Idle Eye 134 : The New Kids

The heralding in of a new year traditionally allows the festivity-weary reveller to discard the old (a possible exception being the antiquities dealer), whilst simultaneously embracing all that is new, untried, untested and, to be frank, still in shorts. On this I beg to differ, particularly with regard to the contentious subject of foodstuffs. The last couple of weeks have seen all manner of horrors cross the threshold, charge up the stairs and vie for pole position in a kitchen already bulging with the decomposing stalwarts of previous months, quietly biding their time with patience, good grace and a certain dignity. The futility of their plight has not been lost on me and my heart goes out to them.

For example, a brattish bunch of dates muscled their way in the other day, flashing their knickers from inside a Taste the Difference box. And, not content with their star placement in front of the wine emporium, they demanded to be addressed as MEDJOOL DATES, all vulgar capitals and a Best Before date that had the longer-term residents wincing. The bravado of the wretched things was beyond belief, particularly as, on closer inspection, they bore a strong resemblance to a miserable collection of sun-dried testicles in captivity. I note wryly as I write this that they remain unopened and have started sucking up to the shallots.

Then there is the not inconsiderable issue of the cheese cracker. For years, we have been content with the only after-dinner companion wafer that has ever mattered: The Carr’s Table Water Biscuit. Fashioned in Carlisle for quality and durability, the CTWB has more than proven its worth and has no need whatsoever to jump about in fancy packaging. In fact, the bland blue/black box instills in us a sense of consumer confidence the new kids can only dream of. But still they come: Thomas J Fudge (with his faux-Victorian offerings and endless chummy waffle), the more austere Fine English Cheese Co (who put on a good show but are ultimately undone by a packshot of the product, gasping for breath from beneath a monstrous slab of Red Leicester), and many, many more too risible to mention here.

What these culinary contenders to the kitchen throne seem to have forgotten (or are simply to naive to comprehend) is that their time will also come, and the bitter pill they will be forced to swallow is that of humility. Either that, or suffer the slings and arrows of the green bin which will be only too happy to see them out. For there is no more pitiful a sight than seasonal goods preening themselves like they’re the cat’s pyjamas when everyone else in the room can see them for what they really are: Has-beens, like ex-footballers with a boutique restaurant or ex-rockers with a ponytail.

So, in light of the above, my lunch today will come from a tin containing one of fifty-seven varieties. It’s my small way of saying thanks for being right there at the back, going nowhere.

Idle Eye 114 : The Tyranny of Sex

One of the (very few) advantages of getting on a bit is that you are no longer governed by the incessant demands of your wretched, truculent body. Back in the day, you could be contentedly getting on with your life with a hobby of your choice (let’s say, for argument’s sake, gardening) and the next thing you know, an inappropriate stamen is frantically transmitting lewd signals to the pathetic pink pudding between your ears, which in turn sends an emergency klaxon to the privates which instantly shuts off the master logic valve, leaving you rudderlessly navigating your way to an inevitably messy conclusion. You have no say in this. You are putty in the hands of a force deliberately cooked up by nature to humiliate you at all costs. This will pass, trust me.

You know you’ve come through the cloud layer and are approaching terra firma when you begin to consider options:

“Yes, I could bust a blood vessel in a locked room upstairs in broad daylight at my eldest son’s graduation party, or I could eat my own body weight in artisan cheese, neck a couple of bottles of Waitrose top shelfers and pass out on the sofa as his mates search underneath me for a cab company flyer.”

This, although far from perfect, at least suggests that something is seeping through to the mainframe. But don’t get out of your prams, there’s still a long way to go.

To be fair, it does take a while for the pointless juices your reproductive system will insist on brewing, to simmer down enough for you to make an educated decision over what exactly to do about them. Over-compensation in the alcohol department is statistically a popular choice, as temporary stasis is infinitely preferable to the half-meant apologies one is forced to make the morning after whatever it was you did when you were slavering like a bull. Saga Magazine understands this implicitly, which is why they kindly start sending you a bewildering gadgets catalogue not long after your fiftieth birthday, championing electronic butter dishes and secure solutions to keep your soap dry. By the time you’ve worked out exactly what you’re meant to do with the bloody things, any urges you may once have been slave to in your prime will be long gone. It is a stroke of marketing genius.

Based on the above, my advice to the young people is this: By all means, persevere with that sexting/Tinder/anti-social networking thing you all seem to like. It’s just harmless fun and your body won’t know the difference between this and the real thing. And the salient point is that it serves as a useful segue between the tyranny of sex and liberation thereof you have yet to experience. Cyberfilth is the only working prophylactic you will ever need, protecting you from your revolting selves 24/7. Embrace it. The alternatives are far, far worse.

Idle Eye 14 : The Bagging Area

Let’s talk cheese. Why the hell not? It’s a staple. Good, honest fare made by farmers and Blur and consumed in quantity by the French, West Country types and yours truly. Soft on the palate and hard on arteries, this formidable foodstuff has done the rounds for centuries and is showing no signs of letting up any time soon. So it came as no small surprise to learn that sleb chef Anthony Worrall Thompson has sullied the reputation of our dairy doyen by popping into Tesco in Henley-on-Thames and nicking it. For Heaven’s sake man, get a grip! Now, clearly Tony feels the same about the Empire of Evil as I do but really, cheese and discounted coleslaw? My heart actually bleeds for the guy so I thought I’d use my Bro-given platform to offer him a little assistance for the future:

  • First rule of shoplifting: Always shoot above your status. There’s very little point in doing time for sandwich fillings, no matter how much quality bubbly you wash them down with.
  • Second rule of shoplifting: Never admit culpability. Ever. Even if they find you with a boot full of hooky lager and an empty petrol tank, you hold your head up high and come on all Penelope Keith. It’s the British way. None of this ‘Oooh sorry, I’m a klepto, I’ll make amends’ crap, it’s balls out, chest in or bust. Either that or think very hard about the products you have stolen and seek culinary advice. From a celebrity chef, perhaps?

Speaking of cheeses, Nibs brought over a selection from the Idle Hour last week. You know the sort of thing, a NASA-funded one that removes the roof of your mouth, another so creamy it should be ‘R’ rated, some blue, some borrowed etc.. And, it must be said, they were outstanding. All of them. In case you’re wondering, yes, the Alex James one made an appearance, woo hoo! It’s called ‘Blue Monday’ for all you Eighties throwbacks out there, it’s made in Kingham, Oxfordshire and apparently it’s eye-wateringly expensive. Of course it is: The man drank a million quids worth of champagne in three years, he’s got to claw it back somehow.

Hang about, I’ve just come up with a solution. No win, no fee, and it works like this: Tony, you load up the Bentley with the three crates of champers you actually paid for and head over to Alex’s in Kingham (it’s not far from your manor, I checked on Google Maps). In exchange for these, Alex will donate as much Blue Monday as he can squeeze into the boot and/or passenger footwells because he laaavs abitavit! (BTW first check whether he’ll bung in a bit of cheap slaw on the side). Then, when you’ve sorted your respective addictions, head on over to the Idle Hour for a conciliatory slap-up where Nibs will show you both how it’s done proper.

Honestly, I blame the parents.