Idle Eye 5 : The Party

I must say, I’m enjoying this hack business enormously. Seems you just bang out a few well-chosen words when you’re pissed, turn up at an Idle Hour party and everyone smiles at you in that ‘we’re all in this together’ kind of way. Splendid! And while we’re at it, I thought it would be wise to jot down a few muddled thoughts from Nibs’ anniversary bash at IH Barnes because a) it was a fabulous, bonkers evening, and b) I’m being paid for it. So here goes :

10 years in any old game is quite something. It demonstrates that you have stamina, balls and a willful refusal to fail. These are qualities I have long admired in girlfriends, employees and whiskey, the obvious exception being that I have never employed a single person in all of my years on the planet. And that’s as it should be, as any fule kno. But when it turns out that Squitly Junior, who used to nick sweets from the Shackleford shop and (very much later) roger his nanny while his elder sibling was getting off on Starsky & Hutch downstairs is the one who fits the bill, I have to concede that despite my obviously superior looks and intellect, a tip of the hat is due here. So, well played bro, here’s to another ten..

It probably is also timely to introduce whatever readership we have here to Da Mudda. Back in the 1960s, Nibs and myself decided to give birth to someone who would eventually become our mother, half woman, half Nazi, never, ever wrong. And out of respect we let her raise us, send us to expensive schools and attend functions, bar mitzvahs, parties etc.. So it was indeed a pleasure to see her there in the crowd on saturday, listening with pride as her god-given parents murdered ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him’ and ‘Oliver’s Army’ as backing to the ever-forgiving Roland Rock and his band. We have a photograph of her weeping, although it is not yet clear whether this is out of despair or joy. Time will tell.

A small but grateful word to the bar staff : Being a vegetarian, lily-livered, ex-art school renegade comes with its’ set of not unsubstantial hurdles when it comes to nibbles. (You know when you have reached your middle years when you can say ‘nibbles’ without a hint of embarrassment. Although I have long since reached them & my ears have just turned red. No-one tells you this stuff.) My undying thanks goes out to the young lady who left me with a plate of crudités as the carnivores sought their quarry.

For anyone who was there, it was lovely to meet you and thank you for, well, for being you. Who’d have thought we’d hit it off so well, eh? Let’s hope this crazy old vehicle stays on the road for a few more. And mine’s a large one, if you’re offering..

Idle Eye 4 : The Rebuff

I’m sitting in the soon to be opened Moroccan Room in Idle Hour Barons Court, waiting for Nibs to show up and deliver his verdict on IE4, a witty yet savage take on the perils of middle age. It’s a blinder, of course, and I’m expecting voluminous gratitude and hopefully a free pint of Harveys. All around me are tasteful hints that I am in a better world, where I can relax after work with my friends/business colleagues on a pastel pouf or two, sipping on a tension-busting cocktail or two and let the evening wind itself down slowly to its Tangiers-inspired conclusion. Nibs, however, is late. Not that late, but late enough for me to be side-tracked by my admittedly fabulous imagination:

I’m snuggled up over there, on the crimson sofa beneath the clock, with someone you’ve just read about in the Metro who earns more than you do. She caresses my face gently and throws back her hair in a devil-may-care stylee. And she actually thinks I’m really funny: That’s why she’s laughing, see? Then, slowly, but quite deliberately, she…

‘Alright Bro?’ Balls! It’s Nibs. Blasting away at the cobwebs of my fantasies just like he used to in our shared bedroom in Godalming.

‘Ahem. Nice one, Bro.’ I deliberate on the correct level of small talk required before I can fish for compliments but he goes in for the kill before I have a chance to get my house in order.

‘It’s the blog, Bro. Big no no. Sorry, man, don’t think we can use it. Way off base.’

Way off base? I have to counter with something but I’m reeling from the patois. Does he think I work for Radio 1? Or worse still Channel 5? I decide to appeal to his sense of reason by going for the artistic integrity approach, something he knows little about and therefore will give me the upper hand:

‘I know where you’re coming from, Bro. It’s just, well, I think we have to allow our character to have a bit of breathing space outside the pub, no? Otherwise we get stuck in a product placement kind of thing.’ I’m thinking Harrison Ford in Witness, reluctantly reciting ‘Honey, that’s great cawfee’ and inadvertently launching a host of vulgar imitators.

‘Yeah, I know. But I need you to big up the Moroccan room. The punters don’t want to know about you getting old and fat. And anyway, I don’t get it.’

His beard twinkles in the rooms’ candlelit glow (ideal, incidentally, for Christmas parties and functions) and I realise this boy isn’t quite the pushover he was when I made him jump off the roof with an Action Man parachute in Marbella. And it occurs to me contractually that this soft, sumptuous space, with its metallic fire surround, original 50s portraits and subtly decadent aura would lend itself perfectly to any sophisticated West London get-together. But I don’t tell him that.

Idle Eye 3 : The Gift

Readers, I need help. Last weekend I bought a bottle cutter off that eBay and made a vase. A vase, for God’s sake! A sure sign that I’m heading at breakneck speed towards the final countdown. Whatever next? Carpet dye? Comfortable shoes? In my defense, it was an attempt to stem the tide of neighbourhood wrath every fortnight when a pantechnicon with my address embossed on the side appears at 5.45am and minimally reduces the glass mountain engulfing the street it has just woken up. Frighteningly, I’m getting the hang of it too, thanks to the glossy 35-page brochure exquisitely realised by Terrence Picone and Sydney St James from Wyckoff, NJ. Apparently, when I get really good, I can make a Gold Votive Candle Holder from an Orangina bottle, or a magnificent Fish Decanter with just a Pescevino white wine bottle and cork. And some liquorice paint. But this giddy level of excellence does not come quick, oh no! According to Tel’n’Syd :

“During your learning phase you should successfully cut about 80% of the projects you start. And once you have practiced a little, 95%. Practice, practice, practice!”

No time like the present then, so I took the Triumph Herald to Majestic and loaded her up with a suspension-busting cargo of practice items, including some challenging top flight shaped ones for when I get better. And I really don’t have long to master my craft. It’s the Idle Hour 10th anniversary this month, you see, and my thinking runs somewhere along the lines of making Nibs something special to mark the occasion. Something he can look at on a busy night when he’s clearing the tables of lesser bottles and feel a warm Ready Brek glow of pride that we are from the same womb. He also mentioned that there was a bit of a ’10’ theme going on, 10% off booze, 10% off food, 10 years lopped off the tail end of your life etc..etc.. Which is nice. But anyway, first things first. I’ve got 2.5 cases to get through before I can start and there’s a potentially lethal cutting tool involved. These are the kinds of impossible odds young David faced in the Valley of Elah as the mighty Goliath waved his sword about and pointed at his wet patch. But, like the warrior I have become, in times of peril I shall overcome.

Footnote from Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5

I must say I can’t see what all the fuss is about the NHS. Over-stretched/underpaid and most of them absolutely shattered but always time for a smile and a chat. Bless them all. Nurse Rached has been particularly sweet and set me up in Physio with my cutter as there’s really not long at all until this anniversary thing kicks off. And most understanding about the mess. Turns out T’n’S were wildly optimistic with their percentages but there again they are American: Perhaps I should sue.

Idle Eye 2 : The Brief

Hello again. Last one didn’t put you off then? Excellent, let’s see what I can do with this..

It’s 2.45pm & I’m in bed, sick with worry at the economy, poor Cheryl and whether the Bullingdon Club can claw back a few quid from the riots when the phone goes. It’s that Stephen, formerly my younger brother, latterly my employer and from this moment on known as His Nibs.

‘You up yet? I’ve got a job for you’ quoth Nibs. I attempt an extraordinary high pitched wail from the back of my epiglottis as if to emphasise my plight & consequent unavailability for the position.

‘Put the cat out, this is important’ he goes, so reluctantly I remove both hands from my pyjamas and hit the loudspeaker button. He’s banging on and on about something to do with British Food Fortnight and tying it in with the grub he’s going to be giving you all to celebrate the wonderful diversity and rich range of produce our little country can muster when the pressure’s on. I look over at my bedside tray, lovingly prepared by my good self for emergencies such as these :

  1. Bombay Bad Boy
  2. Bombay Bad Boy (backup)
  3. Large tube of Pringles (Chilean Miner Industrial Cheese/Dorset Naga flavour)
  4. Haribo Fangtastics (family bag)
  5. 2009 Lissac Saint-Emilion Château Blanchon (1500 ml)
  6. Noilly Prat (stolen hotel miniature)

‘I’m your man!’ I say, assuming the mantle of responsibility. The phone goes dead and suddenly I’ve got a gig to do. So then, British food. Last time I had some, think it was them Jerusalem artichokes, I had to invest in a new set of guy ropes for the duvet. Probably not what the sophisticated clientele of the Idle Hour eateries needs know about. Hmmm. I’m drawing blanks but then I remember : The Interweb. Just the thing for the rookie reporter. I crank up my pre-(Boer) war computer and hours later she springs into life. Good Lord, it’s teeming with stuff I can nick. Back of the net! Hang about, what’s this..?

Our British Food Fortnight Bubble and Squeak pie sold out and we were only halfway through lunch” Debbie King, University of Brighton.

Halfway through lunch? HALFWAY THROUGH LUNCH??? Debbie, you’re not meant to eat it, are you? You’re supposed to SELL the bloody stuff. It’s a bit like your local drug dealer saying ‘Sorry mate, I’ve just smoked half your order but I tell you what : I’ll give you a huge piece of Brighton-made Bubble and Squeak pie to make it up to you. No extra charge. Innit.” Hold up, here’s another :

“St Pancras’s British Food Fortnight events proved really popular” Dominique Didinal, St Pancras International Railway.

Dominique, oh Dominique, you’re not a frequent user of the iron highway, are you? If you were, you would not be IN THE LEAST SURPRISED by this. Anyone, who has at any time had to steady themselves between a Belgian backpacker and the unisex lavs, burrowing their way in the vague direction of the buffet car like Amundsen towards the North Pole, only to discover the only available sustenance is a Victorian pig’s trotter torpedo and a 1951 Festival of Britain cola would be grateful for just about ANYTHING else over British Food Fortnight. Larks gizzards? Bring ‘em on…

But I jest. Of course I do. Pop on over to The Idle Hour and see what Nibs has got for you. You’ll be surprised. And if there’s anything remotely resembling railway fodder or Brighton pies you can help yourselves to something off my tray : You have my word..