Idle Eye 55 : The Trial (Eye in the Dock)

Levity Inquiry, Royal Courts of Justice, Day 67578088

Lord Justice Levity:  Can we turn now to the issue of Idle Eye 54? The post about the origin of the Blues, in which the author attempts to draw some sort of humour from the unlikely premise that it stems from two Edwardian commuters?

General room mumble and rustling of papers

Mr Eye, could you step up to the dock? Thank you. Now, as you are no doubt aware, your most recent effort has been…how can I put this politely…abysmally received. Is that correct?

Idle Eye:  I don’t recall.

LJL:  Without putting too fine a point on it, Mr Eye, it was only seven days ago. Whilst I am aware that a week is a long time in politics, I did think there was a little more longevity in journalism.

Room titters

IE:  It wasn’t one of our better ones, my Lord.

LJL:  Let me put this to you, Mr Eye: Not only was it not ‘one of your better ones’, it fails at every level of your original brief. Would you say that’s fair?

IE:  I would say that could be interpreted as a rather harsh assessment.

LJL:  But it captures the gist?

IE:  Perhaps.

LJL:  Let’s look at the detail. Your two characters, ‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson and ‘Lonesome’ Larry, are two-dimensional to say the least, and if your objective is to make the point that your employer, one Mr Nibs of Barnes, is no virtuoso at playing the guitar, I would suggest that you exercise some clarity in any future endeavours.

IE:  With respect, my Lord, most people who frequent the Idle Hour already know he’s a bit shite at it.

LJL:  And the purpose of your blog is?

IE:  To spread the word, my Lord.

LJL:  Exactly. And how exactly do you think you are achieving this when you introduce a random, borderline racist, sexist stooge such as ‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace halfway through the piece for no apparent reason?

IE:  In our defence, my Lord, we thought it would be amusing to juxtapose the situation, both personally and geographically. In retrospect, this may have been an oversight.

LJL:  Your own mother failed to comprehend what you were trying to say, Mr Eye! So what chance did you imagine the rest of us would have?

IE:  It was an error, my Lord, for which we can only apologise. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.

LJL:  And I quote: “What? No idea what that was about!” This was from an email dated 27th November 2012.

IE:  May I ask how you came by this information, my Lord?

LJL:  It would be unprofessional in the extreme to divulge our sources, Mr Eye. As well you know.

IE:  I do understand.

LJL:  You may be interested to learn that Mr Nibs of Barnes has stated he was ‘slightly amused’ by the piece.

IE:  Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

LJL:  That will be all, Mr Eye. Thanks for coming in.

Idle Eye 54 : The Real Story of the Blues

Clapham Delta, London 1912

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Morning, Larry.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Morning, Norman.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Tram’s late again.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  I see that.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Distressing.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Somewhat.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  There’ll be hell to pay at Fenchurch Street.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  I fear there will.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  How’s the mojo?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Just fine, Norman, just fine. And yours?

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Mustn’t grumble, I suppose. Spent the weekend tinkering but she’s really not tickety-boo just yet.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Confounded thing. Have you tried new improved Wonderwall from Nibs Industries? A quick squirt and you’re in the pink, apparently.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Yes, I saw that on last week’s newsreel. Something along the lines of ‘Who needs twelve bars when one will do?’ Or am I mistaken?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  The very same, old boy. Seems this Nibs chap is running on one over there in Barnes and doing rather well.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Running on one? Whatever do you mean?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Why, one chord, of course! All that complicated nonsense from Mississippi: Hell bent on twisting our melon, man. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of this fellow’s book and we’d all have a bit more time to cane the children and patronise the wife.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Well, I must say that does sound splendid! I can’t remember when I last gave the eldest a sound thrashing or confined the sow to her quarters.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  I’d not let Mrs Pankhurst hear that if I were you, old bean.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha! Very good, Larry!

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Yes, I thought so.

‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace appears

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Uh oh! Here comes trouble.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Oh Lordy!

‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace:  You boys a-talkin’ bout me agin?

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  No, Ma’am. We’s just a-waitin’ for dis ole tram.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Ain’t dat da truth.

‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace:  Now, I no wanna hear no tale of dissin‘ de twelve bar onna count of Nibs In-Dust-Tree. He da Devil chile, with his one chord WunnaWall an he an his Barnes speshal frens. You stay cleeah, y’unnastan?

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  F’sure, Mrs O’Beace

‘Fat Mama’ O’Beace:  Now, I has a cli-yant me ting in Bal-ham. See y’all.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  So long, Mama!

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Don’t go changin’!

FMO’B heads off south

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Awkward.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Rather.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Still no sign of that tram.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Sadly not.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Rotten luck.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Larry?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Norman.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  This…Nibs. No chance he could knock up more than one chord, is there?

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  None whatsoever.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  I rather feared that was the case.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  I’m afraid it is.

‘Howlin’ Norman Thompson:  Shame.

‘Lonesome’ Larry:  Indeed.

Idle Eye 53 : The Devil’s Playground

Long-term readers of this pile of offal will implicitly understand how thrilled I was to discover that this week heralds the start of yet another government initiative. In case you don’t already have it seared into your subconscious, I’m referring, of course, to Road Safety Week. Conceived specifically to heighten awareness of the carnage out there, RSW also sets out to tell us that we drive too fast in built-up areas, pollute too much and should really consider walking and cycling a bit more.

Yeah, okay okay. But this morning I caught my first fleeting glimpse of the 2012 mascot, with which we are expected to bond and empathise for seven whole days. He’s a lumpy builder type with an American Dad chin and all the yellow kit on (you know, that standard issue safety stuff that prevents you doing the job you’re actually being paid for). From the protective haven of his hoarding he gurns at the viewer in an encouraging yet profoundly disturbing manner. And guess what? He’s a bloody drawing. Ad agencies across the land must dread Road Safety Week. For they know that if they are passed this particular poisoned chalice, that two-bit scribble knocked up in the blurry vortex between Toke Thursday and Chang Friday will have to hold its own against timeless classics such as Tufty Squirrel, the evil Nick O’Teen or that moustachioed shithead helping you with your tax return. And there’s not a fart’s chance in a windtunnel of that happening.

So what is it with the Nanny State and its compulsion to get its manifesto across with doctrine our own children would find condescending? More often than not the message has some not inconsiderable weight but is ultimately let down because WE ARE GROWN UPS AND WE WOULD LIKE TO DECIPHER OUR WORLD IN WORDS OF MORE THAN TWO SYLLABLES. And even if we were pre-pubescent renegades on the cusp of changing our ways, the very first whiff of being patronised would have us back on the streets torching Previas. We may be kids, but this is the Devil’s Playground. Strap yourselves in.

Speaking of kids, the above at least is an attempt at bringing order into a world of chaos. Now that we can’t fag on in public houses and our pandering governors wish to make them increasingly attractive to infants, those once hallowed spit and sawdust floors (previously only accessed by scurrilous journalists and students) are now hugga-mugga with Mamas and Papas, the small person vehicle that abides by no law, laughs in the face of common decency and, if it were subject to the stringent demands of Road Safety Week, would be slammed into the nearest pound quicker than you can say Jeremy Clarkson. So come on, mums and dads! If you insist on bringing your three-wheeled buggies of anarchy into the public domain, let’s have some rules: You make way at the bar, and we’ll slow to 20. Deal?

Idle Eye 51 : The Little Fiddle

Although we’re lying in Mr Osborne’s toxic shadow of fraud, tax evasion, expense fiddling and chronic mismanagement of the public purse, it seems (to this truculent old carcass at any rate) that the enormity of the sum involved somehow lessens its impact. Let me explain: When it is decreed that the shabby pile of bricks you may or may not own in seventeen-odd years needs a few more grand thrown at it, you tend to just wince and get on with it. However, when you discover that your Jolly local store has rammed up the price of liquorice rolling papers by a budget-busting twenty pence, the lines are drawn:


You keep this up for several days, despite the fact that Soulcutters charge you a fifty pence surcharge for the privilege of using your debit card instore, the untold wear on shoe leather and the criminal hike in price of table wine which, of course, you are duty-bound to purchase or it means a total loss of face back at Jolly’s. But never mind that, you’re making a stance! Because if you don’t, how many other poor sods are going to get screwed over by these opportunist pigs trying to capitalise on the fact that you live just down the road? It doesn’t bear thinking about. And maybe an important lesson will be learned about market forces and the elasticity thereof. Feels good, right?

Wrong. You’re just another fly caught in a small strand of the Little Fiddle. That most irritating phenomenon of being very slightly fleeced but not enough to go nuclear over. Everyone’s at it, from newsagents to train companies, from online cottage industries to farmers markets. No-one is exempt and the quicker you learn to deal with it the better. I ran this one past Nibs a couple of days ago and he primal screamed over the repair of his four-ring gas burner: A callout charge and its attendant quarter-hourly fee he took on the chin. It was the weaselly addition of £48 for a plastic knob (booting the final bill beyond a soaraway £500) that broke him. In catering, no-one can hear you scream.

So, my advice to Mr Osborne would be this: Forget about all that austerity nonsense, it’s getting people’s backs up and you’ll only U-turn on it in a couple of months. If you’re really serious about clawing back a few quid, pop the surplus onto our sundries bill. Not all at once, obviously, but in tiny amounts over the next three hundred years. For sure, we’ll moan about it but we’ll pull through, we always do. It’s a bit like queueing, and you know how we’ve learned to love that. And who knows? Maybe we’ll learn to like you after all.


Idle Eye 50 : The End of the Way It’s Always Been

So, I’m tucked away inside a Warren House deep in the grounds of Kimbolton Castle with only my stalwart Roberts radio to remind me of the world outside, when the hapless Theresa May comes on. “Oh, splendid!” I thought. “What can she balls up today?” Did anyone catch this? Anyone? Turns out she reckons people what sell guns’n’stuff are as guilty as them what use them and therefore should expect tougher sentences such as, er, life imprisonment (or longer).  And as I enjoyed a glass of something vaguely palatable from St Neots’ Waitrose and watched a Turner sky disappear over rolling Cambridgeshire hills, a distant bell rang inside my head. Not the tinnitus (although this is becoming almost as irritating as Theresa), and not the call to prayer that was to come the following morning. No, it was the slow recall of a bi-annual event at London ExCel – currently being pushed online. Yes, readers, it’s the 2013 DSEI Arms Fair at which you can buy, perfectly legally, as many weapons of mass-destruction as your budget will allow, giving you that must have edge over whatever foe happens to be irking you at present (as long as they ain’t one of our lot, in which case all purchases come in a brown paper bag).

Now, I’m no logistician, but does this mean Theresa will show up at Royal Victoria Dock in her lovely grey suit and kitten heels and bust the sorry arse of whichever camouflaged warlord she can catch up with? Before buggering back off to Berkshire for high tea? Help me out. And if she is setting a precedent that the salesman is also the criminal, examine carefully the following scenario and give me your thoughts in the comments section:

Police:  Mr Nibs, we is arresting you on suspicion of selling the sum total of seven pints of delicious Harveys ale to one Dan Dodgy, who went on from The Idle Hour down the road outside and smashed in every car window what happened to be parked there. Oh, and defecated onto the passenger seat of a Mazda outside the school. Mr Dodgy has attested that he normally only has a couple and the extra few tipped him over the edge, relinquishing him of any responsibility whatsoever and thereby landing all culpability with the scumbag landlord what sold him the goods in the first place. Anything you say and/or do may be taken down in evidence: It’s the law.

This being the case, I eagerly await the arrival of a Government-endorsed SWAT team at the St Neots’ Waitrose fine wines aisle, getting those brown-aproned peddlers of doom to spread ‘em against the rotary tills and confess. And the subsequent supoena at which I am forced to admit at gunpoint that I was their most significant customer over the month of October and thereby a significant threat to national security. At which point Theresa can legitimately deport me along with my old chum Abu Qatada.

Idle Eye 49 : The Day Before We Came

“Are you a parent who drinks too much?” blazed Dr Cecilia D’Felice in the Times this weekend, above a photograph of a slick young professional enjoying a perfectly legitimate reward for expelling her mewling sprogs onto a troubled planet. And not to be outdone by her alarmist strapline, she then proceeded to lambast these soft-target breeders with a checklist divided up into stages, neatly calculated to cause maximum collateral damage:

‘You have to be drunk to approach somebody socially with confidence’ – BAM!!!

‘You use alcohol as a reward’ – SOCK!!!

‘You spend a great deal of time drinking’ – THWACK!!!

‘You need more alcohol to achieve the same effect’ – KERSPLATT!!!

‘You can’t remember what you did’ – WHAM CR-R-A-A-CK PLUNK!!!

‘You feel physically unwell during or after drinking’ – KAPOW ZOWIE CLUNK BOFF!!!

“Oooh,” I thought, as I browsed the paper on my iPhone at 4am with one eye as the other was begging the brain to sort itself out after a traditional friday night hammering, “what’s going on here?” Now, not having children myself, I thought I’d be in with a chance of slipping through some kind of statistical net. You know, the one which has no political bearing whatsoever and thereby has no consequence whatsoever, leaving the barren forty-something on the outskirts of anything that even resembles concern. But oh no! Dr D’Felice had somehow managed to make me feel guilty on a Saturday morning well before the birds outside had begun to sing. And all before I had got vertical and had a word with the morning glory. God’s teeth! And to think felice means ‘happy’ in Italian.

I think that what bothers me the most about this deconstruction of what it takes to be a responsible modern parent is the omission of the driving forces that take people away from there in the first place. So, I’ve got a kid. Oh balls! Everything’s gone up in the supermarkets. Holy Moly! If I’m gonna come off my interest-only deal before I’m dust, maybe I’d better start paying the bastard off. And tits on toast! Don’t even start me on pensions or I’ll have off your particulars. All I need right now is a new-world glass of  acceptably sourced old-world ruin and the nippers can fend for themselves. Them’s the rules.

As I stumbled my way through the above, a text came through from Nibs inviting me (and I presume y’all) to his party at the Idle Hour on the 27th. There promises to be, and I quote, “loads of free booze and one hell of a party spirit”. Now, in the interests of responsible journalism, I am compelled to steer you towards a mere couple of glasses each, only to wag them in front of your designated driver before you head off to make babies at the Godly hour. And for this I make no charge and wish you all the luck in the world. As if…

Idle Eye 48 : The Crucible

A couple of things have been bothering me this week. Firstly, this Jimmy Savile business is beginning to grate: Yes, it’s a given that everything that has come to light is abhorrent. Yes, the BBC screwed up. Yes, the victims all deserve an opportunity to move on. And yes, even the benefit of hindsight into another time with a very different moral compass does little to assuage his misdemeanours. But the cynic in me does question the merits of a media witch-hunt against a dead man, purposefully manufactured to whip up powerful emotions in those less than able to handle them. Remember the paedophilia scandal of 2000? When Newport pediatrician Yvette Cloete had ‘paedo’ graffitied onto her front door by her own neighbours? And if the deceased really are a legitimate target, where do we draw the line? Do we destroy the gravestones of Kenneth Williams and Joe Orton, both now institutions much loved by the general public? How about Pier Pasolini? Or why not Caligula? Come on, readers, I’m sure you can dig up another long gone family favourite with a dodgy track record.

The other thing is how to segue the above into an attractive advertisement for the Idle Hour. Tall order, granted, but that’s the task in hand and by hook or by crook I’ll find a way: It’s what I do. Now, please bear with me as I freeform in italics:

The Idle Hour is one of West London’s best kept secrets. It sells lovely wine and beer, serves great food and has a wonderful suntrap garden, ideal for all those lazy Sunday afternoons with the family. In no way does it condone any suspect behaviour with young ‘uns. Bang out of order, all that. And anyway, it just does booze’n’grub. Properly, with a touch of class. And no fiddling. Ever. And that’s a promise!

Those of you who know me and/or Nibs will implicitly understand the above seemingly blasé approach needs to be taken with a very large pinch of salt. Partly to simmer down the tone and partly to avoid litigation. But, as there is an increasingly large percentage of you that don’t, I shall attempt to paraphrase every politician wheeled onto Radio 4 to spread the word of whichever wretched party they happen to represent:

Let’s be perfectly clear about this: The Idle Eye blog does have, and has always had the best interests of the Idle Hour public house at heart. And if, for whatever reason, the former has strayed from its initial brief, it would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.

So there you have it. A seemingly impossible remit brought about by the power of the written word. And, for any Sun readers who have managed to get this far without assistance, the address you’ll be looking for is as follows:

The Idle Eye Front Door,
No 10 Downing Street,
London SW1A 2AA

Thanks for your time xx