Idle Eye 33 : The Turgid Miasma of Existence

The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted that I’ve been off-piste of late. The only plausible explanation I can offer as an apology is that I have been suffering from what I like to think of as the turgid miasma of existence, and what everyone else refers to as everyday life. This somewhat disturbing development was almost certainly the result of a self-imposed complete alcohol ban on school nights, the oral equivalent of Michael Schumacher slamming on the handbrake in the last lap of the Monaco Grand Prix. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet (there must be a couple of you, own up), let me tell you this: It’s not great, and if you can bear with me as I reluctantly come to terms with the appalling lucidity I am currently experiencing, I shall attempt to tell you why.

The body is a delicate bit of kit. It’s also a bit dim, despite what you may have read in weightier tomes than this. From cradle to the grave it reacts to the various stimuli we hurl at it throughout the duration, but not all that quickly. So, when we bung in that first bottle of cider consumed in a field somewhere at the age of eleven, it rather smartly puts its foot down. So we try again with Captain Morgan and his chums, smiling enticingly at us from his Trinidadian retreat, only to regurgitate them all as quickly as they went in. And so the pattern continues until, eventually, it goes ‘Oh, I see what you’re trying to do here’ and concedes that this could actually be a bit of a laugh.

Education being the key, we continue to train the bag of bones we carry around with us for many, many years to come, as did Pavlov and his half-witted dog, until we come through the cloud layer and reach a perfect plateau of contentment, usually in ones’ mid-30’s. It takes a while but we get there in the end. Now, just imagine for one moment the seismic shock to the system if this process is suddenly reversed, and at a time when the body is getting its metaphorical slippers’n’pipe combo sorted. It doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Exactly. Feel my pain.

So go on then, enjoy yourselves, why don’t you? Help Her Maj get through her big day by necking the good stuff until you can’t fit in no more, safe in the knowledge that the alternative is far, far worse. And for those of you down at the Idle Hour party this Saturday, watching them saucy singers Verity and Violet shaking their stuff and manhandling a massive pint of Nibs’s speciality Pimms, spare a thought for one less fortunate. A once good man trapped in the turgid miasma of his own existence, doing combat with his insubordinate innards with a glass of tap water and a stale bun. God bless you, Ma’am!

Idle Eye 32 : The Right Royal Charley Horses

Oh God, it’s happening. It’s the beginning of the end, and coming at me faster than Usain Bolts’ departure from the Virgin Media ads. With every week that passes, a new and unfamiliar ailment jumps to the head of the queue and blots out the severity of the previous, leaving precious little time to acclimatise or, dare I say it, learn the niceties of co-existence. Here, have a taste:

First it’s the kidneys, kicking off at the rigorous programme I’ve been putting them through of late and behaving like the Greece of the lower back. Then it’s the gums, truculent and bloody, demanding I treat them to a darn good sonic seeing-to with a new brush that cost more than my bicycle did in 1977. Next up it’s the calf muscles, miserable cowards that they are, waking me up regularly at stupid’o’clock with a muscle spasm known to our friends over the pond as Charley Horse. CHARLEY HORSE? It’s cramp, for Christ’s sake, not the Campdown Races. And if all these weren’t enough, the ears now want in on the act. Yep, just to spice things up a little they’ve chucked in a dose of tinnitus for good measure. So now my entire conscious world is soundtracked to the exact same monotonous whine that accompanied the test card when the fat controllers wanted you to go to bed.

But one has to be fatalistic, no? The alternative is a slow morph into Mrs Brady Old Lady, bemoaning every malady to a captive Saturday morning Post Office queue that understandably only wishes a few more on her. So instead, let’s think of it this way: Someone up there does not want me to be an Olympian, that’s clear, and this brutal truth frees me up to be a magnificent spectator. Now I can enjoy the success of others vicariously from the comfort of a hostelry of choice, without all that unpleasant sweating and grunting. This ain’t no handicap, folks, this is an open door. When the great unwashed are jostling for position along the Mall to cop a glance at her maj, I shall be enjoying the easy access lavatories on ground level at the Idle Hour, a pint of Harveys in one hand and a festive menu in the other. And, as the Thames Pageant glides down the Thames in all its splendour, I’ll be hearing all about it, third hand, from some bloke who once met that other bloke who broke into the Queens bedroom for a right royal chat. Top geezer, apparently.

So my advice, for what it’s worth, is this: We’re all a bit broken, can’t change that, but don’t let that put you off. Celebrate the flaws, and if you so happen to be an SW13 resident, watch this space for further Royal/Olympic updates to your favourite local. Nibs told me to put them in here but I’m blowed if I can remember what they are…

Idle Eye 31 : The Third Best of All Possible Burgers

I know what you’re thinking: He’s slipped a day, either Bank Holiday excess or Morris dancing. Well, this time it’s neither, and I refer the discerning reader to last weeks entry for clues. Yes, my good ole ISP surpassed itself this weekend, giving me speeds of 0.01mb/s which rendered the internet unusable for the duration. So, let’s waste no more time & get on with the naming & shaming. It’s Virgin Media. That’s VIRGIN MEDIA. Please, if you’re out there & can help yet another screwed-over punter, pop your advice in the comments section (including ultra-violent stuff, don’t spare the rod) and I will buy you a beer. I mean it. Rant over.

Deep breath…

Now, as some of you may already know, Nibs’s award-winning burgers won another award last week. EBLEX, or, to the acronym-phobic the English Beef and Lamb Executive, dole out annual gongs to anyone with the balls to compete against the mighty purveyors of sport-inducing fast food. It is a fiercely contested event with several thousand entries but once again the IH (sorry, Idle Hour) knocked them all into a cocked hat. All but two, that is. So that’s a big bronze for SW13 (South West Thirteen) and diddly squit for the rest of London. Telling, seeing as we are swamped with sleb chefs and the like, and all the more weird for you to have this news delivered by a vegetarian. Them’s the breaks.

I did have visions of being invited (in a reportage capacity, natch) to an opulent, velvet-lined ceremony, a sort of low-rent Oscars perhaps, somewhere in Piccadilly where penguin men and their peacock other halves would chat sotto voce about the state of farming in the UK and the latest must-have ingredient that’s simply divine. I saw Nibs shaking hands with Wossy and, after a short, heartfelt speech during which he fought unsuccessfully to choke back tears, he clasped a 3x actual-size engraved bronze hamburger to his chest with one hand and punched the sky with the other. All to rapturous applause and a 1970’s sound library string section. And as he made his way through the crowd to the bosom of his loved ones, Terry Wogan took the mic from Jonathan and made a shit joke about cows, methane and the third best of all possible burgers. Like he would.

Sadly, this star-spangled fantasy was exactly that. I never got to wear the suit, to weep in the aisles, to shoulder up vicariously to the movers and shakers in the world of burgers. However, as I shimmied into IH Barnes on Sunday with a group of friends clearly impressed by the Bloody Marys, I did feel the need to point out a certain certificate, resplendent in its faux-mahogany frame, and bask in an element of reflected glory. Life is a cabaret, old chum. And I love a cabaret.

Idle Eye 30 : The Olden Days

Hard though it may be to believe as you plough your way through the weekly helping of cattle’s business in front of you now, but on the odd occasion I need to indulge in a spot of research. This is usually achieved with a decanter of ‘2 for £10’ industrial-strength red (min 13.5%, Old World), and a go on my massive ‘style over content’ computer which helps me access topical websites, news stories and films. Ahem. However, the last few weeks have seen my super-speedy 30MB broadband service shrivel to a Coalition-stylee standstill and it has remained thus ever since.

Not being made of the sterner stuff mandatory for a Customer Services face-off, I decided to go the Help & Support Forum route, traditionally populated by angry, semi-literate Neanderthals that use emoticons and swear a lot. Which it was. Only this time they were joined by a teeming throng of bitter, desperate regular folk caught in a quagmire of corporate indifference, their cries disparate but the crux being the same: GET ME OUT OF HERE! Not a good sign. Page after page of anguish read like an online script of Hieronymus Bosch’s Hell and I was right there at the top: Hell’s Hell.

Pessimistically, I posted a newbie complaint and shortly I was visited by Stevetaylor and DannyB01, lamenting my predicament whilst nurturing their own. And as I basked in self-pity I watched it demoted from prime position as even newer sufferers were added. Within minutes I had become a veteran, like Christopher Lee at the end of Taste the Blood of Dracula. Old ladies, students, even web professionals were getting sucked down into the vortex in real time. What chance did I have? Would I ever see iPlayer again? Or even an email? Religion suddenly became a viable concern as all hope slipped away.

And then I thought of Nibs, as one does in a crisis. He is the Elite Republican Guard evangelist of failed services: Dropped a delivery? SEE YOU IN COURT! Shabby marketing? SEE YOU IN COURT! Thread count a bit low on them T-shirts? SEE YOU IN COURT! NO-ONE SCREWS WITH ME!!! SEE YOU IN COURT! AND I WILL WIN!!! I kid you not, this is his mantra and it works. Because now this is what you have to become in order to get what was standard in the Olden Days. Remember them? The Olden Days? When we didn’t have Customer Services because it just happened off the bat, without question? When a little man in overalls would turn up and fix the internet after a cup of builders tea and you’d pop a couple of bob into his top pocket after? Of course you don’t. Because that particular nirvana has been systematically eroded from our consciousness, leaving only the flotsam and jetsam of crud in its wake. So don’t ask me how I managed to post this. Please don’t. Or I’ll see you in court.