Idle Eye 67 : The Breastplate of Righteousness

Regular readers of this swill will implicitly understand why I have maintained a dignified silence for the past couple of weeks. It’s not often we get a news story that doesn’t have to be collagened to fuck to make palatable reading in the dailies, and since Monday last the press have seized their quarry and run it ragged. As has every blogger/columnist/social media outlet in the land. And the outcome has been not only predictable but also saturated to the point of nausea. Which is a shame, because it’s always fun to pitch in with your tuppence-worth if you can string a line of thought together on the keys, but these days you have to get in there quick: Leave it five seconds and you will be consigned to the dustbin of irrelevance ‘cos them pesky kids will be in there before you’ve even put your teeth in.

So, not being as agile as I once was, I had the good sense to leave the mewling and puking to the heavyweights, and took great pleasure in watching the ensuing bunfight from the sidelines. Oh yes! I could have dredged up my Lefty credentials as I spent three years in Sheffield being wheeled out to marches in support of miners throughout the white heat of Thatchers’ second term, but these would have turned to dust when it came out I was actually from Surrey and on a full grant. Understandably, I kept schtum about this at the time.

Anyway, I decided to listen to the R4 coverage of the funeral which allowed me the illicit thrill of being the enemy within, to coin one of hers. And, if I’m honest, I was a tad moved by the whole pomp of the thing as I was, despite myself, by the Jubilee and the Olympics. But then young Amanda T pitched in with her biblical passage (in your baskets, euphemism fans) and the whole shooting match came crashing down like a house of cards. What, in Baby Jesus’s name, has the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ got to do with anything? Yes, I know it’s a quote, but I fail to see how Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (whoever they were) makes a suitable analogy for a nation trawling the wake of a controversial leader’s legacy. I seem to remember a certain J Aitken brandishing the ‘sword of truth’ speech when he needed a touch of gravitas, and look where that got him.

Now, I’m going to have to tread carefully here: Check out Nibs’s Twitter feed down there on the right and you’ll see why. And apart from anything else, I have to be seen as politically non-partisan yet a sworn devotee to the IH cause. Which, of course, I am. And yet not. So let’s strike up a deal: You drink and eat the stuff that keeps me in work, and I’ll tone it down a bit. Okay? It’s what she would have wanted…

Idle Eye 40 : The Shady Side of Forty

Some of you may have noticed that I got a bit carried away of late, what with that Wimbledon, the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. It’s understandable, (I need to vent the ole spleen from time to time), but it’s not exactly what Nibs shells out for on a weekly basis. So, in the interests of fair play, I have decided to big up his little boozer in the style of another cultural phenomenon currently doing the rounds. Strap yourselves in, literature lovers, this week the Eye gets down and dirty with the unspeakable smut known in smart circles as ‘Pubby Porn’ (those of you of a weaker disposition may prefer to click away here):

Innocent Young Barmaid : Oooh, Mr Nibs! I’ve never worked in a pub before. And I’m so young and innocent, maybe you could show me how you pull that massive pump of yours so I can give all of your loyal customers the satisfaction they so rightly deserve.

Nibs : Yes, it is a magnificent beast, to be sure. And I am a masterful landlord, strong, handsome and yet curiously aloof. But just this once I shall assist you in your endeavours after which you’re on your own, love. Now, grasp the shaft with all those tiny, innocent fingers and pull down slowly until all that lovely frothy stuff comes out into the glass.

IYB : Oh my! As a young, innocent woman I can honestly say that your masterful teaching has unleashed my inner goddess. Never have I felt so vulnerable and yet so empowered. And still young and innocent.

Nibs : Hold up, I haven’t shown you how to unload the dishwasher yet.

IYB : Mr Nibs! No-one has ever taken me to such places. It’s making me go all funny down there.

Nibs : Ok, we’ll do the cellar next if you want. Now, we get most of our deliveries in through the rear. Is that something you’re familiar with?

IYB : Well, not exactly, but I’d be more than happy to learn. What with me being so young and innocent, like.

Nibs : Excellent. Most of the staff get the hang of it within a couple of days.

IYB : But I worry so, Mr Nibs! How does it all get inside?

Nibs : Don’t worry your pretty innocent head about that. It’s like the bloody Tardis in there, I should coco.

IYB : Now you mention it, it does all seem to fit in. Just perfectly.

Nibs : Oh, and have I told you about our magnificent burgers? Somehow we’ve managed to squeeze them into the nation’s top five?

IYB : Oh pleeeease! Tell me more! Every time you squeeze a burger a little piece of me melts inside.

Nibs : Think you’ll find that’s the cheese.

IYB : Oh, Mr Nibs, take me now! Hard, rough and up the M40!!!

Nibs : Yes, we need to do a run to Costco, you’re right. Is there anything else you’d like to slip in?

IYB : Sixty Kettle chips and a bag of night-lites?

Nibs : Thanks for coming in.

Idle Eye 35 : The Language Lab

I have a Spanish chum who, bizarrely, is using this ‘ere blog to teach herself the idiosyncrasies of English, both written and spoken. Yes, I know, I know. But in a few short weeks she will take an exam, after which she will be expected to be able to brush up her Shakespeare whilst talking down and dirty at her local hostelry. A tall order if ever I heard one. So, in the interests of pan-European conviviality, I thought it might be a bit of fun to deconstruct last weeks’ post, pile of steaming turd that it was, using the vagaries of our mother tongue as we go and thereby completing two tasks for the price of one. Soraya, this one’s for you:

Firstly & foremost, the brief I have to fulfill every week is this: Write approximately 500 words that engage the reader using whatever skills I have to hand. Keep it light, preferably funny, preferably topical, but no matter what, shoehorn The Idle Hour into the piece at some point. Inevitably this happens, but, to be honest, there’s only a certain amount you can say every seven days without getting, well, a bit samey. Consequently I am forced to rely on my admittedly magnificent sense of the absurd. Let’s look at last week:

It’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Every writer/columnist/talking head in every paper/blog/satire vehicle has already said what I was already thinking so I had to come up with an alternative, one which fitted my suffocating outline for which I am receiving remuneration. So I settled for Michael Ryan, the bloke who broke into HRH’s bedroom in the ’80’s, a cheap but quick fix in the face of the actual insanity going on around me in real time. Now, all I had to do was tie that in with Nib’s slick operation round Barnes way and Bob’s your uncle. Except…

Well, look at it. It’s a bag of spanners, no? For starters, my handle on the Queens’ English is at best contrived, and at worst, feeble. Weak jokes based on the received knowledge that she says ‘one’ every five minutes, has no grasp of the entertainment put on in her honour, and a rather unpalatable presumption that she conforms to a class stereotype. And let’s take a closer look at how I managed that contractual obligation:

After a series of ‘Carry On’ capers, Her Maj makes an implausible quantum leap with the assumption that Nibs is there behind the curtain. Why? Utter, utter crap, for which I apologise. To you, to HM, to Nibs, to the Idle Hour and all who work within an establishment that has strived tirelessly to provide a service to which I have not done adequate justice. And lastly to Soraya. You must feel discombobulated. But please don’t think me floccinaucinihilipilificatious, for the last thing I want is for you to develop hippopotomonstrosequipeddaliophobia, that being the nadir of all lingual dexterity. And do let us know how you get on…

Idle Eye 34 : The Rough Diamond

So I broke into the Palace
With a sponge and a rusty spanner
She said ‘Eh, I know you and you cannot sing’
I said ‘That’s nothing
You should hear me play piano’

The Smiths, 1986

 

Her Maj:   One is ready for bed. Are we all locked in?

Security:  We certainly are, Ma’am. Will there be anything else?

Her Maj:   Neo, not today. Has that ghastly racket stopped yet?

Security:  Not for a while, I’m afraid. Some of them are playing from the roof, apparently.

Her Maj:   What a frightful bore. Don’t they have homes to go to?

Security:  Most of them do, Ma’am, but not as good as yours.

Her Maj :  No, of course not. Run along then, quickly now.

Security:  G’night, Ma’am.

Her Maj:   Yes, yes! (shuts door, slips into Liberty-print nightie and turns on radio)

‘…and what a glittering spectacle of an evening it has been. A firmament of stars, raising their voices in unison to celebrate the Queen’s 60 years of unwavering devotion to her nation…’

Her Maj:  Balls! Wretched little man. Hasn’t got a clue.

‘…as the Palace is transformed into an everyday street with a magnificent light show, and Madness perform ‘Our House’ from the rooftops. Incredible!’

Her Maj:  And what, pray, is the point of that? If one wanted to live in a street, one would bloody well have bought one.

(switches off radio. there is a cough from behind the curtain)

Is that you, Philip? I’m afraid the singers are still on, dear, you’ll have to go back to the Edward VII. Tell them your pee’s red again.

(another cough)

Who’s there? Come on out, damn you!

(silence)

Nuy look here! One is getting a little fed up with this nonsense. Are you one of those oiks from the roof? If so, you can get your Cor Blimey trousers on and scram. There’s nothing for you here. Nothing, one tells you.

(silence)

It’s not you, is it, Michael? I’m afraid there’s no wine left after the last time and we sent your shoes back in 1984. And all that grubbing about in the papers, really! I thought we had an agreement?

(silence)

Are you from the Idle Hour? Well, are you? Now listen, the jubilee burgers were perfectly adequate and we settled the bill in full. We’d be grateful if you would consider seating us away from the traps next time and perhaps we just might tip more substantially. Is that what this is about? Come on, Mr Nibs, show yourself, man!

(moves closer to the curtain and throws it back to reveal….)

Her Maj:   Elton!!!

Sir Elton:  It’s Sir Elton, Ma’am. Remember?

Her Maj:   Wawrt are you doing here?

Sir Elton:   I’m just teaching that Morrissey a lesson. Think he’ll find not only can I sing but also tickle them ivories a treat. And where’s he for your big day then?

Her Maj:   Isn’t he on the roof?

Sir Elton:  That’s Madness, Ma’am.

Her Maj:   Not arf!

(drum roll)

Idle Eye 33 : The Turgid Miasma of Existence

The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted that I’ve been off-piste of late. The only plausible explanation I can offer as an apology is that I have been suffering from what I like to think of as the turgid miasma of existence, and what everyone else refers to as everyday life. This somewhat disturbing development was almost certainly the result of a self-imposed complete alcohol ban on school nights, the oral equivalent of Michael Schumacher slamming on the handbrake in the last lap of the Monaco Grand Prix. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet (there must be a couple of you, own up), let me tell you this: It’s not great, and if you can bear with me as I reluctantly come to terms with the appalling lucidity I am currently experiencing, I shall attempt to tell you why.

The body is a delicate bit of kit. It’s also a bit dim, despite what you may have read in weightier tomes than this. From cradle to the grave it reacts to the various stimuli we hurl at it throughout the duration, but not all that quickly. So, when we bung in that first bottle of cider consumed in a field somewhere at the age of eleven, it rather smartly puts its foot down. So we try again with Captain Morgan and his chums, smiling enticingly at us from his Trinidadian retreat, only to regurgitate them all as quickly as they went in. And so the pattern continues until, eventually, it goes ‘Oh, I see what you’re trying to do here’ and concedes that this could actually be a bit of a laugh.

Education being the key, we continue to train the bag of bones we carry around with us for many, many years to come, as did Pavlov and his half-witted dog, until we come through the cloud layer and reach a perfect plateau of contentment, usually in ones’ mid-30’s. It takes a while but we get there in the end. Now, just imagine for one moment the seismic shock to the system if this process is suddenly reversed, and at a time when the body is getting its metaphorical slippers’n’pipe combo sorted. It doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Exactly. Feel my pain.

So go on then, enjoy yourselves, why don’t you? Help Her Maj get through her big day by necking the good stuff until you can’t fit in no more, safe in the knowledge that the alternative is far, far worse. And for those of you down at the Idle Hour party this Saturday, watching them saucy singers Verity and Violet shaking their stuff and manhandling a massive pint of Nibs’s speciality Pimms, spare a thought for one less fortunate. A once good man trapped in the turgid miasma of his own existence, doing combat with his insubordinate innards with a glass of tap water and a stale bun. God bless you, Ma’am!

Idle Eye 32 : The Right Royal Charley Horses

Oh God, it’s happening. It’s the beginning of the end, and coming at me faster than Usain Bolts’ departure from the Virgin Media ads. With every week that passes, a new and unfamiliar ailment jumps to the head of the queue and blots out the severity of the previous, leaving precious little time to acclimatise or, dare I say it, learn the niceties of co-existence. Here, have a taste:

First it’s the kidneys, kicking off at the rigorous programme I’ve been putting them through of late and behaving like the Greece of the lower back. Then it’s the gums, truculent and bloody, demanding I treat them to a darn good sonic seeing-to with a new brush that cost more than my bicycle did in 1977. Next up it’s the calf muscles, miserable cowards that they are, waking me up regularly at stupid’o’clock with a muscle spasm known to our friends over the pond as Charley Horse. CHARLEY HORSE? It’s cramp, for Christ’s sake, not the Campdown Races. And if all these weren’t enough, the ears now want in on the act. Yep, just to spice things up a little they’ve chucked in a dose of tinnitus for good measure. So now my entire conscious world is soundtracked to the exact same monotonous whine that accompanied the test card when the fat controllers wanted you to go to bed.

But one has to be fatalistic, no? The alternative is a slow morph into Mrs Brady Old Lady, bemoaning every malady to a captive Saturday morning Post Office queue that understandably only wishes a few more on her. So instead, let’s think of it this way: Someone up there does not want me to be an Olympian, that’s clear, and this brutal truth frees me up to be a magnificent spectator. Now I can enjoy the success of others vicariously from the comfort of a hostelry of choice, without all that unpleasant sweating and grunting. This ain’t no handicap, folks, this is an open door. When the great unwashed are jostling for position along the Mall to cop a glance at her maj, I shall be enjoying the easy access lavatories on ground level at the Idle Hour, a pint of Harveys in one hand and a festive menu in the other. And, as the Thames Pageant glides down the Thames in all its splendour, I’ll be hearing all about it, third hand, from some bloke who once met that other bloke who broke into the Queens bedroom for a right royal chat. Top geezer, apparently.

So my advice, for what it’s worth, is this: We’re all a bit broken, can’t change that, but don’t let that put you off. Celebrate the flaws, and if you so happen to be an SW13 resident, watch this space for further Royal/Olympic updates to your favourite local. Nibs told me to put them in here but I’m blowed if I can remember what they are…

Idle Eye 24 : The Coren Nation (In Search of Giles)

Just off the blower from a feisty chat with our Nibs as per:

Nibs: I’ve got a subject for the blog.

Me: I’m halfway through one already. But thanks anyway.

Nibs: No, I really need you to put this in. Half the ****ers who booked for Mothers Day never showed and we were fully booked for a month previous. I’ve turned away over 200 potential punters and we still lost out. I’m livid. And if you ask them for a credit card they get on the horse. Now, make that funny.

Me: Well, bro, it’s not.

Nibs: I KNOW it’s not. That’s what I pay you to do.

Me: Hang on a moment. I’ve just spent twenty valuable minutes writing about how we track down Giles Coren using hunting as a metaphor, given it an hilarious punning title that includes his surname for search engine purposes, I’m balls deep in attempting to link you two bastards together and now you want me to bin the entire thing because you lost out on a few quid?

Nibs: Something like that, yeah.

Me: Ok. Maybe we could shoehorn the two together, something along the lines of Giles finding the blog because all writers google themselves and then feeling your pain about blowing out bookings as the main thrust.

Nibs: He wrote about exactly that in the Times on saturday.

Me: He what?

Nibs: Exactly the same. In his restaurant review. Check out the website.

Me: Perfect! I’ll start now.

Nibs: Tread carefully with Coren, though. I don’t want you buggering up any chance of a review just because you feel like taking the piss.

Me: I hear you, bro. But he’s no fool. I think he’d sniff out any whiff of sycophancy a mile off. Far better to have him riled than for him to think you’re fawning. Trust me on this.

Nibs: I’ll leave it in your hands. But what’s the title?

Me: I thought The Coren Nation was quite sassy.

Nibs: Yeah, I quite like it. But I’m not sure about the Nation bit. What’s the post got to do with the rest of the country?

Me: That’s not the point. It gets in Giles, and there’s a certain gravitas to it, particularly as it’s the Diamond Jubilee’n’all.

Nibs: What about ‘I Can See Four Giles’?

Me: Don’t think he wears glasses, bro.

Nibs: Well put something in brackets after, then. If you don’t like it you can always say it was my idea anyway.

Me: Ok. I’ll think of something.

Nibs: Call me back when you’re done. We’re fully booked again and I want to be sure the buggers actually show. Quite like ‘I Can See Four Giles’: Think you should use it.

Me: Done deal, bro. If you’re up to the wall can I post it anyway?

Nibs: Just promise me you’ll use the title.

Me: Sure.

Nibs: Thanks. It means a lot.

Me: I know…