Idle Eye 78 : The Underhamster

Call me old-fashioned, but nothing signifies the blossoming of summer quite as much as a massive jug of Nib’s enhanced Pimms and the Brockwell Park Dog Show. Preferably both. In that order. Particularly as this year’s theme was Space Aliens, and there is nothing man’s best friend enjoys more than being forcibly dressed in Lycra to resemble Princess Leia and then paraded around a circle in 31° heat to an audience of inappropriately-clad humans. Really, they absolutely love it. And so do the dogs.

Now, I’ll be straight with you. I’ve long been pretty miffed with this blanket adoration of the canine. The little prima donnas have always benefited from the lion’s share of love, not only in person but also online, in print and in reputation. And yet their long-serving cousin, the hamster, has had to be content with any bullshit leftover scraps he can muster. It’s just not right. Even his minority status has been grammatically marginalised by the heavyweights (See title: I’m redressing the balance).

So anyway, there I am underneath the blistering sun like a low-rent George Smiley, checking out the competition on behalf of the small and furries, when I turn to the adoring crowd for purposes of reportage…

to be honest, i’m also getting a bit worried about shoehorning dogs and hamsters in with the pub, but i’m working on the presumption that you’ll all be off your tits on idle hour pink wine and you won’t really give a toss

…and, immaculately-groomed, sweat-immune ladies aside, I was tsunamied by Man in Summer doing what he does best: Wearing shorts without a top. Why does he do this? All those grotesque folds of flesh cascading over inexplicably long short trousers, as if to demurely protect the public from a full assault of thigh whilst the elephant in the room avalanches down from above. As I said earlier, it’s just not right.

However, there was an element of underhamster here which I totally approve of. Mercifully free of Posh and her vile ilk, this peculiarly British sideshow fully embraced the very antithesis of fashion and came out smiling. In laymans terms, it was a bit shit but that’s what we loved about it. Dog’s Got Talent, Prettiest Bitch, Best Puppy, Golden Oldies, what’s not to like? And the Public Address system was pure British Rail circa 1975, all feedback and sibilance that made us teary-eyed with nostalgia. Even the Mayor was there with his absurd gold chain and straw boater, giving out certificates and treats to anything with four legs and a pulse. Class.

remember last week when i said i’d do a shameless advert for the pub amongst all the dog stuff? and i promised i’d make it all tie in? well, i cocked up, so could you do me a favour? just tell nibs you really liked the dog blog and i’ll buy you a large glass of one of his responsibly-sourced biodynamic wines. cheers xx

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 63 : The Recyclist

Anyone out there that has built up a photofit of your humble author almost certainly would not have me down as a natural when it comes to all things cycling. And you’d be bang on the money, to be fair: the booze-sodden carcass I carry around with me is probably best suited to more sedentary activities such as bee-keeping or G4S security. So imagine my surprise when the exact same bicycle I’d had stolen in 2004 appeared in my eBay search field the other day. In Huddersfield, no less. And despite my advancing years and appalling loss of flexibility in the lumbar region, I decided it was to be mine. Which indeed it was: Huzzah!

Now, if it hasn’t already come to your attention, a lot has changed since 2004. Gone are the days when you could rock up at your local bike shop, stick your fag out in the plant pot outside and make your purchase without a hint of embarrassment about jeans being tucked into socks. Not any more. Bike shops aren’t even called bike shops. They are Performance Centres, where every nuance of your basic humanity is considered a weakness, to be overcome with specialist assistance from a Wiggly Braggins-a-like, employed to seek out your achilles heel and exploit it ruthlessly. Sore knees? Incorrectly fitted cleats. Sore arse? Spend £120+ and we’ll sort it. And don’t get me started on bad gash…

Anyway, I turned up at one of these places a couple of days ago, looking like the boy from the Hovis ads with added alcohol. Call me naive, but I thought it would be a quick in/out affair from which I’d come away with some fancy kit that would get the ladies clucking at work. Far from it. As I pushed my new steed through the door, wheezing with exhaustion from the 0.3 mile trek, a young lady whisked it away and thrust it into a vertical rack. As mild panic set in, I became aware of an even younger man, pedaling as if his life depended on it on some kind of vast treadmill, in front of which was a video screen displaying French byroads which he was virtually navigating. So distracted was I by all of this, I failed to notice the craggy Australian in bulging shorts looming ominously in front of me, there to help me get the most from my cycling experience. Clearly I was a curio to him (as he was to me) and for a brief while we stood there, locked into our very own Bateman moment.

I cracked first. Of course I did. Making a shoddy excuse, I shot out of the premises and onto terra firma. No sideburns, no kit, but at least some semblance of dignity. For no matter how hard they try, I shall never yield to the tyranny of Lycra. Never. And if I look a bit crap on the road, so be it.

Idle Eye 42 : The End of the Affair

So, how y’all coping then? Spent? Deflated? Blaming the Met Office for the traditional wet patch that came just after? Thought so. And to be fair, it is kind of strange right now if you happen to be a Lahndan resident riding out the aftermath of a cultural event that was, against all odds, rather, er… good, actually. Let’s forget about the bill, Boris and the Bonkers song for a bit (and the right royal slagging I gave ‘em a couple of weeks ago), the London 2012 Olympics (can I say that now, LOGOG?) were quite a hoot, no? And despite not having made it to one single event, I managed to bask in the shared vibe a little and, God forbid, I even allowed a tad of sport to beam through the idiot’s lantern indoors: Now that’s progress.

I’m not going to sound off too hard with football comparisons as I’ve done it elsewhere (as has every columnist in the land, it seems), but I do sincerely hope the overpaid muddied oafs learn a few lessons from the last couple of weeks. Excellence, commitment and humility in both defeat and victory, for example. And when it came to the old in-out in-out, apparently rife in the Village, we were spared the potato-faced Neanderthals grovelling publicly to their equally vile WAGS having been caught in flagrante delicto with a couple of headline-hungry models up to their eyeballs in Class A. No, they did it all with style and it felt okay to be patriotic for the first time since God knows when, I don’t recall.

I even managed to coax young Nibs and his good lady out from his warren for the first time in eons for the closing ceremony thing. Not the one in the stadium, mind, that would have been vulgar beyond language and we would have had to watch Brian May and the Spice Girls being shite. No, we caught Blur, the Specials, New Order and the magnificent Bombay Bicycle Club in the throne contender that was Hyde Park, and they delivered. Admittedly, I was six sheets to the wind on corporate lager (£5 a pop) but sometimes you just have to bin your politics and get on with it. And if anyone cares to question the fact that three out of the four fall neatly under DadRock, I would ask you to just try ‘em and see. The Specials in particular: An inspired choice, reflecting all that is good right now (and then) about multicultural Britain and the perfect musical mirror to what was happening further east. I never thought I’d say this but BT, I salute you.

But now the lights are out and curtains closed as the capital wakes to a new dawn of massive forthcoming rail hikes, euro uncertainty and George Osborne. No, the horrors never went away, kids, they just hid for a bit under the rings: Bummer…

 

Idle Eye 13 : The Resolutions

I’d like to start off 2012 with an apology and then we’ll get down to business. It seems that one or two of you were deeply affronted by the insinuation made on the Cast & Crew page that Nibs’ and my own dear mother is somehow affiliated with the Nazi party. On reflection, I have come to the conclusion that this may not be the case (despite some damning evidence to the contrary I am legally bound not to disclose) and I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused. So much so that I spent the week after Christmas tracking down the only surviving member of the Waffen-SS, one Herr Josef Ümlaut, to make the apology in person. I am, and have always been, a gentleman.

So where were we? Ah yes, 2012. Well, we all enjoyed the fireworks (thanks, Boris) and we’ll all be working just that little bit harder to pay them off, right? But never mind that, it’s the Olympics, innit! THE OLYMPICS!!! Sponsored by health and efficiency magnates Coke and MacDonalds and mascotted by cuddly cyclopses Wenlock and Mandeville. Brilliant! I don’t know about you but I am going to be glued to my set for weeks, swilling official fizzy pop and burgers until I am fit enough to hound down one of those monocular LOCOG lackeys and lance it with a javelin. There, I said it. Now, who else can I offend this week? C’mon Seb, have a pop.

I also promised Nibs that I would make this blog more Idle Hour-centric in one of my less rational, claret-sodden moments of weakness. Well, it was New Year and I was welled up with the mucus of human kindness. So we discussed characters we could slowly introduce that, in time, you will all become familiar with, based on your favourite pubs’ staff, locals and such. It was a drawn-out process but we got there in the end. So, without any further ado, I would like to introduce you all to Timmy:

You:  Hello Timmy!

Timmy:  Meow.

You:  TimmyTimmyTimmyTimmy!

Timmy:  Meow.

Obviously, over time, Timmy’s inherent qualities will manifest themselves on the page and her (sic) antics will become increasingly unlikely and hilarious, but first I have to get to know the little gal and this far in it’s all she’s given me. However, I think you can already tell she’s got the X-factor and I’ll be exploiting this ruthlessly as you might imagine.

Lastly, but by no means leastly, I’d like to thank you all for reading this nonsense over the past few months. Perhaps if you stick with it, you will notice a maturity of style and keen wit develop as the weeks go on, and perhaps, in an ideal world, you will meet Giles Coren in a fancy restaurant he is being paid to eat in and beg him to review Nibs’ tiny but perfectly formed establishment. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Oh, and Happy New Year.