Idle Eye 129 : The Sound of Sirens

I thought long and hard about using this title. Really, I did. Because the point of this week’s whimsy is all about having the tinnitus, working opposite a Chelsea hospital and the lunacy of having a coma-inducing klaxon attached to vehicles designated specifically for our care. However, I had another look and thought better of it. If you haven’t already spotted the reason why, let me elucidate: The Sound of Sirens could so easily be misconstrued as a weak attempt at impersonating a Chinese person having a go at one of the songs of Simon and Garfunkel. Particularly if I followed it with “Harrow Duck Nest Marrow Fren”, which obviously I would have avoided. Yes, I know: It has nothing to do with the subject matter and you probably wouldn’t have made the connection if I hadn’t drawn your attention to it, but it’s out there now and you can’t be too careful these days.

But then it occurred to me that the very inclusion of the reasons I decided against it could equally be read as divisive, in a similar way that someone like Clarkson throws in a defamatory remark and quantifies it by apologising for a lesser crime than the one he has actually committed. Which finds me between a rock and a hard place. Should I have the courage of my original conviction, or should I edit myself into ever-decreasing circles, based almost exclusively on my nascent understanding of what you enjoy reading here every week? A Sophie’s Choice, basically, and I fear whichever I go for will inevitably be wrong as per.

Anyway, I’m getting off-piste. Today, one of those bloody things shot past me as I made my way to purchase a coffee over my morning break and my ears are still ringing as I write this. It’s the lunacy of having a coma-inducing klaxon on vehicles designated specifically for our care, make no mistake. Er, and that’s it, pretty much. I was hoping to go on to mention healthcare cuts, key worker issues etc…and somehow make it all funny, but you’ve got no idea: Every time I think of something relevant, I am utterly distracted by chronic feedback between the lugholes and I just get in a strop and forget about whatever it was that I had in mind in the first place.

Cameron, this is all your doing: I was good before you got in. Just give the NHS enough moolah to replace those appalling style-over-content American wailers with good old-fashioned Z-Cars ones from yesteryear and I’ll do my best to be entertaining again. There are people out there relying on me, and the last thing they want is weekly derivative crap forced upon them by your swingeing policies and my deteriorating hearing. And, in case you’re wondering, the title has got nothing to do with our friends across the water. Or The Graduate. Got that? Good.

Idle Eye 56 : The More That I See, The Less I Believe

Hello again. Yeah I know, it’s been a while but, to be fair, there’s been a hefty portion on our collective plate, no? Show a little compassion, per-lease! First up there was that Mayan business which led me to believe there was little point in writing to you lot when the world as we knew it was going to be ripped apart from its very tits. Hot on the heels of that was Christmas, over which I was going to give you a massive end of year special (one third completed) about the horrors of the High Street and shopping for trees, but then I succumbed to the Winter Virus thingy which had me hallucinating like Timothy Leary in front of an arsenal of Carry On movies, wrapped in a dog blanket, as the rest of my family enjoyed Nibs’s hospitality at Idle Hour Barnes on the big day. Sod’s Law. (It wasn’t the Norovirus you’ll no doubt be delighted to hear, but plenty of entertaining emissions were enjoyed nonetheless.)

I briefly raised myself from my pit for New Year, over which I made it over to Chipping Norton on a personal quest to spot Rebekah Brooks and Jeremy Clarkson in their natural habitat, sadly dashed as they were both at the bank. And then back to London for the astonishing news that, according to BBC sources, the Duchess of Cambridge will be squirting out our future monarch in July (if they get those pesky rules sorted by then), and it is likely to be ‘either a boy or a girl’. Now, I know the beeb are paddling the creek with their bare hands at present, but on occasions like these I do not begrudge them my licence fee, particularly now as someone’s going to have to cough up for Rolf after the bodge they made of her portrait.

In other news, it has been heartening to learn that MP’s have called for a 32% pay hike for lolling about inside one of our premier historic buildings, getting messy on subsidised booze & shouting at each other across a green carpet. It’s austerity, innit? And, oh my stars, it’s nice to have Berlusconi back in the picture, don’t you think? For a moment there I thought Italy would have to survive on its back catalogue of exotic pasta and holiday resorts for the Milliband set.

And now we’re balls deep into 2013. Older, wiser and tugging the tunic of the grim reaper. But fear not, friends! Together we’ll surf whatever tide comes our way and, if you can forgive me February (the month I dull the trousers off of you all because I’m off the sauce again), we will rise again, stronger, leaner, fitter…

Actually, you know what you’re going to get. More of the same. Some of it shite, some not. And quite a lot with Nibs in it, because that’s the whole point. Thanks for sticking around: It’s going to be an outstanding year.

Idle Eye 53 : The Devil’s Playground

Long-term readers of this pile of offal will implicitly understand how thrilled I was to discover that this week heralds the start of yet another government initiative. In case you don’t already have it seared into your subconscious, I’m referring, of course, to Road Safety Week. Conceived specifically to heighten awareness of the carnage out there, RSW also sets out to tell us that we drive too fast in built-up areas, pollute too much and should really consider walking and cycling a bit more.

Yeah, okay okay. But this morning I caught my first fleeting glimpse of the 2012 mascot, with which we are expected to bond and empathise for seven whole days. He’s a lumpy builder type with an American Dad chin and all the yellow kit on (you know, that standard issue safety stuff that prevents you doing the job you’re actually being paid for). From the protective haven of his hoarding he gurns at the viewer in an encouraging yet profoundly disturbing manner. And guess what? He’s a bloody drawing. Ad agencies across the land must dread Road Safety Week. For they know that if they are passed this particular poisoned chalice, that two-bit scribble knocked up in the blurry vortex between Toke Thursday and Chang Friday will have to hold its own against timeless classics such as Tufty Squirrel, the evil Nick O’Teen or that moustachioed shithead helping you with your tax return. And there’s not a fart’s chance in a windtunnel of that happening.

So what is it with the Nanny State and its compulsion to get its manifesto across with doctrine our own children would find condescending? More often than not the message has some not inconsiderable weight but is ultimately let down because WE ARE GROWN UPS AND WE WOULD LIKE TO DECIPHER OUR WORLD IN WORDS OF MORE THAN TWO SYLLABLES. And even if we were pre-pubescent renegades on the cusp of changing our ways, the very first whiff of being patronised would have us back on the streets torching Previas. We may be kids, but this is the Devil’s Playground. Strap yourselves in.

Speaking of kids, the above at least is an attempt at bringing order into a world of chaos. Now that we can’t fag on in public houses and our pandering governors wish to make them increasingly attractive to infants, those once hallowed spit and sawdust floors (previously only accessed by scurrilous journalists and students) are now hugga-mugga with Mamas and Papas, the small person vehicle that abides by no law, laughs in the face of common decency and, if it were subject to the stringent demands of Road Safety Week, would be slammed into the nearest pound quicker than you can say Jeremy Clarkson. So come on, mums and dads! If you insist on bringing your three-wheeled buggies of anarchy into the public domain, let’s have some rules: You make way at the bar, and we’ll slow to 20. Deal?

Idle Eye 47 : The Rag Trade-Off

Like most males of my age, I’m an uncomfortable clothes shopper. The very thought of leaving the warm nucleus of my flat for a brutal, strip-lit warehouse touting whichever vulgar garment happens to be fashionable right now is so appalling that I tend to hang onto the same tatty old shite attempting to cover my nakedness for one more glorious season rather than face the alternative. I’m not proud of it, far from it, but that’s the truth. And as every summer leaves what autumn finds, I have learned to recognise that 50/50 mix of pity and disgust buried deep beneath the permafrost of those I hold dearest. They try to disguise it, bless ‘em, but I know it’s there. And it hurts because I know they know I only have two sartorial settings: Dress to Impress, and Dress Down Weekday.

Take, for instance, my Bolongaro Trevor ‘God Save the King’ tee-shirt with its attendant heraldic symbols, furry-faced monarchs in period ellipse frames and mottled seriffed type. This fits neatly into the former category and gets outed whenever I need to dazzle ‘em. About twice a decade. Anyone who witnessed the annihilation of popular song performed by my brother and I at the Idle Hour last year may have spotted it, and my fervent prayer was that you’d be so impressed by the packaging, a closer inspection of the contents would have been unnecessary. And while we’re on the subject, could someone have a word with Nibs about that Union Jack jacket? We all know it’s a magnificent beast but there’s a fine line between Mo Farah and Jimmy Savile. As well he knows.

In the latter corner lies my John Lewis knee-length overcoat. This loyal lovely has been doing the rounds since the Boer War and was dyed black in 1926 in order to disguise the blood of fallen suffragettes and rotting stitches stolen from a roadside hospital in Ypres. If it were a tree it would be a Douglas Fir: Solid, stalwart, stoic. A bit like Jeremy Clarkson. The inside pockets, however, have frayed beyond repair (although this does have the advantage of easy access to my person for those essential ‘on the road’ adjustments).

Also worth mentioning are the unmentionables. Yes, it’s those grey Christmas 2003 boulder holders I never thought would last out the year, but like the Council Tax and Tesco Metro have managed to survive despite multilateral distain. Admittedly there’s not much to fall in love with here, but as the years have gone by they have formed an impressive crust on the inside elastic which has aided and abetted adhesion to the waistline. Sorry, ladies, he’s taken.

They say charity begins at home. And I have a bag marked the same which will never, ever see a shop marked the same. Because there’s always a couple more years left in there. At least a couple.