Idle Eye 29 : The Step

Health and Safety fans out there will no doubt be amused by the latest HSE initiative to quell ‘ridiculous’ rumours that have abounded for years, such as the magnificent trapeze artists to wear hard hats and office workers banned from putting up Christmas decorations malarkey. It’s enticingly labelled the Myth Busters Challenge Panel, it’s chaired by the enticingly labelled Judith Hackitt and sets out to put a bit of common sense back into the workplace so we can all get on with our lives. Safely. And healthily. Unfortunately, when you log onto the panel there are no satisfying howlers for us all to giggle at round the water cooler, no siree. There’s just a brutal grey block with gaping text fields nagging us for information: What is the issue? Who advised you of this? Have you raised this directly with the person? What was the outcome? Subtext: YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WIN THIS, BEDWETTER! WE WILL GRIND YOU DOWN WITH HIDEOUS MUNICIPAL ADMIN UNTIL YOU SUBMIT NOTHING! BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE: NOTHING!!!

Now, I don’t know about you but if I’m going to dob in a jobsworth I’d like to to it with a little more panache. Some rich text formatting, perhaps? Or a background template image of Hunter S Thompson straddling the American desert in an enormous convertible ripped to the tits and toting a Magnum. It only seems fair: They made the mistake, now meet us on our terms.

In an attempt to illustrate the above point further I made a swift call to Nibs, hot off the plane from Dubai as is his wont. All Idle Hour staff, I’m told, have to fill in a form stating they are aware of the step leading into the garden, and that they are able and willing to climb all three inches of it and also descend should they so wish. That they acknowledge the inherent dangers thereof and are prepared to sign a disclaimer lest any accident pertaining to the above should occur. It does strike me, however, that if said staff are unable to negotiate a step no higher than two Mars bars making out, perhaps they should consider an alternative career path, the Hillary-esque hazards of hospitality potentially being the very thing Ms Hackitt is so keen to dispel. Who’d have thunk it?

My particular favourite is surely one on the MBCP hitlist if indeed it were true: The Bodleian Library Oxford, for centuries the hub of literary excellence, has always relied on its pointy ladders to access and distribute those out-of-reach tomes. Until now. Gone are those exquisitely-crafted relics of yesteryear, replaced by motorised cherry pickers which zip in and out of the ancient shelves, making a mockery of common sense and human initiative. So come on, Ms Hackitt: Give us a form we can use that goes even half-way to express our disgust at your systematic annihilation of our heritage. And we’ll get in staff who get the step…

Idle Eye 28 : The Sting

Mrs Sting : Is that the Idle Hour?

Barstaff : It certainly is. How can I help?

Mrs Sting : It’s Mrs Sting here. You know, the other half.

Barstaff : Hello Mrs Sting. Would you like to book a table?

Mrs Sting : No, not exactly. But I could use your help. It’s a somewhat delicate matter.

Barstaff : It’s not the, er, tantric business again, is it?

Mrs Sting : I’m afraid it is. And he’s getting worse. I haven’t slept in over a week and I was rather hoping you could recommend something to dampen his ardour, so to speak.

Barstaff : Of course. Well, the organic chicken thighs washed down with one of our biodynamic reds should do the trick. Mr & Mrs Meatloaf were in over Bank Holiday and they had to be airlifted home afterwards.

Mrs Sting : I don’t think so. Any mention of thighs and he’ll be at it like a rat up a drainpipe. No, I was thinking of something a little more sedative perhaps?

Barstaff : How about our Stroh 80% volume Austrian rum? Pop a couple of shots in his coffee when he’s out pointing Percy and he won’t be bothering you for quite some time, I should coco.

Mrs Sting : Been there. He bought a case back after the last European tour and whipped through it like lemonade. Gave a whole new meaning to Viennese Whirl, mind.

Barstaff : Hmmm, difficult one. How’s the book going, by the way?

Mrs Sting : That’s precisely the problem! I don’t have five seconds to myself anymore. The minute I sit down at the computer he gets all hot under the collar and chases me round the mansion like in The Secretary. I’m only on the preface and I’m exhausted already.

Barstaff : Can I make another suggestion?

Mrs Sting : Please do. I’m at my wits end.

Barstaff : It’s a long shot but it might have legs. I’ve been working here for a while now and when we get stragglers at the end of a shift, Nibs hops onto the acoustic and anaesthetises them with his astonishing rendition of ‘Wonderwall’. Works every time, trust me.

Mrs Sting : Perfect! I’ll get the chopper out.

Barstaff : Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid, Mrs Sting?

Mrs Sting : No, I mean I’ll bring him over tonight. Book me a table for two by the traps.

Barstaff : Slight problem. Mr & Mrs Bono have already reserved the traps table. Popular one with the Live Aid lot, it seems.

Mrs Sting : Listen, I want that table. Do what you have to, ok? If it helps, I’ll do a book reading in your bloody pub when I’ve done it. Got that? Good. And clear a space in the garden for the chopper. I mean, the helicopter.

Mrs Sting will be reading excerpts from her frank autobiography ‘One Swallow Does Not a Sumner Make’ in the Idle Hour Rest Rooms when she has written it. All rights reserved © 2012 EyeBooks UK, including the made-up bits. Especially them.

Idle Eye 27 : The Life Aquatic

Our weather, whether we like it or not, is the great leveller. Just as we were throwing sprinklers into deep storage and preparing to watch our green and pleasant land morph into parchment, the heavens opened and did their traditional holiday middle-finger salute for the full term. And that, of course, is how it should be. Lulled into a false sense of security by March’s clement efforts, we needed to be knocked into place by forces we have no control over whatsoever lest, God forbid, grown men whipped out the shorts and their womenfolk allowed it. In public.

Like the metaphoric horse, your average Brit is inexplicably drawn to water at this time of year. Whether it be heading towards it at 6mph on a snarled artery of choice or watching the educated elite slug it out on the Thames, we sure like it wet. So hats off then to plucky Aussie Trenton Oldfield, coming as he does from climes more temperate than our own, for stripping off and mucking in at this year’s Boat Race. Never mind the fact he was a bit miffed about, er, something or another: The man got wet and that’s all that matters. Welcome, Trenton: Now, deal with the rest of the year.

Consequently, it’s no surprise that Race Weekend is the busiest of the year for most pubs on the main drag and the Idle Hour, conveniently located a coxswain’s piddle from the river, is no different. So when all hope of fleshy exposure is dashed against the cruel rocks of climate, the good folk of Barnes head indoors for a restorative sharpener and watch the hardy on the idiot’s lantern. Great for business but staff are run off their feet, tempers fray as service struggles to meet demand and, at the end of play, everyone’s as shagged as the rowers (ahem). Good thing we’ve got our internationally renowned sense of humour to pull us through, eh? And as we down those optimistic Pimmses and fancy French rosés , we learn to put aside our grievances and laugh at the absurdities of life instead of having a pop or flinging ourselves into the nearest river in disgust. It may not have the desired impact but it’s a lot more fun. Damn straight.

The more intrepid Bank Holiday reader may be interested in this: I note that 100 years on, fans of failed liner Titanic are off to pay homage to Mr Cameron somewhere deep in the Atlantic. For somewhere between $4,445 and $9,520 per person. Now, call me old-fashioned but this is devotion to the cause way above and beyond: A simple heads-up on Twitter seems to suffice for most politicians and the monies spared could go some way to improving security at public events, particularly in this our Olympic year. It’s not rocket science. I wonder sometimes, I really do. Perhaps all that water’s made them soft in the head..

Idle Eye 26 : The Last Order

What a shame. The past seven days have thrown up more blog fodder than usual as the hapless pilots of our land have steered us into Pastygate, Granny Taxgrab, a phantom fuel crisis and the splendidly-monikered Peter Cruddas taking bungs for No.10 access. But, if you will forgive me, this week I’d like to focus on something a little closer to home. The ill-conceived, boozed-up tripe you have come to know and love will be back next week: You have my word.

Very sadly, friday saw the last day of trading at Idle Hour Barons Court. It was a day I know Nibs was dreading, not merely because it was the end of an era, but also because all the hope, energy and love he put into making it look and feel so special was scythed down into administration, arbitration and all those other things beginning with ‘a’ that, by their very nature, are the polar opposite of soul. And, let’s face it, soul is what you need in spades to get these things off the ground in the first place.

I’m feeling for my little bro right now. In the ’90’s I watched him blossom after a prolonged training period in America, where he learned the hard way how to marry personable service with efficiency. After a few minor hiccups over here he poured everything he had into Idle Hour Barnes, which he turned around from being a grimy backwatering hole to a much-loved local hub. And despite fierce competition (never a bad thing actually, sharpens the resolve) it remains more popular than ever to this day. Not one to rest on his laurels, he branched out on more than one occasion: Putney, Henley-on-Thames and finally Barons Court. All way better than your average gastropub but the problem they shared is that there is only one Nibs. I’m trying not to be mawkish here but the facts speak for themselves: Dilute the talent and the most remote suffers. It’s a brutal truth, made worse when you consider the human cost of loyal staff, goodwill of investors etc.etc..

So, now he’s back down to what he does best under one roof and my gut tells me it will soar. As you may have read elsewhere in this shower of drivel, there will be an extension in place by the end of the summer, a spanking new website, some stunning new wines on offer and, best of all, he’ll be there to give it 100%. And, on a more personal level: Hang in there, bro. You’ll bounce back, you always do. And I’ll keep on writing the bollocks. It’s what I do.

Goodbye Barons Court. You were a magnificent ideal. You had the courage to aim for the stars against all the odds and in your short time you gave a lot of people something to remember. And like so many of the great romantics you died beautiful and you died young. Now, upwards and onwards…