Idle Eye 54 : The Real Story of the Blues

Clapham Delta, London 1912

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Morning, Larry.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Morning, Norman.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Tram’s late again.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  I see that.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Distressing.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Somewhat.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  There’ll be hell to pay at Fenchurch Street.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  I fear there will.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  How’s the mojo?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Just fine, Norman, just fine. And yours?

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Mustn’t grumble, I suppose. Spent the weekend tinkering but she’s really not tickety-boo just yet.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Confounded thing. Have you tried new improved Wonderwall from Nibs Industries? A quick squirt and you’re in the pink, apparently.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Yes, I saw that on last week’s newsreel. Something along the lines of ‘Who needs twelve bars when one will do?’ Or am I mistaken?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  The very same, old boy. Seems this Nibs chap is running on one over there in Barnes and doing rather well.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Running on one? Whatever do you mean?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Why, one chord, of course! All that complicated nonsense from Mississippi: Hell bent on twisting our melon, man. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of this fellow’s book and we’d all have a bit more time to cane the children and patronise the wife.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Well, I must say that does sound splendid! I can’t remember when I last gave the eldest a sound thrashing or confined the sow to her quarters.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  I’d not let Mrs Pankhurst hear that if I were you, old bean.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha! Very good, Larry!

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Yes, I thought so.

‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace appears

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Uh oh! Here comes trouble.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Oh Lordy!

‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace:  You boys a-talkin’ bout me agin?

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  No, Ma’am. We’s just a-waitin’ for dis ole tram.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Ain’t dat da truth.

‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace:  Now, I no wanna hear no tale of dissin‘ de twelve bar onna count of Nibs In-Dust-Tree. He da Devil chile, with his one chord WunnaWall an he an his Barnes speshal frens. You stay cleeah, y’unnastan?

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  F’sure, Mrs O’Beace

‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace:  Now, I has a cli-yant me ting in Bal-ham. See y’all.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  So long, Mama!

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Don’t go changin’!

FMO’B heads off south

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Awkward.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Rather.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Still no sign of that tram.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Sadly not.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Rotten luck.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Larry?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Norman.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  This…Nibs. No chance he could knock up more than one chord, is there?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  None whatsoever.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  I rather feared that was the case.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  I’m afraid it is.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Shame.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Indeed.

Idle Eye 53 : The Devil’s Playground

Long-term readers of this pile of offal will implicitly understand how thrilled I was to discover that this week heralds the start of yet another government initiative. In case you don’t already have it seared into your subconscious, I’m referring, of course, to Road Safety Week. Conceived specifically to heighten awareness of the carnage out there, RSW also sets out to tell us that we drive too fast in built-up areas, pollute too much and should really consider walking and cycling a bit more.

Yeah, okay okay. But this morning I caught my first fleeting glimpse of the 2012 mascot, with which we are expected to bond and empathise for seven whole days. He’s a lumpy builder type with an American Dad chin and all the yellow kit on (you know, that standard issue safety stuff that prevents you doing the job you’re actually being paid for). From the protective haven of his hoarding he gurns at the viewer in an encouraging yet profoundly disturbing manner. And guess what? He’s a bloody drawing. Ad agencies across the land must dread Road Safety Week. For they know that if they are passed this particular poisoned chalice, that two-bit scribble knocked up in the blurry vortex between Toke Thursday and Chang Friday will have to hold its own against timeless classics such as Tufty Squirrel, the evil Nick O’Teen or that moustachioed shithead helping you with your tax return. And there’s not a fart’s chance in a windtunnel of that happening.

So what is it with the Nanny State and its compulsion to get its manifesto across with doctrine our own children would find condescending? More often than not the message has some not inconsiderable weight but is ultimately let down because WE ARE GROWN UPS AND WE WOULD LIKE TO DECIPHER OUR WORLD IN WORDS OF MORE THAN TWO SYLLABLES. And even if we were pre-pubescent renegades on the cusp of changing our ways, the very first whiff of being patronised would have us back on the streets torching Previas. We may be kids, but this is the Devil’s Playground. Strap yourselves in.

Speaking of kids, the above at least is an attempt at bringing order into a world of chaos. Now that we can’t fag on in public houses and our pandering governors wish to make them increasingly attractive to infants, those once hallowed spit and sawdust floors (previously only accessed by scurrilous journalists and students) are now hugga-mugga with Mamas and Papas, the small person vehicle that abides by no law, laughs in the face of common decency and, if it were subject to the stringent demands of Road Safety Week, would be slammed into the nearest pound quicker than you can say Jeremy Clarkson. So come on, mums and dads! If you insist on bringing your three-wheeled buggies of anarchy into the public domain, let’s have some rules: You make way at the bar, and we’ll slow to 20. Deal?

Idle Eye 52 : The Name’s Nibs

MI6 building, Vauxhall Cross. Yesterday.

M:  Ah, Nibs! Thanks for coming in. Sit down, won’t you?

Nibs:  Thank you, Ma’am.

M:  Seems there’s a bit of fuss in Whitehall about this wretched peerage you’ve got. Makes a mockery of all the legitimate ones like Savile, apparently. Now, I’ve told the PM we’ll let it slide for diplomacy’s sake so I’ll hear no more of it from now on. Is that understood?

Nibs:  Implicitly.

M:  Shut the door on the way out, will you Nibs?

Nibs:  Of course.

Heads towards door but then turns back

Would it make a difference if I told you that the Treasury had nothing to do with it?

M:  Explain.

Nibs:  The peerage, Ma’am. I got it off of the internet.

M:  Don’t be ridiculous, Nibs. I don’t have time for this.

Nibs:  I’m afraid it’s true. eBay. £94.85. Last Christmas. I was the highest bidder by 75 pence.

M:  Damn you! You do realise this compromises our entire operation? Everything we hold dear?

Nibs:  I do, Ma’am.

M:  Then why, Nibs? This had better be good.

Nibs:  It is.

M:  I’m waiting.

Nibs:  It’s the budget cuts, Ma’am. Take a look at my expenses for the 2010-2011 period. What can you see?

M:  Well, you do seem to have eased off on Jägermeister and KY Jelly.

Nibs:  Marginally, yes. But what else?

M:  Hmmm… hard to say. Travel, perhaps?

Nibs:  Exactly! Last time Q handled finance I was on a bullshit train fighting that ugly gorilla with bad teeth. £94.85 lets me turn left on planes these days: It’s a no-brainer.

M:  Hold up. What are these endless entries saying Idle Hour Barnes?

Nibs:  Entertainment, Ma’am. With respect, perhaps you’ve forgotten how we do things in the field?

M:  I was entertaining at the Idle Hour when you were in school shorts. And if you think the sunday roast is going to slip through accounts without a public hearing, you are very much mistaken.

Nibs:  It’s just business, Ma’am. My business.

Cue exciting theme music alongside exciting graphics with bums’n’guns’n’bosoms under water and a couple of ducks from the Wetlands Centre chewing some grass

M:  Oh, and Nibs?

Nibs:  Yes, Ma’am?

M:  You’re fired. Hand your keys in at reception. This is the last time we shall ever meet. Goodbye, Mr Nibs.

Nibs:  Lord Nibs, Ma’am.

M:  Lord Nibs. Whatever. But £94.85! Really?

Nibs:  Yes, Ma’am. Off of the internet.

M:  Astonishing.

Nibs:  Indeed. And you get a certificate.

M:  A certificate?

Nibs:  Yes.

M:  Framed?

Nibs:  No, Ma’am.

M:  I see. So Nibs, you’re a nob now?

Nibs:  Yes, Ma’am. The name’s Nibs – Lord Nibs.

M:  Nob or not, get out, Nibs. Now!!!

Nibs:  Yes, Ma’am.

Disclaimer: The Director General of the Idle Eye would like to make it clear that any of the above insinuations pertaining to the dubious authenticity of Lord Thorp’s peerage are merely that and completely unfounded. And he’s not standing down, neither…

Idle Eye 51 : The Little Fiddle

Although we’re lying in Mr Osborne’s toxic shadow of fraud, tax evasion, expense fiddling and chronic mismanagement of the public purse, it seems (to this truculent old carcass at any rate) that the enormity of the sum involved somehow lessens its impact. Let me explain: When it is decreed that the shabby pile of bricks you may or may not own in seventeen-odd years needs a few more grand thrown at it, you tend to just wince and get on with it. However, when you discover that your Jolly local store has rammed up the price of liquorice rolling papers by a budget-busting twenty pence, the lines are drawn:

TWENTY PEE? BASTARDS!!! WELL THAT’S IT, I’M BLOODY WELL GOING TO MAKE THAT 1.34KM DETOUR TO SOULCUTTERS FROM NOW ON AND YOU CAN SING FOR MY CUSTOM, JOLLY!!!  NICE TRY!!!

You keep this up for several days, despite the fact that Soulcutters charge you a fifty pence surcharge for the privilege of using your debit card instore, the untold wear on shoe leather and the criminal hike in price of table wine which, of course, you are duty-bound to purchase or it means a total loss of face back at Jolly’s. But never mind that, you’re making a stance! Because if you don’t, how many other poor sods are going to get screwed over by these opportunist pigs trying to capitalise on the fact that you live just down the road? It doesn’t bear thinking about. And maybe an important lesson will be learned about market forces and the elasticity thereof. Feels good, right?

Wrong. You’re just another fly caught in a small strand of the Little Fiddle. That most irritating phenomenon of being very slightly fleeced but not enough to go nuclear over. Everyone’s at it, from newsagents to train companies, from online cottage industries to farmers markets. No-one is exempt and the quicker you learn to deal with it the better. I ran this one past Nibs a couple of days ago and he primal screamed over the repair of his four-ring gas burner: A callout charge and its attendant quarter-hourly fee he took on the chin. It was the weaselly addition of £48 for a plastic knob (booting the final bill beyond a soaraway £500) that broke him. In catering, no-one can hear you scream.

So, my advice to Mr Osborne would be this: Forget about all that austerity nonsense, it’s getting people’s backs up and you’ll only U-turn on it in a couple of months. If you’re really serious about clawing back a few quid, pop the surplus onto our sundries bill. Not all at once, obviously, but in tiny amounts over the next three hundred years. For sure, we’ll moan about it but we’ll pull through, we always do. It’s a bit like queueing, and you know how we’ve learned to love that. And who knows? Maybe we’ll learn to like you after all.