Idle Eye 165 : The Best Things in Life Are Free

Really? Now come on, Beatles/Flying Lizards/Janet Jackson, I’ve been around the block a few times and I beg to differ. Try telling that to the head waiter at whichever vulgar joint you’ve taken your better half to on his/her significant day and see just how much mustard it cuts. Or perhaps try your hand in one of those St James of London costumiers, where you can bag for gratis hand-stitched pyjamas with piping at the collars and cuffs if you simply mention how highly you rate them. The trouble with the above is that it is a phrase coined in the 1960s, when highfalutin ideals were chucked about without too much attention to detail. For the Age of Aquarius would have been tainted beyond recognition if there were a price tag attached to it.

I’m not being wilfully ignorant here. Of course, the implied best thing is love. Which, as we all know, comes at you from a place where there is no currency. It is the one thing that, in order to achieve it, we would pay any price for and yet it cannot be bought. It stands resolutely alone, across boundaries of race, logic and age. It defies the mores of any epoch it springs up inside and, to this day, remains enigmatically aloof. Literature feeds off it, science can’t get to grips with it and when it strikes, is truly egalitarian. And in that respect, it holds all the cards. Nothing else comes close.

But sod that, you can still buy it. I’m not recommending it as an option, but you can. As long as you can deal with the lack of intimacy, profundity and its cataclysmic, life-altering potential, a version of it is out there for sale. And for some, this is enough. The Prozac Nation, neutered variant will always be attractive to those who, for whatever reason, are unable to shore up to the real thing. Sometimes I wish I could join their ranks, but sadly I am destined to follow each and every gut-wrenching affair of the heart to no matter where it may lead. For which I make no apology. I am what God made me.

As for the other stuff, well it’s just bollocks innit? Name me three things that you can’t have if you get the chequebook out and I’ll shout you a meal at the Ivy. As long as you book the window table and get them to waiver the no jeans policy. There was a time, eons ago, when the finer points of human achievement were considered to be at the zenith of where we are headed as a species, way beyond the grasp of cupidity. But no longer. These days, everything comes at a cost, particularly the very things that shouldn’t. I am loathe to drag current affairs into this particular diatribe but seriously, do your research.

IE is available for children’s parties etc…

Idle Eye 157 : The Plagiarist?

Impending death kind of makes you get your skates on. All that time you spent dicking about doing nothing of consequence will eventually appear at your door tapping its watch. Which is no biggie if you happen to have chalked up some of the stuff you set out to achieve, but if, like me, you’ve tried and failed too often to even care about, you have to ask yourself two pretty searching questions:

Do I keep going, or do I shackle myself to the yoke of submission and admit defeat?

The death thing is quite a major pisser, but when you boil it back to basics it’s not actually life-threatening; just an expedient reminder for you to get off your arse and get on with it. If it bothers you, you can always hop over to deathclock.com (the internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away), where they kindly work out how long you’ve got until you are reclaimed by the Grim Reaper. I did briefly consider this, but thought better of it after browsing the search criteria and calculating for myself that I was already living on borrowed time.

I weighed it up. Yes, I could go back to a job that looks good on paper to those who don’t really understand what it entails, or load my bollocks back into the wheelbarrow of endeavour and run with it/them once again. To where there’s no safety net if things go a bit tits. Where the odds are stacked against you because you should have done it twenty years ago. Where the contenders are younger, media-savvy and hungry for that rapidly diminishing slice of the pie. And then, just as I was beginning to cave, someone introduced me to Jonathan Ames.

If ever an ageing, unpublished writer needed a tonic, it came then in the form of this man’s work. A self-deprecating, pushed alter-ego, doing (and penning) things most of us would ordinarily shun, in the tradition of the great American humourists but with a filthier edge, Ames was pushing all my buttons. The greater irony being that the exaggerated failure he casts himself as is, in reality, exactly who I am now. Although I too am writing as an exaggerated failure, and shall continue to do so despite any inconvenient impending success. It’s a headsmoker, make no mistake, but a glorious one nonetheless.

So where does that leave us? My newfound admiration for Mr Ames will almost certainly draw comparisons, the most apposite being that despite sharing a birth year, I am in South-East London writing drivel for 350 people and he is about to launch Blunt Talk (which, from the trailer, appears to be the sharpest comedy to come out of the States in decades) and is probably rather busy. But it is comforting to note that we have been singing from the same hymn sheet for quite a while. Independently, I swear.

Doubt, get thee behind me.

IE Audio 1 : The Wolf of West Norwood

Idle Eye audio will appear here until I’ve stopped dicking around with the new website and taken it live. We’ll aim to put up a new one every fortnight, maybe more. Who knows? Anyway, let’s kick it all off with Wolf of West Norwood, an oldie but goodie. Let us know what you think. And here are some written credits in case you miss them at the end: Rupert narrated it, Donald produced it (& composed the music) and I wrote it. Very straightforward.

https://theidleeye.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/idle-eye-100-the-wolf-of-west-norwood/

Idle Eye 150 : The Lure of the Land

Buying the freehold of a property is usually one of those below the waterline affairs, a bit like getting the drains done or lancing the cat’s boils: You sort of know it’s the right thing to do, but there’s scant instant gratification and invariably you come away wondering why you bothered. It does seem frightfully grown-up, and when you mention it to grown-ups who’ve already done it, they all go to that grown-up place where grown-ups go when they’ve grown up and start throwing stuff at you about longevity of leases and the like. Which only serves to confuse you further and makes you wish you’d blown it all on wine gums.

Pretty much anything to do with real estate is breathtakingly dull. From the fatuous language employed by conveyancing lawyers to justify their staggering fees, to the endless bureaucratic leeches waiting in line for their share of the silver, everything is precision-tailored to bore the crap out of you and grind you into acquiescence. Even the figures bandied about at point of sale are so completely beyond your frame of reference, you find yourself internally knocking off a few noughts in order to make sense of them:

Lawyer:   Thanks for coming in. Just to clarify – We have prepared and lodged a memorandum of transfer, checked for easements against existing title certificate, conducted relevant authority and chancel repair searches, discussed buildings insurance liabilities with current landlord, checked official copies and covenants relating to ongoing maintenance of common parts, and some other shit you wouldn’t understand. If all the above is in order, we suggest a sum in advance of £500,000 would be appropriate for services rendered to date. Help yourself to a Freddo Frog on the way out.

See? I mean, how do you respond? By the time you’ve worked out what the first half means to you the layman, the suggested sum will have effectively doubled. Bizarrely, by taking the initial hit you’re quids in. Which is why these SOBs remain gainfully employed and are always on holiday in the week of completion, whilst you are frantically checking the Land Registry for any long-forgotten relatives who may or may not own bits of Norfolk currently in tender to developers.

With the above in mind, I’ve been doing a bit of developing as well, and I don’t mean pictures. What if, in the vein of that bloke Dave who set up his own bank, Idle Eye breaks the mould with a no-nonsense, one-stop shop for people who want to buy stuff without all that suffocating obfuscation? Hear me out:

You:  I’d like to buy this, please.

Me:  Of course! It costs £x

You:  You have been most helpful. Here’s a cheque.

Me:  Thank you. I shall bank it forthwith. Enjoy your purchase.

It’s not hard. Really, it isn’t. And who knows, it might even catch on. After all, there’s an election coming up.

Idle Eye 139 : The Writer’s Prerogative

Last night, Rupert, Donald and I were up into the small hours recording the audio version of what you are reading here. Not this exact one, obvs, but time will come when whatever piffle I have flying about inside my head right now will also be read out by a voice that isn’t my own, and Donald’s technical know-how will make it sound like it is. This bizarre parallax should be second nature to any writer familiar with producing material for radio or television, but I’m pretty weirded out by it, to be honest. Because the overwhelming temptation is to take the piss.

Not that I would, mind. But just knowing I have the power to make Rupert say something completely inappropriate whenever I so fancy is curiously erotic. For example, I could start him off on a paragraph of unnecessarily verbose waffle, as is my wont, and then stick the word ‘turtle’ in there for no apparent reason. And he’d have to say it! See? ‘Cos it’s all about the integrity of the piece and you can’t dick about with that. Even if the piece has no integrity whatsoever, like this one. There’s also endless fun to be had with the layering system: There’s me (bottom), writing this as Idle Eye (middle), being read out by Rupert (top) and, if truth be told, you’ve got no idea which one you can trust, have you? If any. They’re all messing with your head, right? And which one do you point the finger at when you’ve had enough?

Well, seeing as we’ve built an understanding over the years, perhaps I can be of some assistance. If you’re listening now, step away for a moment and think on this: That smooth-as-silk, candy-coated baritone clearly isn’t mine, is it? We established that earlier. He is essentially a charlatan, inhabiting the skin inside which I exist for fiscal remuneration or sexual favours. The very fact that he has told you this just proves my point. And if he baulks, I would caution you to be suspicious. Because it is highly likely I told him to do so, despite whatever childish nonsense he may come up with to prove otherwise.

If you are reading this, however, you can relax somewhat. Safe in the knowledge that you are the cognoscenti (with one less layer of remove to circumnavigate), you can go about your day in confidence. Because you’ve sided with the good guy: The writer. For it’s all very well for them clever bastards to appear out of nowhere and take the credit for all the graft we’ve put in, but this time I’m fighting back. If I was spewing out this crap in times past, I would challenge him to a duel: Pistols at dawn, you know the drill. But we are living through an era in which all manner of dross is king, and I must cave if I am to survive. Just remember who told you first.

Idle Eye 132 : The Christmas Special*

*with 312 festive bonus words

Desert Island Discs – December 2014

Kirsty:  Due to swingeing cuts the BBC has suffered recently, my castaway this week is alcoholic and sometime blogger Idle Eye. I know, me neither. His pithy and often self-deprecating blog has been read by an ever-decreasing audience since its inception in 2011, and he claims to be a mouthpiece for the very few disaffected, middle-aged misanthropes he manages to connect with. Good morning, sir.

Me:  Good morning, Kirsty.

Kirsty:  I understand that you no longer make any money whatsoever from your work. Is this true?

Me:  That’s correct. I started by writing for my brother’s pub, but it soon became pretty clear that the stuff I put out was having an adverse effect on his clientele: They stayed away in their droves. The rest is history.

Kirsty:  So what’s the incentive, if you don’t mind me asking?

Me:  Well, Kirsty, the strapline for the whole shebang is “Getting it off my chest and onto yours”, which I suppose is the main thrust. And I nicked that from Peter Cook. Sadly, there isn’t an original bone in my body. But I soldier on.

Kirsty:  Let’s have some music.

Me:  My first would have to be Instant Street by dEUS, which hit me like a bullet when it came out in 19…

Kirsty:  We don’t have that one, I’m afraid.

Me:  Oh…Well, how about Heavenly Pop Hit by The Chills? The flagship band from New Zealand’s Flying Nun stable when they were at their…

Kirsty:  Nor that.

Me:  I thought you had these things lined up beforehand?

Kirsty:  Look, Sarah Millican asked for Wham! if that’s any help. Work with me.

Me:  Ok.

[You Drive Me Crazy – Shakin’ Stevens]

Kirsty:  Thank you. Now, tell me about your drinking. You profess a disturbing reliance on Marlborough Pinot Noir in order to get your ideas onto the page. Would you describe yourself as a writer with a drinking problem or a drinker with a writing problem?

Me:  I like to think of it as both. Although it’s clear which one would have to go if push came to shove.

Kirsty:  I see. And do you think you could manage without?

Me:  To be fair, there’s a lot of crap out there. And the telly’s getting better and better. So yes, I think so.

Kirsty:  Let’s have your next disc.

Me: Can I have…

[We Are The Champions – Queen]

Kirsty:  You mention your family in several posts. Tell me about the early years: Did they spot the signs of your forthcoming invisibility or was it something you had to work at alone?

Me:  When you say ‘forthcoming invisibility’…

Kirsty:  That, by your own admission, your efforts are widely ignored. “Like farting into a wind tunnel”, as you once put it.

Me:  It was a symbiotic arrangement, I seem to remember. To have your ‘efforts’ overlooked as a young man does stand you in good stead for later life. In many ways it was a gift, for which I am profoundly grateful.

Kirsty:  Forgive me for bringing this up, but we’re running out of time and we need a hook. Your father, a much-loved television and film actor, died last year. How did his tangible success, first realised when he was less than half your age, affect your confidence as an artist in your own right?

Me:  Well, Kirsty, I see it like this: Success is very much like wine – Some of it can be enjoyed young (and some of it can be very good), but I think most of us would agree that in order for it to be at its very best, it needs to have sat around for a while.

Kirsty:  But if you leave it too long, it gets tipped down the sink.

Me:  There is that.

Kirsty:  Let’s have some more mu…actually, let me do it.

[Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid]

Me:  I hate that one, by the way.

Kirsty:  Me too. But it’s your show.

Me:  And I normally write 500 words, preferably less.

Kirsty:  Just say it’s a Christmas Special. You can do whatever you like with them, trust me. Now, I’m going to give you The Complete Works of Shakespeare and The Bible to take with you. And a book of your choice: What’s it going to be?

Me:  Well, it’s a toss-up between…

[Sarah Millican’s Support Group audiobook – Sarah Millican (signed)]

Kirsty:  And a luxury too. You can have one thing on the island to make life more bearable.

Me:  I’d like…

[You’re Never Too Fat For A Handbag – Sarah Millican white cotton tea towel (signed)]

Kirsty:  And if you had to pick just one…ach, forget it.

Me:  I already have.

Kirsty:  Thanks for coming in.

Me:  No, thank you.

Idle Eye 100 : The Wolf of West Norwood

“See that two bedroom flat in a quiet residential area about eight miles from where it’s at? That’s mine (when I pay off the mortgage in 15 years). I also own a decaying car that’s older than me, take painkillers once a day if the back’s playing up and I owe £132 in council tax. When I was 26, I was selling sandwiches off a bicycle in the Farringdon area for less money than my niece makes in an afternoon, couldn’t hold down a girlfriend and drank myself to sleep most nights. Like it?”

On reflection, perhaps I’ve left it too late to enjoy the nefarious lifestyle portrayed by Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s latest epic. Sadly, the days of ludes, ladies and Lamborghinis are long gone but the thirst for excess never completely abandons you, particularly if you haven’t had it in the first place. So here’s a checklist for any senior slickers out there that will not hand over the baton:

Wellman 50+. The Holy Grail of oral healthcare. Neck one of these beauties with a couple of Omega 3’s and you’ll come up smiling for 24 hrs. What’s more, you can drive all you like and still operate the Stannah. Recommended.

HSS Equipment Hire. Mandatory for any lifting gear necessary to winch yourself into position at those liberated office parties. Consider also Streatham Cars for an unhindered lift to A&E shortly afterwards.

Acme Pool Cleaning. If you do happen to get caught short at an all-important client meeting, these guys are discreet, fast as lightning and have on-site fabric care facilities. Includes Dralon®.

Ladbrokes. You like to gamble. But that itch never got properly scratched, right? Instead of pissing away someone else’s blue-collar quids on the never-never, these horses will keep on comin’ atcha until the end of time. Simply smoke 5000 tabs a week, lie to your wife like you used to and blow the housekeeping fund in less time than it takes to say ‘divorce’.

Saga Magazine. No more Hustler, no more Penthouse. But keep it real with Saga, the only monthly you can read under the duvet by torchlight without getting your head stoved in. Now subtly laminated for guilt-free enjoyment.

Viking Direct Office Supplies. Sell me this pen.

Fred Olsen. What’s this? Are you serious? A yacht!!! (With maids, cooks, 1300 paying guests, easy access toilets on all levels and occasional live music and/or comedy in the theme bar.)

Methuselah Homes UK. When your hellraising days are finally behind you, why not reminisce with like-minded chums in one of our ‘off the beaten track’ tailor-made units? Don’t worry, we’ll change your name and contact details for you, it’s all part of the service.

And for all of the above, there is no fee. We wrinklies must stick together, rallying fervently against the relentless onslaught of youth and taking whatever tablets they give us to keep us going. Senility is a state of mind, not an ailment. You can have that one. You’re welcome.