Idle Eye 45 : The Sick, the Bad & the Wicked

Language has moved on a bit since I were a lad, and rightly so. It is the moral duty of the next generation to mix things up for their elders to the point where traditional arteries of communication get so furred that we reluctantly hand over the baton and creep off into extinction. Take this weeks title, for example: A couple of decades ago you could be forgiven for thinking all three denoted particular ailments and we would have had the utmost sympathy for those afflicted. Today the same guys are Top of the Pops. Well matrix, actually. However, anyone of a certain age attempting to shore up their own vocabulary with yoofspeak walks a mighty thin line. For they shall be vilified by those they borrow from, ridiculed by their peers and old hat before the week is out. It’s cruel, I know, but that’s the law of the jungle.

The same goes for businesses and politicians trying to cash in on a fleeting youth market. Nothing makes you look more out of touch than when attempting the exact opposite, as I shall demonstrate:


Homemade Soup 5.50
OMG!!! Legendary. Crucial when served steamin’. Meat flava

Our Award-Winning Organic Steak Mince Burger 11.00
Commin’ atcha with fries’n’tha. Totes amazeballs

Wild Mushroom, Tarragon and Pea Risotto with Parmesan and Rocket 11.00
Proper nang gang’o’veg, bluds

Callebaut Chocolate Brownie w/ Organic Vanilla Ice Cream 5.00
Frigid, but ice is nice

And so on. Shrewd oldies should never kowtow to the shifting sands of youth patois because, as Stewart Lee would say, it’s not for you. Its very purpose is to keep you at bay, and should you and your cronies at Bletchley Park ever manage to hack your way in, the rules will change quicker than Usain Bolt’s lady count in Stratford. Nota bene, Mr Cameron, nota bene.

I browsed my young niece’s Facebook page the other day. Not in a weird way, honest, but she’s just back from Croatia & I thought I’d see how she got on. Turns out she’s all gravy, well sick and had an epic keen one, oh yeeee boii. Which is important, because if she thought anyone over 25 had a clue what she was on about, she probably wouldn’t be. I mean, have. Whatever. And the very fact that an old git like myself can access the online exploits of todays teenagers may well have something to do with Mark Zuckerberg’s downward slide on the stock exchange. When the exclusive goes global, the cool factor goes out of the window and if you happen to be under 25, that’s all that matters. Innit?

Fortunately for us seniors, there is one trick left up our collective sleeve. One last defiant roar before we shuffle off this mortal coil. Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold:

“What’s Grandpa saying, mum?”

“I’m not sure, dear. Just leave him to it.”

Idle Eye 27 : The Life Aquatic

Our weather, whether we like it or not, is the great leveller. Just as we were throwing sprinklers into deep storage and preparing to watch our green and pleasant land morph into parchment, the heavens opened and did their traditional holiday middle-finger salute for the full term. And that, of course, is how it should be. Lulled into a false sense of security by March’s clement efforts, we needed to be knocked into place by forces we have no control over whatsoever lest, God forbid, grown men whipped out the shorts and their womenfolk allowed it. In public.

Like the metaphoric horse, your average Brit is inexplicably drawn to water at this time of year. Whether it be heading towards it at 6mph on a snarled artery of choice or watching the educated elite slug it out on the Thames, we sure like it wet. So hats off then to plucky Aussie Trenton Oldfield, coming as he does from climes more temperate than our own, for stripping off and mucking in at this year’s Boat Race. Never mind the fact he was a bit miffed about, er, something or another: The man got wet and that’s all that matters. Welcome, Trenton: Now, deal with the rest of the year.

Consequently, it’s no surprise that Race Weekend is the busiest of the year for most pubs on the main drag and the Idle Hour, conveniently located a coxswain’s piddle from the river, is no different. So when all hope of fleshy exposure is dashed against the cruel rocks of climate, the good folk of Barnes head indoors for a restorative sharpener and watch the hardy on the idiot’s lantern. Great for business but staff are run off their feet, tempers fray as service struggles to meet demand and, at the end of play, everyone’s as shagged as the rowers (ahem). Good thing we’ve got our internationally renowned sense of humour to pull us through, eh? And as we down those optimistic Pimmses and fancy French rosés , we learn to put aside our grievances and laugh at the absurdities of life instead of having a pop or flinging ourselves into the nearest river in disgust. It may not have the desired impact but it’s a lot more fun. Damn straight.

The more intrepid Bank Holiday reader may be interested in this: I note that 100 years on, fans of failed liner Titanic are off to pay homage to Mr Cameron somewhere deep in the Atlantic. For somewhere between $4,445 and $9,520 per person. Now, call me old-fashioned but this is devotion to the cause way above and beyond: A simple heads-up on Twitter seems to suffice for most politicians and the monies spared could go some way to improving security at public events, particularly in this our Olympic year. It’s not rocket science. I wonder sometimes, I really do. Perhaps all that water’s made them soft in the head..

Idle Eye 26 : The Last Order

What a shame. The past seven days have thrown up more blog fodder than usual as the hapless pilots of our land have steered us into Pastygate, Granny Taxgrab, a phantom fuel crisis and the splendidly-monikered Peter Cruddas taking bungs for No.10 access. But, if you will forgive me, this week I’d like to focus on something a little closer to home. The ill-conceived, boozed-up tripe you have come to know and love will be back next week: You have my word.

Very sadly, friday saw the last day of trading at Idle Hour Barons Court. It was a day I know Nibs was dreading, not merely because it was the end of an era, but also because all the hope, energy and love he put into making it look and feel so special was scythed down into administration, arbitration and all those other things beginning with ‘a’ that, by their very nature, are the polar opposite of soul. And, let’s face it, soul is what you need in spades to get these things off the ground in the first place.

I’m feeling for my little bro right now. In the ’90’s I watched him blossom after a prolonged training period in America, where he learned the hard way how to marry personable service with efficiency. After a few minor hiccups over here he poured everything he had into Idle Hour Barnes, which he turned around from being a grimy backwatering hole to a much-loved local hub. And despite fierce competition (never a bad thing actually, sharpens the resolve) it remains more popular than ever to this day. Not one to rest on his laurels, he branched out on more than one occasion: Putney, Henley-on-Thames and finally Barons Court. All way better than your average gastropub but the problem they shared is that there is only one Nibs. I’m trying not to be mawkish here but the facts speak for themselves: Dilute the talent and the most remote suffers. It’s a brutal truth, made worse when you consider the human cost of loyal staff, goodwill of investors etc.etc..

So, now he’s back down to what he does best under one roof and my gut tells me it will soar. As you may have read elsewhere in this shower of drivel, there will be an extension in place by the end of the summer, a spanking new website, some stunning new wines on offer and, best of all, he’ll be there to give it 100%. And, on a more personal level: Hang in there, bro. You’ll bounce back, you always do. And I’ll keep on writing the bollocks. It’s what I do.

Goodbye Barons Court. You were a magnificent ideal. You had the courage to aim for the stars against all the odds and in your short time you gave a lot of people something to remember. And like so many of the great romantics you died beautiful and you died young. Now, upwards and onwards…

Idle Eye 11 : The Voice of Reason

It’s that time of year when the jolly fat man, flushed from the effort of his exertions, comes for his annual handout and leaves you to clear up the mess. Sounds familiar? Yes, it’s that time again and don’t we all love it? I refer to the bankers’ bonus, of course, and the endless discussion thereof, from the red tops to Radio 4, from white van interiors to Hampstead tearooms it seems we cannot be rid of someone, somewhere, who needs to vent their spleen. And we, the Great British Public, absolutely lap it up. In these austere times when, Heaven forbid, we have to share bathwater, meals and the rest with our nearest and dearest, there’s nothing we like better than donning the gloves and having a good old-fashioned wallop at the City.

‘I think it’s disgusting, immoral and it should be illegal’ – A woman I just made up, the streets, yesterday.

‘We didn’t work our whole lives to be lied to and robbed at the end. Is this the right march?’ – A Public Sector worker, Whitehall, yesterday.

‘Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?’ – Simon Le Bon, a yacht, the Eighties.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m supposed to be a vegetarian, lily-livered Lefty, right? What in God’s name am I doing pandering to these monsters, these harbingers of misery who put profit before people, bonuses before benevolence and continue to take, take, take as we mere mortals continue to reimburse their errors? Well, my friends, think on: Remember when ‘Call Me Dave’ campaigned vehemently for us all to hug a hoodie? Well, I took something on board that day. I learned that perhaps we should learn to embrace the unknown instead of taking a shot at it like the great collector and public benefactor Frederick John Horniman did when he first came across a walrus:

Stooge:  Sir, something stirs there on yonder iceberg. He is a fantastical creature, long of tooth and great of hair. And I do believe he is something of which we have never seen the like.


Horniman:  Put him in the bag with the others, Bobbins.

So bankers, hear my cry! I come to you in peace, I bear you no ill will. All I ask is, well, now you’ve got more in your Armani pocket than I shall earn in a lifetime, that you spend it wisely. And it is narratively convenient that I happen to know just such a place for you to do so. Cross the Thames if you have to. Charter your private jets in the direction of SW13 and W6. Spend the wad of our King Mervyn here today and throughout the Christmas period. And do not spare the rod! The Idle Hour will cater for your every need, your whims, your festive fantasies. And with such style and finesse that you will wonder why you ever wasted your nights at Dirty Dicks. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll let me off.

Idle Eye 6 : The Manifesto

As the long winter nights draw in and Call Me Dave’s austerity measures begin to bite, you’re probably wondering, like me, how the disaffected rural peasants of pre-Revolution France managed to stay afloat when hard times came a-knocking. Of course you are. Well, the answer is two-fold: You cross-subsidised, which loosely meant getting another job, such as rat-catching, ash-collecting for laundry purposes, or you became a tétaire (my particular favourite), an astonishing job for the boys which involved sucking mothers’ breasts to start the flow of milk. Probably a long queue at the Town Hall for that one.

Alternatively you did nothing. Nothing at all for months and months, and there was no shame in this: Men and women literally curled up together like gerbils in squalid basements throughout the land for up to fifteen hours a day, and by doing so kept warm and lowered their metabolisms dramatically, thereby reducing the need for food which was in scant supply. In short, it was survival by hibernation.

‘All very interesting’, I hear you thinking, ‘but what has this got to do with the Idle Hour?’ Well, funny you should ask. You see, we can learn a lot from our French friends of yesteryear, but before you cover yourselves in dung and head for the cellar, think on this:

The word ‘Idle’ has long been associated with sloth, from louche dandy fops to Wayne and Waynetta, and yet if we dig a little deeper we find that to be idle was a pragmatic form of self-preservation; a temporary shut-down in preparation for the physical working months ahead. These are the very qualities Nibs had in mind when IH Barnes was born ten years ago, and for his part, self-preservation seems to have worked very nicely, thank you. For my own, I can vouch for the exact same from the perspective of my teenage exchange year in the town of Foix, just north of the Pyrenees, when I shared a room with a goat in lieu of central heating. This is not one word of a lie (unlike most of this blog), and when the time came for me to return to the UK, I wept like a girl for that goat. As she did for me.

So perhaps it’s high time we reclaimed the word in much the same way that we did with the Union Jack from the Far Right. Come on, Hammersmith and Fulham! Our ancestors (Johnny Foreigner actually, but work with me on this) didn’t sleep together in their own filth for hundreds of years for you to do nothing. Time has come for you to stand up with your pint of Harveys and say:

‘I’m idle and proud of it! Tomorrow may be another day but there’s just enough of this one left for me to raise a glass to Wills and Kate, to Nibs and all who sail with him, but most of all to those foreign types who did bugger all and got us where we are today. God save the King!’

Idle Eye 2 : The Brief

Hello again. Last one didn’t put you off then? Excellent, let’s see what I can do with this..

It’s 2.45pm & I’m in bed, sick with worry at the economy, poor Cheryl and whether the Bullingdon Club can claw back a few quid from the riots when the phone goes. It’s that Stephen, formerly my younger brother, latterly my employer and from this moment on known as His Nibs.

‘You up yet? I’ve got a job for you’ quoth Nibs. I attempt an extraordinary high pitched wail from the back of my epiglottis as if to emphasise my plight & consequent unavailability for the position.

‘Put the cat out, this is important’ he goes, so reluctantly I remove both hands from my pyjamas and hit the loudspeaker button. He’s banging on and on about something to do with British Food Fortnight and tying it in with the grub he’s going to be giving you all to celebrate the wonderful diversity and rich range of produce our little country can muster when the pressure’s on. I look over at my bedside tray, lovingly prepared by my good self for emergencies such as these :

  1. Bombay Bad Boy
  2. Bombay Bad Boy (backup)
  3. Large tube of Pringles (Chilean Miner Industrial Cheese/Dorset Naga flavour)
  4. Haribo Fangtastics (family bag)
  5. 2009 Lissac Saint-Emilion Château Blanchon (1500 ml)
  6. Noilly Prat (stolen hotel miniature)

‘I’m your man!’ I say, assuming the mantle of responsibility. The phone goes dead and suddenly I’ve got a gig to do. So then, British food. Last time I had some, think it was them Jerusalem artichokes, I had to invest in a new set of guy ropes for the duvet. Probably not what the sophisticated clientele of the Idle Hour eateries needs know about. Hmmm. I’m drawing blanks but then I remember : The Interweb. Just the thing for the rookie reporter. I crank up my pre-(Boer) war computer and hours later she springs into life. Good Lord, it’s teeming with stuff I can nick. Back of the net! Hang about, what’s this..?

Our British Food Fortnight Bubble and Squeak pie sold out and we were only halfway through lunch” Debbie King, University of Brighton.

Halfway through lunch? HALFWAY THROUGH LUNCH??? Debbie, you’re not meant to eat it, are you? You’re supposed to SELL the bloody stuff. It’s a bit like your local drug dealer saying ‘Sorry mate, I’ve just smoked half your order but I tell you what : I’ll give you a huge piece of Brighton-made Bubble and Squeak pie to make it up to you. No extra charge. Innit.” Hold up, here’s another :

“St Pancras’s British Food Fortnight events proved really popular” Dominique Didinal, St Pancras International Railway.

Dominique, oh Dominique, you’re not a frequent user of the iron highway, are you? If you were, you would not be IN THE LEAST SURPRISED by this. Anyone, who has at any time had to steady themselves between a Belgian backpacker and the unisex lavs, burrowing their way in the vague direction of the buffet car like Amundsen towards the North Pole, only to discover the only available sustenance is a Victorian pig’s trotter torpedo and a 1951 Festival of Britain cola would be grateful for just about ANYTHING else over British Food Fortnight. Larks gizzards? Bring ‘em on…

But I jest. Of course I do. Pop on over to The Idle Hour and see what Nibs has got for you. You’ll be surprised. And if there’s anything remotely resembling railway fodder or Brighton pies you can help yourselves to something off my tray : You have my word..