My wife and I are getting on tremendously. Just don’t mention the dishwasher

Monday April 13th

I have just got off the telephone to Barry Cryer (or Lord Cryer of Pinner, as I like to call him). He gave me some awful news.

Tim Brooke-Taylor died yesterday.  

Tim would have been 80 in July.  Under ‘normal’ circumstances’ (do you remember those times?) one would rationalise the loss of a friend, acquaintance or anybody at that age with the usual: ‘80’s a good age… he had a good life… she went peacefully…’

But with this wretched coronavirus, 80 is not a good age.  No age is good if your life has been snatched prematurely.  

No amount of comforting platitudes comfort. It just makes me angry.  

Tim may have lived until he was 85.  90? 95? He may well have received a telegram from the Palace!

For some years he and his family were neighbours. Boxing Day at their home was a fixture.

In 1982 I had the pleasure of directing him in Dick Whittington in London, opposite the wonderful Anita Dobson in the title role.  

Tim was the most endearing and funny pantomime Dame and it was a delight to direct him.

And it always made us giggle in later years when I’d say to him:

 ‘Anita Dobson was my Dick!’ 


Tuesday

Apparently, a co-habiting couple generally see each other for 2.5 hours a day.

It’s a hell of a leap to this 24-hour lockdown lifestyle.  

We’re getting on pretty well. Actually, at the risk of sounding smug, we’re getting on tremendously well.   

But if there’s one thing that is guaranteed to cause tension in the Layton household, it’s the thorny issue of dishwasher loading.

I know I’m on dangerous ground here, but I’ve got to say it: women cannot load a dishwasher!

On second thoughts, I’ll quickly qualify that: Women cannot load a dishwasher – in this house. 

I should be pleased when I hear the words ‘you sit down, I’ll load the dishwasher’, but my heart sinks. 

I have to find reasons to casually pass by in order to throw a surreptitious glance to see how it’s going: oh no, this is not good. No, no, no, don’t put that pan there! If only she’d move that bowl…

That’s when she sees me, carving knife in hand.

Moya: Don’t even think about it!

Other than that, we’re getting on fine… 


Wednesday

I am not a fan of the modern digital telephone with handsets all over the house – but never in the room where you happen to be! 

Today’s scenario (15 minutes ago): I’m shaving in the bathroom. ‘Phone rings in the bedroom.

George: (calling) Darling, the telephone’s ringing…

I continue shaving.  Telephone continues to ring.  

I run to the bedroom: no handset, no darling. She’s gone downstairs. ‘Phone continues to ring.

I run to the landing to hear:

Moya(calling) Georgie, can you get that, there’s no ‘phone down here…

I run up to my study. No ‘phone. I run back down the stairs. I hear the answering machine click into action:

Female voice: This is a message for Dr. Layton….

Yes, ‘Dr. Layton’. Don’t get excited, it’s an honorary degree. And I only use it where gravitas is required.  

Appealing against parking tickets, portentous letters/emails especially when it involves a dispute – solicitor cc’d in for added effect. In fact, any situation where Dr. might help. Like getting an online food delivery. Not that it has ever worked.

Seriously, I’m a vulnerable, asthmatic septuagenarian. We’re in lockdown. We haven’t been to a shop since 15th March. We need a home delivery. 

Female voice: (cont.) Dr. Layton, I’m calling on behalf of JW Sainsbury’s regarding your enquiry for home delivery.  Would you please call customer services on 0800…

I know, 0800 636 262.  It’s etched in my brain.  Do you know how long I was hanging on last time?

There’s the bloody ‘phone on the bed – under the dog!

I dial. Oh God, not more mind-numbing hours on hold…

George: (into ‘phone) Goodness, that was quick!  Hello, my name is Dr. Layton…


Thursday

I’m writing this with a tear in my eye.

At 8.59 this morning Captain Tom Moore took his total to £12.3 million.  

£12.3 million! It’s phenomenal.  

Listening to this near hundred year-old veteran speak with such endearing modesty, genuine to the core, made me reflect on another old soldier – my late father-in-law.

Aged 18, he joined the Irish Guards, served in Palestine and France, captured in Boulogne, losing fingers on both hands in a machine gun attack.  

He was then transported to Poland where he spent five years in a prisoner of war camp. 

Never once did I hear him complain or talk about the horrors he went through. What I know comes from my wife, who the over years painstakingly drew the odd memory out of him.

He was a fibber though. He wasn’t 18 when he joined up – he was 16.  This came back to haunt him – he had to retire two years early!

But back to the hero of the moment:  Captain Tom. Soon to be Sir Tom Moore, of that I have no doubt.  Maybe on April 30th to celebrate his 100th birthday?

When all this is over, I can’t wait to see the film of this uplifting story.

‘CAPTAIN TOM’S BRILLIANT CAMPAIGN.’

No doubt it is being written as I write.


Friday

How hard can it be to change the cover on a duvet??

I’ll tell you how hard: there’ll be no diary entry today. I’m lying on the bed, exhausted.

On top of a duvet with no cover on!


Saturday

Having prattled on about my dislike of the modern telephone with portable handsets, I have to confess to blatant hypocrisy.

I have always been an in-and-out of the shower sort but since lockdown, I like nothing more than lingering in the bath like some old roué, telephone in hand, chatting to friends.  

I’m a latter-day Lord Foppington receiving all and sundry during my routine matinale.

Of course, I am only able to do this thanks to the portable handsets that earlier this week I was maligning. Apologies. I’m a total phoney! 

Goodness – I couldn’t have put it better!


Sunday

Barely 5 minutes from our home we are lucky to have some relatively quiet woods where, under current lockdown rules, we are allowed to take our permitted doggie walk. 

Today, Moya and I witness something quite extraordinary: a speeding jogger actually stops! Unheard of.

He veers away from the path to a generous social distance and waves us through.

Normally, these runners come hurtling towards us at the speed of a car with failing brakes and the steering locked.

These dedicated but selfish athletes appear to be oblivious to the beads of sweat and globules of snot they leave in their wake. And while we’re at it, the occasional gob of phlegm that would put a Premiership footballer to shame.

But today, this gentleman of the jogger road, pauses the stopwatch on his wrist and puts our mutual health above his personal best.

My wife waves her thanks in what I feel is frankly something of a cursory manner.  

By way of compensation, I sort of… well… I genuflect, I suppose.

Moya: What are you doing?

George: Saying thank you.

Moya: Looked like you were auditioning for Uriah Heep…