Idle Eye 94 : The Foreign Office

A week ago, as you may remember, I thrilled my minuscule readership with tales from the water closet. They were, for the most part, true and there is nothing that whets the winkle of the Great British Public more than the topic of bottoms and associated hardware thereof. This was, of course, reflected in the statistics and I thank you all for joining me in the virtual small room. My business is your business, as someone I can’t remember once succinctly put it.

I am happy to report that things have moved on a bit since then. These days you find me on the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt, thrashing it out on a laptop in the gaps between conserving the tomb of the last great Geordie pharaoh Neferrenpet. I know, I know. But, as you gear up back home for the onslaught of Daily Express reportage of the forthcoming worst winter since the last Daily Express reportage of the forthcoming worst winter ever, spare a thought for one more fortunate than yourselves: Being an Englishman abroad does present an alternate set of tribulations (as my risible grasp of Arabic will testify), none more telling than the not inconsiderable matter of appropriate attire in a climate as foreign as the language.

For example, this morning saw me down to my last clean t-shirt, the Bolongaro Trevor beauty so eloquently eulogised in IE47. A little too smart for workwear, but on reflection preferable to the lamentable series of insect-infested horrors currently residing inside my laundry bag. What’s more, it has a sepia-toned Union Jack on one side and an Ottoman effort with three crescent moons on the other, a stalwart example of hands across the water if ever I saw one. I did, however, fail to spot the Lancaster bomber shedding its toxic cargo over the pyramids and almost certainly extending a rather skewed message to the host nation.

On the subject of insects, the biting ones are another personal assault one must handle with the kind of decorum expected of the adequately-educated Westerner. Fortunately, my gargantuan quinine intake keeps all but the most hardy at bay, although last night I discovered a dormant mosquito buried deep inside the two-ply of my bathroom roll. What it was doing in there is anyone’s guess, and I was torn between saving the poor creature from a death more humiliating than I know how to put into words, or protecting my own tender cheeks from an equally heinous fate. The vegetarian in me prevailed and the little bastard flew off to lodgings elsewhere. Naturally, I made no mention of it at breakfast today because…well, you just don’t. There are rules.

I’ll put some work stuff in another time. It’s too huge to summarise in a 500 word bulletin built almost exclusively from the rocky foundations of lavatorial humour and self-deprication. So for now, I shall continue to do what you have come to know and love, from the gutter to the pavement. With no apologies…

Idle Eye 11 : The Voice of Reason

It’s that time of year when the jolly fat man, flushed from the effort of his exertions, comes for his annual handout and leaves you to clear up the mess. Sounds familiar? Yes, it’s that time again and don’t we all love it? I refer to the bankers’ bonus, of course, and the endless discussion thereof, from the red tops to Radio 4, from white van interiors to Hampstead tearooms it seems we cannot be rid of someone, somewhere, who needs to vent their spleen. And we, the Great British Public, absolutely lap it up. In these austere times when, Heaven forbid, we have to share bathwater, meals and the rest with our nearest and dearest, there’s nothing we like better than donning the gloves and having a good old-fashioned wallop at the City.

‘I think it’s disgusting, immoral and it should be illegal’ – A woman I just made up, the streets, yesterday.

‘We didn’t work our whole lives to be lied to and robbed at the end. Is this the right march?’ – A Public Sector worker, Whitehall, yesterday.

‘Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?’ – Simon Le Bon, a yacht, the Eighties.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m supposed to be a vegetarian, lily-livered Lefty, right? What in God’s name am I doing pandering to these monsters, these harbingers of misery who put profit before people, bonuses before benevolence and continue to take, take, take as we mere mortals continue to reimburse their errors? Well, my friends, think on: Remember when ‘Call Me Dave’ campaigned vehemently for us all to hug a hoodie? Well, I took something on board that day. I learned that perhaps we should learn to embrace the unknown instead of taking a shot at it like the great collector and public benefactor Frederick John Horniman did when he first came across a walrus:

Stooge:  Sir, something stirs there on yonder iceberg. He is a fantastical creature, long of tooth and great of hair. And I do believe he is something of which we have never seen the like.

BANG!

Horniman:  Put him in the bag with the others, Bobbins.

So bankers, hear my cry! I come to you in peace, I bear you no ill will. All I ask is, well, now you’ve got more in your Armani pocket than I shall earn in a lifetime, that you spend it wisely. And it is narratively convenient that I happen to know just such a place for you to do so. Cross the Thames if you have to. Charter your private jets in the direction of SW13 and W6. Spend the wad of our King Mervyn here today and throughout the Christmas period. And do not spare the rod! The Idle Hour will cater for your every need, your whims, your festive fantasies. And with such style and finesse that you will wonder why you ever wasted your nights at Dirty Dicks. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll let me off.

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.