Idle Eye 66 : The Big Chill

Like you, I’m pig sick of this weather. Sick of it. Month after month of relentless, Chekhov-grey misery that has mercilessly bled into Easter and beyond and left us raw, flattened and howling for a culpable scapegoat. But who on Earth can we point the muzzle at? If we were Grasping George, it would be simple: It’s them benefit scroungers, with one hand on handouts and the other cranking the levers at the Met Office. If we were Austerity Dave, we could legitimately have a pop at the North Koreans, what with their bonkers supreme leader Kim Jong Thingy, whose big wide face has almost certainly got something to do with it. And if we were IDS, sadly we wouldn’t yet be up to speed as the telly would be off. Although, to be fair to the man, so would the heaters so he’s out of the hot seat. Sort of.

Anyway, to be honest, it’s a toss up tonight whether I continue with this nonsense or retire to the living room where there’s a roaring log fire, series two of Borgen on DVD and a potato gratin to enjoy. I could always pretend I’m sick or depressed or on short leave, which would probably have you racked with sympathy. But the truth is, I’m just fed up with being cold all the time. We all are. As I type this I have a fleece on and an attractive scarf. Inside, with the heating on full tilt. In April. Yet the breaking news we cannot escape from is that the energy giant SSE has just been fined 10.5 MILLION QUID for ripping off the general public. And, as I listened to Radio Four’s Today programme through my massive headphones with their toasty thermal pads, their corporate affairs director managed a monosyllabic apology: “Sorry”, he said. And that was pretty much it. Which seems to be all you have to do these days in order to wipe the slate clean and get on with your day. No sackings, no tribunals, no dignity. Just an unmeant soundbite on the first available news slot. And in the meantime, a nation huddles around the crystal set for the warmth of sincerity.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s actually going on here: The bitter irony of global warming as we freeze to blue inside our own homes. The weather people, the gas people and the government are all in it together. Of course they are, don’t you see? The gas people pay the government to keep it cold, who in turn bribe the weather people to turn down the switch on the proviso that the gas people give them a good deal. WAKE UP, BRITAIN!!! It’s a symbiotic gang-bang in which the only ones screwed are the end users. And that’s us, if I’m not very much mistaken. Which I probably am, to be fair. Sod it, I’m going next door: There’s ice on my keyboard.

Idle Eye 51 : The Little Fiddle

Although we’re lying in Mr Osborne’s toxic shadow of fraud, tax evasion, expense fiddling and chronic mismanagement of the public purse, it seems (to this truculent old carcass at any rate) that the enormity of the sum involved somehow lessens its impact. Let me explain: When it is decreed that the shabby pile of bricks you may or may not own in seventeen-odd years needs a few more grand thrown at it, you tend to just wince and get on with it. However, when you discover that your Jolly local store has rammed up the price of liquorice rolling papers by a budget-busting twenty pence, the lines are drawn:


You keep this up for several days, despite the fact that Soulcutters charge you a fifty pence surcharge for the privilege of using your debit card instore, the untold wear on shoe leather and the criminal hike in price of table wine which, of course, you are duty-bound to purchase or it means a total loss of face back at Jolly’s. But never mind that, you’re making a stance! Because if you don’t, how many other poor sods are going to get screwed over by these opportunist pigs trying to capitalise on the fact that you live just down the road? It doesn’t bear thinking about. And maybe an important lesson will be learned about market forces and the elasticity thereof. Feels good, right?

Wrong. You’re just another fly caught in a small strand of the Little Fiddle. That most irritating phenomenon of being very slightly fleeced but not enough to go nuclear over. Everyone’s at it, from newsagents to train companies, from online cottage industries to farmers markets. No-one is exempt and the quicker you learn to deal with it the better. I ran this one past Nibs a couple of days ago and he primal screamed over the repair of his four-ring gas burner: A callout charge and its attendant quarter-hourly fee he took on the chin. It was the weaselly addition of £48 for a plastic knob (booting the final bill beyond a soaraway £500) that broke him. In catering, no-one can hear you scream.

So, my advice to Mr Osborne would be this: Forget about all that austerity nonsense, it’s getting people’s backs up and you’ll only U-turn on it in a couple of months. If you’re really serious about clawing back a few quid, pop the surplus onto our sundries bill. Not all at once, obviously, but in tiny amounts over the next three hundred years. For sure, we’ll moan about it but we’ll pull through, we always do. It’s a bit like queueing, and you know how we’ve learned to love that. And who knows? Maybe we’ll learn to like you after all.


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…