Idle Eye 83 : The End is N’eye

But all things move toward their end
All things move toward their end
On that you can be sure

Nick Cave – Murder Ballads 1996

It’s not, actually. I just thought it might be a bit of post bank holiday fun to sling in some Nick-inspired doom & gloom (‘cos that’s your lot until Christmas). And seeing as I’m on the cusp of handing over the Idle Eye moniker to Nibs, I’ve been balls-deep in searching for a new name: The End is N’eye, Eye Can’t Think of Owt, Best Eye Can Do can all be found residing in the trash at present, and the ole grey matter has been woefully inadequate in delivering a suitable alternative. Traditionally, one would throw it out to the readership with the lure of a massive prize, such as an all expenses paid weekend with the author at a no questions asked hostelry of choice, but I fear this may well set back my cause by approximately a millennium. Two, even. And I don’t have BUPA.

Well, it turns out there are a couple of possibilities on the horizon which I am not at liberty to disclose of yet. Watch this space. When I fire them over to the masterful Dan Laidler and he works his magic, all will be revealed. But the weirdest thing is the freedom. From today I can write whatever I fancy, I just won’t get paid for it. It’s the not all that subtle difference between a fine artist and a graphic designer: The latter has perameters, which the more adventurous can push to the absolute limit and deal with the consequent battle for acceptance. The former has no such constraints. Indeed, he/she can do whatever/go wherever they care to, but they enjoy no back-up and are usually slave to the whims of fashion. Tough one if you don’t acknowledge the mores of the day. Get me? Good.

The second, more horrendous issue here is that of the middle-aged man’s…er…allure on holiday. I have been gearing up for some cheeky time out, starts next week, in which I drive to the south of France to hang out for a few days with my cousin and make the most of the blistering heat down there. And then I read David Aaronovitch’s Opinion in the Times, in which he stated ‘our bodies don’t just fail to be attractive, they are seemingly repulsive’. Slightly worrying, as I had planned a full-tilt mankini outing at dusk in the mountainous Aquitane village of Mauvezin, not only to secure the undying admiration of local ladies, but also potential discounts at any restaurant desperate enough to take me in. I very much doubt David will recant before I leave, but he may be interested to know that I still have a full view of my feet, something my father lost in 1971 and was considerably younger than I am today: Eat my shorts xx

Idle Eye 82 : The First Ten Thousand

In the early hours of Saturday morning, this ‘ere blog nudged its way up to ten thousand views. In itself, not an overwhelming achievement (stat-hungry scribes would expect to hit this milestone far earlier in their endeavours), but it is the first landmark that carries any significant weight: A hundred is too quick off the bat, a thousand comforting yet insubstantial and any other number lacks proportion and appropriate gravitas. But ten thousand! Well, just look at him there, all fat, smug and reeking of success. No arguing with that, is there?

It’s hard to put into words quite how thrilling it is to reach this point unless you actually write one yourself. No-one close really gets it and if I’m honest, I’ve shied away from the online community, traditionally the first port of support. So it’s mostly been an internal victory, but I did Google ‘ten thousand hits on blog’ and discovered to my surprise that I am not alone. Bloggers all over the globe seem to get out the bunting when they get here, I’m guessing because it demonstrates tenacity rewarded, and there’s gonna be one hell of a slog ahead before the next big one. So I thank you, dear readers, for without you etc…etc…ad nauseam.

Sadly, I must also announce that Nibs and I will be going our separate ways before too long. It’s been a hugely enjoyable ride, and I sincerely hope in some small way my inane witterings have been helpful to him. However, there is only so much one can say remotely, so we both came to the conclusion that perhaps we were cramping each others style. I’m not yet sure of the logistics and pray we don’t end up in a Kramer vs Kramer situation, but we’ll work something out. In the meantime, I shall continue to spew forth the kind of blurb you have come to know and love, only from now on in a wider context. And matters pertaining to the Idle Hour will be found on his website, address in menu above.

Finally, a grovelling apology to the Jelly Zappers: What a difference a week can make! Somewhere inside my tiny mind, the boffins have been frantically trying to make sense of the all-new adjusted vision and I am happy to disclose they have come up trumps. At last. No more headaches, no more soft-focus nonsense and no more moaning. You have my word. The only slight downer is that I’ll still need glasses for the really close-up stuff, but I can live with that. In fact, it could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as anyone who has ever suffered my cooking will testify. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the park to have a peek at some of that there nature. As nature intended. But before I do, maybe another gander at the stats. Ten thousand, eh? Splendid.

Idle Eye 81 : The Eye and the Erewash

Couple of things. Firstly, I must confess I lied to you back in Idle Eye 77 about getting the jellies re-zapped. I never did, at least not then. It was simply a narrative convenience to say so. However, after five months of headaches and grinding admin, I finally reached a compromise with the suits at Optical Express – I could have one eye enhanced. On the house, but just the one. Bugs sodding Bunny.

It was a Sophie’s choice, basically. Should I have gone for the one that could see into the future, all Michael J Fox but lacking the most rudimentary of motor skills, or the other one, stuck in the 1980’s with crap hair but bringing up the rearguard rather nicely, thank you. I opted for the former, the trade-off being that I wouldn’t have to wear senior glasses every time my phone rang.

Big mistake. When the stench of molten eyeball had finally subsided and I was able to take a good look around, it became apparent the roles had been reversed. The former limp biscuit was flexing its muscles like Charles Atlas, and last month’s King of the Hill had tumbled onto Skid Row. Woefully, my everyday reality had now become the equivalent of whatever Scandi cop show is currently doing the rounds, all shallow-focus and inner ennui. And I’m wearing the glasses as I type this.

In better news, it turns out that this ole blog has been embraced by the good folk of Derbyshire, presumably because last week I suggested it was somewhat remote and they have a honed lust for revenge. Now listen: Of course Derbyshire isn’t remote. I looked it up on Google Maps and it’s quite near Nottingham, which I have heard of. That Robin Hood once ran about there being terribly left-wing in a forest, and there’s also lots of pubs and lovely ladies. Apparently. One of which was the delightful Christine Free, who I met recently and has a slot on Erewash Sound, now broadcasting my Elsan extracts every Wednesday sometime between 10.30 and 11am. The humanist in me just wants to reach out and beg her to desist. It’s just not fair: These people have historically travelled many miles to avoid the appalling whimsy I subject you to every week, but she wouldn’t have it, bless her. So here we go:

“Welcome, Erewash, and thanks for listening. I’ll try my darndest to keep you all on board although honestly, the odds are poor – My own mother whacked me senseless with the bristly end of a hairbrush outside the Imperial War Museum for being spectacularly annoying in the 1970’s. Sorry. I’ll be mostly chucking out irrelevant drivel for the first few paragraphs, after which I will somehow manage to tie in my brother’s pub in London, thereby fulfilling my contractual obligation. It’s gonna be a white knuckle ride, so hold on tight! Now, here’s the weather…”

Idle Eye 80 : The Idiot’s Lantern

Last week, I inherited a television from my father’s estate. It’s a flat, shiny thing, riddled with sockets and touch-sensitive knobs I will never use or comprehend, coming as I do from the old school when you had to force a button the size of a liquorice comfit deep into the belly of the set with your actual finger in order to switch channels. And the word remote meant Derbyshire or somesuch, not a slab of hand-held plastic trickery fashioned to aid the plight of the obese. However, I do acknowledge the relentless march of progress and in order to show good will, I reluctantly accepted the beast into my home.

But, oh my stars, it’s big. So big, in fact, that they make you buy all these other boxes to cope with it, none of which I understand either. And, if the boxes and the TV are going to get on with each other, they have to be connected with ‘intelligent’ cables that cost more than your average four-door family saloon did in 1977. But it doesn’t stop here, oh no: Your service provider then offers you a bewildering series of package choices to enhance the Trojan horse now dominating your living quarters, any of which will set you back yet another significant slap in the wallet. Inadvertently, you have become the Lady Macbeth of home entertainment, so stepped in blood it is impossible to return. How about a wall-mount? Or perhaps an LAN link-up with your home hub, using the ferrite cores (provided)? And after a few hours they’ve got you wide-eyed and screaming down the phone, like one of Jodi Foster’s chums in Taxi Driver:

Give me one of them Fnørkel adaptors…..Yeah, I can collect…..Actually make that three…..NO, I DON’T KNOW WHAT ****ING FNØRKEL ADAPTORS ARE, JUST GIVE ME SOME…..NOW!!!!

Mindful of the above, the Idle Hour has adopted a strictly no TV policy inside the pub. It’s for the best: If you are enjoying an intimate dinner for two with candles and fine wine, the very last thing you need is a sweating young man in an open-necked Pink shirt trying to pick up Eurosport in HD. Kind of puts you off your stride. However (and I don’t think he’ll mind me telling you this), Nibs does in fact own the biggest television I have ever seen in my life. It is the size of an Olympic swimming pool, wedged into a lounge no deeper than a galley kitchen. To give you an idea, if you wish to obtain 20/20 unpixelated vision, you have to flatten yourself against the far wall or, better still, climb up the fencing of the school next door and peer through his office window. Although, to be fair, if you are prepared to go to lengths such as these in order to catch Corrie, perhaps you should be relayed through to the punters: I’ll see what I can do…

Idle Eye 79 : The Ashes

In the summer of 1992, I wrote a song for a young lady I was rather keen on who had returned to Australia, never to revisit to these shores. I was in my twenties, addicted to the romantic impossibility of the situation and, no doubt, getting off on its Byronic agony. The song was called ‘The Ashes’, and it allowed me the juxtaposition of an obvious cricketing analogy with what it might have been like to scatter the metaphorical chattels of our torn relationship across her homeland. I finished it with this:

Take back the Ashes, Jane
Cup them in your hands
Throw them in the face of my jealousy
and out across your land
And when the dust comes down again
blackened by the English rain
A hundred thousand miles will disappear
I can see it all from here…

I bring this up because yesterday Nibs, myself and my two sisters did the real thing. Not with the subject of the above, I hasten to add: I gather she is alive and well and enjoying life to the hilt. No, this was with the earthly remains of our father, who made it back to his cherished home inside a rather fetching purple box. Together with a neatly typed tag stating the exact moment of his departure: I think he would have approved.

It was one of life’s stranger moments, carrying around what was left of the man responsible for putting us on the planet as if we were sticking him out for the recycling. Which, in a curious way, I suppose we were. And, during the memorial service, the vicar bigged up his love of animals and suggested we scatter his beloved dog, Annie (who was in a carrier bag at the top of the stairs) at the same time. Sort of a BOGOF deal, I guess. So, fuelled by a bottle of 1990 Dom Perignon, we charged a small trinket with bits of dog and bits of Dad and threw them out across the Welsh valley that was the commanding view from his garden. Everyone had a go, said a quick goodbye and then we poured what was left into the brook that ran through it. It felt right and proper, particularly after a few more sherbets.

Now, alcohol and cremated fathers are traditionally not the most comfortable of bedfellows although, God knows, we did our best. Perhaps if we had known there was an incoming wind, we may have chosen our moment more carefully: We did not. Perhaps he was reluctant to leave: We ignored this. Let’s just say that to the outside eye, when the bags were empty and we sat together enjoying fine wine and nibbles, it must have looked like an Egyptologist’s lunch break. So bless you, Dad, you pretty much got what you wanted: 80% back to nature, 20% stubborn stain. Excellent odds, I reckon, and certainly enough to get you through them gates. See you on the flipside xx

Idle Eye 78 : The Underhamster

Call me old-fashioned, but nothing signifies the blossoming of summer quite as much as a massive jug of Nib’s enhanced Pimms and the Brockwell Park Dog Show. Preferably both. In that order. Particularly as this year’s theme was Space Aliens, and there is nothing man’s best friend enjoys more than being forcibly dressed in Lycra to resemble Princess Leia and then paraded around a circle in 31° heat to an audience of inappropriately-clad humans. Really, they absolutely love it. And so do the dogs.

Now, I’ll be straight with you. I’ve long been pretty miffed with this blanket adoration of the canine. The little prima donnas have always benefited from the lion’s share of love, not only in person but also online, in print and in reputation. And yet their long-serving cousin, the hamster, has had to be content with any bullshit leftover scraps he can muster. It’s just not right. Even his minority status has been grammatically marginalised by the heavyweights (See title: I’m redressing the balance).

So anyway, there I am underneath the blistering sun like a low-rent George Smiley, checking out the competition on behalf of the small and furries, when I turn to the adoring crowd for purposes of reportage…

to be honest, i’m also getting a bit worried about shoehorning dogs and hamsters in with the pub, but i’m working on the presumption that you’ll all be off your tits on idle hour pink wine and you won’t really give a toss

…and, immaculately-groomed, sweat-immune ladies aside, I was tsunamied by Man in Summer doing what he does best: Wearing shorts without a top. Why does he do this? All those grotesque folds of flesh cascading over inexplicably long short trousers, as if to demurely protect the public from a full assault of thigh whilst the elephant in the room avalanches down from above. As I said earlier, it’s just not right.

However, there was an element of underhamster here which I totally approve of. Mercifully free of Posh and her vile ilk, this peculiarly British sideshow fully embraced the very antithesis of fashion and came out smiling. In laymans terms, it was a bit shit but that’s what we loved about it. Dog’s Got Talent, Prettiest Bitch, Best Puppy, Golden Oldies, what’s not to like? And the Public Address system was pure British Rail circa 1975, all feedback and sibilance that made us teary-eyed with nostalgia. Even the Mayor was there with his absurd gold chain and straw boater, giving out certificates and treats to anything with four legs and a pulse. Class.

remember last week when i said i’d do a shameless advert for the pub amongst all the dog stuff? and i promised i’d make it all tie in? well, i cocked up, so could you do me a favour? just tell nibs you really liked the dog blog and i’ll buy you a large glass of one of his responsibly-sourced biodynamic wines. cheers xx

Idle Eye 77 : The White Heat of London Town

In my capacity as sole roving representative of the Idle Hour London, occasionally it behoves me to have a quick shifty around the capital and report back on stuff that makes us live here in the first place. Not regularly, granted, mainly because I can’t be arsed, but often enough to kick me into gear. So today I decided to amble along Shaftesbury Avenue and take in a bit of the West End, partially to check out competition but mostly because I had to get my eyes re-zapped. Long story which I won’t bore you with, so here’s the short one: They screwed it up. Bastards.

But never mind that: Summer has finally arrived, and London comes alive when nature decides to cook it a bit. Pond life/Street life/High life mesh together here, all inextricably-linked despite themselves. Soho teems with the very drunk, the lost, the gullible, the predatory and the shit-scared. Charing Cross Road houses the mad, the bad and the furious. Cambridge Circus offers up farmers tans, builders cracks, cellulite and beer guts. St James, the well-heeled gentleman clubber, quality artist and purveyor of life’s finest. And Piccadilly, the endless flow of cheap hats, shiny new sunglasses, St George’s flags and that evil tourist mecca on the corner, outside which stands a life-size Robert Wadlow (8ft 11ins) in National Health specs, mocking me on my journey to Optical Express.

All around, for those who care to look up and notice, is architecture unique to this specific quarter-mile: Red brick with white detail, four storeys and counting, rising above vehicles of all flavours, car, bicycle, taxi, rickshaw, bus. It’s an inner-city cauldron, loved by many, loathed by some, but never at all compromised. An acquired taste, idiosyncratic but quite unlike any other major city on the planet. To be honest though, quite often it just pisses me off. For sure, I’ll leap about in an ‘I heart London’ shirt if Boris bungs me a few quid, but usually I’m too busy searching for a seat on the redeye into town, doing the daily grind and shovelling in something toxic afterwards to perceive any specific locational benefit. And I’m not alone: It’s why He created the suburbs.

Now, Nibs is no fool: Barnes is on the cusp of inner cool and outer respite, which is probably why he picked it for his little boozer. When you fortunate West Londoners tire of West End carousal, he’s only a skip and a jump away for you to keep going, far from the madding crowd yet close enough to be part of it. And unattractive exposed flesh is unlikely to be an issue unless you really want some.

Ok, I’ve done my bit. I’m actually gearing up for the Brockwell Park Dog Show this Saturday, over which I will miraculously stitch canines doing tricks’n’stuff with a shameless advertisement for the pub. God only knows how, but I’ve got a week to sort it.

Idle Eye 76 : The Talented Mr Reynard

I was making my regular journey to the train earlier today when something stopped me in my tracks. And before you get out of your prams, it wasn’t the sciatica or any other dreary ailment that prohibits the fluid motion of youth. No, this was far more interesting: On the pavement not one hundred yards from my flat lay a vast pile of fox business. Not, as you might imagine, lying there passively like a couple of ancient churros. Far from it. These were super fresh and neatly stacked, resembling a miniature log rick to be used at a future date for some demonic purpose or other. And it got me to thinking that your fox has evolved in ways that couldn’t have been imagined when I was a kid. Back then, they were timid, seldom-seen creatures that you may occasionally catch a fleeting glimpse of when you visited your nan in that countryside. Not any more: His urban cousin has got streetwise, people-savvy and bold as brass. And I love him for it.

Let me give you an example: Earlier this year, the evergreen Daily Mail ran the story of Tod, a fox who got barred from his local pub in Beverley, East Yorkshire. Impressive, huh? I only wish I could have seen his tab. But the naysayers all came from the ‘vermin’ camp, and consequently poor Tod was prevented from enjoying what was rightfully his after a long day of wrestling pizzas from parochial wheely bins. And the delightful sickofthiscountry was so righteously indignant that such a wretch wasn’t properly toilet-trained, she almost dropped one of her own off online.

Now, I know this might upset some of you country folk, but the Idle Hour is furry friendly. Yep, all disease-ridden social pariahs can pop in any time they like, and down a Jäger or two in their own good time. And the foxes are welcome as well. Oh, and anyone who has a problem with this can have a chat with me outside: Just because we city types don’t have an arsenal of profitable livestock to protect doesn’t mean we can’t extend a common courtesy to strangers. Otherwise you other lot, Dubrovnik Dave and Sarajevo Steve, can swing for it. Them’s the rules these days. And while we’re at it, instead of getting all Theresa May about our hirsute brethren, how about we capitalise on their inherent skillset and integrate it into our own? Imagine the possibilities:

Sly, highly-motivated worker required for hen house security position. Must be slim, furry and hated by the right-wing press. Penchant for sleeping infants a bonus, as is the ability to create a pyramid of turd just wherever. Enjoys running, fast food, medieval fables, Yorkshire bitter and squealing after midnight like a girl. Rates negotiable. Start when we’ve mended the French doors…

Message? What we fear is not necessarily the enemy. And put your bloody rubbish in a bin.

Idle Eye 75 : The Cost Company

So anyway, Nibs and I are burning down the M4 at 121mph (on the way back from yet another trip to Wales), when he drops it in that we have to make a slight detour. Oh no, I’m thinking, is it a special lady friend? Or perhaps the steed needs a quick pit stop? Either of which will add a significant portion of gooseberry to my day. But, as it turns out, it was neither. As we approached Reading, the car re-orbited and we snaked our way through faceless, municipal landscaped roundabouts and grounded ourselves at the trolley park of what appeared to be yet another temple of worship to consumer greed. Every hackle that hadn’t already been irreversibly müllered by alcohol immediately rose up, but my fears were shortly to be assuaged: This was different. This was the future.

Have you ever been to one of these places? These vast cathedrals of corrugated aluminium that house your every culinary peccadillo and a few more besides? And for stupid money, as long as you’ve got an outhouse or live inside an Escher print? Well neither had I, but the minute I walked through the door they had me by the balls. For a start, right there in the foyer, they had delicious Apple stuff which had me salivating like a Cupertino campus nerd, but then as we crossed into widescreen an astonishing array of palleted goods, piled as high as the eye can feasibly take in, burst into ocular wonder. Over there on the left were thousands of discounted cases of NZ Marlborough Pinot Noir, and yet there on the right were more triple packs of Calvin Klein underpants than you could shake a stick at.

But this was just for starters: Mountains of Haribo, rivers of tequila and more snout than Strangeways all beckoned with their irresistible charms. And, in case you weren’t yet up to speed, helpful smiley staff clad in red and white were all there to assist with their immaculate speed-of-light timing of which I took full advantage:

‘Hello, could you help? I’m trying to figure out the sheet 2 wipe ratio saving I could make from your Syrian Red Cross Convenience industrial strength loo rolls?’

‘Certainly, Sir! Our statistics, based on an amalgam of the global meridian and the sheet 2 wipe average in your area suggest that you’ll be making a saving of approximately 7.2 pence per go. You have a nice day now.’

These guys were so on it I nearly wept. And, as Nibs and I swept through checkout, laden with a cargo utterly denied to those outside the club, I felt it necessary to fall to my knees and beg my own brother to sign me up. Which, bless him, he did, after making me watch him consume a hot dog and a litre of fizzy pop at £1.45 from the in-store café. Vile but necessary, as them French Resistance chicks would have said.

Idle Eye 74 : The Illusion of Intimacy

One of the clichés that gets endlessly bandied around by the self-help books when you embark on any form of writing is that you have to find your voice. Presumably because if you don’t, you’ll be using someone else’s and we can’t have that. Right, Noel Gallagher? Well, fortunately for you lot, I don’t seem to have that problem and I shall briefly demonstrate why:

Have a quick re-read of the above. Done it yet? Good. That’s my voice, that is. Right there. And the best bit is I didn’t even have to look for it! It was there all along. What a stroke of luck!

Perhaps what they mean by this is that there is a development of some kind of trust, a bond if you will, between donor and recipient. If the latter believes the former is credible, they are more likely to roll over & have their stomach tickled by somebody they have faith in. Which, sadly, leaves the donor in a position of power and the recipient vulnerable to exploitation. Are you with me? No? Ok, let me put it another way:

Has anyone noticed the rather toxic surge of informal fonts in advertising of late? And if so, ever asked yourselves why? Well, hear ye: It’s the printed equivalent of dress-down Friday, when the message can be pushed just as ruthlessly but in an ever-so-casual stylee. Take those wretched smoothie/ice cream cartons, all lower-case and loved up like they’re your slightly nauseating mate from back in the day, when anyone who went to school knows they just want to get into your wallet. And yet we buy this stuff despite ourselves because the alternative is brutal hard-sell, an even less authentic technique that went out with the ark.

Nibs and I have differing opinions on the above. His signature scrawl at the bottom of your menus could be construed as the same but in his case I’ll look the other way: He’s not cynically getting you to fund a second Tuscan villa (mainly because he doesn’t have a first one), and I do reluctantly admit that the colloquial approach he has adopted suits his one man and a pub business MO pretty well. But, for the most part, I find the whole ‘hail fellow well met’ corporate thing deeply disingenuous because it gives the illusion of intimacy where none exists. A bit like American tellers wishing you a fervent good day when they wouldn’t bat an eyelid if you got struck by lightning in the car park afterwards. Sorry, parking lot.

Anyway, that’s enough rhetoric for today. I’d like to use the last paragraph to thank you all for joining me on this little journey of words. Without you it never could have happened and you know why? Because you’re special. Each and every one of you. So keep telling yourselves that. Because you are. Really. See you next week xxx