Idle Eye 69 : The Hole Truth

I love a chilli, me. By this, I do not mean your entry level, piss-weak hot sauce nonsense that supposedly compliments your meal. Let me make this clear: My meal does not need complimenting. If you could only see it from where you’re reading now you’d understand why. What my meal actually needs is some full-tilt Chernobyl fallout if it wants to be taken seriously in this neck of the woods. Proper, blow your doors off action. And, to be frank, if it fails to deliver on this front, it’s gonna end up in the green bin. I’m sorry, I’ve tried to be all sensitive and that when I get hand-peeled aubergine and cauliflower baked in eco-friendly chain oil with a hint of lime, but hinting is utterly pointless if you want to be considered a player on the main stage: Thatcher/Ferguson/Bowie/Matthews/Laker. Need I say more?

With this in mind, I opted to sample the Idle Hour curry offerings last night. The £10 multi-deal sounded pretty good, but after a couple of Harveys I wanted my cage to be seriously rattled and my guts begging for mercy. I was not disappointed, but this was largely down to my Auntie Valerie lobbing her Scotch Bonnet at me after wiping it clean of Trinidadian goat remnants. Now, don’t get out of your collective prams: I’m not saying my meal didn’t deliver. It certainly did, but as a vegetarian I wasn’t able to go Trinidadian for that extra Scoville mile. I settled for the Thai, probably more than adequate for you lightweights, but lacking the endorphin rush I have come to consider as standard. Somewhere deep within I know this is a bit warped, but you can’t fight the facts: I am what God made me and I am beautiful, no matter what you say.

Now, for those of you not up to speed yet, Nibs is no stranger to the hole strewth any more than I am. He was my sole witness at a swirly-carpet job in Horsham back in the ’80’s, when the entire restaurant staff watched us consume a lamb phall through the kitchen porthole. It was he that introduced me to Dave’s Insanity Sauce that actually had excruciating on its sliding scale of endurance. And it was he that suggested last night that I may not be able to handle it any more. That, perhaps, I should consider winding it all down a tad:

Take it easy. Dude, you’ve eaten the hottest. Maybe it’s time for you to hand over the baton. Think about your future. Maybe move outta town, raise some kids. This kinda shit is for the rookies, Bro. You the Daddy, you got nothing to prove…

He’s right, of course: I need to wind my neck in. But there’s always another youngster out there and I must do my bit. It hurts though. God, it hurts.

Idle Eye 50 : The End of the Way It’s Always Been

So, I’m tucked away inside a Warren House deep in the grounds of Kimbolton Castle with only my stalwart Roberts radio to remind me of the world outside, when the hapless Theresa May comes on. “Oh, splendid!” I thought. “What can she balls up today?” Did anyone catch this? Anyone? Turns out she reckons people what sell guns’n’stuff are as guilty as them what use them and therefore should expect tougher sentences such as, er, life imprisonment (or longer).  And as I enjoyed a glass of something vaguely palatable from St Neots’ Waitrose and watched a Turner sky disappear over rolling Cambridgeshire hills, a distant bell rang inside my head. Not the tinnitus (although this is becoming almost as irritating as Theresa), and not the call to prayer that was to come the following morning. No, it was the slow recall of a bi-annual event at London ExCel – currently being pushed online. Yes, readers, it’s the 2013 DSEI Arms Fair at which you can buy, perfectly legally, as many weapons of mass-destruction as your budget will allow, giving you that must have edge over whatever foe happens to be irking you at present (as long as they ain’t one of our lot, in which case all purchases come in a brown paper bag).

Now, I’m no logistician, but does this mean Theresa will show up at Royal Victoria Dock in her lovely grey suit and kitten heels and bust the sorry arse of whichever camouflaged warlord she can catch up with? Before buggering back off to Berkshire for high tea? Help me out. And if she is setting a precedent that the salesman is also the criminal, examine carefully the following scenario and give me your thoughts in the comments section:

Police:  Mr Nibs, we is arresting you on suspicion of selling the sum total of seven pints of delicious Harveys ale to one Dan Dodgy, who went on from The Idle Hour down the road outside and smashed in every car window what happened to be parked there. Oh, and defecated onto the passenger seat of a Mazda outside the school. Mr Dodgy has attested that he normally only has a couple and the extra few tipped him over the edge, relinquishing him of any responsibility whatsoever and thereby landing all culpability with the scumbag landlord what sold him the goods in the first place. Anything you say and/or do may be taken down in evidence: It’s the law.

This being the case, I eagerly await the arrival of a Government-endorsed SWAT team at the St Neots’ Waitrose fine wines aisle, getting those brown-aproned peddlers of doom to spread ‘em against the rotary tills and confess. And the subsequent supoena at which I am forced to admit at gunpoint that I was their most significant customer over the month of October and thereby a significant threat to national security. At which point Theresa can legitimately deport me along with my old chum Abu Qatada.

Idle Eye 32 : The Right Royal Charley Horses

Oh God, it’s happening. It’s the beginning of the end, and coming at me faster than Usain Bolts’ departure from the Virgin Media ads. With every week that passes, a new and unfamiliar ailment jumps to the head of the queue and blots out the severity of the previous, leaving precious little time to acclimatise or, dare I say it, learn the niceties of co-existence. Here, have a taste:

First it’s the kidneys, kicking off at the rigorous programme I’ve been putting them through of late and behaving like the Greece of the lower back. Then it’s the gums, truculent and bloody, demanding I treat them to a darn good sonic seeing-to with a new brush that cost more than my bicycle did in 1977. Next up it’s the calf muscles, miserable cowards that they are, waking me up regularly at stupid’o’clock with a muscle spasm known to our friends over the pond as Charley Horse. CHARLEY HORSE? It’s cramp, for Christ’s sake, not the Campdown Races. And if all these weren’t enough, the ears now want in on the act. Yep, just to spice things up a little they’ve chucked in a dose of tinnitus for good measure. So now my entire conscious world is soundtracked to the exact same monotonous whine that accompanied the test card when the fat controllers wanted you to go to bed.

But one has to be fatalistic, no? The alternative is a slow morph into Mrs Brady Old Lady, bemoaning every malady to a captive Saturday morning Post Office queue that understandably only wishes a few more on her. So instead, let’s think of it this way: Someone up there does not want me to be an Olympian, that’s clear, and this brutal truth frees me up to be a magnificent spectator. Now I can enjoy the success of others vicariously from the comfort of a hostelry of choice, without all that unpleasant sweating and grunting. This ain’t no handicap, folks, this is an open door. When the great unwashed are jostling for position along the Mall to cop a glance at her maj, I shall be enjoying the easy access lavatories on ground level at the Idle Hour, a pint of Harveys in one hand and a festive menu in the other. And, as the Thames Pageant glides down the Thames in all its splendour, I’ll be hearing all about it, third hand, from some bloke who once met that other bloke who broke into the Queens bedroom for a right royal chat. Top geezer, apparently.

So my advice, for what it’s worth, is this: We’re all a bit broken, can’t change that, but don’t let that put you off. Celebrate the flaws, and if you so happen to be an SW13 resident, watch this space for further Royal/Olympic updates to your favourite local. Nibs told me to put them in here but I’m blowed if I can remember what they are…

Idle Eye 23 : The Future

In a plucky bid to beat the supermarkets at their own game, the Idle Hour has recently been developing its very own customer loyalty card. Using a combination of the latest nuclear, biometric and laser technologies from Iran along with simple household bleach, the SuperMacroMcSimpleDynabiolic™ (or VIP) card is set to revolutionize the entire SW13 eating and drinking experience by actually predicting what the customer will order before he/she has actually left the house, with the added benefit that it is actually organic and a full 18% recyclable:

Punter: I love my SuperMacroMcSimpleDynabiolic™ (or VIP) card. I don’t know how I ever got by without it. Really, I don’t. Sometimes I can’t even remember my own name, let alone what I’m going to have at the pub of an evening. So thank you, SuperMacroMcSimpleDynabiolic™ (or VIP), you’re the best. Now, what am I having again?

Sceptics have been quick to condemn the SuperMacroMcSimpleDynabiolic™ (or VIP) card, claiming there are legal implications infringing the rights of privacy currently enjoyed by people who haven’t got one:

Punter: I’m not having one of them SuperMacroMcSimpleDynabiolic™ (or VIP) do-dahs telling me what to have of an evening. If I want a good, honest pint of Harveys I’ll bloody well have one when I bloody well want one. And them cards can stay right out of it.

Mr Thorp was quick to dismiss such allegations, however. “The situation is still under review” he commented before leaving for a swiftly arranged Press Conference in Tehran, adding to suspicions that his relationship with Mr Aftadinahrmint is perhaps more than political:

Aftadinahrmint: Iran has, at no time in the past or future, been involved in the development of loyalty cards for diners and drinkers in the SW13 area. That is a lie, and I invite inspectors to have a look around when I’ve tidied up a bit.

“Well he would say that” retorted Mr Thorp, echoing a similar political denial of a bygone era.

Like it or not, however, it seems the SuperMacroMcSimpleDynabiolic™ (or VIP) card will be here to stay. We spoke to one of the Idle Hour barstaff about the perceivable benefits:

Barstaff: It’s brilliant, like. Sort of like Brazil crossed with The Matrix. When the punter comes in, we don’t actually have to work out what they want, like. ‘Cos it’s already there in the till. It’s aces, man! And I get more time to smoke fags.

So there’s no denying there will be a sensational switch in the way Barnes barfolk transact as the rest of London looks on with baited breath. The SuperMacroMcSimpleDynabiolic™ (or VIP) card will be big business, so get on board before the bus heads out of town. We tried to track down Mr Thorp for the final say but he was away, which we would have known if we’d read our own article:

“It’s the future”, he said. Yesterday.

Idle Eye 7 : The Exotic Meating

London 1779. A young servant boy runs towards his master along a dirt track that will become White Hart Lane, Barnes in fifty-odd years. They have travelled from afar and seek only a tankard of Harveys and sustenance for the night.

Servant:  My Lord! I have found us the tavern! Over yonder by the railway tracks.

Master:  Mock me not, Bobbins, or ye shall sleep with the fishes tonight. And the railway has not yet been invented, as well ye know.

Servant:  Forgive me, Master, but it is true. The landlord seems most welcoming also.

Master:  Perchance, does he sport a ridiculous yellow Miami Vice jacket? And Penny Loafer shoes with white socks? And a beard inside which one could conceal a bantam?And does he answer to the name ‘Nibs’?

Servant:  Why yes, my Lord! How could you know such things?

Master:  And tell me: Is it not Tuesday the 15th even as we speak?

Servant:  Forsooth, I believe it is, my Lord.

Master:  Also, pray, whilst you were inside, did you spy the tail of an alligator and/or the gizzards of a zebra on the ‘Exotic Meats For One Week Only As Recommended By A Celebrity We Cannot Name’ menu?

Servant:  Santa on a stick, M’lud, thou art surely blessed with divine perception. But as your servant, I cannot use words of more than one syllable at a time if I am to be a credible sidekick to your increasingly unlikely literary device.

Master:  BE SILENT insolent child!!! Thou shalt conform to this narrative stereotype or by my own entrails thou shalt go hungry tonight.

Servant:  But Master, I am a lily-livered, limp-wristed, ex-art school vegetarian. I fear such sumptuous foodstuffs will play havoc with ye olde plumbing.

Master:  GOD’S TROUSERS!!! Boy, do you know nothing? It’s none other than Exotic Meats Week at The Idle Hour Barnes, and by some fantastical feat of fortune we have stumbled upon it at the very start.

Servant:  Actually sir, I think you’ll find it was by Sat Nav.

Master:  Like, whatever, sirrah! Do not question my methods, or for that matter my timing: I fear we are 232 years too early for such a feast but we do at least have the blessed fortune of being British a century in advance of queueing for fun so we stand a good chance of getting in. Do you really not eat meat?

Servant:  Sorry. Not a guff’s chance in a wind tunnel.

Master:  I hate you, Bobbins.

Servant:  Yes, sir.

The two men turn into Railway Side where they are met by a man in an absurd Miami Vice jacket and Penny Loafers. And a beard. He smiles and embraces them in a not at all scary manner. That’s what you do on Exotic Meat Week. Because there’s lots of exotic meat. And you have travelled from afar and seek only a tankard of Harveys and sustenance for the night.

Idle Eye 6 : The Manifesto

As the long winter nights draw in and Call Me Dave’s austerity measures begin to bite, you’re probably wondering, like me, how the disaffected rural peasants of pre-Revolution France managed to stay afloat when hard times came a-knocking. Of course you are. Well, the answer is two-fold: You cross-subsidised, which loosely meant getting another job, such as rat-catching, ash-collecting for laundry purposes, or you became a tétaire (my particular favourite), an astonishing job for the boys which involved sucking mothers’ breasts to start the flow of milk. Probably a long queue at the Town Hall for that one.

Alternatively you did nothing. Nothing at all for months and months, and there was no shame in this: Men and women literally curled up together like gerbils in squalid basements throughout the land for up to fifteen hours a day, and by doing so kept warm and lowered their metabolisms dramatically, thereby reducing the need for food which was in scant supply. In short, it was survival by hibernation.

‘All very interesting’, I hear you thinking, ‘but what has this got to do with the Idle Hour?’ Well, funny you should ask. You see, we can learn a lot from our French friends of yesteryear, but before you cover yourselves in dung and head for the cellar, think on this:

The word ‘Idle’ has long been associated with sloth, from louche dandy fops to Wayne and Waynetta, and yet if we dig a little deeper we find that to be idle was a pragmatic form of self-preservation; a temporary shut-down in preparation for the physical working months ahead. These are the very qualities Nibs had in mind when IH Barnes was born ten years ago, and for his part, self-preservation seems to have worked very nicely, thank you. For my own, I can vouch for the exact same from the perspective of my teenage exchange year in the town of Foix, just north of the Pyrenees, when I shared a room with a goat in lieu of central heating. This is not one word of a lie (unlike most of this blog), and when the time came for me to return to the UK, I wept like a girl for that goat. As she did for me.

So perhaps it’s high time we reclaimed the word in much the same way that we did with the Union Jack from the Far Right. Come on, Hammersmith and Fulham! Our ancestors (Johnny Foreigner actually, but work with me on this) didn’t sleep together in their own filth for hundreds of years for you to do nothing. Time has come for you to stand up with your pint of Harveys and say:

‘I’m idle and proud of it! Tomorrow may be another day but there’s just enough of this one left for me to raise a glass to Wills and Kate, to Nibs and all who sail with him, but most of all to those foreign types who did bugger all and got us where we are today. God save the King!’

Idle Eye 4 : The Rebuff

I’m sitting in the soon to be opened Moroccan Room in Idle Hour Barons Court, waiting for Nibs to show up and deliver his verdict on IE4, a witty yet savage take on the perils of middle age. It’s a blinder, of course, and I’m expecting voluminous gratitude and hopefully a free pint of Harveys. All around me are tasteful hints that I am in a better world, where I can relax after work with my friends/business colleagues on a pastel pouf or two, sipping on a tension-busting cocktail or two and let the evening wind itself down slowly to its Tangiers-inspired conclusion. Nibs, however, is late. Not that late, but late enough for me to be side-tracked by my admittedly fabulous imagination:

I’m snuggled up over there, on the crimson sofa beneath the clock, with someone you’ve just read about in the Metro who earns more than you do. She caresses my face gently and throws back her hair in a devil-may-care stylee. And she actually thinks I’m really funny: That’s why she’s laughing, see? Then, slowly, but quite deliberately, she…

‘Alright Bro?’ Balls! It’s Nibs. Blasting away at the cobwebs of my fantasies just like he used to in our shared bedroom in Godalming.

‘Ahem. Nice one, Bro.’ I deliberate on the correct level of small talk required before I can fish for compliments but he goes in for the kill before I have a chance to get my house in order.

‘It’s the blog, Bro. Big no no. Sorry, man, don’t think we can use it. Way off base.’

Way off base? I have to counter with something but I’m reeling from the patois. Does he think I work for Radio 1? Or worse still Channel 5? I decide to appeal to his sense of reason by going for the artistic integrity approach, something he knows little about and therefore will give me the upper hand:

‘I know where you’re coming from, Bro. It’s just, well, I think we have to allow our character to have a bit of breathing space outside the pub, no? Otherwise we get stuck in a product placement kind of thing.’ I’m thinking Harrison Ford in Witness, reluctantly reciting ‘Honey, that’s great cawfee’ and inadvertently launching a host of vulgar imitators.

‘Yeah, I know. But I need you to big up the Moroccan room. The punters don’t want to know about you getting old and fat. And anyway, I don’t get it.’

His beard twinkles in the rooms’ candlelit glow (ideal, incidentally, for Christmas parties and functions) and I realise this boy isn’t quite the pushover he was when I made him jump off the roof with an Action Man parachute in Marbella. And it occurs to me contractually that this soft, sumptuous space, with its metallic fire surround, original 50s portraits and subtly decadent aura would lend itself perfectly to any sophisticated West London get-together. But I don’t tell him that.