Gyles Brandreth’s Diary
That’s the easy lockdown question for my grandchildren
‘Free the over-70s!’ I heard my Oldie colleagues cry. ‘Oh no,’ I murmured to myself, ‘leave us be.’ Dare I say it? Some of us have been quite liking lockdown.
Of course, if you live wholly alone in a small flat, it’s been grim, but I am lucky. I have a house and a garden and a wife and a cat. Better than that, I have three children and for the past ten weeks they have been doing all the shopping.
Best of all, I have seven grandchildren and I have the pleasure of chatting to them from the first-floor window without the responsibility of baby-sitting and the anxiety of sleep-overs. We have a supply of Magnum ice creams in the freezer which we throw down to them. Let’s get real here. Who wouldn’t rather have a Magnum than a hug?
Incidentally, when did all this hugging business start? I saw an extraordinary headline in the paper the other day: ‘Author Jeffrey Archer, 80, reveals his agony at not being able to hug his grandchildren due to lockdown.’ Agony? Agony?? I can remember only one of my grandparents: Colonel Lance Addison, MBE, late of the Indian Army. He was charming and a gentleman, but he would no more have dreamt of hugging me than I would of tickling the Queen to cheer her up. Even as a very little boy, when I met my grandfather, I shook him by the hand and called him Sir. We were no less close because of that.
I suppose I have been missing going to my favourite restaurants a bit, and going to galleries, the cinema and theatres, too. But I haven’t missed the London Underground or the aeroplanes flying overhead or all those meetings I used to go to. I am realising now that I have measured out my life in meetings, most of which were pointless. And I have had far too many unnecessary haircuts. I have not been to the barber in 12 weeks and I look no worse. (No better, either, I grant you.)
Yes, I know the economic consequences of all this – for the hairdressers, the restaurants and the rest – is devastating. I am just being selfish here and saying it’s been quite fun being forced to stay at home, read books and watch TV. We have discovered a wonderful series on Netflix called Call My Agent. It’s a drama set in a film agency in Paris, brilliantly cast with a host of star actors playing versions of themselves as the agency’s clients. It’s fast, funny, sexy and sensational, with subtitles – so you can fool yourself that it’s good for your French, too.
One of the old film favourites we caught again the other night was the 1960 version of The Trials of Oscar Wilde starring Robert Morley as Wilde and Ralph Richardson as Sir Edward Carson, the lawyer whose devastating crossexamination of Wilde brought about his downfall 125 years ago, in the early summer of 1895. When I was a young theatre producer, I put on a stage version of the Wilde trials and had lunch with Sir Ralph to talk about the possibility of his reprising his role. He wasn’t interested.
He wasn’t much interested in me, either. We lunched at Rules restaurant in Covent Garden where, I seem to remember, across the dining room, Sir Ralph recognised a fellow diner. ‘Hello, there,’ he called out to him. ‘Stanley Jackson – is that you?’ The man turned towards Sir Ralph. ‘Oh, Stanley,’ the great actor went on, ‘how you’ve changed! Where’s that lovely head of hair you used to have? You’ve gone all bald. And you used to have such a jolly face. It’s all long and lugubrious now. You’ve changed, Stanley, you’ve changed!’ At this point the man intervened to protest, ‘I’m not Stanley Jackson.’ ‘Oh,’ cried Sir Ralph. ‘Changed your name as well, have you?’
At the end of the lunch, I told Sir Ralph I was going on to meet his agent to discuss my proposition further. ‘Oh, my agent, eh?’ he said. ‘Give him ten per cent of my love, won’t you?’
The one downside of lockdown has been weight gain. I have put on nearly a stone. I have allowed it to happen only because I know how to get it off again. I have a diet that never fails and I can share it with you in a useful way. Since all this began I have been posting a poem a day on Twitter and Instagram. Each of the poems lasts around 20 seconds, the time required for that really thorough hand wash. This is my poem that both lasts 20 seconds and tells you how can lose two pounds a week. To lose two pounds a week, To regain a figure slim and sleek, The rules are simple, if not nice: No bread, potato and no rice, And, when it comes to pasta, basta!
Carbs are out, and booze is too. It’s tough, but do it and the news is you, While inwardly resentful, bitter, Outwardly are lither, fitter, Trimmer, slimmer – nippy, zippy! Yippee!
You can find Gyles performing his poems on his website www.gylesbrandreth.net or on Youtube: /www.youtube.com/ gylesbrandreth
‘You’ve been lying on that thing ever since you invented it’