Idle Eye 75 : The Cost Company

So anyway, Nibs and I are burning down the M4 at 121mph (on the way back from yet another trip to Wales), when he drops it in that we have to make a slight detour. Oh no, I’m thinking, is it a special lady friend? Or perhaps the steed needs a quick pit stop? Either of which will add a significant portion of gooseberry to my day. But, as it turns out, it was neither. As we approached Reading, the car re-orbited and we snaked our way through faceless, municipal landscaped roundabouts and grounded ourselves at the trolley park of what appeared to be yet another temple of worship to consumer greed. Every hackle that hadn’t already been irreversibly müllered by alcohol immediately rose up, but my fears were shortly to be assuaged: This was different. This was the future.

Have you ever been to one of these places? These vast cathedrals of corrugated aluminium that house your every culinary peccadillo and a few more besides? And for stupid money, as long as you’ve got an outhouse or live inside an Escher print? Well neither had I, but the minute I walked through the door they had me by the balls. For a start, right there in the foyer, they had delicious Apple stuff which had me salivating like a Cupertino campus nerd, but then as we crossed into widescreen an astonishing array of palleted goods, piled as high as the eye can feasibly take in, burst into ocular wonder. Over there on the left were thousands of discounted cases of NZ Marlborough Pinot Noir, and yet there on the right were more triple packs of Calvin Klein underpants than you could shake a stick at.

But this was just for starters: Mountains of Haribo, rivers of tequila and more snout than Strangeways all beckoned with their irresistible charms. And, in case you weren’t yet up to speed, helpful smiley staff clad in red and white were all there to assist with their immaculate speed-of-light timing of which I took full advantage:

‘Hello, could you help? I’m trying to figure out the sheet 2 wipe ratio saving I could make from your Syrian Red Cross Convenience industrial strength loo rolls?’

‘Certainly, Sir! Our statistics, based on an amalgam of the global meridian and the sheet 2 wipe average in your area suggest that you’ll be making a saving of approximately 7.2 pence per go. You have a nice day now.’

These guys were so on it I nearly wept. And, as Nibs and I swept through checkout, laden with a cargo utterly denied to those outside the club, I felt it necessary to fall to my knees and beg my own brother to sign me up. Which, bless him, he did, after making me watch him consume a hot dog and a litre of fizzy pop at £1.45 from the in-store café. Vile but necessary, as them French Resistance chicks would have said.

Idle Eye 2 : The Brief

Hello again. Last one didn’t put you off then? Excellent, let’s see what I can do with this..

It’s 2.45pm & I’m in bed, sick with worry at the economy, poor Cheryl and whether the Bullingdon Club can claw back a few quid from the riots when the phone goes. It’s that Stephen, formerly my younger brother, latterly my employer and from this moment on known as His Nibs.

‘You up yet? I’ve got a job for you’ quoth Nibs. I attempt an extraordinary high pitched wail from the back of my epiglottis as if to emphasise my plight & consequent unavailability for the position.

‘Put the cat out, this is important’ he goes, so reluctantly I remove both hands from my pyjamas and hit the loudspeaker button. He’s banging on and on about something to do with British Food Fortnight and tying it in with the grub he’s going to be giving you all to celebrate the wonderful diversity and rich range of produce our little country can muster when the pressure’s on. I look over at my bedside tray, lovingly prepared by my good self for emergencies such as these :

  1. Bombay Bad Boy
  2. Bombay Bad Boy (backup)
  3. Large tube of Pringles (Chilean Miner Industrial Cheese/Dorset Naga flavour)
  4. Haribo Fangtastics (family bag)
  5. 2009 Lissac Saint-Emilion Château Blanchon (1500 ml)
  6. Noilly Prat (stolen hotel miniature)

‘I’m your man!’ I say, assuming the mantle of responsibility. The phone goes dead and suddenly I’ve got a gig to do. So then, British food. Last time I had some, think it was them Jerusalem artichokes, I had to invest in a new set of guy ropes for the duvet. Probably not what the sophisticated clientele of the Idle Hour eateries needs know about. Hmmm. I’m drawing blanks but then I remember : The Interweb. Just the thing for the rookie reporter. I crank up my pre-(Boer) war computer and hours later she springs into life. Good Lord, it’s teeming with stuff I can nick. Back of the net! Hang about, what’s this..?

Our British Food Fortnight Bubble and Squeak pie sold out and we were only halfway through lunch” Debbie King, University of Brighton.

Halfway through lunch? HALFWAY THROUGH LUNCH??? Debbie, you’re not meant to eat it, are you? You’re supposed to SELL the bloody stuff. It’s a bit like your local drug dealer saying ‘Sorry mate, I’ve just smoked half your order but I tell you what : I’ll give you a huge piece of Brighton-made Bubble and Squeak pie to make it up to you. No extra charge. Innit.” Hold up, here’s another :

“St Pancras’s British Food Fortnight events proved really popular” Dominique Didinal, St Pancras International Railway.

Dominique, oh Dominique, you’re not a frequent user of the iron highway, are you? If you were, you would not be IN THE LEAST SURPRISED by this. Anyone, who has at any time had to steady themselves between a Belgian backpacker and the unisex lavs, burrowing their way in the vague direction of the buffet car like Amundsen towards the North Pole, only to discover the only available sustenance is a Victorian pig’s trotter torpedo and a 1951 Festival of Britain cola would be grateful for just about ANYTHING else over British Food Fortnight. Larks gizzards? Bring ‘em on…

But I jest. Of course I do. Pop on over to The Idle Hour and see what Nibs has got for you. You’ll be surprised. And if there’s anything remotely resembling railway fodder or Brighton pies you can help yourselves to something off my tray : You have my word..