Idle Eye 104 : The Big Music

1986 – Still a stripling and finding my path. And despite making it onto the impossibly hip Psalter Lane Communication Arts course at Sheffield City Poly and waving a hand-held 16mm film camera about for months on end (making certain the subject matter was obscure and out of focus), I struggled. Struggled with the introspective claptrap we were expected to churn out in order to get the grades, struggled with being a rudderless imposter from Surrey in a melting pot of strident student politics, and struggled with the notion that my most cherished art form was considered ephemeral and insignificant unless it was waving a banner. In short, I was a bit lost.

Two years earlier, the Waterboys had released their second album, ’A Pagan Place’. By the time I had cottoned on to it they had already recorded and were touring their third, but this one struck me like a bolt from the blue. The title track, which closed the record, soared its way through the cloud layer with a cacophony of trumpets, guitars and a rasping, bruised vocal from Mike Scott, all of which layered themselves into a crescendo that almost made me feel like I was levitating, tears being the only physical release I could muster to bring myself back down to earth. And it happened every time, like turning on a tap. Where was art that could come anywhere near this, I wondered? Here there was no artifice, no pretence, nothing to prove. Just a direct line to the heart that made me want to burst, probably for the first time in my life. This was the Big Music.

Having access to cameras (and a seemingly carte blanche as to where I pointed them) allowed me to head out into the Yorkshire Moors and make a nascent home-grown promo for said song. It featured my then girlfriend Shirley in an earth-coloured dress, blowing into a recorder on top of a rock that looked a bit Celtic, rough-cut in amongst other stuff I thought rural, romantic and quasi-religious. A bit pants, in fact, but the sentiment was there. But then, in one of those rare moments when fate intervenes, I contacted Ensign Records in London and asked if I could film them at Leeds Polytechnic. And, for reasons which I am still unclear, I was granted unlimited access to make a live video. I shuddered with the profundity of it but made out I was a young professional finding my way, just grateful for the opportunity.

Surely, somewhere in the process there would be a bonding moment with the musicians that had shaped my present so completely? That perhaps they could see past the quivering kid sent to document their evening and recognise something beyond the fan? But this is where reality bites. They never did. Crippling shyness put paid to that, my fault not theirs. But I still have the mastered result and it’s great. Huge, in fact.

Idle Eye 103 : The Church Organist

Anyone who has ever worked in or visited the churches of Great Britain (probably not a lot of you, granted, but bear with me) will invariably have encountered at some point the sheer horror that lurks above the aisles: The organist. This semi-mythical beast is a honed ecclesiastical sub-species, at once brimming with enthusiasm, verging on the myopic and, like some of our most successful suicide bombers, holding within his/her (but usually his) palms, the potential to spread misery on a scale hitherto uncharted.

Curiously, the church organist’s first rule of thumb appears to be a complete fail at all things organ: Hand/foot coordination tends to suffer brutally, despite the foot keys being the size of railway sleepers and those above separated in hard-contrast black and white. Then there is the issue of the stops. Your average organ has about thirty, all with exotic monikers such as Vox Humana, Flagelot and Clarabella. The end-user must negotiate these, in real time, in order to hit that authentic ‘squirrel in a microwave’ note of celestial purity so often endured by parishioners throughout the land. And then there is the temptation to revise previous errors on the fly, throwing more senior members of the congregation into blind panic as their sung version of ‘Oh God, Our Help In Ages Past’ morphs into Hard House techno. Never before has one man wielded such power over the helpless, bar Caligula.

Cruel, I know. But over the past twelve months I’ve been to three memorial services and worked in several places of worship (No, I’m not a barman. Stop it). And I have suffered, I have so. Usually from the bill. Seeing your grandma/father/whoever sent off to the next life as Sparky attempts to get Grade 1 at your expense is a bit of a slap in the face, make no mistake. But we bury the distain long before we bury our cherished ones and life goes on. Meaning that these satanic Trojan horses live to shite another day. Can you imagine this happening in any other national industry? Let’s say Kwikfit, for arguments sake:

Hi! We’re Kwikfit, the UK’s number one tyre fitting service. Today we’ve got a couple of interns we’re going to let loose on your wheels. Admittedly, they’re not much cop but they need the experience. Just don’t go over 40mph on the by-roads and you’ll be fine. And if you do suffer an M4 blow-out, just remember: We got where we are today by helping the fitters of tomorrow. Because…Oh just because. And we’re a registered charity. Thanks for your custom.

As I said before, I very much doubt this resonates with many of you. But next time you happen to pop your nose into a church and the dulcet pipes are ringing in the only way they know how, spare a thought for those who fix the bloody things for a living. And pack a PPK before you come.

Idle Eye 102 : The All Fun Dulwich Mum Run

Adrenalin junkies. Forget Sochi, forget bungee and forget all that Cornwall freak wave surfin’ stuff. You want thrills? Well, look no further. Idle Eye has the sickest tip onna block right now, na’ameen? C’mon kids, it’s the All Fun Dulwich Mum Run and here’s how it works:

Your mission is to get from Gipsy Hill roundabout to the Majestic Wine Warehouse on Park Hill Road (a mere 0.7 miles from start to finish) between the hours of 7.00 and 9.00am. On a bicycle. Armed only with the wits you were born with and an unmitigated faith in humanity, you must arrive at your destination unscathed, alive and in full control of your vehicle. You have no special powers, no protective clothing and no armoured shield. You do, however, have an invisibility cloak known only to your adversaries. Using your skill and judgement, you must traverse your route avoiding all enemy apparatus, from Volvo Estate (6 points) to Range Rover Evoque (25 points) and anything in between.

Beware! Your foe will not lie down lightly, oh no. Its diabolical spawn will attempt to dislodge you, head on, as they leave their designated ship with the entitled opening of passenger door into your given path. Fear not. Hold your nerve. They are unspeakably ugly and will almost certainly end up as education secretary or somesuch. Sadly, they do not yet know this so steer clear if at all possible. Also they are wearing short trousers which you stopped doing in 1977. Clock it and move on.

You look like a bag of spanners, that’s a given. But your Dulwich Mum spends more time than you’ve had hot dinners on her ‘dropping the kids off’ weekday casual look. Remember this when you’re smarting from that ‘turd in my teacake’ withering glance you will almost certainly receive as you slalom yourself out of danger.

It is, of course, possible to run this particular gauntlet by car, milk float or mobility scooter. But it is the bicycle that attracts maximum scorn and is therefore considered by our panel to be most suitable for the challenge. “To be truly hated is to be truly understood”, as someone once said. And no-one is more hated than a cyclist on the All Fun Dulwich Mum Run. Which makes you the perfect candidate. Feels good, right?

You like Hunters wellies? You like Barbour jackets? Of course you don’t. So why not unleash your pent-up fury with that arsenal of oomska you’ve been accumulating for weeks like all good cyclists do and hurl it into the next static vehicle you pass? Don’t worry, they will be expecting this and it looks good on your CV.

The Idle Eye in no way endorses the Majestic Wine Warehouse as an incentive for you to achieve your objective. It just happens to be there at the end of Alleyn Park. And look at the time. Enjoy responsibly

Nearest A&E: Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS

© EyeGames 2014


Idle Eye 101 : The Kid

Don’t know about you, but recently I’ve been getting a little fed up with the definite article thing I put at the head of every post. It was a convention I found amusing in 2011 when I was still young and naive, but now it seems trite, formulaic and restrictive. And you, dear reader, have always deserved more than that. Of course you have. So I had thought I might kick out the jams to make way for a more vibrant, exciting thrust which would send long overdue shockwaves through this post-centenarian blog. Kill your idols. Slash and burn. Tomorrow belongs to me. You know the drill. But then Time put down its fag and tapped me on the shoulder:

Time:  What exactly do you think you’re doing?

Me:  I’m making a few ch-ch-changes.

Time:  Given it some thought, have you?

Me:  Indeed I have. Things have gotten trite, formulaic and restrictive around here so I’m rockin’ up the house a little. My people are getting bored, man. Bored with me, bored with the way I put ‘the’ into every single bloody header and bored with all the little tricks I use to keep them reading. Even these two-way conversations are getting on their tits. And I don’t want to lose them.

Time:  Understood. But I think you’ll find that familiarity with any given protocol is more likely to harness your readership than the shock of the new. Trust me, I’ve been around the block a few times.

Me:  And look where it got you! Bet you never said that to Marcel Duchamp. Or e.e.cummings. Or Kid Jensen. Or…

Time:  Kid Jensen?

Me:  Dave ‘The Kid’ Jensen. From the 70s.

Time:  Ah yes! Didn’t he leave his well-received 4.30-7pm slot on Radio One for pastures new in 1980? And then drop ‘The Kid’ when he returned in 1981?

Me:  Technically, yes. But as a much-loved radio personality, that absence was keenly felt by his listeners and consequently he found it hard to shake off the moniker in subsequent years.

Time:  Let me get this straight. You’re saying that Dave ‘The Kid’ Jensen developed a persona over a period of time that made him incredibly popular. And then, when he binned it in a misguided attempt to stay fashionable, his loyal fans refused to let go of the very thing that had elevated him to stardom in the first place?

Me:  Something like that, yeah.

Time:  Interesting. Ring any bells?

Me:  No. Look, what’s any of this got to do with my blog?

Time:  Nothing at all. Except it’s ‘The Kid’, right?

Me:  Not ‘The Kid’ Jensen, no. It was either Dave ‘The Kid’ Jensen or Kid Jensen. Or just David Jensen afterwards. But no-one really gave a shit by then.

Time:  Why? Because dropping ‘The Kid’ and trying out new stuff put them off?

Me:  Yes.

Time:  I see. Sorry to bother you.

Me:  Thanks for coming in.