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 10 : The Rebuff 2 (This Time It’s Personal)

Sorry I’m late. Really, sorry. I did try to get this one in on time, even wrote a couple of drafts about an Idle Hour demon that kept me up at night (written at 1am) but Nibs gave it the thumbs down. And he was right to, in fairness. High on booze, wasabi peas and lack of sleep I bunged it all together like a fake Jackson Pollock and then tried to justify its brilliance in a heated follow-up call deep into the small hours:

Nibs:  Look, you know I love what you do. You know I do. But come on! This one’s so…so…well, angry.

Me:  Angry? Angry? You don’t geddijewewe? Corsets angry! Eye-mmaking a point about time and how weedon tavenuffuvvit. Angry? ARSE!

Nibs:  Mate, why don’t you have another look at it in the morning. It’s late, I’m busy, Barnes is still chokka and you’re pissed.

Me:  GnnNOT PISSED!

Nibs:  I think you are, Bro.

Me:  S’pose you think Charlie Brooker zangry then? Or your bezziemait Giles Coren? S…Spose Jonnoz Born wazzangry too? Eh? EH? But Bro…Bro…(whispers)…thazza point. Thazza holefuggin point.

Nibs:  It’s a pub blog, Bro, not Look Back In Anger. I just need you to be the funny guy so I can get more customers in to buy beer and eat food. Bums on seats: It’s really that simple.

Me:  Z’nuthin simplabout gudriting, man. Snot teasy making this shiddup every we…week y’no.

Nibs:  I’m not saying it is easy. That’s why I pay you to write it. Otherwise I’d do it myself. But calm down, have a good night’s sleep and have another go tomorrow. You’ll thank me for it.

Sound of hysterical laughing in background

Me:  Hang gone…(goes into kitchen. Vulgar swearing, shouting and stumbling followed by phone drop) Bro, you there?

Nibs:  What’s up?

Me:  Ursula sritten ‘Primadonna’ onna blackboard!

Nibs:  (stifling further hysteria) She’s got a point, mate!

Me:  Bar studs! BAR…SSTUDS! FUGG YORL! (Slams down phone and retires)

I woke up this morning still utterly convinced that my misunderstood work would stand the test of time. After all, Jesus had a bad ride, no? And Sophocles wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves in Ancient Greece. I even uploaded the bloody thing onto my phone so I could bask in my greatness on the train. And then I read it.

There is a fine line between genius and bollocks. The greatest minds our crowded planet has ever produced had the courage to surf this line, some close to the mark, others actually touching it. But no-one, not one, ever crossed it. And the ones that did have been consigned to the dustbin of history, their stories never to be passed on. Ever. And that’s as it should be. For they shall be cast out of the Kingdom of Heaven for trawling too wide a net. And trying to polish a doo-doo when they don’t.


Idle Eye 7 : The Exotic Meating

London 1779. A young servant boy runs towards his master along a dirt track that will become White Hart Lane, Barnes in fifty-odd years. They have travelled from afar and seek only a tankard of Harveys and sustenance for the night.

Servant:  My Lord! I have found us the tavern! Over yonder by the railway tracks.

Master:  Mock me not, Bobbins, or ye shall sleep with the fishes tonight. And the railway has not yet been invented, as well ye know.

Servant:  Forgive me, Master, but it is true. The landlord seems most welcoming also.

Master:  Perchance, does he sport a ridiculous yellow Miami Vice jacket? And Penny Loafer shoes with white socks? And a beard inside which one could conceal a bantam?And does he answer to the name ‘Nibs’?

Servant:  Why yes, my Lord! How could you know such things?

Master:  And tell me: Is it not Tuesday the 15th even as we speak?

Servant:  Forsooth, I believe it is, my Lord.

Master:  Also, pray, whilst you were inside, did you spy the tail of an alligator and/or the gizzards of a zebra on the ‘Exotic Meats For One Week Only As Recommended By A Celebrity We Cannot Name’ menu?

Servant:  Santa on a stick, M’lud, thou art surely blessed with divine perception. But as your servant, I cannot use words of more than one syllable at a time if I am to be a credible sidekick to your increasingly unlikely literary device.

Master:  BE SILENT insolent child!!! Thou shalt conform to this narrative stereotype or by my own entrails thou shalt go hungry tonight.

Servant:  But Master, I am a lily-livered, limp-wristed, ex-art school vegetarian. I fear such sumptuous foodstuffs will play havoc with ye olde plumbing.

Master:  GOD’S TROUSERS!!! Boy, do you know nothing? It’s none other than Exotic Meats Week at The Idle Hour Barnes, and by some fantastical feat of fortune we have stumbled upon it at the very start.

Servant:  Actually sir, I think you’ll find it was by Sat Nav.

Master:  Like, whatever, sirrah! Do not question my methods, or for that matter my timing: I fear we are 232 years too early for such a feast but we do at least have the blessed fortune of being British a century in advance of queueing for fun so we stand a good chance of getting in. Do you really not eat meat?

Servant:  Sorry. Not a guff’s chance in a wind tunnel.

Master:  I hate you, Bobbins.

Servant:  Yes, sir.

The two men turn into Railway Side where they are met by a man in an absurd Miami Vice jacket and Penny Loafers. And a beard. He smiles and embraces them in a not at all scary manner. That’s what you do on Exotic Meat Week. Because there’s lots of exotic meat. And you have travelled from afar and seek only a tankard of Harveys and sustenance for the night.

Idle Eye 5 : The Party

I must say, I’m enjoying this hack business enormously. Seems you just bang out a few well-chosen words when you’re pissed, turn up at an Idle Hour party and everyone smiles at you in that ‘we’re all in this together’ kind of way. Splendid! And while we’re at it, I thought it would be wise to jot down a few muddled thoughts from Nibs’ anniversary bash at IH Barnes because a) it was a fabulous, bonkers evening, and b) I’m being paid for it. So here goes :

10 years in any old game is quite something. It demonstrates that you have stamina, balls and a willful refusal to fail. These are qualities I have long admired in girlfriends, employees and whiskey, the obvious exception being that I have never employed a single person in all of my years on the planet. And that’s as it should be, as any fule kno. But when it turns out that Squitly Junior, who used to nick sweets from the Shackleford shop and (very much later) roger his nanny while his elder sibling was getting off on Starsky & Hutch downstairs is the one who fits the bill, I have to concede that despite my obviously superior looks and intellect, a tip of the hat is due here. So, well played bro, here’s to another ten..

It probably is also timely to introduce whatever readership we have here to Da Mudda. Back in the 1960s, Nibs and myself decided to give birth to someone who would eventually become our mother, half woman, half Nazi, never, ever wrong. And out of respect we let her raise us, send us to expensive schools and attend functions, bar mitzvahs, parties etc.. So it was indeed a pleasure to see her there in the crowd on saturday, listening with pride as her god-given parents murdered ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him’ and ‘Oliver’s Army’ as backing to the ever-forgiving Roland Rock and his band. We have a photograph of her weeping, although it is not yet clear whether this is out of despair or joy. Time will tell.

A small but grateful word to the bar staff : Being a vegetarian, lily-livered, ex-art school renegade comes with its’ set of not unsubstantial hurdles when it comes to nibbles. (You know when you have reached your middle years when you can say ‘nibbles’ without a hint of embarrassment. Although I have long since reached them & my ears have just turned red. No-one tells you this stuff.) My undying thanks goes out to the young lady who left me with a plate of crudités as the carnivores sought their quarry.

For anyone who was there, it was lovely to meet you and thank you for, well, for being you. Who’d have thought we’d hit it off so well, eh? Let’s hope this crazy old vehicle stays on the road for a few more. And mine’s a large one, if you’re offering..