As has been documented in previous musings, it is an irritating habit of mine to start the day with a rant. Or to be more accurate, it was.
I would regularly begin most mornings with a moan, a vent, a diatribe. No. There is no better word than rant – ooh, maybe there is! Look what I’ve just found:
Philippic – a bitter attack or denunciation, especially a verbal one.
Hmm, not bad. But I’m a rant man…
I would rant at anything or anybody that had irked me on the radio or at something that I had read in the newspaper.
The problem was, I would embark on these rants (or philippics if you like) the minute my dear wife had opened her lovely blue eyes. If I was really cross, sometimes even before.
‘For God’s sake, George, give me a moment to wake up.’
‘But I’ve been listening to the ‘Today’ programme. You won’t believe what that prat – **insert here the name of any government Puppet – err,sorry – Spokesman – was saying to Nick Robinson/Justin Webb/Mishal Hussain,/ Martha Kearney.’
‘Give me a second to open my eyes.’
‘But you won’t bloody believe it!’
‘No, I won’t. Because you’re not going to tell me. I don’t want to hear. Ring the BBC. Write to the papers. Write a blog. But let me bloody wake up!!’
‘Okay,’ I sniffed. ‘You’re the one who’s going to miss out on my philippics!’
Ergo, ‘Life in Laytonia’ was born. Since then, Mrs. Layton has enjoyed the luxury of waking up in a rant-free environment.
The plan for this week was to have the first, big, good old solid rant of 2021. But…
I simply don’t have the energy.
Another big sigh…
Writing requires stamina. Nothing, however, is more energy sapping than rant-writing.
Be it as trivial – though no less irritating – as a Larry David-style tirade at being over-charged 60 pence in Le Pain Quotidien for half a loaf of bread (‘L in L’ August 23rd 2020) or the more serious tear-inducing, white knuckle frustration of dealing with WiFi Providers who Direct Debit your hard earned dosh and simply don’t Provide!
I’m talking about communications companies like Talk Talk and Three Broadband, who cannot or have no wish to communicate. (‘L in L’ August 11th 2020 & ‘L in L’ August 23rd 2020).
To collate the to & fro emails and texts between organisations like the above and myself, becomes a life’s work.
To list the life draining, mind-numbing, losing the will-to-live hours spent on the telephone waiting for Customer Service – ‘Customer Service’ – there’s an oxymoron to out-oxymoron all oxymorons! To detail those lost forever hours hanging on for Customer (non) Service takes more energy than writing a television series.
My plan, therefore, to name, shame and lambast an even bigger conglomerate than Talk Talk or Three Broadband, is for the moment on hold. BT will have to wait…
Oops – what a give away!!
So what am I going to write about?
Another big sigh…
I can’t write about the pandemic. I am Covid 19-eened out, as I’m sure are all of you. I can barely bring myself to read about it.
I’m not going to write about President God. I can’t wait for the 20th January. Goodbye and good riddance! I can’t stomach the thought that he will have the title ‘Mr. President’ for life. For that reason alone, I hope that the impeachment trial will find him guilty. Thousands of National Guard troops on standby for Wednesday’s inauguration. What a legacy!
And I’m certainly not going to mention the cringe-making interview between Mishal Husain and the Minister for Aviation & Maritime at the Department of Transport on Saturday’s Today programme.
The Minister was being interviewed with regard to the unidentified Brazilian new strain of coronavirus. He was on the programme to elaborate on the ‘robust measures’ being put in place to strengthen the ‘robust measures’ already in place.
What ‘robust measures’? From day one of this pandemic, passengers have been drifting into the UK through Heathrow and other points of entry without as much as their temperature being taken.
The Minister didn’t get off to the most auspicious start when answering Mishal Husain’s first question.
Mishal: Would you prefer people not to travel to the UK?
Minister: Well certainly at the moment of course, the advice is that people ought not to be travelling from the UK.
Anybody know the name of this Minister for Aviation & Maritime? No? I’ll tell you. Robert Courts. No, I’ve never heard of him either.
Where the hell has he been during this pandemic? Certainly not protecting the borders of this island nation. For months, people have been embarking from aircraft and travelling unchecked to their destinations by tube, bus, car and taxi.
For the rest of the interview, Mr. Courts spouted the party line:
‘We have a very strong package of measures in place…’
‘Toughening up already tough requirements…’
‘There has been a very robust enforcement process thus far…’
‘We have a very robust system…’
Mr. Courts loves the word ‘robust’. He repeated it at least 7 times.
Mishal and I suffered a lengthy interview of clichéd sound bites. She has to listen to this vacuous drivel. I chose to. Which is why I don’t want to write about it.
So what am I going to focus on this week?
Third big sigh…
Whether you are contracted to write a television series with stipulated delivery dates, studios booked for recording and a schedule set in stone for filmed inserts or writing to a self-imposed deadline as I am now, the panic that sets in when staring at a blank screen (or in my early days a blank sheet of paper) is the same.
It causes sick-making cartwheels in the writer’s tummy.
On more than one occasion over the years as a writer, I have found myself praying for a mild illness, even a mini heart attack, so that I had a legitimate excuse to return the money to the BBC without the indignity of confessing that I couldn’t think of a bloody thing!
But remember that old adage: “Writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”.
Taking a non-deserved break to read the paper, the 1% finally kicked in. It was ever thus. I never did have to fake my mini heart attack and return the fee.
I have frequently written about my numerous quirks and habits, regarded by many as idiosyncratic and many more as obsessive.
One that I have mentioned is my practice of heading straight to the obituaries page when I open the newspaper.
One could say that this routine is somewhat morbid. Most do. Well, everybody does, including Moya.
I don’t see that. I am of an age when I like to know which of my contemporaries have gone to that Green Room in the sky. One doesn’t need to have been acquainted with the sadly departed. Reading obituaries can be fascinating. A truncated mini-biography.
Sir David Barclay, for instance, who died last week. I didn’t know him (surprise, surprise) but I found his obituary totally absorbing:
‘Sir David Barclay
Reclusive and enigmatic billionaire who, with his twin, owned the Telegraph Media Group and, until last year, the Ritz hotel’
The story of these self-made secretive peas in a pod twins. who left school at 14, made compulsive reading. They were like a couple of characters from John le Carré novel.
Ah, John le Carré. There was an obituary that read like a John le Carré novel. What a stupid thing to say.
Dancer, glider pilot, flight attendant, entrepreneur and mother of a tycoon whose career she started when she gave him £100’
Sir Richard’s Branson’s mum. Another great read. She got a hole-in-one at the age of 96!
Goodness me, here’s an obituary that has sent shivers down my spine!
‘Norman Simmons…Oh no. That’s the character I played in EastEnders! I loved being in EastEnders. They’ve killed him off! No chance of bringing him back to the Square now!
Ah – it’s not my Norman Simmons who had a crush on Pat Butcher, it’s:
‘Dr. Norman Simmons
Renowned clinical microbiologist who tackled superbugs and food scares’
My condolences to Dr. Simmons’ family, but it’s a reprieve for me. There’s still a chance that my character could be brought back into the show. Hey, perhaps this is the moment to launch the national ‘Bring back Norman Simmons’ campaign. Hint, hint…
The last widow of the American Civil War’
Now this one read like a novel. Helen Jackson was 101. At the age of 17 she had a secret marriage with a man of 93. I can’t go into the detail here but it’s worth digging out, it’s a terrific read.
One wonders who writes these obituaries? It’s an odd job if you think about it. No credit, no byline. Nameless and faceless.
Colourful former bankrupt and sex addict who became the owner of Britain’s biggest circus…’
“Colourful former bankrupt and sex addict”! Who does write these pieces? That’s not a nice thing for his family to read. Bloody hell, they’ve just lost a loved one!
‘Colourful character who ran away to join the circus at 15’ might have a more sensitive way to introduce Gerry’s obit. By all means, throw in some of the sordid details later if it is deemed relevant.
Hang on. These obituaries are written whilst the subject is still alive. Surely under the Data Protection Act we should be allowed to check out what has been written about us before we shuffle off this mortal coil? I reckon Gerry Cottle would have welcomed the opportunity.
This has got me thinking about my own obituary…
Cheeky, chirpy comedy actor and lazy writer, prone to procrastination…’
Hmm – seems about right…