Gyles Bran­dreth’s Diary

That’s the easy lock­down ques­tion for my grand­chil­dren

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

‘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.gyles­bran­ or on Youtube: / gyles­bran­dreth

‘You’ve been ly­ing on that thing ever since you in­vented it’

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