Idle Eye 68 : The Parable of the Sower

Back in the 1970’s (forgive me for not remembering exactly when), Nibs and I had our first musical spar. We were both newts, desperately attempting to develop the first tail of experience which we could then wave about with authority and impress our mates. Obviously I had a slight edge, playing the Elvis Costello trump card over his Boomtown Rats, compounded further when our dear mother destroyed Nibs’s Rats cassette after seeing Bob Geldof on the Russell Harty Show. This wanton act of barbarism knocked the stuffing out of the poor boy, but as the eldest I undertook a mantle of responsibility with requisite seriousness, and over the subsequent years I offered him up Be Bop Deluxe, Supertramp, Roxy Music et al which he devoured with joy.

Our nirvana of choice was a tiny shop just off Godalming High Street called Record Corner, tucked away in a cobbled enclave far from the everyday needs of Surrey stockbrokers. Here you could lose yourself in formative wonder, as gigantic teenage muso freaks intimidated and beguiled you in equal measures. I remember asking, with a slight cringe, if they had Elton John/Kiki Dee’s ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ in yet and being told to piss off to Woolworths. Which, ironically, is where Nibs bought the Clash’s London Calling, but then let himself down by going to Waitrose immediately afterwards.

On my thirteenth birthday I somehow managed to get a little band together. The venue: Shackleford Village Hall, and it was here myself and three others murdered ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ by Cream in front of a live audience. And yet, five of us were guilty. Why five, I hear you ask? Well, because young Nibs had his tiny adolescent hand in it as well. At a disclosed moment, he ran onto the stage and manually plugged in a red lightbulb, giving us the kind of wow factor unseen since the Eiffel tower was launched to an anticipating public. It was a bonding moment, to be sure, but sadly failed to secure my place in a certain young lady’s heart, not mentioned here for fear she may well be reading this.

And so the years passed by, and I continued to share the pearls I came across on my musical journey. Touchingly, the stuff I actually wrote (and performed with the confidence of a startled gazelle) was most keenly championed by Nibs himself. And though we seldom manage to say it to each other (we’re British, innit?) we have always maintained a sneaking respect for the other’s ability in his chosen field. But it was music that did and will always do the lion’s share of bonding. Anyone that has ever endured an Idle Hour lock-in with its inevitable rendition of Wonderwall will understand why. All I ask is that you do not hold me responsible. You sow the seed: Some of it falls on fertile ground, some does not. I rest my case…

Idle Eye 67 : The Breastplate of Righteousness

Regular readers of this swill will implicitly understand why I have maintained a dignified silence for the past couple of weeks. It’s not often we get a news story that doesn’t have to be collagened to fuck to make palatable reading in the dailies, and since Monday last the press have seized their quarry and run it ragged. As has every blogger/columnist/social media outlet in the land. And the outcome has been not only predictable but also saturated to the point of nausea. Which is a shame, because it’s always fun to pitch in with your tuppence-worth if you can string a line of thought together on the keys, but these days you have to get in there quick: Leave it five seconds and you will be consigned to the dustbin of irrelevance ‘cos them pesky kids will be in there before you’ve even put your teeth in.

So, not being as agile as I once was, I had the good sense to leave the mewling and puking to the heavyweights, and took great pleasure in watching the ensuing bunfight from the sidelines. Oh yes! I could have dredged up my Lefty credentials as I spent three years in Sheffield being wheeled out to marches in support of miners throughout the white heat of Thatchers’ second term, but these would have turned to dust when it came out I was actually from Surrey and on a full grant. Understandably, I kept schtum about this at the time.

Anyway, I decided to listen to the R4 coverage of the funeral which allowed me the illicit thrill of being the enemy within, to coin one of hers. And, if I’m honest, I was a tad moved by the whole pomp of the thing as I was, despite myself, by the Jubilee and the Olympics. But then young Amanda T pitched in with her biblical passage (in your baskets, euphemism fans) and the whole shooting match came crashing down like a house of cards. What, in Baby Jesus’s name, has the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ got to do with anything? Yes, I know it’s a quote, but I fail to see how Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (whoever they were) makes a suitable analogy for a nation trawling the wake of a controversial leader’s legacy. I seem to remember a certain J Aitken brandishing the ‘sword of truth’ speech when he needed a touch of gravitas, and look where that got him.

Now, I’m going to have to tread carefully here: Check out Nibs’s Twitter feed down there on the right and you’ll see why. And apart from anything else, I have to be seen as politically non-partisan yet a sworn devotee to the IH cause. Which, of course, I am. And yet not. So let’s strike up a deal: You drink and eat the stuff that keeps me in work, and I’ll tone it down a bit. Okay? It’s what she would have wanted…

Idle Eye 66 : The Big Chill

Like you, I’m pig sick of this weather. Sick of it. Month after month of relentless, Chekhov-grey misery that has mercilessly bled into Easter and beyond and left us raw, flattened and howling for a culpable scapegoat. But who on Earth can we point the muzzle at? If we were Grasping George, it would be simple: It’s them benefit scroungers, with one hand on handouts and the other cranking the levers at the Met Office. If we were Austerity Dave, we could legitimately have a pop at the North Koreans, what with their bonkers supreme leader Kim Jong Thingy, whose big wide face has almost certainly got something to do with it. And if we were IDS, sadly we wouldn’t yet be up to speed as the telly would be off. Although, to be fair to the man, so would the heaters so he’s out of the hot seat. Sort of.

Anyway, to be honest, it’s a toss up tonight whether I continue with this nonsense or retire to the living room where there’s a roaring log fire, series two of Borgen on DVD and a potato gratin to enjoy. I could always pretend I’m sick or depressed or on short leave, which would probably have you racked with sympathy. But the truth is, I’m just fed up with being cold all the time. We all are. As I type this I have a fleece on and an attractive scarf. Inside, with the heating on full tilt. In April. Yet the breaking news we cannot escape from is that the energy giant SSE has just been fined 10.5 MILLION QUID for ripping off the general public. And, as I listened to Radio Four’s Today programme through my massive headphones with their toasty thermal pads, their corporate affairs director managed a monosyllabic apology: “Sorry”, he said. And that was pretty much it. Which seems to be all you have to do these days in order to wipe the slate clean and get on with your day. No sackings, no tribunals, no dignity. Just an unmeant soundbite on the first available news slot. And in the meantime, a nation huddles around the crystal set for the warmth of sincerity.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s actually going on here: The bitter irony of global warming as we freeze to blue inside our own homes. The weather people, the gas people and the government are all in it together. Of course they are, don’t you see? The gas people pay the government to keep it cold, who in turn bribe the weather people to turn down the switch on the proviso that the gas people give them a good deal. WAKE UP, BRITAIN!!! It’s a symbiotic gang-bang in which the only ones screwed are the end users. And that’s us, if I’m not very much mistaken. Which I probably am, to be fair. Sod it, I’m going next door: There’s ice on my keyboard.