sand on the Christmas card from Australia

After being told that his 50 first-class Christmas postage stamps would cost him £47.50p, and would not guarantee pre-Christmas delivery of his cards, Bishop’s Stortford man, Toby Warne, decided to hand-deliver them in his gas-guzzling Lotus Elise because it was cheaper.

I reckon he was on to something.

If you’ve checked out the price of Royal Mail’s parcel post this year, you’ll know that hiring a chauffeur-driven limo to do the honours would probably beat Postman Pat on price and definitely on speed.

And, while you’re at it, you could add on a bit of chauffeured Christmas shopping.

So, while there are yet more warnings of postal delays due to a series of one-day strikes leading up to Christmas, and the press talks about postmen holding Christmas to ransom, I’ve got a bit of positive news about a “postal race” between the UK and Australia.

Nothing official, you understand, just a friendly challenge between me and an old school friend who lives in Adelaide. Molly and I sent each other Christmas cards on the same day towards the end of November to see which would turn-up first. And I’m pleased to say it was mine.

The card from Oz – all sunshine and sandy beaches – arrived a full ten days later and the stamp apparently cost more than double the UK rate.

And Molly’s reaction? “Since our postal service was privatised it has been getting more
expensive and less reliable,” she said.

The burning question now is will my cards to UK friends and relatives ever get delivered by striking posties before the big day?

Cultural confusion?

When 57-year-old Marlene Headley from Willesden decided to adopt an African style of dress and call herself Ngozi Fulani it was bound to cause a bit of confusion. But as she was born and bred in the UK, some have argued the name change amounted to “cultural appropriation”.

A Nigerian man tweeted that Ngozi is an Igbo tribal name while Fulani comes from a tribe of nomads in another region altogether. “It’s a bit like saying your name is Mohamed Smith,” he said.

And as a one-time news reporter, I was surprised that Marlene managed to remember the nine questions from Lady Susan Hussey, along with her own precise answers, to produce what is claimed to be a verbatim report which she posted on Twitter. Perhaps she took notes or, maybe, even recorded the conversation. Was she expecting trouble?

But the objectives of her charity (about which published claims are reportedly being assessed by the Charity Commission and donors, the Greater London Assembly) to support African and Caribbean heritage women affected by abuse – seem to exclude women of white or any other heritage. It’s sometimes difficult to be sure, these days, but isn’t that discrimination?

Re-launch of a flying pig

I like pigs – always have. There’s something special about their energy, optimism and natural curiosity. Winston Churchill liked pigs too, saying; “Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. But pigs treat us as equals.”

Friends in Chertsey adopted a piglet, and named him Anthony, after me.

The Py Pig Wishing Card which made wishes come true for children

So nobody was surprised when I ‘created’ a cartoon pig a few years back. Pythagoras – Py for short – is a black and white pig with wings and a magic wand tail who performs ‘Wishicles’ for children – that’s a wish which deserves a miracle to make it come true.

Py took a long list of ‘Wishicles’ and turned them into reality for kids across the country. And he had his own cartoon strip in a dozen or more regional daily newspapers which recorded the tales of Py, his very small friend Microbe, and Trubshaw, a bearded collie dog.

But now Py hopes to take centre stage in a children’s book about his exploits, with the magic wand tail, conjuring up some magical tales.

Spending a penny can cost you a quid

Looks like Poundland shops should think about rebranding as Fiverland now they’ve admitted that nearly 60 per cent of the items on sale will cost you rather more than a quid.

Everything under a penny in 1884 at the original M&S

Soaring inflation can play havoc with snappy brand names, as Marks & Spencer discovered in the 1880s when they launched the company as Marks’ Penny Bazaar, in Leeds – with all items originally pegged at a pre-decimal penny.

The sad economic reality is that it’ll cost you 50p to “spend a penny” these days, with some of the more savvy lavvies charging £1. As a nation, we spent £2.2 billion last year nipping into public loos which puts the soaring cost of a pee into perspective.

National focus on ‘new town’ threat?

The ongoing campaign to halt plans for a “new town” on high-grade farmland at the former Wisley airfield took a new turn in the past week with interest from the national press. Two national newspapers have been discussing the issues with campaigners from the Wisley Action
Group (WAG).

A national press photographer focuses on (left) Ingrid Tarrant and (right) Helen Jefferies of WAG

I met up recently with WAG member Helen Jefferies who took centre stage with local celebrity Ingrid Tarrant to outline the facts to a national press reporter over a cup of coffee at The Black Swan. They were later photographed against a backdrop of the threatened land. (See picture).

Now it’s fingers crossed that extensive reporting of the latest Netflix instalment of the serialised saga of the Sussexes won’t push the WAG stories off the pages of the national press.

New Year’s Obligation?

As we look ahead to New Year 2023, you might like to consider a simple formula for deciding on your New Year’s Resolutions. Just think of all the things you most love to do and then resolve to stop doing them. Simple!

Thought for the day

The most cost-effective way to stay warm in these sub-zero temperatures is to take off all your clothes, pour yourself a drink – and go back to bed.

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Responses to Ockhamite Diary: If I Get To 100, Will It Be A Mandatory Merry Festival?

  1. David Roberts Reply

    December 18, 2022 at 4:11 pm

    Don’t be too hard on civil servants. As head of a Whitehall department, I had the unenviable job of dreaming up acceptable ideas for staff awaydays and annual parties.

    A “reasonable sum” (£10 a head, say) could be spent on these from public funds, essentially for morale-raising reasons. But definitely not on booze or anything remotely frivolous. Navigating around the sensitivities was almost impossible: no pub visits for Muslims or women who might see them as temples of patriarchy, no physical activity that might exclude the disabled, no quiz that might disadvantage those with learning challenges, no evening events that might compromise family life, child care or conditioned working hours, etc, etc. One so-called awayday ended up consisting of a dismal, half-day meeting in another part of the same building, over some dried-out “ethnic” snacks.

    Was this “wokeness” gone mad? Emphatically not. In an odd way, I’m proud that, unlike the ghastly private-sector Christmas binges one hears about, our civil service tries so hard to be frugal with our money and considerate to minorities who get a rough enough deal as it is out of life in the UK. (I exclude the Boris-style booze-ups fostered not by civil servants but by politicians and their politically appointed special advisers in strange, overwrought environments like No 10.)

    With less than half the population now saying they are Christians, however, perhaps Eid al-Fitr or Diwali will become as merry for everyone as Christmas is. No one needs to feel threatened by folklore.

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