Idle Eye 125 : The Sos Age

In days of old, when knights were bold
And Bowyers sausages stood the test
I’m glad to say that still today
That Bowyers sausages are the best

This curious little rhyme was drummed into my subconscious relentlessly by my late stepfather pretty much every weekend in the 1970s. Partially to whip up a kind of inter-family bonhomie, as we would chant the thing together in the car on the way to the shops, but mainly because he was the chairman of Bowyers sausages, cynically utilising a primitive form of subliminal advertising for his own ends. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t join in with gusto, but even then I could spot the flaws:

Thrust instantly into a medieval context, the reader is presented with a given that all knights back then were actually bold, as opposed to the more likely premise that they were shit-scared, metal-clad servants of whichever fanatical despot that happened to own the land upon which they lived. Next, there is the contextual leap we are expected to take, in which the Bowyers sausage is inexplicably time-travelled to the period in order to stand a test. Exactly what test is not made clear, probably for reasons of economy, but already we are none the wiser and hunting for clues. 

There are none, for the second half has no correlation whatsoever with the first. For starters, the introduction of the possessive noun only serves to confuse, and the whiplash suffered from being thrown back into the present weakens us so conclusively, we are unable to challenge the outlandish supposition that the Bowyers sausage knocks spots off the competition. Consequently we take it for granted, bereft of any insight as to who the narrator may or may not be. These four lines are, at once, a travesty of continuity, credibility and impartiality. I am eleven years old.

Obviously, I didn’t let on in the car. I knew how ruthlessly I was being exploited yet somehow I was complicit. How could I tell a man fifty years my senior that his grasp of language was at best rudimentary, particularly as I had not yet received my pocket money? So I let it lie. To the point where I taught the very same to the equally exploited workers of a slaughterhouse in which I worked over the summer of 1980. And they loved it too.

I kept shtum for ages when I became a vegetarian. It would have made a mockery of all the ideals we held so high as a family which were built on the foundations of the very thing I had so vehemently rejected. And besides, I wanted Bill Newton-Clare to meet his maker without doubt, which he almost certainly did. But not before leaving us another salient reminder of the mark he made when he was around:

Q:   What came before the Ice Age?
A:   The Sos Age

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

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?