Idle Eye 98 : The Disease of Kings

Once again, the heralding in of another year walks hand in hand with the health and fitness websites falling over themselves to help us improve our bedroom skills. Quite why anyone wishes to get down and dirty in this particular field (at a time when one’s most basic of motor skills are generally in question) is anyone’s guess, but there you have it. And besides, any cursory glance at the headlines would suggest the exact opposite is more appropriate if you happen to be hirsute, silver-topped and off the telly in the 70s.

As for myself, I have attempted to keep my galloping libido at bay with industrial quantities of NZ Marlborough Pinot Noir and a spattering of domestic chores which offer the minimum potential for sexual confusion (it is no coincidence that the more enthusiastic power tool adopter also enjoys wearing those front-weighted accessory belts). And it seems to be working: I’ve yet to have a pop at a Woman’s Hour announcer live on air, elope to France with a teenager or spend any longer than is absolutely necessary in the small room with a copy of Vogue. In fact, the only discernible improvement in the bedroom at present is a new bookshelf – I’m doing my bit.

Imagine my dismay then, when I switched on R4 only to discover that the onerous regime I have responsibly maintained will almost certainly give me gout. Yep, gout! It’s the latest shock malady to do the rounds, brought on by copious consumption of red wine, a diet rich in purines and the utter rejection of Catholicism as sole legitimate sovereign. And apparently it’s heading my way if I fail to rein in my eating and drinking habits. But I’m getting mixed messages here:

Do they want me to strut about like Cock o’ the South, terrifying the ladies of London as they run for cover? Or do I willingly infect myself with the disease of kings in order to prevent such a horror? What are my options? Will I remain handsome? How do goats make cheese?

Fortunately for everyone, the BMJ has found if not a solution, a patch. It seems that a liberal intake of cherries can reduce the risk of gout attacks by up to 35%. Which is a relief. Only thing is, they also enhance the production of dopamine which means I’ll have to be kept indoors, probably under lock and key, until my ardour is sufficiently dampened. It’s a vicious circle:

You rut too much therefore you drink too much therefore you get the gout therefore you eat the cherries therefore you rut too much.

You’d think someone in a lab coat would have culled the problem at source, wouldn’t you? Or that a Cupertino pre-teen would have an app for it by now. But until they do, I shall continue to drink the good fight in the interests of science and common decency. And my feet can sort themselves out when the time comes.

Idle Eye 75 : The Cost Company

So anyway, Nibs and I are burning down the M4 at 121mph (on the way back from yet another trip to Wales), when he drops it in that we have to make a slight detour. Oh no, I’m thinking, is it a special lady friend? Or perhaps the steed needs a quick pit stop? Either of which will add a significant portion of gooseberry to my day. But, as it turns out, it was neither. As we approached Reading, the car re-orbited and we snaked our way through faceless, municipal landscaped roundabouts and grounded ourselves at the trolley park of what appeared to be yet another temple of worship to consumer greed. Every hackle that hadn’t already been irreversibly müllered by alcohol immediately rose up, but my fears were shortly to be assuaged: This was different. This was the future.

Have you ever been to one of these places? These vast cathedrals of corrugated aluminium that house your every culinary peccadillo and a few more besides? And for stupid money, as long as you’ve got an outhouse or live inside an Escher print? Well neither had I, but the minute I walked through the door they had me by the balls. For a start, right there in the foyer, they had delicious Apple stuff which had me salivating like a Cupertino campus nerd, but then as we crossed into widescreen an astonishing array of palleted goods, piled as high as the eye can feasibly take in, burst into ocular wonder. Over there on the left were thousands of discounted cases of NZ Marlborough Pinot Noir, and yet there on the right were more triple packs of Calvin Klein underpants than you could shake a stick at.

But this was just for starters: Mountains of Haribo, rivers of tequila and more snout than Strangeways all beckoned with their irresistible charms. And, in case you weren’t yet up to speed, helpful smiley staff clad in red and white were all there to assist with their immaculate speed-of-light timing of which I took full advantage:

‘Hello, could you help? I’m trying to figure out the sheet 2 wipe ratio saving I could make from your Syrian Red Cross Convenience industrial strength loo rolls?’

‘Certainly, Sir! Our statistics, based on an amalgam of the global meridian and the sheet 2 wipe average in your area suggest that you’ll be making a saving of approximately 7.2 pence per go. You have a nice day now.’

These guys were so on it I nearly wept. And, as Nibs and I swept through checkout, laden with a cargo utterly denied to those outside the club, I felt it necessary to fall to my knees and beg my own brother to sign me up. Which, bless him, he did, after making me watch him consume a hot dog and a litre of fizzy pop at £1.45 from the in-store café. Vile but necessary, as them French Resistance chicks would have said.