Idle Eye 177 : The Lunatic Fringe

I remember looking into a mirror in my early teens and becoming deeply distressed by the reflected combover, struggling to conceal an anaemic pate that lay beneath. Why, oh why wasn’t I blessed with a testosterone-laden rug such as Oliver Reed’s? Or an exotic, lustrous mane like the one Peter O’Toole sported so memorably in Laurence of Arabia? Ladies seemed to enjoy that shit back then, and I was convinced that once they had gotten past the brutal truth – that I had only just started sprouting hair elsewhere – the likes of Farrah & Co would have leapt at the chance of running their fingers through a pubescent schoolboy’s formative locks, despite not yet being able to take them out to a licensed restaurant and manfully settling the bill.

I’ll be straight with you: things haven’t improved much since. My twenties and thirties saw only an uphill battle with the tyranny of the tresses, so when Jon Bon Jovi and Nick Cave appeared (with their effortless, follicular fuck you’s), I was getting through an entire can of Boot’s Unperfumed (pink for maximum hold, as opposed to the lightweight blue) every day, and considered myself single-handedly responsible for the ozone hole that could be seen from spaceships. But still I persevered, despite resembling a deep-fried greaser plugged into the mains. When the 90s penchant for a brutal No.2. shave cut became a thing, I consoled myself with the fact that all fashion is cyclical, and that I would almost certainly be de rigueur come 2005. By which time I was presented with an entirely unforeseen challenge.

A couple of grey babies had appeared. Initially quite subtly, nestled in amongst the more robust strands, but with a deft go on a comb and a handful of wet-look gel, no one was any the wiser. Being that 2-3 months older than my peers, I have always been held up as a poster boy to the perils of ageing, so I badly needed a few tricks up my sleeve. Grecian 2000 was briefly considered, until I cottoned on to the fact that it is exclusively a product for the tragically deluded. And anyway, why couldn’t I shore up to what nature had in store for me? It is what it is, as they supposedly say, and the ladies I so badly wanted would have instinctively recognised this and loved me for it. I laboured under this fallacy for a few more years until it became ridiculous: by 2015, it looked as if I’d had a deliberate rinse.

Please don’t get me started on all that Silver Fox nonsense. Flattering though it may be to be seen as a kind of Blake Carrington figure (google him, children), the stark truth is that my body is telling me to wind down and take a back seat: my days as a dynamic provider are totally shot. That’s why I look like someone’s dad now. And fortunately for you, not yours…

IE Audio 11 : The Windows to the Soul

Harnessing Dad’s old ruse.

https://theidleeye.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/ie-audio-11-the-windows-to-the-soul/

IE Audio 8 : The Tyranny of Sex

Cyberfilth. Protecting you from your revolting selves 24/7

https://theidleeye.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/idle-eye-114-the-tyranny-of-sex/

Idle Eye 159 : The State of Denmark

Good title. Well, I like it. Those of you who had your Coriolanuses kicked into reading the Bard’s greater works at school will recognise that the broader idiom suggests an element of brooding malcontent, that something in the land of salty liquorice is not exactly as it should be. See, you’re already hooked! Perhaps one of the perilously thin strands along which we all conduct our lives has become tangled or broken. Perhaps a moral compass has been thrown out of kilter. Perhaps it’s just an elaborate decoy to throw you off the scent. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, as our Doris once succinctly put it.

As I write this, it is the hottest day the UK has cooked up in a decade. And heat, as any fule kno, plays havoc with the brain and those last remaining pollutants of Glastonbury. The synapses within sizzle and fuse, neurons struggle to function and the propensity for rational thought gradually deliquesces into chaos and confusion. So what chance does one have if this is the moment to step up to the plate? To make brave, life-altering decisions before yielding to the charms of high summer and going out topless into the streets (the Englishman at home’s favourite pastime)? It’s a one word answer: Fat.

In that tragic-heroic fashion all romantic schoolboys are prone to, I was once asked (after midnight, around a flickering tealight) to declare the one thing I’d be prepared to give up everything else for. And, being a relatively inexperienced resident on our complex planet, I answered, with some certainty, that it would be the aquamarine pair of Speedos (with white printed dolphins bobbing their merry way across my privates) I had just been given for Christmas. I was serious. Life had not yet complicated my childish aspirations, and I could think of nothing or no one I wanted more. And in some ways, it was the perfect response. Perfect in its unswerving simplicity, and perfect because it was a need easily fulfilled. No hopes dashed, no hearts broken. And it would probably be different the next day. Ironically, it was the summer of 76. Another hot one.

Then we age. And as we march through our lives, things get increasingly difficult. They just do. We steal moments of pleasure wherever we can, in the full knowledge that they will probably be fleeting and outweighed by the sheer pressure of hanging in there. It’s why our occupations are so much more than a means to an end. They define us. They validate the reasons for our being alive at all. Otherwise we’re just grown-up sperm looking for something to do. If asked the same question again, after all this time, I only wish the answer could be as economic. But the things we crave in later life inevitably come at a price, by which I do not mean anything so vulgar as money. And we’re usually too busy to notice.

Idle Eye 157 : The Plagiarist?

Impending death kind of makes you get your skates on. All that time you spent dicking about doing nothing of consequence will eventually appear at your door tapping its watch. Which is no biggie if you happen to have chalked up some of the stuff you set out to achieve, but if, like me, you’ve tried and failed too often to even care about, you have to ask yourself two pretty searching questions:

Do I keep going, or do I shackle myself to the yoke of submission and admit defeat?

The death thing is quite a major pisser, but when you boil it back to basics it’s not actually life-threatening; just an expedient reminder for you to get off your arse and get on with it. If it bothers you, you can always hop over to deathclock.com (the internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away), where they kindly work out how long you’ve got until you are reclaimed by the Grim Reaper. I did briefly consider this, but thought better of it after browsing the search criteria and calculating for myself that I was already living on borrowed time.

I weighed it up. Yes, I could go back to a job that looks good on paper to those who don’t really understand what it entails, or load my bollocks back into the wheelbarrow of endeavour and run with it/them once again. To where there’s no safety net if things go a bit tits. Where the odds are stacked against you because you should have done it twenty years ago. Where the contenders are younger, media-savvy and hungry for that rapidly diminishing slice of the pie. And then, just as I was beginning to cave, someone introduced me to Jonathan Ames.

If ever an ageing, unpublished writer needed a tonic, it came then in the form of this man’s work. A self-deprecating, pushed alter-ego, doing (and penning) things most of us would ordinarily shun, in the tradition of the great American humourists but with a filthier edge, Ames was pushing all my buttons. The greater irony being that the exaggerated failure he casts himself as is, in reality, exactly who I am now. Although I too am writing as an exaggerated failure, and shall continue to do so despite any inconvenient impending success. It’s a headsmoker, make no mistake, but a glorious one nonetheless.

So where does that leave us? My newfound admiration for Mr Ames will almost certainly draw comparisons, the most apposite being that despite sharing a birth year, I am in South-East London writing drivel for 350 people and he is about to launch Blunt Talk (which, from the trailer, appears to be the sharpest comedy to come out of the States in decades) and is probably rather busy. But it is comforting to note that we have been singing from the same hymn sheet for quite a while. Independently, I swear.

Doubt, get thee behind me.

Idle Eye 140 : The Blood Test

In May 2013, I made an appointment with a certain Dr Nunn for a routine blood test. Apparently you’re meant to do this sort of thing when the ratio of your years left on the planet versus years already used up, tips unfavourably towards the latter. I made light of any reasoning behind it, of course, suggesting that my request was purely investigative and of no great consequence. However, Dr Nunn is no fool. Looking straight past the saffron-tinted jellies through which I decipher the world and deep into the very core of my being, he offered me a seat next to the computer. Then he made me wait. For eons.

Time slows down to a crawl when you know you’ve been rumbled. The skinny document containing my records was theatrically scrutinised, and accusatory glances from over the top of his half-moon glasses were staged for maximum gravitas. I knew what was coming next:

Dr Nunn:  Smoker?

Me:  Er…Not really. The occasional puff, perhaps.

Dr Nunn:  How many?

Me:  Hmm…Depends on my week, I suppose! (laughs nervously)

Dr Nunn:  I’ll put you down for twenty. Sound about right?

Me:  Absolutely. (rapid blinking)

Dr Nunn:  What about alcohol? How many units per week?

Me:  Units? I’m not really sure, to be honest. How do you…

Dr Nunn:  Someone of your age should be looking at no more than one or two small glasses of wine a night. Preferably with breaks in between. The liver isn’t a miracle worker.

Me:  I see. I think it would be fair to say I do drink a little more than that. Not always, and I do try to keep it to…

Dr Nunn:  I need a straight answer. Or we’re both wasting each others time, aren’t we?

Me:  Yes, I’m sorry. Well, on the odd occasion it has been known for me to get through half a bottle of red wine in the evening, and sometimes a beer or two.

Dr Nunn:  How often?

(long pause)

Me:  Every night.

(long pause)

Dr Nunn:  No more than that?

(long pause)

Me:  No. (swallows)

Dr Nunn:  Right, I need you to come back next week. Give this in at reception, they’ll make another appointment for you.

Me:  Thanks very much for…

Dr Nunn:  Goodbye.

I looked down at the printout thrust into my hand. There, in a little box marked ‘Relevant Clinical Details’ was the evidence statisticians and the red tops pay top dollar for, no doubt to keep social pariahs such as myself out of the surgeries: ‘Screen: High Alcohol.’  And it works. Because I never went back. If half a bottle of pinot and a hop-based aperitif counts as alcohol abuse, my return visit would have seen Dr Nunn strapping me into some kind of detox seat, like Alex from A Clockwork Orange, forcing me to watch endless loops of waterfalls and Bavarian milkmaids until I recanted my feckless ways. Do me a favour…

Idle Eye 138 : The Windows to the Soul

When he put his mind to it, my father had a great smile. It was one of those magnificently craggy ones, as pioneered by WH Auden towards the end of his own years, which dug huge trenchlines into the soft tundra of his face and suggested, whether it were true or not, that he was kind and genuinely delighted to have you as company. Yorkshire Television was quick to pick up on this most saleable of assets, so in pretty much every publicity shot taken from the 1980s onwards, you can see him attempting to squash his nose hard into the well of his cheekbones, like some sort of demented human Corby trouser press, whilst simultaneously keeping his eyes open and looking sexy. And, unlikely though this may sound, for the most part he pulled it off.

As the firstborn of four, I have inherited (to a lesser extent) something similar. When it first appeared I was horrified, so desperate was I to preserve the illusion of perpetual youth, and those appalling fissures, snaking their way across my cheeks like levees towards the ocean, became impertinent reminders of my own mortality. Which I bitterly resented. But as the years rolled on, I kind of grew into them, accepted them, and now I shall ruthlessly exploit them for my own financial gain. Hear me out:

I’ve only ever had publicity shots done once. It was back in the day, when I was trying to look moody and angst-ridden for an art-rock band which I fronted. The fact that we never got picked up, and that the photographs fell into the dustbin of insignificance, was clearly down to the fact that I was not yet ready to face the full-frontal glare of fame and fortune. And possibly because a previous night’s drinking had made my eyes look like pissholes in the snow. But now I am older, wiser and sly as you like. So, what if I harness Dad’s old ruse for the back cover of this book that I’m doing? That, instead of going all Charles Bukowski on you, I could make you believe I’m enormous fun to hang out with? Simply by wrinkling up my face! It works across the board: The oldies will think they can trust me, and the young people will find me endearing. Sexy, even.

Now, I’ve been practicing in front of the bathroom mirror, but I think the silver must have buckled. When I scrunch up one side (leaving the other unwrinkled and all come hither), it looks like I’m having a stroke. Yet if I go for both at once, the eyes are lost in a sea of unsightly crevices. And the eyes, as any fule kno, are the windows to the soul. I’ve even tried the direct approach, looking straight into camera with just a hint of crumpled world-weariness. But I just come across as a massive tool. And we can’t have that, can we?