Idle Eye 130 : The Messiah

As some of you may know, I’ve been working in a Catholic church now for quite some time. My remit is to conserve the merchandise, the latest being a huge gilded reredos with exquisitely carved priests gazing up at a floating Lady of Suffering with her attendant cherubs and, a bit further up, God. With a massive beard. And a book.

Every day I arrive an hour or so before the morning Mass. To get to the scaffold, I have to push my bike past an elderly man lying prostrate on the floor in a state of reverie, touching the feet of a plaster cast of Our Lady with six plastic swords piercing her sacred heart. He barely notices me. Next, I nod graciously at the Silver Vixen (who smiles provocatively back) and then head on up to the tower. Usually I bail out for the Mass itself, but sometimes I catch the last of it. A priest in white and purple robes, looking and sounding like Mark E Smith, finishes the proceedings by chanting the beginning of a hymn and then walking off to the sacristy in solemnity, leaving the congregation to wrap up the singing and follow suit. Which, for the most part, they do.

A few weeks ago, however, a straggler got locked in. She’d passed out on one of the pews and fell under the penetrating in-house CCTV radar. When she came to, frightened and coming down off something, her first vision was that of myself, alone, at height and magnificently backlit by powerful halogens. The following exchange went something like this:

Me:  Are you okay?

Lady:  Who…who are you? Do you want me to sing for you?

Me:  Maybe not now. Do you know how to get out?

Lady:  Are you Jesus?

Me:  Er…

Lady:  Let me sing for you, Jesus.

Me:  I think we’d better…

Lady:  LET ME SING FOR YOU, JESUS!!!

Me:  Ok. What can you do?

Lady:  Tell me what to sing.

Me:  Look, I’m really not Jesu…

Lady:  WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO SING???

Me:  Um…How about Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? Do you know that one?

Lady:  Just like you, Jesus. A twinkling star. In Heaven.

Me:  Thank you. But I really think you should speak to Father Pat first.

Lady:  I wrote you a letter. Did you get my letter?

Me:  I don’t think so.

Lady:  I gave it to Our Lady. She kept it for you. SHE KEPT IT FOR YOU!!!

Me: I’ll ask her for it later.

Lady:  I need to go wee.

Me:  Wait a minute. I’ll come down and show you…

Lady:  HELP ME GO WEE, JESUS!!! HELP ME GO WEE!!!

So I did. I helped the lady go wee. And then we took a short walk together to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital where she was taken in and my services superseded by those more qualified than I. Because I’m not Jesus: I’m just a fella.

Idle Eye 124 : The Slug in History

Q:   What did the slug say to the snail?
A:    Big Issue, sir?

I like slugs, me. Really. They don’t do themselves any favours, mind, but that’s probably the reason we have cemented a conspiratorial bond of sorts over the years. They are the turds of the undergrowth, loathed by pretty much everyone for being brown and in the way. Even your most bog-standard single-celled organism kicks off when they meet on a glistening pavement, and would probably win if they got into fisticuffs. I know, I know, it’s a tall order this one, but historically the slug has earned its spurs:

1911. The Pageant of London, in conjunction with the Festival of Empire, celebrated everything and anything that promoted the extraordinary advancement of the land. Highlight of which was the all-singing, all-dancing Tower of Slug, anchored in the Crystal Palace Gardens and seen by over 15,000,000 people over its lifetime. This magnificent structure was brown & got in the way for decades until it was destroyed in 1936. Because it was in the way.

In 1917, when resources were scarce & the Hun were menacingly close to Blighty, the good folk of Folkestone erected a massive seafront barricade constructed entirely of foraged molluscs, impenetrable by sea nor air. Believing this blubbery mountain to be a cunning decoy, the Germans shifted their assault to the piers of Brighton, where they were annihilated conclusively at the slot machines.

It was considered ‘good luck’ for top racing drivers to keep a brace of slugs in their top pockets throughout the course of the Circuit de Monaco from 1909 until the controversy of 1966, when the first four finishers were disqualified for substitution with heavy slices of pork luncheon meat, illegal at the time.

Muhammad Ali (or Cassius Clay) enjoyed a bathtub filled to the brim with slugs local to the East Grinstead area throughout his most potent years. It is notable that, just before his classic bout with Joe Frazier in Manila 1975, he chose to replace British slugs with those hand-picked from his home town of Louisville, Kentucky USA.

In July 2007, when smoking was tentatively banned throughout the UK in all enclosed work spaces and a couple of years before the cynical advent of vaping, the fashionable young people of Hoxton, London tried their hands at ‘sliming’. Popular at illegal raves and office parties, this required the slimer to balance the faux-fag at the fulcrum of two fingers whilst talking utter shite to anyone in the vicinity. Preferably with a beard.

And that’s just scratching the surface. If you want the real dirt, go online: There’s acres of info on the slug in history should you care to seek it out. I am merely the catalyst, the weaver if you will, my sole purpose being to prevent the denigration of our upstanding slimy pals. Until they get in the way.

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.