Idle Eye 180 : The Last Time

The last time I had sex was in July 2015. I vaguely recall that it was pleasant, a bit boozy and thankfully lacking in any resultant apologies. What I didn’t realise was that that would be it for a bit; possibly forever. The consequent chasm has been, to be honest, not all that great. Occasionally, Saturday night television spews up someone who gives me a slight twinge, but for the most part, the ritual trudge upstairs sees me throwing a nightshirt over a set of flannel pyjamas and reminiscing about the good times when things were a little different.

Sex is all over the shop now. When I was a lad, I remember going into the West End with one of my many surrogate mothers, who coerced me into buying a rude magazine with my pocket money. It would be fair to say that I enjoyed it as best I could, but the guilt that ensued became so extreme, I buried it under a tree in the woods at the bottom of our garden: it’s probably still there now. These days, a quick right swipe affords the end user any manner of earthly delights, but the notion that an element of responsibility, care or, dare I say it, love, should come into it, usually gets laughed out of town. Instant gratification is all the rage, and anyone who gets hurt easily needs to man up (if you will forgive the expression) if they want to survive.

Somewhere around, there exists a revealing documentary about the musician Nick Drake. Called A Skin Too Few, it attempts to articulate the events culminating in his suicide in 1974. From all accounts, it seems he was particularly ill-equipped to cope with the mores of his generation, as an extreme sensitivity to his immediate environs simply became too much to bear. Sex and drugs were on the menu – more so that ever before – but despite wanting to dip his toes into the water, there was no safety net for people like him, and he paid the ultimate price. That wonderful, liberating ideal that defined the children of Haight-Ashbury was the very thing that did for him in a sleepy Warwickshire town, still trying to comprehend the Age of Aquarius.

Sadly, I can relate. As the powers that be continue to extract the heart from our increasingly fractured society, and I watch from the sidelines as some of those I care about gradually become products of it, I begin to wonder if I too have developed a skin too few: if I have reached a point where the zeitgeist no longer speaks for me and I must react accordingly. So tonight – Valentine’s for those who have someone, just another for those who don’t – I shall contemplate the future. Because I used to really like sex, and perhaps I will again one day before my creaking architecture finally crumbles into oblivion.

Maybe the last time? I don’t know.

IE Audio 4 : The Demon Grog

Bit of back story here. Not all that funny either, but at least it demonstrates we can pull something out of the bag if pushed.

Idle Eye 156 : The Demon Grog

Of all the relationships I’ve ever had, perhaps the most difficult is the one I still hold with the booze. It’s pretty shit, to be frank, and I didn’t choose it either. My namesake grandfather died of it before I was born, as did my own father indirectly, and it will probably see me off prematurely if the snout doesn’t get me first. Its claws are pan-generational, way outside the boundaries of logic and reason, and conveniently, a quick re-read of the above somehow absolves me of any absolute guilt, thereby allowing me to persevere with more of the same in order to write dispassionately about it. As if that makes it okay. The obvious, entry-level question filed by those close enough to be concerned, is this:

Do you drink alone?’

And the most honest answer I can give is:

Yes, I do. I drink alone out of preference. Because then, finally, the ever-present critical voices (which extend into every cranny of my existence) shut up long enough for me to be able to do the things I actually care about. Until I go down the opposite slope and couldn’t give a toss any more. Can I get you a top up?’

It’s not what they want to hear. And those I’ve upset along the path (trust me, there have been a few) will see it as a romanticised excuse, along the lines of Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited, very much the architect of his own downfall despite every gift life bestowed upon him.

Someone kindly gave me a book last Christmas. Called ‘The Trip To Echo Spring’ by Olivia Laing, it discusses the troubled link so many writers have with the demon grog. Not that I have ever considered myself a bona fide writer, and thereby lies the problem. The very term has such powerful connotations that the unsure are crippled at the starting blocks, pitifully reliant on whatever it takes to be taken seriously. Until the crutch becomes counterproductive, by which time it’s usually too late. Between these, I walk a fine line: If that glorious moment ever comes about when something I have created becomes a thing, I’ll probably be too mullered to notice. But maybe you will, and I’d be grateful if you could let me know. We’ve been around the block together for nearly four years. You owe me.

I have a rule. When I spew this stuff out, usually late at night and alongside a bottle of Pinot, I resist the temptation to hit the publish button until the following morning. Because, no matter how cathartic it may seem at the time, the unforgiving light of a new day will invariably reveal my incisive efforts to be little more than a muddled, steaming pile of cack. But ask yourselves something: You’re reading this. Does that mean it’s through quality control, or am I slumped comatose over the return key?

I’ll leave that one with you.

Idle Eye 153 : The Pig’s Table

The 1970s. A decade of strikes, skyrocketing inflation, shocking trousers, way too much hair and cars that didn’t start in the morning. But to this then knock-kneed schoolboy with nascent food issues and a paranoic fear of authority, it will forever be remembered as the one that threw up the Pig’s Table. And I mean that quite literally. Let me get you up to speed:

The Pig’s Table was a monstrous form of ritual trial and humiliation, cooked up by some of the sickest minds this side of the Nuremberg trials and brutally administered by a stringent headmistress and the minions under her employ. These punitive cronies were known collectively as The Danes, whose sole remit was to concoct a regular school meal that could be instantaneously jettisoned by any formative digestive system within a fifty foot radius. In this they were ruthlessly efficient. The universally feared Egg Nest™, an impossibly thick substrate of aqueous grey potato, cunningly concealed beneath a quagmire of zygotic discharge, was the jewel in their crown. Even Heston has not yet superseded this appalling Frankendish, and God knows he’s tried.

In the days before CCTV, food slop bins were manned in shifts. The trick was to get your plate of Egg Nest™ in there at point of changeover and make a break for the door before the new guard had worked out what was going on. But alas, as many did try, so many more failed and were instantly fed into the sausage machine of corrective punishment. First, an guilt-inducing rebuke. How that the thousands, if not millions of disadvantaged children in some of our poorest nations would be pathetically grateful for the delicacy you had just rejected. At which point you resisted the urge to mention Parcel Post. But then came the killer. Your penance would be exacted the very next day. You would suffer the Table.

I’ll take you through it. Like Spartacus, albeit unshackled, you were led into the refectory, filled to capacity with one hundred plus Lords of the Flies with an immense thirst for cruelty, and thrust towards a table for one. This braying throng, despite having narrowly missed the margin themselves, saw you as legitimate quarry and mocked mercilessly as you gingerly took your seat, steeling yourself for the imminent arrival of yesterday’s Egg Nest™. When it turned up, more congealed and pitiful than before, so began the painfully slow process of its consumption. The inevitable gagging was met with a wall of pre-pubescent ridicule, sweat, bile and fear meshing together as one as you prayed to whichever deity was in the vicinity to make it all stop.

It did eventually. But as you collected your thoughts in the ensuing nauseous aftermath, you knew you’d never be the same again. You had become a husk, a grotesque traumatised ghost of your former self, and mealtimes would from now on be heinous culinary skirmishes for you to fight and lose. So then, lunch anyone?