The morning DL (During Lockdown) routine in Laytonia, is no different to the PL (Pre-Lockdown) morning routine.

7am.  Earphone in one ear, I listen to the Today programme with Nick, Justin, Mishal, Martha, whoever’s on the Today shift.

Since we are all in bed together, I feel I can call them by their first names. There’s still room for John, I miss him. 

For the Laytonia readers who are members of the ‘how soon we forget’ brigade, I am of course referring to John Humphrys.

Once I’ve heard ‘Thought for the Day’ – goodness, I remember back in the (Home Service) day when that slot was called ‘Lift Up Your Hearts’. 

Maybe it’s time for another name change.  How about ‘Raise Your Spirits’?

Anyway, once I’ve heard ‘Thought for the Day’ – a must even for an enthusiastically secular listener like me – I head downstairs to put the kettle on.

When I say, ‘put the kettle on’, it’s rather like using the word Hoover for any vacuum cleaner.  I don’t actually put a kettle on, because I don’t have one.  I don’t need one.  I have a hot tap. 


When I had the inordinately expensive Quooker (the Hoover of the hot tap world) installed over 15 years ago, everybody laughed at me, including my darling wife.

A close friend teased me; ‘Yes, we’ve got something like that, only much cheaper – it’s called a kettle!

Guffaws all round.  I was an object of ridicule.

‘You’ll never guess what George has done.  He’s only spent a fortune on a hot tap!’

‘Yes, we’ve got one of those – we call it a kettle!’

Oh, how amused they all were.

15 years on, they’ve all got a hot tap. 

It reminds me of that lovely Bob Monkhouse story:

‘When I was growing up and I told everyone I was going to be a comedian, they all laughed at me.  Well they’re not laughing now…’


Last night I watched the documentary, ‘What’s the Matter with Tony Slattery’? 

It was horrible, shocking and at the same time, uplifting.

Horrible to see how cruelly life can pan out for some people.  Shocking to see a man of 60 looking so very old.  Uplifting, because this was a tender love story.

Tony Slattery and his partner, the actor Mark Hutchinson, have been together for over 34 years.  Their love for each other radiated over the airwaves. 

How many, watching this moving story, could say that they would have Mark Hutchinson’s… I’m searching for the right words… Mark Hutchinson’s capacity for unconditional love.  His tenacious commitment to Tony.  

His love for Tony Slattery must have been tested by unimaginable moments of unhappiness and loneliness.  For both of them.

I don’t know Mark Hutchinson, but it would appear that his own promising acting career comes second to his enduring relationship with Tony.

I can’t say that I know Tony Slattery either, other than we once worked together.

It must have been in the early 90’s and I remember little about it, other than we spent a day together in terminal 3 at Heathrow.

The two of us had been booked by some huge conglomerate for one of those heaven-sent corporate gigs that helped fund luxuries like the mortgage.

Our expertise was to bring a sincere lightness of touch to a leaden script.

Our roles were to motivate a roomful of laddish suits to go forth from terminal 3 to sell more widgets to boost the company’s profits.

I may be hazy about the details of the day, but I have a clear memory of Tony Slattery, which made my watching of the film increasingly unwatchable.

He was extremely good-looking.  Jet black hair, coal-black eyes and quietly self-contained. 

This self-containment may have been shyness but I took it as an attractive confidence that meant he didn’t have to bother with small talk. 

Having seen the documentary, I think it was shyness.

I would urge you to watch it.  It’s not easy.  His graphic description of being raped when he was eight by a predatory priest still lingers. 


To continue the Laytonia morning routine:

Lockdown or otherwise, it’s a cup of tea in bed, the morning paper and BBC Breakfast on BBC 1, burbling away in the background.

Every day, especially during this spell of gorgeous weather, Moya says we ought to have our morning cuppa outside.

‘Good idea,’ I always reply, not meaning a word of it. 

I like this leisurely start to the day.  Sitting up in bed, scanning the paper with half an ear on the TV, should anything newsworthy catch my eye. 

Goodness, there’s a mishmash of body parts for you.

The four interchanging presenters, Charlie Stayt, Naga Munchetty, Louise Minchin and Dan Walker, do a valiant job anchoring what has become something of a Covid 19 thankless task.

They bring an enthusiastic freshness to a daily stream of coronavirus stories that we heard the day before and will hear again tomorrow.

And throughout the programme, each presenter has to run the gamut of emotions:

Earnest sympathy for the heartbreaking story.  Whoops of delight for the charity fundraiser trying to emulate Captain Tom’s historic venture.  Hilarious laughter for the teacher dressed as a chicken.

Then, they have to adopt the ‘I’m a serious journalist’ tone for that morning’s interview with either a government spokesman, there to prattle the party line, or a member of the opposition who will, – ‘with respect’ – condemn what the government is doing. 

Whoever the interviewee, the ‘we’re living in unprecedented times’ soundbite has to be repeated several times.

These BBC Breakfast stalwarts require the adroitness of a quick-change artist.

Little wonder then, that the other day, Naga Munchetty, always commendably upbeat, reported some depressing statistics as if she were bringing us the winning lottery numbers.

I catch sight of a familiar face on the screen.  They are doing a piece on Mental Health Awareness Week. 

It transpires that when footballer, Luke Chadwick, was a teenager playing at Manchester United, his adolescent looks were a target for the cruel humour associated with the BBC sports quiz, ‘They Think It’s All Over’. 

This severely affected his mental health.

I recognize the familiar face.  Nick Hancock.  He was the host ‘They Think It’s All Over’.

He is apologizing, unreservedly and with dignity, for any hurt he, the show, or the writers inflicted on Luke Chadwick.

And this got me thinking.

In the early 70’s, Jonathan Lynn and I were new kids on the writing block and one of the shows we were asked to write scripts for was ‘On The Buses’.

Being one of top shows on television, it was quite a feather in our comedy- writing cap.  It still has a massive nostalgic following.

Often described as the golden age of television comedy, much of the 70’s/80’s humour, seemingly harmless at the time, depended on the male attitude to the opposite sex and sometimes vice versa. 

It wouldn’t be acceptable today; any more than the comedy many currently find funny, will make future generations question what on earth we were laughing at.

Some of the biggest laughs in ‘On The Buses’ revolved around the character of ‘Olive’ who, as I remember, was never out of her dressing gown.

Any reference to this popular character’s ugliness, slovenliness, unintelligence or unattractive feature of any kind, drew howls of laughter from the audience.

Like Nick Hancock, I apologise unreservedly.

To excuse it by saying I felt very uncomfortable at the time, is no excuse.