Idle Eye 65 : The Mercy Dash

Ladies – This week, I’m afraid I’m going to have to drop my metrosexual guard. Sorry, but sometimes a man has to write what a man has to write. It’s mean and it stinks, but so did Clint and you liked him in spades.

Gents – If you’re lucky enough to be under forty, the following will not be applicable to you. My advice would be for you to either hang with the ladies until next week or read on and learn. If, however, you’re in the clan, I sincerely hope I can be of some assistance and perhaps any mutual pain shared can be mutual pain halved. I’m referring here to the perennial dilemma of any male of advancing years: The Mercy Dash. Back in the day, we could all skull a skinful, lose our wallets and/or keys in a Wetherspoons rest room, engage ourselves in a pathetic fight on the High Street and still make the last train home. And we still can, right? Wrong. Not any more. Picture this & weep:

It’s 7.15pm & you’re in the Idle Hour, squeezing in a sharpener. Just the one. You’ve had a text informing you that the dinner’s on. But, oh no! Jamie’s just got another one in and you need to milk him for info on his electrician. So you down it to be polite, but deep in your heart you know you’ve already hit your ceiling. And now, in the words of Irving Berlin, there may be trouble ahead. Yes, home is only three stops away but it might as well be on Jupiter for all that matters. Because you’re going to have to do the Mercy Dash. You know the one: When you’ve made it to within twenty metres of your own front door but the bladder thinks it’s already inside. So you pick up speed (not too much, you’ve been there before and remember what happened then) but this only exacerbates the problem. But if you slow down you’ve got a farts chance in a wind tunnel of making it to the bowl unscathed. The agony of choice, cut short by an unwelcome telegram from the crumbling infrastructure of your poorly architected damming. You break into a sprint, simultaneously attempting to release your keys from Ground Zero. And then, by some miracle of science that would have Brian Cox eating out of your hand, you find yourself in the Splash Bay, but even here your problems are far from over: Someone’s left the dump door down and your belt is on maximum hold. And you pray to whatever God you believe in, like one of Mel Gibson’s Aztecs or Gareth Gates, that you will not be forsaken at the eleventh hour. And He listens and He is merciful, as once again your golden arrow hits hard its porcelain target. And all is well with the world…

Ring any bells? Of course it does. See you in the traps on Boat Race Day and a very happy Easter to you all.

Idle Eye 64 : The Long Good Sonday

Oh dear, it’s that time of year again: When supermarkets are brimful with leftover Lindt reindeers cunningly repackaged as bunnies, when television spews out blatant hints that our homes ain’t exactly lemon fresh, when every roadside flower seller gears up for the big one and every self-employed soul in the land prepares for a two-day pay dock. Yes folks, we’re on the Easter runway and already we’re feeling the love. The pope has been picked, the weather is promising to be spectacularly shithouse and the M4 is wetting itself. With joy, you understand. With joy.

I’ve never quite got my head around the whole Easter deal, to be honest. As an excuse to bleed the nations’ wallets once again, it’s badly timed. Too self-consciously close to Christmas/Valentines Day, the concept is far-fetched and not particularly sexy. But Jesus was no fool: He implicitly understood that the gap between Bank Holidays badly needed plugging (40 days was quite enough for him), so with one eye on the Letts and the other on electability, he got them to roll back that stone. And the rest is history. Two thousand plus years on, however, and something significant has got lost in translation. When the fantastical rebirth of the figurehead of all modern guidance is represented by a chocolate egg stuffed with Smarties, you just know we’ve got something out of kilter. And an M&S £10 dine-in almost certainly will not bring a loved one back from the dead or help anyone in their quest for salvation, although it must be said that I have yet to try their lamb bhuna.

You know, if I was God with all his incumbent powers, I’d probably be a bit miffed with the bastardisation of my message, what with the sending down of my only son only to to be müllered by idiots. And yet you’d also think that I’d be savvy enough to stop it happening, being God and that. But maybe that’s just it: If you’re the boss, you just have to let go a bit and let the little people figure it out for themselves, no matter how far from the point they stray.

Having said all this, the Idle Hour will once again be pushing the boat out on March 31st. The italics because, due to some bizarre stroke of fate, the anniversary of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ just happens to fall on the exact same day as the Oxford/Cambridge boat race. It’s the kind of double whammy that only happens once in a millennium and consequently needs exploiting to the hilt. Expect tankards filled with Thames water to be converted into Pinot Noir, organic soda bread to be broken on winning rowlocks and live crucifixion of your coxwain of choice in the beer garden. Because that’s what He’d have wanted. And anyone that tells you different is a liar and a charlatan…

Idle Eye 63 : The Recyclist

Anyone out there that has built up a photofit of your humble author almost certainly would not have me down as a natural when it comes to all things cycling. And you’d be bang on the money, to be fair: the booze-sodden carcass I carry around with me is probably best suited to more sedentary activities such as bee-keeping or G4S security. So imagine my surprise when the exact same bicycle I’d had stolen in 2004 appeared in my eBay search field the other day. In Huddersfield, no less. And despite my advancing years and appalling loss of flexibility in the lumbar region, I decided it was to be mine. Which indeed it was: Huzzah!

Now, if it hasn’t already come to your attention, a lot has changed since 2004. Gone are the days when you could rock up at your local bike shop, stick your fag out in the plant pot outside and make your purchase without a hint of embarrassment about jeans being tucked into socks. Not any more. Bike shops aren’t even called bike shops. They are Performance Centres, where every nuance of your basic humanity is considered a weakness, to be overcome with specialist assistance from a Wiggly Braggins-a-like, employed to seek out your achilles heel and exploit it ruthlessly. Sore knees? Incorrectly fitted cleats. Sore arse? Spend £120+ and we’ll sort it. And don’t get me started on bad gash…

Anyway, I turned up at one of these places a couple of days ago, looking like the boy from the Hovis ads with added alcohol. Call me naive, but I thought it would be a quick in/out affair from which I’d come away with some fancy kit that would get the ladies clucking at work. Far from it. As I pushed my new steed through the door, wheezing with exhaustion from the 0.3 mile trek, a young lady whisked it away and thrust it into a vertical rack. As mild panic set in, I became aware of an even younger man, pedaling as if his life depended on it on some kind of vast treadmill, in front of which was a video screen displaying French byroads which he was virtually navigating. So distracted was I by all of this, I failed to notice the craggy Australian in bulging shorts looming ominously in front of me, there to help me get the most from my cycling experience. Clearly I was a curio to him (as he was to me) and for a brief while we stood there, locked into our very own Bateman moment.

I cracked first. Of course I did. Making a shoddy excuse, I shot out of the premises and onto terra firma. No sideburns, no kit, but at least some semblance of dignity. For no matter how hard they try, I shall never yield to the tyranny of Lycra. Never. And if I look a bit crap on the road, so be it.