Idle Eye 134 : The New Kids

The heralding in of a new year traditionally allows the festivity-weary reveller to discard the old (a possible exception being the antiquities dealer), whilst simultaneously embracing all that is new, untried, untested and, to be frank, still in shorts. On this I beg to differ, particularly with regard to the contentious subject of foodstuffs. The last couple of weeks have seen all manner of horrors cross the threshold, charge up the stairs and vie for pole position in a kitchen already bulging with the decomposing stalwarts of previous months, quietly biding their time with patience, good grace and a certain dignity. The futility of their plight has not been lost on me and my heart goes out to them.

For example, a brattish bunch of dates muscled their way in the other day, flashing their knickers from inside a Taste the Difference box. And, not content with their star placement in front of the wine emporium, they demanded to be addressed as MEDJOOL DATES, all vulgar capitals and a Best Before date that had the longer-term residents wincing. The bravado of the wretched things was beyond belief, particularly as, on closer inspection, they bore a strong resemblance to a miserable collection of sun-dried testicles in captivity. I note wryly as I write this that they remain unopened and have started sucking up to the shallots.

Then there is the not inconsiderable issue of the cheese cracker. For years, we have been content with the only after-dinner companion wafer that has ever mattered: The Carr’s Table Water Biscuit. Fashioned in Carlisle for quality and durability, the CTWB has more than proven its worth and has no need whatsoever to jump about in fancy packaging. In fact, the bland blue/black box instills in us a sense of consumer confidence the new kids can only dream of. But still they come: Thomas J Fudge (with his faux-Victorian offerings and endless chummy waffle), the more austere Fine English Cheese Co (who put on a good show but are ultimately undone by a packshot of the product, gasping for breath from beneath a monstrous slab of Red Leicester), and many, many more too risible to mention here.

What these culinary contenders to the kitchen throne seem to have forgotten (or are simply to naive to comprehend) is that their time will also come, and the bitter pill they will be forced to swallow is that of humility. Either that, or suffer the slings and arrows of the green bin which will be only too happy to see them out. For there is no more pitiful a sight than seasonal goods preening themselves like they’re the cat’s pyjamas when everyone else in the room can see them for what they really are: Has-beens, like ex-footballers with a boutique restaurant or ex-rockers with a ponytail.

So, in light of the above, my lunch today will come from a tin containing one of fifty-seven varieties. It’s my small way of saying thanks for being right there at the back, going nowhere.

Idle Eye 98 : The Disease of Kings

Once again, the heralding in of another year walks hand in hand with the health and fitness websites falling over themselves to help us improve our bedroom skills. Quite why anyone wishes to get down and dirty in this particular field (at a time when one’s most basic of motor skills are generally in question) is anyone’s guess, but there you have it. And besides, any cursory glance at the headlines would suggest the exact opposite is more appropriate if you happen to be hirsute, silver-topped and off the telly in the 70s.

As for myself, I have attempted to keep my galloping libido at bay with industrial quantities of NZ Marlborough Pinot Noir and a spattering of domestic chores which offer the minimum potential for sexual confusion (it is no coincidence that the more enthusiastic power tool adopter also enjoys wearing those front-weighted accessory belts). And it seems to be working: I’ve yet to have a pop at a Woman’s Hour announcer live on air, elope to France with a teenager or spend any longer than is absolutely necessary in the small room with a copy of Vogue. In fact, the only discernible improvement in the bedroom at present is a new bookshelf – I’m doing my bit.

Imagine my dismay then, when I switched on R4 only to discover that the onerous regime I have responsibly maintained will almost certainly give me gout. Yep, gout! It’s the latest shock malady to do the rounds, brought on by copious consumption of red wine, a diet rich in purines and the utter rejection of Catholicism as sole legitimate sovereign. And apparently it’s heading my way if I fail to rein in my eating and drinking habits. But I’m getting mixed messages here:

Do they want me to strut about like Cock o’ the South, terrifying the ladies of London as they run for cover? Or do I willingly infect myself with the disease of kings in order to prevent such a horror? What are my options? Will I remain handsome? How do goats make cheese?

Fortunately for everyone, the BMJ has found if not a solution, a patch. It seems that a liberal intake of cherries can reduce the risk of gout attacks by up to 35%. Which is a relief. Only thing is, they also enhance the production of dopamine which means I’ll have to be kept indoors, probably under lock and key, until my ardour is sufficiently dampened. It’s a vicious circle:

You rut too much therefore you drink too much therefore you get the gout therefore you eat the cherries therefore you rut too much.

You’d think someone in a lab coat would have culled the problem at source, wouldn’t you? Or that a Cupertino pre-teen would have an app for it by now. But until they do, I shall continue to drink the good fight in the interests of science and common decency. And my feet can sort themselves out when the time comes.

Idle Eye 13 : The Resolutions

I’d like to start off 2012 with an apology and then we’ll get down to business. It seems that one or two of you were deeply affronted by the insinuation made on the Cast & Crew page that Nibs’ and my own dear mother is somehow affiliated with the Nazi party. On reflection, I have come to the conclusion that this may not be the case (despite some damning evidence to the contrary I am legally bound not to disclose) and I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused. So much so that I spent the week after Christmas tracking down the only surviving member of the Waffen-SS, one Herr Josef Ümlaut, to make the apology in person. I am, and have always been, a gentleman.

So where were we? Ah yes, 2012. Well, we all enjoyed the fireworks (thanks, Boris) and we’ll all be working just that little bit harder to pay them off, right? But never mind that, it’s the Olympics, innit! THE OLYMPICS!!! Sponsored by health and efficiency magnates Coke and MacDonalds and mascotted by cuddly cyclopses Wenlock and Mandeville. Brilliant! I don’t know about you but I am going to be glued to my set for weeks, swilling official fizzy pop and burgers until I am fit enough to hound down one of those monocular LOCOG lackeys and lance it with a javelin. There, I said it. Now, who else can I offend this week? C’mon Seb, have a pop.

I also promised Nibs that I would make this blog more Idle Hour-centric in one of my less rational, claret-sodden moments of weakness. Well, it was New Year and I was welled up with the mucus of human kindness. So we discussed characters we could slowly introduce that, in time, you will all become familiar with, based on your favourite pubs’ staff, locals and such. It was a drawn-out process but we got there in the end. So, without any further ado, I would like to introduce you all to Timmy:

You:  Hello Timmy!

Timmy:  Meow.

You:  TimmyTimmyTimmyTimmy!

Timmy:  Meow.

Obviously, over time, Timmy’s inherent qualities will manifest themselves on the page and her (sic) antics will become increasingly unlikely and hilarious, but first I have to get to know the little gal and this far in it’s all she’s given me. However, I think you can already tell she’s got the X-factor and I’ll be exploiting this ruthlessly as you might imagine.

Lastly, but by no means leastly, I’d like to thank you all for reading this nonsense over the past few months. Perhaps if you stick with it, you will notice a maturity of style and keen wit develop as the weeks go on, and perhaps, in an ideal world, you will meet Giles Coren in a fancy restaurant he is being paid to eat in and beg him to review Nibs’ tiny but perfectly formed establishment. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Oh, and Happy New Year.