Idle Eye 118 : The Beginning of the End

A black moth shot out of my underpants as I was getting dressed this morning. Not in itself an event of seismic import, but a salient reminder of the passing of thrusting alpha-manhood nonetheless. It must have been rather ancient, as presumably younger moths would frequent the undergarments of more potent individuals, those who would favour Abercrombie & Fitch and the like over the Heath Robinson-esque monstrosities I squeeze myself into every day. And this ageing lepidoptera, exhausted from a lifetime of headbutting lightbulbs, would have given thanks to whatever God it believed in for this sedentary resting place, secure in the knowledge that it would remain undisturbed until its final day came. But sadly, it was not to be.

The symbolism of the moment was not lost on me: The moth, as any fule kno, is a portent of death. That, and that you don’t do dry-cleaning enough. I was understandably perturbed (the very thought of having to waste a Saturday morning bagging up laundry was too appalling to contemplate), but dealt with the issue in a manner fitting to anyone of a certain age familiar with micro-managing problems on a day-to-day basis: I forgot about it. But there is only so much evasion one can muster before the full weight of the inevitable crushes down hard upon the souls of the very simple: That moth was telling me something, and that something I really didn’t want to know.

I leapt onto Facebook for some light relief, as is my wont in times of distress. And up there at the top of my feed was one of those irritating Suggested Posts, this one from from the London Psychiatry Centre, suggesting I should do their wretched quiz to see if I was a one-in-four social pariah who drinks more than they recommend. Of course I was (the alternatives were patently absurd), and next thing I knew I was getting a personal pledge from Dr Christos Kouimtsidis to help me on my journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

Now, I have never met Dr Kouimtsidis and, to be perfectly honest, am unlikely to anytime soon. So it is doubtful I will get the opportunity to explain to him (through whichever slurred words he can understand), that the reason I am right up there on his critical list is because a moth has been residing in my pants for God knows how long, that my days left on Earth are clearly numbered and, this being the case, that perhaps I might choose to spend them cradling a bottle of something half decent rather than being bored witless in a Harley Street waiting room. At prices that would secure the former by the pallet load. Death, in whichever wondrous shape and form it has in mind for me, will bloody well come when I so choose, Dr K. And now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to the laundrette.

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 59 : The Merrie Month of February

Oh no! An entire month of alcohol abstention is fresh out of the blocks and let me tell you, gentle reader, it is a far, far worse thing than you can possibly imagine. Makes a swift waterboarding at Guantanamo seem like kindergarten, and the relentlessly brutal assault of everyday reality, once successfully held at bay at evenings and weekends, is now free to scythe down its quarry at will. Why, in God’s name, do people do this to themselves? It is no accident that hops/barley/grapes/junipers etc…are widely available across the planet for our consumption, nor that we have honed the requisite skills over centuries to arrive at todays bountiful plateau of choice. To reject them is tantamount to sticking a finger up at creation, evolution and the education of the soul.

Anyway, never mind that now. I’ve only got 500 words and I’m not going to waste them on semi-literate Zen rhetoric. I do, however, need to get across the barren nature of my pursuit and get you lot back into the Idle Hour. It’s my job. And if anyone emerging from their own month of sobriety is under any doubt whatsoever, remember this:

The initial body response is, to be honest, not all that stringent. In fact, it’s a bit of a novelty. No more night sweats, morning tinkle now the hue & viscosity of elderflower cordial (not Castrol GTX), the twin throb of angry kidneys has backed off a bit and I can make it through an entire episode of Borgen without falling asleep and dribbling. However, that’s about as good as it gets. Suddenly I’m acutely aware of the banality of existence, the inanity of radio comedy, the dirty patches on the stairs I said I’d hoover in November, the fact that nothing works properly, that all the stuff I’ve hoarded my entire life has swollen to gargantuan, suffocating proportions and needs urgent attention (the last time this was an issue I moved house rather than deal with it.)

And then there’s evenings. These little bastards stretch off into the distance like the Yellow Brick Road and now that I’m clean, I feel compelled to fill them by doing something useful. But what? DIY would be utterly fatuous. Cookery? I don’t think so. Tidy my room? Ahem. I opted instead for cleaning New Year mud from my leather Stormtrooper boots in the bathroom sink and succeeded in blocking the U-tube and jamming shut that bullshit style-over-content hinged plug.

You see? Alcohol prevents us doing this kind of nonsense for a very good reason. Because it is UTTERLY POINTLESS, and our time would be far better spent earning the money to pay someone else to do it instead. In fact, the more we drink, the more we can help kick start our ailing economy on many, many levels. So please, do as I say and not as I do. You’ll thank me for it.