Surprise! Surprise!!  It’s me!

Having written last week that I would be taking a mini-break over the festive season, that for the next few weeks my musings would be somewhat sporadic, here I am with an unexpected pre-Christmas ‘Life in Laytonia’.   

If you’re surprised, you can’t be half as surprised as I am. 

I had really intended to have some time out to concentrate on other projects.  That is a highfalutin’ way of saying that I needed to deal with various chores that I have been neglecting for months.  At the top of my list, all the end of tax year stuff that my accountant has been champing at the bit for since last May.

But two things happened: 

First, the boring ‘end of tax year stuff’ that had for ages been hanging over me like a dark cloud, didn’t take that long. 

It’s the same every year; the thought of it is never as bad as the doing of it.  Further proof of that procrastinatory gene in my DNA and using any excuse not to get on with it.  The excuse this year has been the pretext that my weekly rants had to take precedence over everything else.

Procrastination has been a recurring theme in my writing.  Or non-writing, depending how active that devilish procrastinatory gene is on any particular day.

Put simply, I will find any excuse, any diversionary distraction, any piddling justification, to put off dealing with things that I don’t want to do, however urgent it is.  Especially those tiresome tasks that I cannot face until the last possible moment, when eventually I have no choice. 


The other thing that happened – and this really did surprise me – I had withdrawal symptoms.  After 30 weeks of my stream of conscious moans and musings and before that, 7 weeks of my lockdown diary for the Telegraph Online, there was suddenly a void in my life. 

Over nearly 6 decades, not writing was never a void.  It was never something I missed.

Writing began as a hobby that I combined with my ‘proper’ job – acting.  An activity to occupy me when I was out of work.  That odd euphemism, ‘resting’, was never in my vocabulary.

Fortunately, those unemployed times were far and few between and I pursued ‘my hobby’ whilst hanging around in dressing rooms waiting to be called, or in the corner of some rehearsal room whilst my fellow actors and the director struggled with a scene, sometimes for hours.

As the early modicum of success progressed into more than a modicum, those out of work periods became self-imposed in order to fulfil writing commissions and meet deadlines.

However, for a gregarious person like myself, writing is not the ideal occupation.  It is solitary, insular and lonely.

In my ‘proper’ job, I could not rush back quick enough to rehearsals every day to the company of my fellow actors in whatever production I was involved in.  When it came to writing, however, I would find any excuse to delay that reluctant trudge up to the top of the house and another day of lonely staring out of the window panic.

There is little good to have come out of this awful pandemic but there have been a couple of things.

For our dog, Woody, it has been 24 hour company and more walks than he has experienced in his previous 9 years.

For me, it has been the return to writing; not only has it kept me sane during these past months, I have (re) discovered the pleasure of writing.  I cannot believe how much I missed it this week.

So here’s my little Christmas present, possibly shorter than usual.  A stocking filler if you like…

Saturday 19th December – 4.15  

Moya and I are in the kitchen watching the Boris briefing.  Not before time, along with Eid, Diwali and Chanukah – Christmas is cancelled.

Our Christmas Day family get-together, organised around Boris Johnson’s ill conceived 5-day easing of the rules – yes, ill conceived, I’ll come back to that – our family get-together had been planned with an added Laytonia rule of our own. 

All those family members coming together on Christmas day, including Moya and myself, would take a Covid test. We would create our own safe bubble. The tests were duly booked for Tuesday the 22nd of December.  God forbid anybody is positive, that’s it, Christmas day cancelled!!

Now, tests or no tests, Boris has cancelled it for us.  The bubble has burst.

It’s the correct decision. WELL DONE BORIS!  A pity that you left it so late.

The 5-day easing of the rules was not only ill conceived.  It was bonkers.  I am not saying this with the benefit of hindsight.  Like many people, I voiced this at the time, frequently to the irritation of many but it was never my intention to make cheap shots in my criticism.

Boris, like every world leader, is in an impossible position.  You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.  But if you are going to be damned for the decisions you take, do it with conviction.

If Boris Johnson had grasped the nettle and said something to the effect:

 “Listen folks, this has been the most terrible year, families have suffered, businesses have suffered, but we’ve all made huge sacrifices, and now we have to make one more massive, immense, tremendous sacrifice and postpone…

He would have been lambasted in the press.  He would have been crucified as the Prime Minister who cancelled Christmas, Boris the Christmas Grinch and worse. There would have been national opprobrium.

There would also, however, been approbation from many people. Many would have seen him as courageous.  There would have been respect for a leader unafraid to take such an unpopular decision.  His standing would no doubt have been higher than it is today.

Sadly Boris Johnson appears incapable taking such 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.

Saturday 19th December – 5-ish  

We are both staring gloomily at the TV screen, now listening to the Laura Kuenssbergs, the Robert Pestons et al, lining up to rifle their questions.

George: Shall we cancel the Coronavirus tests?

Moya: No point.  All paid in advance.  They won’t refund it.  At least we can enjoy each other’s company on Christmas Day knowing we won’t infect each other.

We look at each other and we know that we’re thinking the same thing.  Even with all the care we’ve taken, there is always the possibility of positive test, especially with the emergence of this reportedly more infectious variant strain of the virus.

Moya: Oh dear.  What are we going to do?

A pensive beat.

George: Cancel the Sainsbury’s delivery, I suppose


 I didn’t cancel the Sainsbury’s delivery.  I amended the order – I added more wine…

                           HERE’S TO 2021  

 It’s going to be a better year!!