Idle Eye 140 : The Blood Test

In May 2013, I made an appointment with a certain Dr Nunn for a routine blood test. Apparently you’re meant to do this sort of thing when the ratio of your years left on the planet versus years already used up, tips unfavourably towards the latter. I made light of any reasoning behind it, of course, suggesting that my request was purely investigative and of no great consequence. However, Dr Nunn is no fool. Looking straight past the saffron-tinted jellies through which I decipher the world and deep into the very core of my being, he offered me a seat next to the computer. Then he made me wait. For eons.

Time slows down to a crawl when you know you’ve been rumbled. The skinny document containing my records was theatrically scrutinised, and accusatory glances from over the top of his half-moon glasses were staged for maximum gravitas. I knew what was coming next:

Dr Nunn:  Smoker?

Me:  Er…Not really. The occasional puff, perhaps.

Dr Nunn:  How many?

Me:  Hmm…Depends on my week, I suppose! (laughs nervously)

Dr Nunn:  I’ll put you down for twenty. Sound about right?

Me:  Absolutely. (rapid blinking)

Dr Nunn:  What about alcohol? How many units per week?

Me:  Units? I’m not really sure, to be honest. How do you…

Dr Nunn:  Someone of your age should be looking at no more than one or two small glasses of wine a night. Preferably with breaks in between. The liver isn’t a miracle worker.

Me:  I see. I think it would be fair to say I do drink a little more than that. Not always, and I do try to keep it to…

Dr Nunn:  I need a straight answer. Or we’re both wasting each others time, aren’t we?

Me:  Yes, I’m sorry. Well, on the odd occasion it has been known for me to get through half a bottle of red wine in the evening, and sometimes a beer or two.

Dr Nunn:  How often?

(long pause)

Me:  Every night.

(long pause)

Dr Nunn:  No more than that?

(long pause)

Me:  No. (swallows)

Dr Nunn:  Right, I need you to come back next week. Give this in at reception, they’ll make another appointment for you.

Me:  Thanks very much for…

Dr Nunn:  Goodbye.

I looked down at the printout thrust into my hand. There, in a little box marked ‘Relevant Clinical Details’ was the evidence statisticians and the red tops pay top dollar for, no doubt to keep social pariahs such as myself out of the surgeries: ‘Screen: High Alcohol.’  And it works. Because I never went back. If half a bottle of pinot and a hop-based aperitif counts as alcohol abuse, my return visit would have seen Dr Nunn strapping me into some kind of detox seat, like Alex from A Clockwork Orange, forcing me to watch endless loops of waterfalls and Bavarian milkmaids until I recanted my feckless ways. Do me a favour…

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 84 : The Carb Uncle

One of the downsides of owning a classic car is that people will insist on talking to you about it. Whether you’re underneath it, inside it or getting out, invariably you will be approached by an enthusiastic beardy type with battered NHS glasses, aching for a lengthy chat about horsepower, turning circles & the good old days when they made things proper. It goes with the territory. And for reasons completely beyond me, there is an unspoken presumption that you care as deeply about engines and distributors and carburettors and all the other stuff that gets greasy every time you look at it and ruins your good trousers because you thought you’d just have a quick tinker but it’s never quite that simple is it, as they do.

You can see them approaching a mile off, all dewey-eyed, drooling and preparing for their inevitable opening gambit:

Carb Uncle:  Used to have one of them meself, mate. First car, she was. Went like a rocket. And you could turn her on a sixpence. Lovely motor. Had her long?

Me:  About ten years.

Carb Uncle:  We got ours in…er…when did we get ours, Joyce?

Joyce:  1967. Our honeymoon.

Carb Uncle:  That’s right! ‘67 it was. Took her down the Costa del Sol, never had no trouble. Well, I say no trouble but you know what it’s like. Like to play up sometimes, don’t they? But the beauty of the old ‘uns is you can do the work yourself, right? Flip up the bonnet, sit on the wheel & get stuck in. Not like your modern rubbish. First sign of trouble & it’s all Computer says No! No way José! Tell you what, mate: I’d give ten of any car on the road right now for one of those. ‘Cos they made them proper back then. Right, Joyce?

Joyce:  Yes, dear.

Carb Uncle:  Lovely engines’n’all. Yours a two litre?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Twin carbs?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Strombergs?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Your Stromberg was the king of carbs, make no mistake. Tune ‘em to within an inch of their life, I should coco. Mind you, they couldn’t half give you strife on the long haul. Spent many an hour on the hard shoulder with a spanner or two in the jacksie pocket, ain’t that the truth, Joyce?

Joyce:  Yes, dear.

Back in the day, I learned to actively engage with these people. How I would laugh at the absurdities of modern vehicles. How I pretended to yearn for the golden era of motoring, when one could take to the open road in a car proudly manufactured in Great Britain, safe in the knowledge that it was almost certainly the envy of the developed world. But these days, I’m afraid I really couldn’t give a toss. Because if I give Carb Uncle the kind of time he’s after, I’ll never get the bloody thing sorted. And I’m off to France next week. So please, could you just piss off?

Idle Eye 3 : The Gift

Readers, I need help. Last weekend I bought a bottle cutter off that eBay and made a vase. A vase, for God’s sake! A sure sign that I’m heading at breakneck speed towards the final countdown. Whatever next? Carpet dye? Comfortable shoes? In my defense, it was an attempt to stem the tide of neighbourhood wrath every fortnight when a pantechnicon with my address embossed on the side appears at 5.45am and minimally reduces the glass mountain engulfing the street it has just woken up. Frighteningly, I’m getting the hang of it too, thanks to the glossy 35-page brochure exquisitely realised by Terrence Picone and Sydney St James from Wyckoff, NJ. Apparently, when I get really good, I can make a Gold Votive Candle Holder from an Orangina bottle, or a magnificent Fish Decanter with just a Pescevino white wine bottle and cork. And some liquorice paint. But this giddy level of excellence does not come quick, oh no! According to Tel’n’Syd :

“During your learning phase you should successfully cut about 80% of the projects you start. And once you have practiced a little, 95%. Practice, practice, practice!”

No time like the present then, so I took the Triumph Herald to Majestic and loaded her up with a suspension-busting cargo of practice items, including some challenging top flight shaped ones for when I get better. And I really don’t have long to master my craft. It’s the Idle Hour 10th anniversary this month, you see, and my thinking runs somewhere along the lines of making Nibs something special to mark the occasion. Something he can look at on a busy night when he’s clearing the tables of lesser bottles and feel a warm Ready Brek glow of pride that we are from the same womb. He also mentioned that there was a bit of a ’10’ theme going on, 10% off booze, 10% off food, 10 years lopped off the tail end of your life etc..etc.. Which is nice. But anyway, first things first. I’ve got 2.5 cases to get through before I can start and there’s a potentially lethal cutting tool involved. These are the kinds of impossible odds young David faced in the Valley of Elah as the mighty Goliath waved his sword about and pointed at his wet patch. But, like the warrior I have become, in times of peril I shall overcome.

Footnote from Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5

I must say I can’t see what all the fuss is about the NHS. Over-stretched/underpaid and most of them absolutely shattered but always time for a smile and a chat. Bless them all. Nurse Rached has been particularly sweet and set me up in Physio with my cutter as there’s really not long at all until this anniversary thing kicks off. And most understanding about the mess. Turns out T’n’S were wildly optimistic with their percentages but there again they are American: Perhaps I should sue.