Idle Eye 113 : The Refusenik (A Slight Return)

The Persians deliberately weave a flaw into the corner of the astonishingly beautiful rugs they create because they believe that only Allah is truly perfect, and it would be a bit of a slap in the face if they try to emulate him/her through their Earthly offerings. Readers, I am that rug: I got it wrong about Glastonbury (as I did with the Olympics and the once Scotch, then Brit, now re-Scotched Andy Murray). As a weathervane for the zeitgeist I can get seriously off-kilter sometimes and hands up, I’ve done it again. Not that I’m admitting it to those who dragged me there, kicking and screaming blue bloody murder to the permanent detriment of their weekend – Good Lord, no! Some things must remain between you and I, and I beg you to keep schtum on this one.

Despite the mud and the mucus, the filth and the fury, the long-drops and the long marches home, I reluctantly acquiesce that it was all reasonably acceptable. Being little more than a soldier ant in a ruthlessly efficient outdoor entertainment machine was, to be fair, somewhat daunting initially. And last time I frequented the place it was a squalid haunt of low-lives, drug dealers and hippies trying to locate my chakras. Particularly after bedtime, which it then seemed churlish to adhere to. However Glastonbury, like all things, has evolved.

Yes, it is vast and yes, it is seemingly commercial. But there are no Audi stalls here, attempting to flog you a luxury vehicle in the most inappropriate of places. No Costa, no McDonalds or Coke, miserably shoehorning their bullshit product in with anything popular they can access in order to maximise reach. For the most part (and I grant you, there are a few exceptions), the on-site businesses are small and endearingly homespun. You do not resent spending a couple of extra quid to keep these guys going. And this in itself would be enough. Perhaps a thumbs-up from this rusting ancient, best suited to keeping an eye on his portfolio in the pink paper, is not the best festival accolade out there. But it doesn’t matter, really it doesn’t.

If you fancy seeing out your ticket price in a hessian shack listening to ’70’s prog rock powered by punters on bicycles, then good luck to you: It’s there for the taking. Failing that, head off to Shangri-La when the main stages shut down and gurn the night away on substances for that authentic Hieronymus Bosch experience. Again, it’s your choice. The trick is knowing which buttons to push and which ones to let go of, and no-one really minds if you screw it up. It’s all part of the deal. Despite myself, being in a field with thousands of people yelling “ED…IS…DEAD!” at the Pixies felt curiously liberating. But if you think for a minute I’m going to let on now that I’m home, dream on…

Idle Eye 89 : The Infernal Loop of Leeds

When faced with events too harrowing to compute, the human brain slows everything around it down to a manageable speed, whilst enormous quantities of adrenalin are simultaneously secreted around the body in order to cope with any potential trauma. It is an extraordinarily sophisticated defence mechanism, initiated unconsciously and, for the most part, it works. But not always. Yesterday, I went to Leeds.

I’ll begin with a caveat. If you, like me, have ever had faith in the notion that the fragile infrastructure of the UK’s urban planning will always be driven by some of the greatest minds in the field, think again: It’s not. Anyone who has had the poor fortune of attempting to navigate the West Riding’s principal settlement by car will back me up on this. Leeds City Centre is a vast, sprawling metropolis that has unsuccessfully stitched the very old to the very new, and neither one of them is gonna budge when it comes to compromise. How very Yorkshire! So when councillors Cox and Evans got involved with the CAD kids to keep the traffic flowing, the result was, and still is, one of the most appalling, dehumanising travesties of our time.

On arrival, it looks pretty slick. All the major arteries head neatly towards the centre, but before you know it you are force-fed into the obscenity that is the Loop. Here, the satanic offspring of Hieronymus Bosch and JG Ballard has been made flesh in the most destructive pact since the Coalition. Previous motorists, who have failed to correctly negotiate the Albert Speer-inspired horrorshow they have unwittingly stumbled upon, lie in various states of decomposition inside the cabs of their own vehicles, some taken violently by bitter, frustrated passengers and others by their own hand, the alternative being more of the same. And why is this? Well, put simply, because it is IMPOSSIBLE to get to wherever it is you need to be:

Me:  I’d like to go over there, please.

Loop:  Certainly. Now, veer off in the opposite direction until you come to a roundabout the size of Switzerland. You have approximately 0.6 seconds to decide which one of eight possible exits to take. All the signs will be at least 150 metres above the road and the traffic will be baying for your blood, so probably best to wing it. Oh dear, you’ve taken the by-road to Wakefield. Unfortunately you now have to drive 1.6 miles to the next exit and come back the opposite way. No, not down there, that’s for buses and HGVs and will take you into the pedestrianised zone. Reverse down this one way street until you come to the next feed. Yes, it is busy so be careful. I’m afraid you’ll just have to head towards Ilkley until you come to another roundabout. I know, there’s loads of them. When you’ve worked out which one I’m referring to, get into the left lane. Oh, you’re in the right lane and there’s four others to cross. Never mind, just do what everyone else does: Pull up onto the verge, kick the crap out of your car, kick the crap out of anyone in the vicinity and weep like a baby. No amount of adrenalin can save you now…

And yes, it’s true: The whole shebang happens in torturous slow motion. It’s her absolute, magnificent slap in the face. In Leeds, no-one can hear you scream.

Idle Eye 30 : The Olden Days

Hard though it may be to believe as you plough your way through the weekly helping of cattle’s business in front of you now, but on the odd occasion I need to indulge in a spot of research. This is usually achieved with a decanter of ‘2 for £10’ industrial-strength red (min 13.5%, Old World), and a go on my massive ‘style over content’ computer which helps me access topical websites, news stories and films. Ahem. However, the last few weeks have seen my super-speedy 30MB broadband service shrivel to a Coalition-stylee standstill and it has remained thus ever since.

Not being made of the sterner stuff mandatory for a Customer Services face-off, I decided to go the Help & Support Forum route, traditionally populated by angry, semi-literate Neanderthals that use emoticons and swear a lot. Which it was. Only this time they were joined by a teeming throng of bitter, desperate regular folk caught in a quagmire of corporate indifference, their cries disparate but the crux being the same: GET ME OUT OF HERE! Not a good sign. Page after page of anguish read like an online script of Hieronymus Bosch’s Hell and I was right there at the top: Hell’s Hell.

Pessimistically, I posted a newbie complaint and shortly I was visited by Stevetaylor and DannyB01, lamenting my predicament whilst nurturing their own. And as I basked in self-pity I watched it demoted from prime position as even newer sufferers were added. Within minutes I had become a veteran, like Christopher Lee at the end of Taste the Blood of Dracula. Old ladies, students, even web professionals were getting sucked down into the vortex in real time. What chance did I have? Would I ever see iPlayer again? Or even an email? Religion suddenly became a viable concern as all hope slipped away.

And then I thought of Nibs, as one does in a crisis. He is the Elite Republican Guard evangelist of failed services: Dropped a delivery? SEE YOU IN COURT! Shabby marketing? SEE YOU IN COURT! Thread count a bit low on them T-shirts? SEE YOU IN COURT! NO-ONE SCREWS WITH ME!!! SEE YOU IN COURT! AND I WILL WIN!!! I kid you not, this is his mantra and it works. Because now this is what you have to become in order to get what was standard in the Olden Days. Remember them? The Olden Days? When we didn’t have Customer Services because it just happened off the bat, without question? When a little man in overalls would turn up and fix the internet after a cup of builders tea and you’d pop a couple of bob into his top pocket after? Of course you don’t. Because that particular nirvana has been systematically eroded from our consciousness, leaving only the flotsam and jetsam of crud in its wake. So don’t ask me how I managed to post this. Please don’t. Or I’ll see you in court.