Idle Eye 116 : The Need for Speed

This week, I’ve been mostly attending my first ever Speed Awareness Course for the heinous crime of driving my WMD of a Triumph Herald at the eye-watering speed of 35mph on a country lane just outside Oxford. At 11.02am. I concede that I was in the wrong and deserved to be punished, and was happy to furnish the AA Drivetech team with the princely sum of £97.50 to spend four hours of what is left of my life on the second floor of a municipal building in Penge of a Monday evening, learning exactly why I would be little better than Slobodan Milošević if I persisted in my potentially murderous activities on our highways and byways.

You see, what I had failed to grasp is that behind every hedge, every level crossing, every parked car and post box lurks a suicidal child or pensioner, waiting patiently for that life-altering moment when they can leap in front of your vehicle and be claimed by it. Who knew? And yet the onus is on us, hapless harbingers of assassination, to save them from the fate they are so clearly yearning for. What they don’t tell you, when they hand over the keys just after your sixteenth birthday, is that you have unwittingly become another mobile member of Dignitas. In a country that just says no.

I sat next to Mike and Jeff at the back, making snide remarks to each other as John and Roz took to the floor in their corporate purple and yellow regalia. Intuitively, they countered our resistance to the outlandish fees (in relation to pettiness of offence committed) by diluting it into an hilarious joke we could all understand. Then, to lighten the mood, they showed us a digital representation of the 1991 motorway pile-up that claimed 51 vehicles and 10 lives. Because that’s what’s gonna happen to us, miserable sinners, if we fail to rein in our feckless ways.

Next up, a training film. Meant to serve as a deterrent, it showed a Vauxhall Viva ploughing into a cardboard effigy of a young lady (who had the poor fortune to resemble Posh Spice) at various speeds in a disused airfield. Sadly, this had rather the opposite effect:

“Chosen One: Using your skill and judgement, you must annihilate this monstrous minstrel at a minimum speed of 60mph, for which you shall secure yourself a place in the firmament of eternal paradise (with the statutory seventy-two virgins and whatnot). And if you can nail her at 70mph, we’ll throw in a copy of the Highway Code and a can of Fanta from the vending machine.”

So, what did I learn from it? Well, if I’m honest, not a lot. Maybe to paint out my number plates with that special stuff you can get on the Deep Web. Or simply to put my foot down as I approach a school or care home. It’s the least I can do.

Idle Eye 115 : The Tinder

It has been suggested to me by a colleague (who shall remain nameless) that I should ‘have a go on the Tinder.’ Now, not being at all worldly in these matters, I presumed it was the sort of thing that men of a certain age bragged about in the pubs of the North when they had illegally bagged a massive rabbit or somesuch:

“I’m on t’Tinder”
“Aye, champion. Bring it round back after hours. And mind it’s skinned and scrubbed first”

But, turns out, it means nothing of the kind. Apparently, ‘having a go on the Tinder’ is a handy way for the young people to meet up and exchange fluids without all the bother of actually having to talk to each other. Which does indeed seem splendid, if any of the monosyllabic displays of syntax I have been witness to of late are anything to go by. What is less clear is why said colleague would imagine, in her wildest dreams, that this is the vehicle for me. Painstaking research has revealed that, whilst being quite the thing for some no-strings How’s Your Father, the demographic comes in at a terrifying 27 years young, and these people are circling around you like ravens over roadkill. Surely I need an app to keep them at bay, for Christ’s sake?

But cast your minds wide open. Imagine, if you will, that I accept this noxious challenge. That I Right-Swipe a cute little thing in a gingham dress who is cool with my involuntary farting and wants to meet up. And let’s say that we do so at a neutral space of her choosing: The Chelsea Hospice for the Critically Insane. Gingerly, I spy her at the kiosk in the foyer and, plucking up courage, I make my move:

“Err…Hello! Thanks for coming in. Are you on the Tinder?”
“Nan, there’s one for you ‘ere. Take your teeth out.”

And it is precisely the potential for this brutal, on-site humiliation that I think it unlikely I shall be adopting the Tinder for the foreseeable future. Perhaps, if these clearly adept tech wizards can come up with something posthumous, or approaching it, we could have some kind of dialogue (although I currently take my lunch break in Brompton Cemetery, which may well create its own unique set of problems – Any kind of romantic liaison with those who have ‘made the journey’ will almost certainly be frowned on in these litigious times). So, in short, I am doomed.

I know what this looks like. That I am poo-pooing any chink in the armour of despair the young have to leapfrog themselves towards a brighter future. Not so. By all means, roger yourselves senseless with whatever tools you have to hand: I salute you in all your endeavours. All I ask is that you don’t involve me, pitiful ambassador of debauchery that I would almost certainly be. But I figure you already know that.

Idle Eye 114 : The Tyranny of Sex

One of the (very few) advantages of getting on a bit is that you are no longer governed by the incessant demands of your wretched, truculent body. Back in the day, you could be contentedly getting on with your life with a hobby of your choice (let’s say, for argument’s sake, gardening) and the next thing you know, an inappropriate stamen is frantically transmitting lewd signals to the pathetic pink pudding between your ears, which in turn sends an emergency klaxon to the privates which instantly shuts off the master logic valve, leaving you rudderlessly navigating your way to an inevitably messy conclusion. You have no say in this. You are putty in the hands of a force deliberately cooked up by nature to humiliate you at all costs. This will pass, trust me.

You know you’ve come through the cloud layer and are approaching terra firma when you begin to consider options:

“Yes, I could bust a blood vessel in a locked room upstairs in broad daylight at my eldest son’s graduation party, or I could eat my own body weight in artisan cheese, neck a couple of bottles of Waitrose top shelfers and pass out on the sofa as his mates search underneath me for a cab company flyer.”

This, although far from perfect, at least suggests that something is seeping through to the mainframe. But don’t get out of your prams, there’s still a long way to go.

To be fair, it does take a while for the pointless juices your reproductive system will insist on brewing, to simmer down enough for you to make an educated decision over what exactly to do about them. Over-compensation in the alcohol department is statistically a popular choice, as temporary stasis is infinitely preferable to the half-meant apologies one is forced to make the morning after whatever it was you did when you were slavering like a bull. Saga Magazine understands this implicitly, which is why they kindly start sending you a bewildering gadgets catalogue not long after your fiftieth birthday, championing electronic butter dishes and secure solutions to keep your soap dry. By the time you’ve worked out exactly what you’re meant to do with the bloody things, any urges you may once have been slave to in your prime will be long gone. It is a stroke of marketing genius.

Based on the above, my advice to the young people is this: By all means, persevere with that sexting/Tinder/anti-social networking thing you all seem to like. It’s just harmless fun and your body won’t know the difference between this and the real thing. And the salient point is that it serves as a useful segue between the tyranny of sex and liberation thereof you have yet to experience. Cyberfilth is the only working prophylactic you will ever need, protecting you from your revolting selves 24/7. Embrace it. The alternatives are far, far worse.

Idle Eye 113 : The Refusenik (A Slight Return)

The Persians deliberately weave a flaw into the corner of the astonishingly beautiful rugs they create because they believe that only Allah is truly perfect, and it would be a bit of a slap in the face if they try to emulate him/her through their Earthly offerings. Readers, I am that rug: I got it wrong about Glastonbury (as I did with the Olympics and the once Scotch, then Brit, now re-Scotched Andy Murray). As a weathervane for the zeitgeist I can get seriously off-kilter sometimes and hands up, I’ve done it again. Not that I’m admitting it to those who dragged me there, kicking and screaming blue bloody murder to the permanent detriment of their weekend – Good Lord, no! Some things must remain between you and I, and I beg you to keep schtum on this one.

Despite the mud and the mucus, the filth and the fury, the long-drops and the long marches home, I reluctantly acquiesce that it was all reasonably acceptable. Being little more than a soldier ant in a ruthlessly efficient outdoor entertainment machine was, to be fair, somewhat daunting initially. And last time I frequented the place it was a squalid haunt of low-lives, drug dealers and hippies trying to locate my chakras. Particularly after bedtime, which it then seemed churlish to adhere to. However Glastonbury, like all things, has evolved.

Yes, it is vast and yes, it is seemingly commercial. But there are no Audi stalls here, attempting to flog you a luxury vehicle in the most inappropriate of places. No Costa, no McDonalds or Coke, miserably shoehorning their bullshit product in with anything popular they can access in order to maximise reach. For the most part (and I grant you, there are a few exceptions), the on-site businesses are small and endearingly homespun. You do not resent spending a couple of extra quid to keep these guys going. And this in itself would be enough. Perhaps a thumbs-up from this rusting ancient, best suited to keeping an eye on his portfolio in the pink paper, is not the best festival accolade out there. But it doesn’t matter, really it doesn’t.

If you fancy seeing out your ticket price in a hessian shack listening to ’70’s prog rock powered by punters on bicycles, then good luck to you: It’s there for the taking. Failing that, head off to Shangri-La when the main stages shut down and gurn the night away on substances for that authentic Hieronymus Bosch experience. Again, it’s your choice. The trick is knowing which buttons to push and which ones to let go of, and no-one really minds if you screw it up. It’s all part of the deal. Despite myself, being in a field with thousands of people yelling “ED…IS…DEAD!” at the Pixies felt curiously liberating. But if you think for a minute I’m going to let on now that I’m home, dream on…