Murdoch spouts poppycock. As per…
Murdoch spouts poppycock. As per…
Murdoch spouts poppycock. As per…
One of the nicer things about blogging is that you can snatch content out of the ether, sometimes even from the canon of others, in order to add value to your own efforts. This has the knock-on effect of making you appear well-read and approaching intelligent, the beauty of which is that you’re probably not going to be hauled over the coals for plagiarism. If, like me, you have about five hundred regular readers who can’t even be arsed to leave a comment, let alone set up a complex litigation process, you’re almost certainly in the clear. So, when I needed to come up with a header that hinted at an imminent move to the coast, I delved deep into the net and came up with the above.
Now, I’ll be straight with you: I’ve never read anything by Iris Murdoch, not one jot. But I liked the cut of her jib, and made a stab at what counts as research in this neck of the woods (family-sized wine box/Wikipedia/online Oxford English Dictionary/12.5g snout). There, as I was scrolling through endless, worthy literary appraisals of her oeuvre, I discovered that The Sea, The Sea concerns a middle-aged, male DFL (down from London), who is pompous, deluded, paranoid, and using a location shift to put into some kind of context and write about the lunacy of his own existence. To boot, there are a couple of ladies he needs to get his head around, and he’s not much cop at the cookery either.
I mean, really! Clearly, this Murdoch woman was a fantasist of the highest order, trapped inside and by the treacly brown caricatures of her own epoch. The very thought that such a wretch could make it through to the end of a day unscathed, not to mention be taken seriously enough to have his witterings read by anyone other than himself, is absolute nonsense, and both he and his creator should be judged as harshly as hindsight allows. Perhaps back in 1978, this kind of poppycock had its place, but not today, lady, not today. Besides, every man and his dog now has a signature dish, right?
I know what you’re thinking. What about this new lot, with their 140-character Twitters, the Instagramming of whatever grub they happen to be eating, and the showing of bottoms and worse on self-destructing media platforms? Well, let me tell you something: these people will not be troubling Random House any time too soon. They know their place, and we should applaud our youngsters for ‘letting off steam’ in plain view, freeing up the marketplace for those with, how shall we say, a little more gravitas.
Enough now, I’ve got a flat to paint and flog; these things don’t take care of themselves. And then I’ll be off. All this mediocrity is getting me down, and the sea air will do me good. Can’t wait…
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.
This week, it’s the contentious subject of foodstuffs. Practical solution to the endemic crime of celebrity chefs also included at no extra cost, along with convincing dystopian alternative for those who prefer their lunch to take three minutes and come from a pot.
Have a look at the mast drawing above. That’s me, that is. Drunk, scribbling unrecognisable nonsense as per, wide-eyed & tousled, inappropriately attired for a man of my age and surrounded by semi-mythical beasts which may or may not represent the muses I wrestle with on a weekly basis. All contained in one simple statement with the site name teetering on the verge of collapse above me. How very apposite. When I briefed Dan back in 2011, I knew I wanted a sketch rather than a designed header with slick typography, because the best ones condense all the relevant information into a single visual hit. No frills, no waste, and therein lies the power.
I bring this up for two reasons: Firstly, and primarily, because current news events that cannot have escaped anyone’s attention have brought it into sharp focus. And whilst I won’t be drawn into spouting cause and effect rhetoric (this is not the place), it does demonstrate just how incisive the pen can be. Satire, by its very nature, apes and distorts its targets to drive the point home, which is why it sits so (un)comfortably with the cartoonist. Perhaps photography is too ‘real’ to get under the skin in quite the same way. Charlie Hebdo knows this all too well, hence their medium of choice. It’s quick, brutal and it takes no prisoners.
On the exact same day of the attacks in Paris, I was with six artists (amongst others) in a wine bar in central London, revitalising an idea that has been in limbo for a year or two now. It was also my birthday, and fuelled by copious quantities of Hungarian Pinot Noir (the kind that strengthens the resolve the more of it you have), I dared to ask for contributions towards an illustrated book of this here blog. And, no doubt for the same reasons, they were granted. In less than a week, the number of pledges has swelled to sixteen and they’re still coming in, brilliant, disparate and from all over the planet. I am simultaneously humbled and terrified.
As outlined in the first paragraph, in my head I’ve always seen the book as illustrated. Anyone who has ever read the bilge I come up with every week will interpret it differently, and what better way to represent that than a bunch of artists doing their thing. I pray the fact that I am the common glue does not put them off any. My default setting when things start going well is to run for the hills and hide until it’s all over, but not this time, not this time. With an apolitical nod to Charlie, this time I’ll commit. If you believe in something strongly enough, show some balls. And show them I shall.
I will, of course, let you know as and when things start to happen. But, in the meantime, there’s stacks to moan about and I’ve lost a bloody week now. Thanks for that.
A little while back, I wrote a short piece about food on another blog platform when I was attempting to find my voice. It was deliberately confrontational and probably a touch derivative, the main thrust being that food is, in essence, merely petrol to keep us all alive in order to do far greater things than the act of eating itself. This would have been apposite if written in the 1970s (or indeed earlier), when the greater irony may well have been appreciated by frequenters of those appalling trattorias, nascent curry houses and stick-in-the-mud bastions of public school cuisine. But it wasn’t.
Over the last twenty years or so, we have morphed into a nation of foodies. Suddenly, every man and his dog has developed a palate that subtle, it would leave Abigail and her guests floundering like jetsam at one of her soirées. We demand choice and quality as standard (despite having come through the worst recession since WW2) and, more than ever, we require affirmation that our opinions are justified. Why so?
Because our newly-found appreciation of all things gastronomic is nothing more than the emperor’s new clothes. We food snobs, like wine snobs, know deep down that our honed interest in the ephemeral is pretty low down on the pecking order of things that actually matter. Consequently, in much the same way that our current government operates, we surround ourselves with like-minded sycophants who will be the first to forgive us for thinking that it does. So when the bill payer clicks his/her fingers at a chain restaurant minion and they come running, no-one from either camp dares question the validity of the challenge. Money talks, deafeningly when there isn’t much around, and putting an opinionated Herbert to rights is probably not worth losing your job for.
But it is a wafer-thin confidence, to be annihilated absolutely in the not too distant future by global events, the seething aficionados of packaged goods, and common sense. I predict a time when all celebrity chefs are dragged by the hair from their culinary idylls, thrown into the stocks and pelted to death with every last leaf of kale, lollo rosso and organically-farmed, locally-sourced cucumber that inevitably ended its days in the recycling bin. When coffee houses, like televisions in the 1950s, only offer black and white as an option, and if anyone with a manicured moustache demands anything with more than one syllable, they too will be executed on-site in the manner of Charles I and their remains fed to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pigs. And when the beasts of Smithfield, at the point of their bloody departure from this world to the restaurants of St John Street, are given the option to turn the tables, they do so on the sole condition that they feast exclusively on their perpetrators.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the future.
But all things move toward their end
All things move toward their end
On that you can be sure
Nick Cave – Murder Ballads 1996
It’s not, actually. I just thought it might be a bit of post bank holiday fun to sling in some Nick-inspired doom & gloom (‘cos that’s your lot until Christmas). And seeing as I’m on the cusp of handing over the Idle Eye moniker to Nibs, I’ve been balls-deep in searching for a new name: The End is N’eye, Eye Can’t Think of Owt, Best Eye Can Do can all be found residing in the trash at present, and the ole grey matter has been woefully inadequate in delivering a suitable alternative. Traditionally, one would throw it out to the readership with the lure of a massive prize, such as an all expenses paid weekend with the author at a no questions asked hostelry of choice, but I fear this may well set back my cause by approximately a millennium. Two, even. And I don’t have BUPA.
Well, it turns out there are a couple of possibilities on the horizon which I am not at liberty to disclose of yet. Watch this space. When I fire them over to the masterful Dan Laidler and he works his magic, all will be revealed. But the weirdest thing is the freedom. From today I can write whatever I fancy, I just won’t get paid for it. It’s the not all that subtle difference between a fine artist and a graphic designer: The latter has perameters, which the more adventurous can push to the absolute limit and deal with the consequent battle for acceptance. The former has no such constraints. Indeed, he/she can do whatever/go wherever they care to, but they enjoy no back-up and are usually slave to the whims of fashion. Tough one if you don’t acknowledge the mores of the day. Get me? Good.
The second, more horrendous issue here is that of the middle-aged man’s…er…allure on holiday. I have been gearing up for some cheeky time out, starts next week, in which I drive to the south of France to hang out for a few days with my cousin and make the most of the blistering heat down there. And then I read David Aaronovitch’s Opinion in the Times, in which he stated ‘our bodies don’t just fail to be attractive, they are seemingly repulsive’. Slightly worrying, as I had planned a full-tilt mankini outing at dusk in the mountainous Aquitane village of Mauvezin, not only to secure the undying admiration of local ladies, but also potential discounts at any restaurant desperate enough to take me in. I very much doubt David will recant before I leave, but he may be interested to know that I still have a full view of my feet, something my father lost in 1971 and was considerably younger than I am today: Eat my shorts xx
In the early hours of Saturday morning, this ‘ere blog nudged its way up to ten thousand views. In itself, not an overwhelming achievement (stat-hungry scribes would expect to hit this milestone far earlier in their endeavours), but it is the first landmark that carries any significant weight: A hundred is too quick off the bat, a thousand comforting yet insubstantial and any other number lacks proportion and appropriate gravitas. But ten thousand! Well, just look at him there, all fat, smug and reeking of success. No arguing with that, is there?
It’s hard to put into words quite how thrilling it is to reach this point unless you actually write one yourself. No-one close really gets it and if I’m honest, I’ve shied away from the online community, traditionally the first port of support. So it’s mostly been an internal victory, but I did Google ‘ten thousand hits on blog’ and discovered to my surprise that I am not alone. Bloggers all over the globe seem to get out the bunting when they get here, I’m guessing because it demonstrates tenacity rewarded, and there’s gonna be one hell of a slog ahead before the next big one. So I thank you, dear readers, for without you etc…etc…ad nauseam.
Sadly, I must also announce that Nibs and I will be going our separate ways before too long. It’s been a hugely enjoyable ride, and I sincerely hope in some small way my inane witterings have been helpful to him. However, there is only so much one can say remotely, so we both came to the conclusion that perhaps we were cramping each others style. I’m not yet sure of the logistics and pray we don’t end up in a Kramer vs Kramer situation, but we’ll work something out. In the meantime, I shall continue to spew forth the kind of blurb you have come to know and love, only from now on in a wider context. And matters pertaining to the Idle Hour will be found on his website, address in menu above.
Finally, a grovelling apology to the Jelly Zappers: What a difference a week can make! Somewhere inside my tiny mind, the boffins have been frantically trying to make sense of the all-new adjusted vision and I am happy to disclose they have come up trumps. At last. No more headaches, no more soft-focus nonsense and no more moaning. You have my word. The only slight downer is that I’ll still need glasses for the really close-up stuff, but I can live with that. In fact, it could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as anyone who has ever suffered my cooking will testify. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the park to have a peek at some of that there nature. As nature intended. But before I do, maybe another gander at the stats. Ten thousand, eh? Splendid.