Idle Eye 176 : The Feast of Stephen

It’s Boxing Day (or the Feast of Stephen in parlance of yore). For reasons completely beyond me, I once again find myself in Sainsbury’s and it’s packed. Because it’s not like there’s been enough food and drink doing the rounds over the last week or so, has there? Anyone with half a cell knows that those gargantuan, seasonal sherry cask snack buckets are cynically filled with enough compressed air to have us queueing outside the sliding doors at opening time the minute the Big Day is over. And of course we’ll throw in a few bottles of your astonishingly half-priced Prosecco. You bastards.

In much the same way that our Dickensian antecedents enjoyed a sneaky day out to the asylums to work off the figgy pudding and feel better about themselves, there is a certain schadenfreude to be had from inspecting the baskets of others. I mean, hello? Do you actually need a ‘four cheese feast maxi-pizza’ when you’ve only just got back from A&E? And excuse me, you’re only kidding yourselves with them reduced Absolut festive tubes (branded shot glass included) for your dismal commutes on Monday. I despair, I really do.

Actually, I’ve come here for a new bathing sponge; my existing one has corroded to the point where it self-abrades on contact with human flesh, and unattractively dries down to a burnt sienna/raw sewage patina. I did briefly consider a trip to Oxford Street to take advantage of the pre-January sales and snap myself up a once-in-a-lifetime bargain. However, the crippling expense of getting there on public transport considerably outweighed any projected savings and besides, I prefer to spend my hard-earned cash locally. Also, the fact that said sponge has no discount whatsoever and comes in a pre-wetted bag with a decorative font saying something about luxury on it, somehow makes it all rather sexy:

Let them eat pizza as I wash away my cares. Ka-ching!!!

I’ll let you into a secret: whilst I was on a consumer high, flashing my cash as if I was Pouffe Daddy or something, I went onto that eBay and spent a bit more. My electric toothbrush, now a veteran of the game, has been losing power of late, and it occurred to me that I could raise the thumb (like for one of those ugly turkeys, spared the knife by benevolent opportunists) if I simply replaced the non-replaceable lithium Li-Ion battery. It will require some rudimentary soldering skills and a willing army of Facebook friends, but I know it’s possible. Ionic Industries (‘helping you fight built in obsolescence’) have now mailed a £10.50 landfill alternative to my home address and by Jiminy, do I feel like a million dollars! And that, in a nutshell, is my Christmas message:

Be kind to others but make sure your arse is covered. Because you’re bloody worth it.

See you in 2016 x

The Bookseller Crow, Crystal Palace, London 15/12/15

I did a few readings at the fabulous Bookseller Crow for a local launch, just after the all-singing, all-dancing one at Vout-O-Reenees in November. Thank you to Jackie Keane for filming this without my consent. My lawyers are drawing up a writ as we speak and I look forward to seeing you in court.

Idle Eye 175 : The Hawker

Been off for a while now. And whilst I’d love to tell you I’ve been lording it up in the Seychelles or chatting to itinerant builders about a snooker room in my recently excavated basement, the absolute truth is considerably less exciting: I’ve been on the road, and not in a Jack Kerouac stylee – as you might expect from a dynamic new author with a sexy book out and a lust for life that would give Iggy a run for his money. No, I’ve been taking the train to far-flung portals of London with a Pay As You Go Oyster card, seeking out small independent bookshops that might be prepared to take a punt on a dynamic new author with a sexy book out etc… And guess what? There’s almost none.

Perhaps it’s the way I do it. I tend to rock up at these places (still smarting from the stealth tax TfL exact on those who don’t use their wretched system every day), a little sheepish and clutching a cardboard box with the printer’s sticker visible at the front. It contains about eight books, a roll of parcel tape, a clipboard, a biro and some flyers from the launch. As I enter the premises, I realise I have but a few seconds to weigh up the level of resistance I will encounter from staff members well versed in the dismissal of self-published authors who don’t yet know the ropes:

Me:  Good afternoon!

SM:  Hi there, what can I do for you?

Me:  Is…er…Julian around?

SM:  You’ve just missed him. He’s out on lunch. I’d give it a couple of hours.

Me:  Not a problem. Perhaps you could help, though. I’ve just made my first book (SM begins to glaze over) and I wondered if it’s the kind of thing you guys would be interested in stocking?

SM:  Er…yeah yeah, cool! Could you leave a copy with us until Julian gets back?

Me:  Of course!

SM:  (rapidly flicking through)  Cool! I’ll get him to take a look as soon as he’s in.

Me:  Thanks. I really appreciate it.

SM:  I’d give it at least a couple of hours.

At this point, I trawl the nearby tragimarts for an entry level cheese sandwich. You know, one of those sad sack, wafer-thin triangles with a green label that retails at about £1.79. Because you do not have to be Nostradamus to figure out what’s around the corner, and any source of nourishment for the struggle should adequately reflect this. Next, I traverse the neighbourhood until I cannot bear it any longer and/or my feet are begging for mercy:

Me:  Hello again! Is Julian back, by any chance?

SM:  (pulling up book from behind desk) Yeah yeah, he was in about 20 minutes ago. Sorry, not really the kind of thing we’re after. Good luck with it, though. Looks great.

‘Looks great.’ Well, at least that’s something. Maybe next time I’ll concentrate on the words…