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 111 : The Pornography of Wealth

“Money, man, it is a bitch
The poor they spoil it for the rich” –
Nick Cave (Easy Money, Abattoir Blues 2004)

One of the more galling aspects of obtaining your first billion in good ole Blighty is that this once exclusive coterie is now open to any charlatan with wide pockets, a passably creative accountant and a ruthlessly efficient PR team. Back in the day it was the hallmark of achievement, but one that did not need advertising to the hoi polloi or indeed one’s peers. For, like a glass of Croft Original served before dinner, one instinctively knew you were right and that was enough. The old school understood this implicitly, which is why almost no-one had a clue what you were up to unless you got caught. And if you did, the correct procedure was to fall on your sword. Discrete, suave and brutal: Just how one’s affairs were conducted if you had proper moolah.

But now it’s a very different story. No longer is it enough to merely earn the stuff, oh no. The deal is that you must brag about it through every portal available, presumably to titillate the less fortunate who will get their kicks vicariously and keep out of your way. For example: A quick scan of this weeks Sunday Times top stories revealed the following:

  • “Rich double their wealth in five years”
  • “How the rich are getting richer”
  • “Billionaire’s daughter learns to love life”
  • “How to get rich, by those who’ve done it”
  • “Yours for £11.5m: An entire Devon village”

…and so on. However, the Magazine section also offered up an online quiz for the aspirational proletariat called simply Millionaire Maker, dangling the possibility of untold affluence at the click of a mouse. Which is all very well, but the very thought of some chinless Herbert getting the goods from what amounts to nothing more than a lottery will have your bona fide tycoon frothing at the gills before the first Krug is dusted. For, acceptable though it may be for the Great Unwashed to use their little plastic toys to access this kind of information, it is another thing entirely for them to walk down the gilded corridor.

So, what to do? It’s essential that we continue to promote the illusion that we can all have a slice of the pie or the foundations of capitalism will crumble overnight, leaving in its wake a feudal bunfight for anything that isn’t screwed down. But equally, the very same prize must set apart the Harrods Food Hall aficionado from your Greggs regular or there is little point in having it in the first place. For what it’s worth, I recommend something altogether more radical: Wedge wrestling. Nude. In oil. It’s pretty straightforward – Plebs to the left, Toffs to the right and I get to cast the definitive vote. The rippling torsos of privilege vs the downtrodden carcasses of poverty, smothered top to toe in something from the fridge.

Mesdames et messieurs, faites vos jeux s’il vous plait…”