Idle Eye 177 : The Lunatic Fringe

I remember looking into a mirror in my early teens and becoming deeply distressed by the reflected combover, struggling to conceal an anaemic pate that lay beneath. Why, oh why wasn’t I blessed with a testosterone-laden rug such as Oliver Reed’s? Or an exotic, lustrous mane like the one Peter O’Toole sported so memorably in Laurence of Arabia? Ladies seemed to enjoy that shit back then, and I was convinced that once they had gotten past the brutal truth – that I had only just started sprouting hair elsewhere – the likes of Farrah & Co would have leapt at the chance of running their fingers through a pubescent schoolboy’s formative locks, despite not yet being able to take them out to a licensed restaurant and manfully settling the bill.

I’ll be straight with you: things haven’t improved much since. My twenties and thirties saw only an uphill battle with the tyranny of the tresses, so when Jon Bon Jovi and Nick Cave appeared (with their effortless, follicular fuck you’s), I was getting through an entire can of Boot’s Unperfumed (pink for maximum hold, as opposed to the lightweight blue) every day, and considered myself single-handedly responsible for the ozone hole that could be seen from spaceships. But still I persevered, despite resembling a deep-fried greaser plugged into the mains. When the 90s penchant for a brutal No.2. shave cut became a thing, I consoled myself with the fact that all fashion is cyclical, and that I would almost certainly be de rigueur come 2005. By which time I was presented with an entirely unforeseen challenge.

A couple of grey babies had appeared. Initially quite subtly, nestled in amongst the more robust strands, but with a deft go on a comb and a handful of wet-look gel, no one was any the wiser. Being that 2-3 months older than my peers, I have always been held up as a poster boy to the perils of ageing, so I badly needed a few tricks up my sleeve. Grecian 2000 was briefly considered, until I cottoned on to the fact that it is exclusively a product for the tragically deluded. And anyway, why couldn’t I shore up to what nature had in store for me? It is what it is, as they supposedly say, and the ladies I so badly wanted would have instinctively recognised this and loved me for it. I laboured under this fallacy for a few more years until it became ridiculous: by 2015, it looked as if I’d had a deliberate rinse.

Please don’t get me started on all that Silver Fox nonsense. Flattering though it may be to be seen as a kind of Blake Carrington figure (google him, children), the stark truth is that my body is telling me to wind down and take a back seat: my days as a dynamic provider are totally shot. That’s why I look like someone’s dad now. And fortunately for you, not yours…

Idle Eye 111 : The Pornography of Wealth

“Money, man, it is a bitch
The poor they spoil it for the rich” –
Nick Cave (Easy Money, Abattoir Blues 2004)

One of the more galling aspects of obtaining your first billion in good ole Blighty is that this once exclusive coterie is now open to any charlatan with wide pockets, a passably creative accountant and a ruthlessly efficient PR team. Back in the day it was the hallmark of achievement, but one that did not need advertising to the hoi polloi or indeed one’s peers. For, like a glass of Croft Original served before dinner, one instinctively knew you were right and that was enough. The old school understood this implicitly, which is why almost no-one had a clue what you were up to unless you got caught. And if you did, the correct procedure was to fall on your sword. Discrete, suave and brutal: Just how one’s affairs were conducted if you had proper moolah.

But now it’s a very different story. No longer is it enough to merely earn the stuff, oh no. The deal is that you must brag about it through every portal available, presumably to titillate the less fortunate who will get their kicks vicariously and keep out of your way. For example: A quick scan of this weeks Sunday Times top stories revealed the following:

  • “Rich double their wealth in five years”
  • “How the rich are getting richer”
  • “Billionaire’s daughter learns to love life”
  • “How to get rich, by those who’ve done it”
  • “Yours for £11.5m: An entire Devon village”

…and so on. However, the Magazine section also offered up an online quiz for the aspirational proletariat called simply Millionaire Maker, dangling the possibility of untold affluence at the click of a mouse. Which is all very well, but the very thought of some chinless Herbert getting the goods from what amounts to nothing more than a lottery will have your bona fide tycoon frothing at the gills before the first Krug is dusted. For, acceptable though it may be for the Great Unwashed to use their little plastic toys to access this kind of information, it is another thing entirely for them to walk down the gilded corridor.

So, what to do? It’s essential that we continue to promote the illusion that we can all have a slice of the pie or the foundations of capitalism will crumble overnight, leaving in its wake a feudal bunfight for anything that isn’t screwed down. But equally, the very same prize must set apart the Harrods Food Hall aficionado from your Greggs regular or there is little point in having it in the first place. For what it’s worth, I recommend something altogether more radical: Wedge wrestling. Nude. In oil. It’s pretty straightforward – Plebs to the left, Toffs to the right and I get to cast the definitive vote. The rippling torsos of privilege vs the downtrodden carcasses of poverty, smothered top to toe in something from the fridge.

Mesdames et messieurs, faites vos jeux s’il vous plait…”

Idle Eye 83 : The End is N’eye

But all things move toward their end
All things move toward their end
On that you can be sure

Nick Cave – Murder Ballads 1996

It’s not, actually. I just thought it might be a bit of post bank holiday fun to sling in some Nick-inspired doom & gloom (‘cos that’s your lot until Christmas). And seeing as I’m on the cusp of handing over the Idle Eye moniker to Nibs, I’ve been balls-deep in searching for a new name: The End is N’eye, Eye Can’t Think of Owt, Best Eye Can Do can all be found residing in the trash at present, and the ole grey matter has been woefully inadequate in delivering a suitable alternative. Traditionally, one would throw it out to the readership with the lure of a massive prize, such as an all expenses paid weekend with the author at a no questions asked hostelry of choice, but I fear this may well set back my cause by approximately a millennium. Two, even. And I don’t have BUPA.

Well, it turns out there are a couple of possibilities on the horizon which I am not at liberty to disclose of yet. Watch this space. When I fire them over to the masterful Dan Laidler and he works his magic, all will be revealed. But the weirdest thing is the freedom. From today I can write whatever I fancy, I just won’t get paid for it. It’s the not all that subtle difference between a fine artist and a graphic designer: The latter has perameters, which the more adventurous can push to the absolute limit and deal with the consequent battle for acceptance. The former has no such constraints. Indeed, he/she can do whatever/go wherever they care to, but they enjoy no back-up and are usually slave to the whims of fashion. Tough one if you don’t acknowledge the mores of the day. Get me? Good.

The second, more horrendous issue here is that of the middle-aged man’s…er…allure on holiday. I have been gearing up for some cheeky time out, starts next week, in which I drive to the south of France to hang out for a few days with my cousin and make the most of the blistering heat down there. And then I read David Aaronovitch’s Opinion in the Times, in which he stated ‘our bodies don’t just fail to be attractive, they are seemingly repulsive’. Slightly worrying, as I had planned a full-tilt mankini outing at dusk in the mountainous Aquitane village of Mauvezin, not only to secure the undying admiration of local ladies, but also potential discounts at any restaurant desperate enough to take me in. I very much doubt David will recant before I leave, but he may be interested to know that I still have a full view of my feet, something my father lost in 1971 and was considerably younger than I am today: Eat my shorts xx