George: (into ‘phone): Oh, dear. I’m sorry to hear that. Listen mate, one man’s meat is another man’s poison…
I was chatting to my friend of over 60–odd years and never once during our long friendship have I ever called him mate.
In line with ‘Life in Laytonia’ policy, I rarely mention family and friends by name. Hence here, the use of ‘mate’.
I say ‘rarely’ because I do make an exception when talking about my wife, who by nature of the title of this column/blog, is frequently mentioned.
I could hardly keep referring to my wife as ‘my wife’ when writing about my wife. That would become laboured as demonstrated in this sentence.
Then again, to maintain the anonymity of friends and family in my (sometimes) personal musings, I suppose I could have regressed to my Northern roots from the start and referred to her as ‘The Wife’. Echoing the much-missed A.A.Gill, who always referred to his other half as ‘The Blonde’.
I guess I could have picked up the A.A.Gill mantle and nicked The Blonde soubriquet. My wife – The Wife – is after all a blonde. But apart from being unoriginal, I reckon The Blonde would have gone down about as well as The Wife.
So Moya it is…
Back to my life-long friend, for these purposes named Mate, and the beginning of our telephone conversation.
Mate: I’ve just read your blog this week, George (referring to ‘L in L’ 25). I was disappointed.
George: (disappointed): Oh, dear. I’m sorry to hear that. Listen Mate, one man’s meat is another man’s poison…
Bit banal, I know. But it lamely, if somewhat defensively, encapsulated that different people like different things; that what one reader likes or enjoys, may be distasteful to another.
Actually, I was finding it faintly ironic that the thrust of my blog last week, the essence of what I was writing about was that:
“Writing is subjective. You cannot please everybody. You cannot write to committee”.
George: …Listen Mate, one man’s meat is another man’s poison but I’m disappointed that you’re disappointed.
My life-long friend, Mate, is extremely intelligent and someone whose opinion I value.
Mate: It was a bit George-Centric…
Pause. Slight gulp. ‘George-Centric’? Hmm…
Since my weekly posts go by the title ‘Life in Laytonia’ there is always an element of George-Centrism. Nature of the beast.
I said this. I also pointed out that on my own admission, the blog he had just read was the most autobiographical piece I had written since embarking on this weekly stream of consciousness.
It had centred on my self-imposed exile from writing. How I had walked away from a reasonably successful career.
George: Mate, it’s quite hard not to be George-Centric when you’re baring your soul.
Mate: No, no! I mean I would have thought that you’d have written about Trump and the American election!
Ah! Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty. The nub of Mate’s ‘disappointment’.
I had used my platform to relate a personal ‘George-Centric’ story rather than write about the seismic chapter of history taking place across the water.
It was a fair point, well made. Perhaps I should have done.
My what could be perceived as a fit of pique, hanging up my pen/switching off my computer story, could have featured at any time.
In fairness, President God and the American Election were high on my list of topics last week. But having read acres of American Election newsprint written by far more adroit political commentators than myself, there was little I could add.
Mate: Come on, George, don’t be modest. Quite a few of your blogs have had a political edge.
That’s true, I preened.
But banging on about things that I personally found – and still find – irksome doesn’t make me a political journalist.
Such as Robert Jenrick still in being office after flouting Lockdown rules.
Or that Dido Harding, the former Chief Executive of (non) Communications Company Talk Talk, was made Head of Track & Trace. An appointment that didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. (I wrote as one who had managed to extricate themselves from a testicle-constricting Talk Talk contract.)
Or when some junior minister like Edward Agar (who he, Ed?) goes on the Today programme and arrogantly refuses to answer any of Nick Robinson’s questions.
Or commenting on the oleaginous Michael Gove, the platitudinous Dominc Raab, the dinosaurus Sir Desmond Swayne, the ineptudinous Matt Hancock, the second-ratednous Grant Shaps, Therese Coffey, George Eustice et al.
None of the above makes me a political journalist. Or any kind of journalist.
No self-respecting journalist would make up words the way I do.
However – all the above is an unsubtle hint for all you ‘Life in Laytonia’/‘Layton on Lockdown’ aficionados to bone up on some earlier posts!
Ooh, perhaps someone might bring them to Boris’ attention!
George starts daydreaming…telephone rings:
Robert Jenrick: (answering) Robert Jenrick…
Boris: Robert, Boris here. Sorry to call you so late.
Robert Jenrick: Oh, Prime Minister, always a pleasure…
Boris: Not so sure it will be when you hear what I’m calling about. Listen, old boy, I’m just reading a…what d’you call them, a… erm…a Weblog! Written by some cove, erm…George Lazenby. No, I’ve never heard of him either – but he’s written that you flouted lock down rules. Drove to your parents.
Robert Jenrick: But that was last April!!
Boris: Exactly! Don’t quite understand what you’re doing still in office.
Robert Jenrick: Prime minister, it was only 150 miles, hardly flouting. Dom drove to Durham and back. And took his wife on a birthday trip to Barnard Castle. He’s still in office!
Boris: (harrumphing) Not of last night he isn’t…!
* * * * * * * *
Dido Harding: (answering) Baroness Harding…
Boris: Ah, Dildo, sorry Dodo, no Doodah – oh, what is your name?
Dido Harding: Dido.
Dido Harding: Short for Diana, Prime Minister.
Boris: (harrumphing) Can’t be doing with these diminutives.
Dido Harding: I know what you mean, Bo-jo. Sorry – Prime Minister.
Boris: Listen, Dodi, my attention’s been drawn to some drivel written by some hack, Gordon Laycock or somebody. I didn’t know that you were a big cheese at Talk Talk.
Dido Harding: Oh yes, Prime Minister. The biggest. I was Chief Cheese. I ran Talk Talk for over seven years.
Boris: Really? Bother, I wish I’d known. I’m having a terrible time with them. Listen, Doddy, do you still have any clout there?
Dido Harding: I know one or two people. But to be honest, Prime Minister, they’re a nightmare to get through to…
* * * * * * * *
George: (still daydreaming) Sorry, Mate, what was that?
Mate: I was saying, I didn’t actually call to talk about your blog. I rang to see if you wanted to go for a walk on Thursday?
George: Lovely. What time?
George: Perfect. Meet at the usual place..?