Layton on Lockdown is published on Telegraph.co.uk every Tuesday.
See George's previous columns here
Monday 20th April
Last night the Layton clan and partners had a wonderful evening.
We all had dinner together. Even the three grandchildren were allowed to stay up and join in.
Our elder son was late; we were well into the main course by the time he arrived. To be fair, he lives much further away than his siblings. He’s in Santa Barbara, California.
You’ve got it! No lockdown rules were flouted – it was a Zoom dinner party!
Apparently, Zoom has been around for nearly 10 years, but it’s new to me and I LOVE it!
There we all were in our separate homes having dinner together (breakfast in Santa Barbara). Amazing! If the kids were getting too noisy for grandpa (or GG as I am known) I could turn the sound down. And clearing up afterwards was a doddle.
This morning I’m on the ‘phone to a friend, waxing lyrical about Zoom.
"S’all right, I suppose…"
"All right?" What’s he talking about? It’s a lockdown godsend. It’s phenomenal.
"I mean it’s not the same as the real thing, is it?" he misanthroped. (I know it’s not a word – but it is now).
I feel the enthusiastic air being sucked out of me. Not the same as the real thing? I bet they’d have loved something like that during the 1918 ‘flu pandemic.
Mind you, I’m easily impressed. I still think it’s a miracle that you can go into a room, flick a switch and the light comes on. It’d be more of a miracle if any of my family could switch the light off when they leave!
I’m watching Tony Blair on television. He’s talking sense. Extremely measured in his appraisal of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. And no point-scoring, that would be unseemly.
He is graciously stating that no government in living memory has had to face a nightmare situation of this kind.
He must be counting his blessings that he didn’t have anything like this on his watch. Just the Iraq War, and he had a choice in how to deal with it. Covid-19 has been foisted on this government.
At the time of writing this, worldwide, 203,000 people have lost their lives to this virus. Between 268,000 and 295,000 were killed in the Iraq war, albeit over 11 years.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long to find a vaccine.
There is palpable lockdown tension in the land of Laytonia. And if I am to report the reasons truthfully and accurately, I am bound to show a lack of gallantry: Mrs. Layton’s roots are showing. (I am very lucky that she never reads this column).
Her hair needs tinting and I am promoted to Head Colourist.
Despite my bravadoic ‘No problem, darling…’
Yes, it’s another from the George Layton book of words. Bravado. Stoic. Bravadoic!
Despite my bravadoic, ‘No problem, darling…’ I know I’m in a lose-lose situation and I’m feeling very tense.
Hair tinting on YouTube is studied. I watch the way Moya colours the front herself.
Then the poisoned chalice, containing the gooey tinting potion, is placed with the comb in my disposable-gloved hands.
Despite ongoing instructions (which to my ears are admonishments) with trembling hands, I complete the task.
"My work is done!" I announce, which went down like a cup of cold tinting lotion.
After an excruciating wait for the dye to do its stuff, followed by the blood pressure-raising rinsing process, I am told I’ve done a good job. No, a "great" job!
Knowing how much this tinting business costs and buoyed by my obvious talent as a colourist, I come up with a great money-saving idea.
"I could do this on a regular basis. Save you a fortune!" I get the Moya steely look. "You are joking, aren’t you?"
I must beg your indulgence today for a heartwarming coronavirus story.
You may recall that our eldest son joined the Sunday evening Zoom dinner party from Santa Barbara, California.
He actually lives in New York. A great apartment in Greenwich Village, but not great if you are living on your own, Covid-19 is spreading, and lockdown is seemingly imminent.
On March 21st, his closest friend, possessing uncanny prescience, called him from her home in California: "Get out of New York now," she yelled down the ‘phone. "It’s going to get bad. There’s a ticket waiting for you at JFK!"
He called us to ask what we thought he should do.
"Go!" we both yelled. "You don’t want to be on your own in New York!"
Within an hour he was boarding the plane to Santa Barbara. And that is where he will stay until it is safe for him to go home. What a friend!
As I write, New York State is confirmed as the world epicentre of Covid-19. With 263,460 confirmed cases it accounts for one third of all cases reported in the whole of the United States.
More than just a friend, possibly his saviour…
Not often can it be said that I am ahead of the curve, but I have been a busy boy this morning.
President Trump, God bless him, has today come up with a cure for coronavirus.
According to the President, disinfectant "knocks it out in a minute. One minute!"
Uncharacteristically quick of the mark, I have been online and I have bought as much disinfectant as I can. Any brand I could lay my hands on. I’ve cleaned up.
Stockpiling? Please! This disinfectant is for EVERYBODY. Family, friends, neighbours, anybody. This is my way of giving back.
All these doctors, professors, medical experts, what do they know?
Look at Bill Gates, throwing billions of dollars at trying to find a vaccine and the great Donald John Trump comes up with something so simple, it’s genius.
It takes a special man to be Leader of the Western World.
Since I saw Tony Blair speaking on television last Tuesday, something’s been niggling me. He reminded me of somebody. It’s been bugging me all week. Who on earth is it?
It came to me in the middle of the night. The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland!
It has been some time since we’ve had football, or any sport, on our screens.
But there is an alternative pastime that we can watch on television during the lockdown weekends: the government’s second eleven. On Saturdays and Sundays, these eager first teamers-in-waiting, come off the training pitch and are given a chance to shine in the main arena.
With skipper Johnson so seriously ill, many wondered if his playing days might be over.
The good news is that captain Boris will be back in light training tomorrow.
Supporters will be cheering their ‘Roy of the Rovers’ talisman on, willing him to lead their team to glory.
Losing their captain mid-season has shown serious deficiencies in the squad. Vice-captain Raab donned the skipper’s armband and he wears it with pride.
But he doesn’t come across as match fit. There’s a stiffness in his movement, the occasion seemingly too much for him. He reminds one of Peter Cook’s E.L. Wisty: immobile and unblinking.
A couple of weekends ago, Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy came off the subs’ bench.
Who knows what he’s been doing in training, but he didn’t do the business for me. Energy was seriously lacking. And as for industry or strategy, the kindest thing would be to draw a veil over that.
He should have been red-carded for gross overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’. I lost count.
It is always a pleasure to see a female member of the team being given a run out.
But on Any Questions a week ago, Therese Coffey was clearly playing to instructions, displaying a lack of inventiveness in her game.
Short of ideas and over-coached, she answered every question with the originality of someone reading from a script in a call centre.
One could go on: Gavin Williamson, an uninspiring player. Grant Shaps, plays to the crowd but poor finish.
And today George Eustice made is first team debut: out of his depth.
Welcome back captain Boris – your team needs you!