6th January 2021

So, here we are.  The 12 days of Christmas are over.  The first ‘Life in Laytonia’ of 2021.

Yes, I’m back after the festive break and I’m raring to go!  

But I have a dilemma.

7th January 2021

Well, that was a good day’s work.  I spent most of it staring out of the window, marginally better than staring at a blank computer screen, which is what I am doing now. Except that today my head is in a worse place than yesterday. 

After watching last night’s 10’clock BBC news bulletin, I went to bed with filling tear ducts having witnessed an unruly mob in a banana republic once known as America, being exhorted to riot by an unhinged President.

This starkly contrasted with the next news item:  decent people in Hong Kong being manacled and arrested whilst defending their human rights being threatened by Communist China.

3rd up in this depressing sequence of news reports (brief respite for Boris Johnson) was the latest Coronavirus infection figures together with distressing footage from NHS hospitals.

Small wonder that I am finding it more than a little tricky to get a handle on this week’s ‘L in L’.

This is my dilemma.

I signed off the dreaded year of 2020 with – in my opinion – a justified Boris moan.  Here’s a brief flavour to remind you:

Sadly Boris Johnson appears incapable taking such (unpopular) decisions.  He is always trying to be a people pleaser, something that has been the pattern of his lack of leadership throughout this pandemic.  Indecisive, vacillating, flip-flopping…

I have said it before; Boris Johnson is in an impossible position.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. 

Yesterday I wrote that I was raring to go. Indeed, that was all I did write.   Raring to go, certainly, but raring to go where?

I was raring to go into the New Year on a more optimistic note. Find something positive to say about our poor old put-upon Prime Minister.

Hmm…

Excuse me whilst I stare out of the window for a moment or two.

Got it!  Brexit!  Boris did it!  He got his oven ready deal out of the freezer, into the Aga and onto the table just in time. 

You could almost hear Gregg Wallace shouting his familiar ‘Boris, you’ve got 5 minutes, mate’!

Boris: Phor!  5 minutes?  No problemo.  Even got time for a swig of the old Christmas sherry. Eh, what?

And Chef Boris served up it up with minutes to spare.  Phew!

Sadly – and this can happen to the best of cooks – Boris’ Christmas turkey of a deal may have been oven ready, but had it completely defrosted? 

I think not. 

Whilst there was much smacking of lips from some predictable quarters, the oven ready deal made quite a number of people sick. 

Me for one. 

As an ardent remainer – I guess this is where I may have to bid a sad ‘au revoir’ to some of you, or rather, since we have left Europe, a stiff upper lip British ‘farewell’ – as an ardent remainer, I believe that for all the EU’s cumbersome bureaucracy and financial chicanery, what we have negotiated is – in my opinion – not as good as what we had before.

But enough of that!  No more politics.  There are numerous commentators, political and otherwise, far more qualified than I to talk about Prime Minister People Pleaser and his ability to (u)turn on a sixpence with gob-smacking agility that would make the late George Best look sluggish.

I will leave it to others to marvel at Michael Gove’s communications skills.  No member of the Cabinet can match Mr Gove when it comes to stating government policy and 24 hours later, with the same conviction, state the opposite.  It is a brass-neck talent to behold.

It is not for me to comment on a Minister of Education who I guess graduated in woodwork, nor a Minister of Transport who from the start of this pandemic, rather than protect this island, has allowed people arriving at airports and other points of entry, to proceed through customs unchecked.  It is gratifying to note though that he has had time to reorganise his bookshelf so that during television interviews viewers can clearly see the book ‘Grant Shaps’ by Pete Buttigieg displayed on his shelf.

No.  I am going to share with you some exciting New Year news.  Actually, ‘exciting’ is an understatement, it is life-changing news.

Two days ago I received a letter from a Mr Wai Feng, a Manager at the CTBC Bank in Hong Kong.  When you read it, you will see why my heart is still racing.  I cannot believe my good fortune.

It reads:

Dear Mr Layton

My name is Wai Feng.  I am a Manager at CTBC Bank here in Hong Kong.  I hoping this meet you in good health.

This letter is posted on my behalf by a friend who is travelling to United Kingdom.  I contact you regarding the funds of a deceased client with the surname of Layton under our management.  Please I ask that you keep the information in this letter confidential between both of us as I contact you independently and no one knows of my communication to you.

In 2004, a client by name of Mr John Layton set up investment account with our private banking division.  He had portfolio of $11million USD which he invested.  In 2005, he instructed that the initial sum ($11M) be liquidated because he making an investment requiring cash payment in Beijing.  We contacted a specialist bank on the mainland;  Shengjing Bank, who agreed to receive this money and make cash available to Mr John Layton.

However, Shengjing Bank communicated last year that this money has not been claimed.  On enquiry, I found out that Mr John passed away in Jiangxi.  He has no next of kin and the reason I am writing to you is because you have the same surname.

I have access and control to his file so what I plan is that I insert documents that make you beneficiary of these funds.  Shengjing Bank will have to contact you because you are the legal beneficiary.  On verification, which will be the details I make available to CTBC, Shengjing Bank will be instructed to make payments to you.

Please trust me, this is 100% achievable.  What I am proposing is that we split the money 50/50.  The alternative is that the money will go to the government.  Nobody gets hurt in this deal, this is a very good opportunity for us.  I would like us to have communication by my above telephone and email.

Please I am a family man and I have take risk to contact you but I know in life you have to take available chance to succeed.  If we can be in agreement, we should act quick on this.  Please get back to me as soon as possible.

I await reply, many thank you.

Ai

Isn’t this amazing?  I am about to inherit around 5 million dollars!  I can’t quite believe it.  It’s like winning the lottery without even having to fork out a couple of quid for the ticket.

I am going to say something now: this may be a life-changing sum of money but it is not going to change my life.  I will continue to write my column/blog, you have my assurance on that.

It is so kind of this Mr Wai Feng to take the trouble to seek me out and write to me.  I can’t think how he found my address.  I am so grateful.

There is just one troublesome fly in the ointment; Layton is not my original family name.

My parents were refugees from Austria and after serving in the British army, my dad was rewarded with the opportunity of anglicizing his Viennese surname.  He chose Layton, spelt with an ‘a’ rather than the usual ‘e’, resulting in many an email failing to pop up in my inbox.

Ho-hum.  I suppose I ought to contact the thoughtful Mr Wai Feng and tell him that Mr John Layton’s $11 million nest egg should be shared with a Layton whose family goes back for generations.  It’s the honourable thing to do.  Shame…

Coincidentally, I was thinking about my late father’s choice of surname only a few days ago.

Following a telephone consultation with my doctor, I found myself thinking that it would have been extremely useful if, way back in 1947, my dad had chosen the surname Aardvark rather than Layton.

Not only would George Aardvark have been a highly memorable name for an actor, when it came to alphabetical billing and film and TV credits, it couldn’t have done me any harm.

More important, however, it would have been hugely beneficial during this awful Covid 19 pandemic.

During the telephone consultation with my GP, I happened to mention that I knew of people considerably younger than myself who were getting the vaccine jab.

With my actor’s vanity, I am not going to reveal how (very) old I am.  Suffice to say that I am in the second group category, (fractionally) under 80 and considerably older than 75.

Knowing that an actor friend who is over 86 and in poor health and a lady of my acquaintance who is 92 have not yet had the vaccine, I asked my doctor how it was that some over 75’s were getting it ahead of them.  She had no explanation.

I might add at this point, if I were lucky enough to be offered the vaccine, I doubt that I would have the moral fibre to check that those ‘ahead of me in the queue’ so to speak, had had theirs’ first!

Tell me, doctor, when it does come the under-80’s getting the vaccination, how will it work?  How will we be contacted?  In what order will we be vaccinated?’

Alphabetically, Mr Layton.’

That was when I had wished that my dad had chosen Aardvark when he changed the family surname.

Still, I should count my lucky stars – he could have opted for Zoolander…