Idle Eye 46 : The Last Good Day of the Year

I was listening to Radio 4 on Saturday morning (as one does) and this lady came on who had been struck temporarily blind. Oh no! But then she went on about how she had reassessed her life and realised it had been peppered with relentless negativity, and from that moment on she vetoed any such sentiments which in turn improved the quality of her everyday life immeasurably. Anyway, I turned it off ‘cos I was late for the Barnes Food Fair, in which Nibs had a stall doing spectacular Bloody Marys I badly needed to assess for this ‘ere blog and ran out to get the train. Cancelled. Engineering works. But before I did my usual Ian Dury (****holes, bastards, ****ing ***** and pr**ks) I thought of that woman, lifted my head up high & took the replacement bus with pride. Good on ‘em, I thought, for actually bothering to replace the entire train with a bus: Good on ‘em.

And when I got to Barnes Common two hours later, no small thanks to weekend traffic and an unfortunate iOS6 maps error, I was determined to keep this up. The sun was out, small boys were kicking a ball about (jumpers for goalposts) and everything was heading up to be a Breugel-tastic, culinary lovefest. Even a Volvo passenger opening her door into my smalls did not manage to dampen my ardour (although I did get the temporary blindness). ‘Oh yes, life is good’ I thought, after sampling several pints of the red stuff which, in turn, led me to the real ale stall where I discovered Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a 32% beauty I saw no reason not to obtain for the very reasonable sum of £45. Which, in turn, made the Barbers’ Shop singers sound so angelical I was compelled to enjoy a large Pimms in sheer admiration which, in turn, made me purchase a rather delightful fishermans’ winkle box for Ursula despite my misgivings as to its authenticity.

You see, what the R4 lady left out, and this is the salient point, is that you don’t need a life-changing event to make every day of your life the last good day of the year. What you actually need is an arsenal of high-quality booze and the ability to set aside the cold front of cynicism for the sunnier climes of La Dolce Vita. And the former aids the latter, trust me. Now, I know Nibs will be wanting me to big up his efforts right here in the last paragraph but there’s no need. Really. You all ate those award-winning burgers, drank the BM’s and had a great time. And you know what? As I struggled to focus on Nick Clegg’s apology in the freesheets strewn about on the tube home and I listened to that viral tune drawn from the very same, I felt really good for the first time in ages. Shortly before taking a very long ride on the porcelain bus…

Idle Eye 45 : The Sick, the Bad & the Wicked

Language has moved on a bit since I were a lad, and rightly so. It is the moral duty of the next generation to mix things up for their elders to the point where traditional arteries of communication get so furred that we reluctantly hand over the baton and creep off into extinction. Take this weeks title, for example: A couple of decades ago you could be forgiven for thinking all three denoted particular ailments and we would have had the utmost sympathy for those afflicted. Today the same guys are Top of the Pops. Well matrix, actually. However, anyone of a certain age attempting to shore up their own vocabulary with yoofspeak walks a mighty thin line. For they shall be vilified by those they borrow from, ridiculed by their peers and old hat before the week is out. It’s cruel, I know, but that’s the law of the jungle.

The same goes for businesses and politicians trying to cash in on a fleeting youth market. Nothing makes you look more out of touch than when attempting the exact opposite, as I shall demonstrate:


Homemade Soup 5.50
OMG!!! Legendary. Crucial when served steamin’. Meat flava

Our Award-Winning Organic Steak Mince Burger 11.00
Commin’ atcha with fries’n’tha. Totes amazeballs

Wild Mushroom, Tarragon and Pea Risotto with Parmesan and Rocket 11.00
Proper nang gang’o’veg, bluds

Callebaut Chocolate Brownie w/ Organic Vanilla Ice Cream 5.00
Frigid, but ice is nice

And so on. Shrewd oldies should never kowtow to the shifting sands of youth patois because, as Stewart Lee would say, it’s not for you. Its very purpose is to keep you at bay, and should you and your cronies at Bletchley Park ever manage to hack your way in, the rules will change quicker than Usain Bolt’s lady count in Stratford. Nota bene, Mr Cameron, nota bene.

I browsed my young niece’s Facebook page the other day. Not in a weird way, honest, but she’s just back from Croatia & I thought I’d see how she got on. Turns out she’s all gravy, well sick and had an epic keen one, oh yeeee boii. Which is important, because if she thought anyone over 25 had a clue what she was on about, she probably wouldn’t be. I mean, have. Whatever. And the very fact that an old git like myself can access the online exploits of todays teenagers may well have something to do with Mark Zuckerberg’s downward slide on the stock exchange. When the exclusive goes global, the cool factor goes out of the window and if you happen to be under 25, that’s all that matters. Innit?

Fortunately for us seniors, there is one trick left up our collective sleeve. One last defiant roar before we shuffle off this mortal coil. Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold:

“What’s Grandpa saying, mum?”

“I’m not sure, dear. Just leave him to it.”

Idle Eye 44 : The Herding Instinct

Human beings are essentially congregational. It’s why we’ve always had towns & villages, churches, sporting arenas, festivals and, of course, pubs & clubs. For most, the complex web of possibility that life throws up is far too vexing to navigate alone, so we take on a partner to help make sense of it all and surround ourselves with like-minded individuals in establishments inside which we feel comfortable. This instinct is at once tribal and refined. From the hallowed portals of St James to the bingo halls of Bognor we prefer to stick with our own as it confirms in some small way that we’ve made the correct choices, and if we haven’t, screw it; at least we’re in good company.

However, once we’ve settled on our respective coteries, it is astonishing to learn how fiercely we defend them from unsuitable others, considering how subjective this apparent suitability can be. Legend has it that a certain Lord Glasgow once threw a waiter through the window of his club after a disappointing meal. When challenged, he brusquely ordered: ‘Put him on the bill.’ He was later charged £5 and the waiter suffered a broken arm. Indeed, the most heinous crime in the highest echelons of clubland is not that of propriety. Outlandish behaviour, in some circles, is seen as mere high spirits (although clearly it helps to be intimate with the rules before they are broken). No, that particular accolade goes to the admission of ‘manifestly inappropriate guests’, from which we can deduce that if you ain’t one of us, you ain’t coming in. And the higher you climb on society’s ladder, the more rigorously this unwritten rule is policed.

For the benefit of Barnes types who don’t already know this, the Idle Hour has its own equivalent. And fear not: There are no burly minders to get past, no dress code as such and no danger of being blackballed if Nibs doesn’t like the cut of your jib (although he did once eject a vulgar punter from a previous concern for decanting a £6000 bottle of red through the tablecloth. Be warned…) The VIP card makes no background checks, has no nomination procedure or minimum income requirements. In fact it is so widely accepting, one could be forgiven for doubting whether there are any security measures in place at all (who’s on the committee then – G4S?) It does, however, ask one thing, the one thing that is so hardwired into our DNA it would be difficult to refuse even if we wanted to. Which we don’t. See first paragraph for clues.

The beauty of the above lies in the very lack of protocol adhered to so stringently by its esteemed peers. A member of the Garrick once wrote: ‘It would be better that ten unobjectionable men should be excluded than that one terrible bore should be admitted.’ I beg to differ: Give the bore a chance, as he is more likely to be unobjectionable than those who reject him…