Idle Eye 86 : The Pixies

One of the reasons I bailed out of the music scene in 1998 was down to an overwhelming fear of becoming one of those ancient ponytailed rockers who never learned when to throw in the towel. For me it was get in there early, shine while you have the limelight, then hand over the baton to the next in line. It’s usually a brutally short career path, as for footballers and athletes, but rightfully so: You need the stamina and the recklessness to bend your body and mind to the outer limits of excess in order to advance the cause, and these are the exact qualities that tend to retire with every advancing year (unless you are Sly Stone).

But never mind all that. I got an email from the Pixies a couple of weeks ago saying they were doing a secret show in Brixton and would I care to join them? How very thoughtful, I thought, and as each and every Pixie is a tad older than myself, I figured it would be churlish to refuse. It’s manners, innit? Like when your nan asks you over for tea. So off I popped on Friday night with a few chums, having enjoyed a few statutory light refreshments beforehand.

And hats off to them, they really were jolly good. Mr Francis, or Black now apparently, was shouting and screaming like my mother in the 1970’s, with not a jot of hair on him. Which was brave. His old chum Mr Santiago (on the guitar) was particularly splendid, and guess what? He was follicularly-challenged too, neatly getting around it with the cunning use of a flat hat. Mr Lovering on the drums was thinning a bit, but we forgave him for it as he pounded it out like a headmaster before New Labour got in, and then there was New Kim on the bass (Old Kim had stopped for reasons most probably outlined in paragraph one). And oh my stars! New Kim had masses of hair! And she wasn’t afraid to move it about, neither. In fact, New Kim probably had more hair than all the other Pixies combined. And I loved her for it. These are the things that matter when you’ve been out of the loop for a while.

We retired to an old-skool boozer on Coldharbour Lane for a swift digestif. Some boys with trainers the size and shape of Beirut flat blocks were unattractively spitting into their microphones, whilst behind them a disc jockey seemed to be having problems cueing up his songs. I know I’m going to come across all fuddy-duddy but you wouldn’t have got that from David Jacobs, now would you? At least he could put the bloody needle down in the right place, for heaven’s sake!

But I’m forgetting myself: Dear Pixies, it was lovely to see you all, and thank you for inviting me to your lovely party. I am most grateful. Now, where is my mind?

Idle Eye 85 : The Andromeda Strain

As I march relentlessly through my forties towards the deep earth which eventually will swallow me up, I am becoming increasingly aware that the fleeting powers bestowed on me as a robust, thrusting alpha male are beginning to dwindle. Never an easy prospect that, although I have been cushioned from the full impact thanks to the distinct lack of successors in my flat. Not having kids basically means you can run up and down the stairs with a face like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, barking orders and pretending you’re in charge. But it is a life in aspic: Sooner or later you will meet your nemesis, and last night it appeared in the form of my friend Nick’s middle offspring.

Alfie is thirteen and no fool. He can whip his way around Logic like one of them Apple Genius nerds in Regent Street and bang out a few toons in less time it would take me to remember which drawer I’d put the manual in. He uses three letter acronyms for everything & understandably expects those within his orbit to keep up or get off the pot: It’s a brutal world out there. So when Nick left the house to go pick up his daughter, I was left for a few moments staring starkly into the face of the future. But, dear readers, you’ll be pleased to learn I didn’t just lie down & hand over the baton. Oh no! This ole boy has a bit of spunk left in him yet, you bet your bum! So I countered with the only weapon I had left: Ignorance.

Alfie:  GTA5 is awesome! Lucky I’ve got the Mac to myself or Dad would probably use up all the CPU.

Me:  What’s GTA, Alfie?

Alfie:  Grand Theft Auto?

Me:  I see. And what’s CPU?

Alfie:  Central Processing Unit. It’s how much power you get allocated for what you’re doing. Basic stuff, really.

Me:  Oh right. Is that good?

Alfie:  Sure. You know when you get graphic drag on TOD4? Means you’re getting low.

Me:  Sorry Alfie, what’s TOD4?

Alfie:  Tour of Duty! You need to be backed up or your reaction kill time gets slow.

Me:  Er…reaction kill time? Alfie, do you have to kill everyone all the time in every game?


Alfie:  Pretty much.

Me:  Gosh! In my day we used to bash a square ball at each other for ages. Doubt it needed much CPU for that. And no-one really got hurt, either.

Alfie:  Sounds boring.

Me:  It was.

Turns out the only thing the young ’uns can’t cope with is ageing opinionated technophobia. You see, a world in which everything is better, quicker, sexier and copiously more violent will eventually have to implode, and the dinosaurs that feared extinction will once again rule the earth: It’s the law of nature. Unless, of course, I manage to pop a sprog out before I turn up my toes. In which case the whole of the above is utter bollocks.

Idle Eye 84 : The Carb Uncle

One of the downsides of owning a classic car is that people will insist on talking to you about it. Whether you’re underneath it, inside it or getting out, invariably you will be approached by an enthusiastic beardy type with battered NHS glasses, aching for a lengthy chat about horsepower, turning circles & the good old days when they made things proper. It goes with the territory. And for reasons completely beyond me, there is an unspoken presumption that you care as deeply about engines and distributors and carburettors and all the other stuff that gets greasy every time you look at it and ruins your good trousers because you thought you’d just have a quick tinker but it’s never quite that simple is it, as they do.

You can see them approaching a mile off, all dewey-eyed, drooling and preparing for their inevitable opening gambit:

Carb Uncle:  Used to have one of them meself, mate. First car, she was. Went like a rocket. And you could turn her on a sixpence. Lovely motor. Had her long?

Me:  About ten years.

Carb Uncle:  We got ours in…er…when did we get ours, Joyce?

Joyce:  1967. Our honeymoon.

Carb Uncle:  That’s right! ‘67 it was. Took her down the Costa del Sol, never had no trouble. Well, I say no trouble but you know what it’s like. Like to play up sometimes, don’t they? But the beauty of the old ‘uns is you can do the work yourself, right? Flip up the bonnet, sit on the wheel & get stuck in. Not like your modern rubbish. First sign of trouble & it’s all Computer says No! No way José! Tell you what, mate: I’d give ten of any car on the road right now for one of those. ‘Cos they made them proper back then. Right, Joyce?

Joyce:  Yes, dear.

Carb Uncle:  Lovely engines’n’all. Yours a two litre?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Twin carbs?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Strombergs?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Your Stromberg was the king of carbs, make no mistake. Tune ‘em to within an inch of their life, I should coco. Mind you, they couldn’t half give you strife on the long haul. Spent many an hour on the hard shoulder with a spanner or two in the jacksie pocket, ain’t that the truth, Joyce?

Joyce:  Yes, dear.

Back in the day, I learned to actively engage with these people. How I would laugh at the absurdities of modern vehicles. How I pretended to yearn for the golden era of motoring, when one could take to the open road in a car proudly manufactured in Great Britain, safe in the knowledge that it was almost certainly the envy of the developed world. But these days, I’m afraid I really couldn’t give a toss. Because if I give Carb Uncle the kind of time he’s after, I’ll never get the bloody thing sorted. And I’m off to France next week. So please, could you just piss off?