Idle Eye 181 : The Brixton BookJam

I have an event coming up: it’s called the Brixton BookJam and, being as I am from South London with a book in tow, apparently I qualify. Trouble is, I’ve never really seen myself as a bona fide author. For the most part, all I do it sit about of an evening and churn out cobblers that hardly anyone reads, so quite why I’ve been allowed to speak at a hallowed portal such as this is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the fact that my contribution is a hardback has been of note? Or maybe it’s some kind of charity do, where people like me are given a once in a lifetime opportunity to let rip in public. Anyway, whatever: I’m doing it and that’s that.

Obviously, the main thrust will centre on appearance – Hair/clothing. The barnet needs major reconstruction if I am to be taken seriously, which might compromise the ‘four cuts a year’ deal I have struck with Simon at Willie Smarts. I’m thinking I might go for a short sides affair (suggests attention to detail), amalgamated with a tousled, greying mop to top it all off, hinting at integrity and a devil-may-care naughtiness (not to be confused with the Savile, which, as we all know, is just shit). Then there’s the attire: teeshirts are a bit of a no-go area when you hit the oxygen-free zone of later life, but then again a suit is just caving in. Striking that perfect balance between resistance and acceptance has never been an easy gig, but I’m sure I’ll work something out: you’ll just have to trust me.

Next up is demeanour. I’ve never much cared for the schtick stand-ups go for, where they bounce on and stomp about like bright kids on Ritalin. Nor for the more sedate approach, dragging the audience into a quagmire of its own worthiness. The entire ‘putting yourself down before anyone else can’ slant is a difficult one when you only have a few minutes to get your message across, so it will probably have to be vile, hate-fuelled tweets beforehand to get everyone geed up and in the mood (if Twitter ever gets around to sending me the fucking manual). Also, I’m absurdly excited about there being a Green Room. The last one I went to was at the Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead back in the mid-80s, and that was only because my pal Peter was doing the washing up. If someone had told me back then that one day, light years into the future, I would be one of the people worth washing up for, I would have laughed them into the foyer. But talent will out (as they say), and I shall enjoy it to the hilt.

Finally, let us consider the material. My lightweight fluff will be rammed up against far weightier tomes and forced to hold its own in erudite company. This is a first. Be gentle with me…

IE Audio 19 : The Pig’s Table

The 1970s. When school meals were cooked up by some of the sickest minds this side of the Neuremberg trials…

Idle Eye 180 : The Last Time

The last time I had sex was in July 2015. I vaguely recall that it was pleasant, a bit boozy and thankfully lacking in any resultant apologies. What I didn’t realise was that that would be it for a bit; possibly forever. The consequent chasm has been, to be honest, not all that great. Occasionally, Saturday night television spews up someone who gives me a slight twinge, but for the most part, the ritual trudge upstairs sees me throwing a nightshirt over a set of flannel pyjamas and reminiscing about the good times when things were a little different.

Sex is all over the shop now. When I was a lad, I remember going into the West End with one of my many surrogate mothers, who coerced me into buying a rude magazine with my pocket money. It would be fair to say that I enjoyed it as best I could, but the guilt that ensued became so extreme, I buried it under a tree in the woods at the bottom of our garden: it’s probably still there now. These days, a quick right swipe affords the end user any manner of earthly delights, but the notion that an element of responsibility, care or, dare I say it, love, should come into it, usually gets laughed out of town. Instant gratification is all the rage, and anyone who gets hurt easily needs to man up (if you will forgive the expression) if they want to survive.

Somewhere around, there exists a revealing documentary about the musician Nick Drake. Called A Skin Too Few, it attempts to articulate the events culminating in his suicide in 1974. From all accounts, it seems he was particularly ill-equipped to cope with the mores of his generation, as an extreme sensitivity to his immediate environs simply became too much to bear. Sex and drugs were on the menu – more so that ever before – but despite wanting to dip his toes into the water, there was no safety net for people like him, and he paid the ultimate price. That wonderful, liberating ideal that defined the children of Haight-Ashbury was the very thing that did for him in a sleepy Warwickshire town, still trying to comprehend the Age of Aquarius.

Sadly, I can relate. As the powers that be continue to extract the heart from our increasingly fractured society, and I watch from the sidelines as some of those I care about gradually become products of it, I begin to wonder if I too have developed a skin too few: if I have reached a point where the zeitgeist no longer speaks for me and I must react accordingly. So tonight – Valentine’s for those who have someone, just another for those who don’t – I shall contemplate the future. Because I used to really like sex, and perhaps I will again one day before my creaking architecture finally crumbles into oblivion.

Maybe the last time? I don’t know.

IE Audio 18 : The Beginning of the End

The passing of thrusting alpha-manhood.

Idle Eye 179 : (All Quiet On) The West London Front

They say that the wheels of society are significantly greased over three courses. In my relatively limited experience, it’s quite the opposite. For once any initial pleasantries have been dispensed with, the seeds are invariably sown for out-and-out war. Particularly in the arena of the unspoken:

Hostess:  Darling, it’s wonderful to see you!

Thanks for filling in.

Me:  Thank you so much for having me. It’s been too long!

There’s a reason for that.

Hostess:  This is Alex, he’s been dying to meet you.

Alex got here five minutes earlier and I’m bored hearing 
about his car.

Alex:  Our hostess tells me you’re a vegetarian.

I hate you already.

Me:  Yes, I’m afraid I’m one of those…difficult ones.

I hate you already.

Alex:  Well, you won’t mind if we tuck into a bit of raw flesh, will you? At least it isn’t twitching!

Do you people actually enjoy eating this shit?

Me:  Not in the slightest. Horses for courses, I say.

Yes we fucking do. Ever tried it? Thought not.

Alex:  Our daughter was a vegetarian once. Talked her out of it, of course. Not much call for rabbit food at Roedean!

Get me as far away from this prick as is humanly possible.

Me:  I suppose not. Probably not for rabbits either, come to think of it.

With those three sentences, you have a clear pathway to
eternal damnation.

Hostess:  Alex is just back from Cuba. I gather it was simply divine.

So pleased they’re getting on.

Alex:  Too many foreigners for my liking. Quicker the Yanks get in the better. Clean the place up a bit.

Nearly got the clap.

Me:  I’ve heard it’s amazing!

Bet you nearly got the clap.

Hostess:  (giggling) I’ve heard it’s quite easy to get the clap out there!

God, I hope it’s thrush.

Alex:  So then, how do you make a crust?

My money’s on artist. Looks like one.

Me:  I usually conserve and restore wallpaintings and historic buildings. But I’ve just put out my first book as well.

You have no idea what I’m on about, have you?

Alex:  Ah, a writer! Tough business, writing. Published?

Knew it.

Me:  Self-published. I crowdfunded it last year.

Take a flying guess.

Alex:  Good for you.

Arsehole. 

Hostess:  Oh, you must read it, Alex. He’s so clever! And he got all sorts of artists to do pictures for him too!

Still haven’t read it.

Alex:  How very creative. Can we get it in the shops?

As if.

Me:  You can indeed! Or I’ve a few in my bag?

It’s not for you.

Alex:  Don’t carry cash, I’m afraid. But do let us know where we can get a copy.

Please don’t.

Me:  So what do you do, Alex?

Don’t tell me.

Alex: Do? Not a lot these days, to be honest.

Do you have any idea how much time it takes to architect a basement?

Hostess:  Shall we go through? I’m famished!

Oh Waitrose, you fickle mistress.

I rest my case.

IE Audio 17 : The Carb Uncle

Second of our recordings with the wonderful David McClelland. FYI the audio section is mid-revamp, trying to get through the posts from the book with one microphone and two time-poor wage slaves. But we’ll get there x

Idle Eye 178 : The Star Chamber

I live in a capital city – just. Every day, millions of us come into it and then go back out. It is monstrously expensive to do so, but we shell out accordingly because we don’t have any choice. And now that the oligarchs and speculative investors have snaffled every last inner city refuge and priced us out of the neighbourhoods we once made cool, we have to work longer hours and travel in from further afield. Gruelling stuff, which is why the bars and pubs are filled to bursting pretty much every evening. For one obliterating swill before the brutal commute home. I’d like you to think about that last sentence for a bit.

Ever found yourselves caught short on a station platform? Come on, be honest, we’ve all been there. Usually synonymous with the discovery that not only is the small room closed, but also impenetrably locked (with no available personnel to aid you in your moment of distress) by a star key. Quite why this is the case is anyone’s guess: perhaps they presume all pissed-up wage slaves carry a plethora of skeleton masters, specifically designed to outwit the Yale/Chubb defaults. Or that in the hub of desperation, we might consider a mad dash to the streets above, locate the nearest shoe repair-cum-locksmith and have one forged in situ. Ergo, we must be punished; for we are all essentially untrustworthy.

Let us rewind a tad: imagine, for one second, that by an astonishing feat of Houdini-esque proportion, we managed to gain access to one of these mythical star chambers. Tall order, I know. But what’s in there that they feel the need to protect so robustly? Last time I looked (back in the days when Percy policing was just a glint in the network eye), there were two or three encrusted urinals from the 1980s, an amplified bomb bay with the latch hanging off, and one cracked sink with a push-down tap set to riot control. Not exactly Hatton Garden, is it? And why do the lightweight morning crowd get a free run? A few skinny lattes before work has never once broken the seal of even the weakest bladder, and yet these bastards can stroll on in without so much as a by your leave. Sadly, necessity is not the mother of invention when it comes to a sprinkle: we’ll do or pay whatever it takes to get it out into the open. And if that means coughing up 60p at the turnstiles instead of doing a Fosbury Flop over the top of them, then so be it; needs must.

Southern/South-Eastern Trains etc, you’re missing a trick here. Fling the chamber doors wide open to all, but charge us through the nose like you usually do. We don’t care, really we don’t. And if you drop the price of your shitty coffees, you’ll really clean up. Unlike your bloody janitors…