Idle Eye 108 : The Joy of B&B

One of the perennial delights available to the migrant worker in the UK is that of the great British B&B. In an age of flux, it is comforting to note that this cultural stalwart has roots deep enough to weather the whims of fancy and will remain defiantly crap until the end of time. And if anyone is in any doubt about this, have a quick butchers at Rising Damp on Comedy Gold before heading out. Ok, let’s start at the top:

A significant percentage of any annual B&B budget goes on external appearance, making it the Joan Collins of temporary accommodation. Sadly, this leaves very little once you’re inside but by this point the transaction has generally been made online, leaving the hapless punter at the mercy of the Fury within (which I shall come to presently).

The room. Invariably will have been converted from an under-used alcove into a Laura Ashley-inspired floral extravaganza, complete with Morphy Richards kettle on a laminated tray with a cat on it, sugar sachets nicked from the nearest Wetherspoons and some UHT milk. The light switch will NEVER be where it should and only two of the floorboards covered by the Rorschach purple carpet will not creak, making a mockery of you and your endless trips to the bathroom (which I shall come to presently).

Actually, I’ll come to it now. The bathroom is, by default, at the furthest point in the building from where you happen to be. Don’t ever question this, it’s just how it is. And no amount of corridor-creeping will prevent other guests being aware and in full audio range of your intended business, be it a shower, a widdle or a go on the throne. If it is the latter, may I recommend leaving a tap running, as this affords the end-user the camouflage of a decaying Edwardian plumbing system, screaming to keep up with modern-day demands as you wrestle to silence your most basic of emissions.

Breakfast. If you, like me, have learned to get by on a monstrously strong cup of Columbian and a couple of fags, you’re going to be in for a shock. Your host will be frying up a wealth of sizzling flesh, surrounded by cats and photographs of horses from the 1970’s. Dietary deviations from the above will be frowned upon, as will quantity. Even going all Hugh Grant doesn’t cut much mustard here so you’ll just have to suffer the consequences.

The internet. This extraordinary modern miracle is not much understood at your B&B which is why they tend to turn it off at night, like in the war. However, as with our current government, they know you’ll go elsewhere if it’s not there so you have the upper hand.

Finally, just remember: If you kick off and report these ailing establishments to whatever ombudsman you adhere to, they’ll go the same way as slavery, capital punishment and underage drinking. On your own heads be it.

Idle Eye 107 : The UE65HU8500 65

Just been on the internet to see how much you can pay for a telly if you happen to be a rock star or a footballer or Russian. Like you do. Turns out that a quick trip over to Simply Electricals (serious about electricals) will get you a spanking 4K Curved Ultra Smart one for a mere £99,999.00 (includes delivery and four pairs of 3D glasses). That’s a quid shy of one hundred thousand for those of you who, like me, are taken in by those cunning ruses so often employed at Poundland and the HMRC. ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND BIG JUANS!!! I’ll let that sink in for a bit.

Call me old-fashioned, but being curious as to just how smart the wretched thing would have to be for that much dosh, I delved a little deeper into the site only to discover that the UE65HU8500 65 is cloaked in the same kind of secrecy normally afforded only to Catholic priests and BBC news presenters. And for the kind of service that comes as standard with these guys, I would have to fill out an online form or call them on an 0844 number, no doubt giving them the codes to my WiFi sniper alert system and green light access to the remaining members of the Spice Girls still up for a party. Regrettably, I failed to deliver on both counts and consequently the mysteries of the absurdly wealthy shall remain as such.

But hold on there. My Google search revealed a further option in the topbar, presumably for anyone who isn’t impressed by or earning a living from kicking a bit of leather about or pretending to be Jim Morrison. The very same television can be bought from Currys for the stealaway sum of £4,999.00. This includes only two pairs of 3D glasses and home delivery is extra. But for the not insubstantial saving of £95,000, I think I might even consider getting a couple tailor-made in Paris by Givenchy and picking the bastard up myself, no matter where from. My only fear is that the gargantuan 65 inch width would require significant structural alteration of my front room, and the very thought of yet more builders discussing steels whilst stubbing their fags out on the kitchen tiles is almost too much to bear. I’ll live with the one I got off Dad.

It is fascinating though, no? That people are prepared to spend more moolah than I earn in three years on a bit of kit that will be redundant before the cheque has cleared? But I’m guessing that that’s the point: It demonstrates that money is literally no object and will be impressive only to those who are held sway by it. In medieval times, running about with a massive codpiece and laying claim to swathes of countryside had a similar effect, but almost certainly to a lesser demographic. We’ve come a long way, baby…

Idle Eye 106 : The Meat of the Issue

I stopped eating meat in April 1991. I remember the exact moment pretty well, lying on the floor of my front room in Herne Hill and watching a rerun of the Animals Film as part of the Channel 4 ‘Banned’ series. I was half-cut, destroying a lamb phall directly from its foil container and in no condition to take in the gravity of what I was seeing, but take it in I did. Somehow, the message managed to penetrate the grotesque caricature of youth I had become and made me ask myself a few searching questions I couldn’t answer. Not then, and not when I had sobered up the next day and was paying the ultimate price for the 100k+ Scoville monstrosity I had ingested. And the thought that living creatures had been killed in order to make me feel that shit was truly appalling.

For me, it was about personal choice. That anyone else would give a flying one about what went into my sorry mouth never actually occurred to me, and for a brief moment the new diet of dry-roasted peanuts, Beanfeast pasta and Rioja seemed to have passed unnoticed. But then came Christmas, traditionally the flagship occasion when families unite, discuss politics and implausible career paths and revel in the ritual mastication of an ugly bird no-one gives a stuff about for the other 364 days of the year. I opted for a plate of green veg (the root ones being, as any fule kno, Satan’s little helpers) and a couple of potatoes, without gravy. And by doing so, I unleashed a Pandora’s Box of vitriol so strikingly at odds with the innocuous vegetables themselves, I felt duty-bound to pitch in and protect them. It was Twelve Angry Men vs the Chives with me as ’70’s TV lawyer Petrocelli, backing the voiceless oppressed against all odds. And they flayed me alive.

Perhaps it was the notion of underdog I found so appealing rather than the ethics themselves (a much less challenging justification to digest for those who had taken so violently against my new-found stance). But it wasn’t. The simple truth was that I could no longer turn my head away from such unnecessary suffering when there were/are so many alternatives. My decision, not exactly of seismic significance. And despite the odd hole in the argument (I own some leather shoes and have, on occasion, enjoyed a wine gum), I’ve stuck to it ever since.

Last year, Carol Midgley wrote an excellent piece in the Times stating her reasons for giving up meat and was bombarded with snide remarks in the comments section which were completely beyond me. If she’d said she was giving up catching the train to work and had started cycling instead, would an army of indignant commuters have taken to their keyboards to vent their spleen? I don’t think so. Carnivores, you have nothing to fear. Now, get on with your day and leave us alone.

Idle Eye 105 : The Ron Solution

As I struggled into the flat yesterday clutching two shopping bags filled to bursting with wine, real ale, rolling tobacco & Nitromors, I spotted a flyer in amongst the many destined for recycling which blazed ‘Has Your Body Become A Toxic Waste Dump?’ Now, I’m no great fan of the door drop school of marketing (too blunt an instrument and we need the trees), but I figured they had a point so I took it upstairs. And yes, I gave it a few precious moments of the limited time I have left on the planet, only to find out that it is, in fact, the latest ruse from our dear old chum L Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, brains behind the crappest film ever made Battlefield Earth and purveyor of the grand-scale whopper. Who died in January 1986.

I have to admit, I do have a bit of a soft spot for L Ron. Back in 1983, I left a house party in Dorking, somewhat worse for wear and about two hours before the first train back to London, and what I saw at the end of the High Street as dawn broke must surely rank as one of the most ill-conceived book launch campaigns of all time. A monstrous purple metal beast lay in wait for its quarry, clutching a plethora of monochromatic handouts in which it declared itself as Terl, the Alien Psychlo. Quite who (or what) its target market was, given the time of day and stockbroker-belt location was anyone’s guess, but I did admire the balls of the thing and took home its offering. I later discovered it was pushing ‘the greatest sci-fi novel ever written’ by the man himself. He’d even composed a soundtrack to go with it (available separately) which I thought bold. Further research revealed that he had also declared war on Mexico, fired torpedoes at a magnetic ore deposit off the coast of Oregon believing it to be two Japanese submarines and spent several years in prison for fraud. Dude…

So how come he’s now back in Crystal Palace, attempting to cleanse my rotting carcass of self-imposed excess? What can there possibly be in it for him, what with him being dead and that (apparently from self-imposed excess)? And are the pollutants of yesteryear still rattling around inside me like it says in his new book Clear Body, Clear Mind (£8.99 online, no soundtrack)? I must say, I’m intrigued. Almost enough to go for the free toxic test, available at his Purification Centre which also happens to be the Church of Scientology HQ. The reviews are glowing:

“I’ve been living in a fairyland. Many thanks to L Ron for caring enough to invest his life in bettering mankind” G.S.

“Fifteen years of brain fog has dissipated in a few weeks” L.P.

And many more. Maybe this time he’s really stumbled upon something and death, as they say, becomes us all. I’ll let you know.