Idle Eye 61 : The Unreliable Narrator

It was a dirty trick what I did last week. You know, that old narrative chestnut of promising not to talk about giving up boozing and then talking about giving up boozing until the bitter end. It was a bit shabby and you deserve more. And that whole business of leading you to believe I was losing the plot, under the guise of someone who believes he isn’t, was another one. Mean, low-down chicanery. As was the novel introduction of meticulously distressed handwriting with its open invitation for you to pop my clogs. Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors.

But it had you going for a bit, no? It certainly had our Nibs on my back like the proverbial monkey:

Nibs:  What the bloody hell are you playing at? You’re meant to be getting me customers, not boring everyone witless with your ridiculous flights of fancy. And I want them to drink more, not give it up!

Me:  They will, bro, they will. I’m using a standard literary technique: The Unreliable Narrator. Over the course of February they will come to doubt me, most probably pity me and then head over to the pub to distance themselves from my predicament. It’s all in hand. Don’t worry.

Nibs:  For ****’s sake! These are drinking people! They just want to come and have a glass or two at the end of the day! And they most certainly do not want to wade through a pile of smart-arsed mumbo jumbo before they get here.

Me:  It works for Giles Coren and you like him. And he’s off the sauce as well.

Nibs:  I don’t care! Coren can do whatever he likes ‘cos he’s writing for the Times. You’re writing for me. Now stop buggering about and get me more punters.

And so it went on. You see, what he has attempted to do here is break the cardinal rule of soft-sell marketing: Never underestimate the customer. By watering down my own copy I would effectively be calling you all stupid. Which would, by default, drive your good selves away to pastures new and that’s something I’m pretty sure Nibs would not want. And yet we do sympathise with the plight of the small businessman, don’t we? Advanced, possibly untested methods are high risk at the best of times and we are in the depths of recession. So, what to do?

Well, I’ve got a plan but I’m going to need your help. It may take a quantum leap of faith on your part but we’re all on the same side. And like so many great ideas it’s pretty simple: Just tell him that you totally get what’s going on here. That you like…maybe stronger…love being preached to every week by a borderline alcoholic whose every word is suspect and the lack of which could well tip you back into sobriety. Give it a try and see what happens. Go on: Trust me.

Idle Eye 41 : The Face-Off

Anyone who has ever attempted the dark art of writing to a 500 word count will implicitly understand what a taut organ it has to be. One sentence, a word even, can throw the balance of the piece so completely off-kilter it has to be dramatically re-approached, and punctuation (don’t get me started on punctuation) must ripple through the paragraphs like miniscule unseen roadsigns, steering the reader towards the inevitable. So imagine my dismay when I got the call from Idle HQ after I had mentally constructed an hilarious appraisal of our countryside:

Nibs : I know you’ve already done this, but I’m gonna need a big up on Britain’s Favourite Burger this week. Keeps it fresh in their minds.

Me : But I’m doing the country. It’s a corker, trust me.

Nibs : Fine, do the country by all means but just stick in a few words about the burger thing. Why not say I got a bronze? It’s topical & you can put that in the keywords if LOGOG will let you.

Me : You don’t get it. I can’t just bung in stuff about burgers. It doesn’t work.

Nibs : Well, make it work then. Cows come from the country, right? There, you can have that one on me.

Me : It’s not that simple, bro. You can’t just stick in a few words. Writing this blog isn’t just bunging in stuff about burgers. It’s a craft! I think about how it all fits together for days and when I know it’s right, I get it all down. I wouldn’t tell you how to cook one of your specials, would I? Yeah, just bung in a few bits & bobs from the fridge? Jesus H!!! I have my art and you have yours. Now let me get on with it.

Nibs : Stop being a dick. I just want you to say I came third in the burger competition. Bloody hell, get over yourself!

Me : It compromises the whole thing, man! Every piece I write is linear, right? There’s a start, I piddle about with it in the middle and then go in for the kill at the end. And it works like that every week which is why people like it. The comfort of familiarity via comedy of repetition. It’s a tried and tested formula that you can’t screw about with. So if I suddenly bring in burgers it loses its entire thrust. Something would have to give and there’s no fat to fry.

Nibs : You just said it, right there. No fat to fry! Now stick that in the blog & stop being so bloody precious! Jeez, anyone would think I was employing Coren.

Me : Ok bro, we’ll play it your way, shall we? Not a problem! Right, let’s kick off with the classic urban take on our impoverished rural cousins. Except they’re not, are they? Impoverished, that is. Down in that Chipping Norton they’re all stinking, right? Enjoying BRITAIN’S THIRD FAVOURITE BURGER while Rebekah gets her

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…

Idle Eye 13 : The Resolutions

I’d like to start off 2012 with an apology and then we’ll get down to business. It seems that one or two of you were deeply affronted by the insinuation made on the Cast & Crew page that Nibs’ and my own dear mother is somehow affiliated with the Nazi party. On reflection, I have come to the conclusion that this may not be the case (despite some damning evidence to the contrary I am legally bound not to disclose) and I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused. So much so that I spent the week after Christmas tracking down the only surviving member of the Waffen-SS, one Herr Josef Ümlaut, to make the apology in person. I am, and have always been, a gentleman.

So where were we? Ah yes, 2012. Well, we all enjoyed the fireworks (thanks, Boris) and we’ll all be working just that little bit harder to pay them off, right? But never mind that, it’s the Olympics, innit! THE OLYMPICS!!! Sponsored by health and efficiency magnates Coke and MacDonalds and mascotted by cuddly cyclopses Wenlock and Mandeville. Brilliant! I don’t know about you but I am going to be glued to my set for weeks, swilling official fizzy pop and burgers until I am fit enough to hound down one of those monocular LOCOG lackeys and lance it with a javelin. There, I said it. Now, who else can I offend this week? C’mon Seb, have a pop.

I also promised Nibs that I would make this blog more Idle Hour-centric in one of my less rational, claret-sodden moments of weakness. Well, it was New Year and I was welled up with the mucus of human kindness. So we discussed characters we could slowly introduce that, in time, you will all become familiar with, based on your favourite pubs’ staff, locals and such. It was a drawn-out process but we got there in the end. So, without any further ado, I would like to introduce you all to Timmy:

You:  Hello Timmy!

Timmy:  Meow.

You:  TimmyTimmyTimmyTimmy!

Timmy:  Meow.

Obviously, over time, Timmy’s inherent qualities will manifest themselves on the page and her (sic) antics will become increasingly unlikely and hilarious, but first I have to get to know the little gal and this far in it’s all she’s given me. However, I think you can already tell she’s got the X-factor and I’ll be exploiting this ruthlessly as you might imagine.

Lastly, but by no means leastly, I’d like to thank you all for reading this nonsense over the past few months. Perhaps if you stick with it, you will notice a maturity of style and keen wit develop as the weeks go on, and perhaps, in an ideal world, you will meet Giles Coren in a fancy restaurant he is being paid to eat in and beg him to review Nibs’ tiny but perfectly formed establishment. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Oh, and Happy New Year.

Idle Eye 10 : The Rebuff 2 (This Time It’s Personal)

Sorry I’m late. Really, sorry. I did try to get this one in on time, even wrote a couple of drafts about an Idle Hour demon that kept me up at night (written at 1am) but Nibs gave it the thumbs down. And he was right to, in fairness. High on booze, wasabi peas and lack of sleep I bunged it all together like a fake Jackson Pollock and then tried to justify its brilliance in a heated follow-up call deep into the small hours:

Nibs:  Look, you know I love what you do. You know I do. But come on! This one’s so…so…well, angry.

Me:  Angry? Angry? You don’t geddijewewe? Corsets angry! Eye-mmaking a point about time and how weedon tavenuffuvvit. Angry? ARSE!

Nibs:  Mate, why don’t you have another look at it in the morning. It’s late, I’m busy, Barnes is still chokka and you’re pissed.

Me:  GnnNOT PISSED!

Nibs:  I think you are, Bro.

Me:  S’pose you think Charlie Brooker zangry then? Or your bezziemait Giles Coren? S…Spose Jonnoz Born wazzangry too? Eh? EH? But Bro…Bro…(whispers)…thazza point. Thazza holefuggin point.

Nibs:  It’s a pub blog, Bro, not Look Back In Anger. I just need you to be the funny guy so I can get more customers in to buy beer and eat food. Bums on seats: It’s really that simple.

Me:  Z’nuthin simplabout gudriting, man. Snot teasy making this shiddup every we…week y’no.

Nibs:  I’m not saying it is easy. That’s why I pay you to write it. Otherwise I’d do it myself. But calm down, have a good night’s sleep and have another go tomorrow. You’ll thank me for it.

Sound of hysterical laughing in background

Me:  Hang gone…(goes into kitchen. Vulgar swearing, shouting and stumbling followed by phone drop) Bro, you there?

Nibs:  What’s up?

Me:  Ursula sritten ‘Primadonna’ onna blackboard!

Nibs:  (stifling further hysteria) She’s got a point, mate!

Me:  Bar studs! BAR…SSTUDS! FUGG YORL! (Slams down phone and retires)

I woke up this morning still utterly convinced that my misunderstood work would stand the test of time. After all, Jesus had a bad ride, no? And Sophocles wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves in Ancient Greece. I even uploaded the bloody thing onto my phone so I could bask in my greatness on the train. And then I read it.

There is a fine line between genius and bollocks. The greatest minds our crowded planet has ever produced had the courage to surf this line, some close to the mark, others actually touching it. But no-one, not one, ever crossed it. And the ones that did have been consigned to the dustbin of history, their stories never to be passed on. Ever. And that’s as it should be. For they shall be cast out of the Kingdom of Heaven for trawling too wide a net. And trying to polish a doo-doo when they don’t.