Idle Eye 113 : The Refusenik (A Slight Return)

The Persians deliberately weave a flaw into the corner of the astonishingly beautiful rugs they create because they believe that only Allah is truly perfect, and it would be a bit of a slap in the face if they try to emulate him/her through their Earthly offerings. Readers, I am that rug: I got it wrong about Glastonbury (as I did with the Olympics and the once Scotch, then Brit, now re-Scotched Andy Murray). As a weathervane for the zeitgeist I can get seriously off-kilter sometimes and hands up, I’ve done it again. Not that I’m admitting it to those who dragged me there, kicking and screaming blue bloody murder to the permanent detriment of their weekend – Good Lord, no! Some things must remain between you and I, and I beg you to keep schtum on this one.

Despite the mud and the mucus, the filth and the fury, the long-drops and the long marches home, I reluctantly acquiesce that it was all reasonably acceptable. Being little more than a soldier ant in a ruthlessly efficient outdoor entertainment machine was, to be fair, somewhat daunting initially. And last time I frequented the place it was a squalid haunt of low-lives, drug dealers and hippies trying to locate my chakras. Particularly after bedtime, which it then seemed churlish to adhere to. However Glastonbury, like all things, has evolved.

Yes, it is vast and yes, it is seemingly commercial. But there are no Audi stalls here, attempting to flog you a luxury vehicle in the most inappropriate of places. No Costa, no McDonalds or Coke, miserably shoehorning their bullshit product in with anything popular they can access in order to maximise reach. For the most part (and I grant you, there are a few exceptions), the on-site businesses are small and endearingly homespun. You do not resent spending a couple of extra quid to keep these guys going. And this in itself would be enough. Perhaps a thumbs-up from this rusting ancient, best suited to keeping an eye on his portfolio in the pink paper, is not the best festival accolade out there. But it doesn’t matter, really it doesn’t.

If you fancy seeing out your ticket price in a hessian shack listening to ’70’s prog rock powered by punters on bicycles, then good luck to you: It’s there for the taking. Failing that, head off to Shangri-La when the main stages shut down and gurn the night away on substances for that authentic Hieronymus Bosch experience. Again, it’s your choice. The trick is knowing which buttons to push and which ones to let go of, and no-one really minds if you screw it up. It’s all part of the deal. Despite myself, being in a field with thousands of people yelling “ED…IS…DEAD!” at the Pixies felt curiously liberating. But if you think for a minute I’m going to let on now that I’m home, dream on…

Idle Eye 80 : The Idiot’s Lantern

Last week, I inherited a television from my father’s estate. It’s a flat, shiny thing, riddled with sockets and touch-sensitive knobs I will never use or comprehend, coming as I do from the old school when you had to force a button the size of a liquorice comfit deep into the belly of the set with your actual finger in order to switch channels. And the word remote meant Derbyshire or somesuch, not a slab of hand-held plastic trickery fashioned to aid the plight of the obese. However, I do acknowledge the relentless march of progress and in order to show good will, I reluctantly accepted the beast into my home.

But, oh my stars, it’s big. So big, in fact, that they make you buy all these other boxes to cope with it, none of which I understand either. And, if the boxes and the TV are going to get on with each other, they have to be connected with ‘intelligent’ cables that cost more than your average four-door family saloon did in 1977. But it doesn’t stop here, oh no: Your service provider then offers you a bewildering series of package choices to enhance the Trojan horse now dominating your living quarters, any of which will set you back yet another significant slap in the wallet. Inadvertently, you have become the Lady Macbeth of home entertainment, so stepped in blood it is impossible to return. How about a wall-mount? Or perhaps an LAN link-up with your home hub, using the ferrite cores (provided)? And after a few hours they’ve got you wide-eyed and screaming down the phone, like one of Jodi Foster’s chums in Taxi Driver:

Give me one of them Fnørkel adaptors…..Yeah, I can collect…..Actually make that three…..NO, I DON’T KNOW WHAT ****ING FNØRKEL ADAPTORS ARE, JUST GIVE ME SOME…..NOW!!!!

Mindful of the above, the Idle Hour has adopted a strictly no TV policy inside the pub. It’s for the best: If you are enjoying an intimate dinner for two with candles and fine wine, the very last thing you need is a sweating young man in an open-necked Pink shirt trying to pick up Eurosport in HD. Kind of puts you off your stride. However (and I don’t think he’ll mind me telling you this), Nibs does in fact own the biggest television I have ever seen in my life. It is the size of an Olympic swimming pool, wedged into a lounge no deeper than a galley kitchen. To give you an idea, if you wish to obtain 20/20 unpixelated vision, you have to flatten yourself against the far wall or, better still, climb up the fencing of the school next door and peer through his office window. Although, to be fair, if you are prepared to go to lengths such as these in order to catch Corrie, perhaps you should be relayed through to the punters: I’ll see what I can do…

Idle Eye 67 : The Breastplate of Righteousness

Regular readers of this swill will implicitly understand why I have maintained a dignified silence for the past couple of weeks. It’s not often we get a news story that doesn’t have to be collagened to fuck to make palatable reading in the dailies, and since Monday last the press have seized their quarry and run it ragged. As has every blogger/columnist/social media outlet in the land. And the outcome has been not only predictable but also saturated to the point of nausea. Which is a shame, because it’s always fun to pitch in with your tuppence-worth if you can string a line of thought together on the keys, but these days you have to get in there quick: Leave it five seconds and you will be consigned to the dustbin of irrelevance ‘cos them pesky kids will be in there before you’ve even put your teeth in.

So, not being as agile as I once was, I had the good sense to leave the mewling and puking to the heavyweights, and took great pleasure in watching the ensuing bunfight from the sidelines. Oh yes! I could have dredged up my Lefty credentials as I spent three years in Sheffield being wheeled out to marches in support of miners throughout the white heat of Thatchers’ second term, but these would have turned to dust when it came out I was actually from Surrey and on a full grant. Understandably, I kept schtum about this at the time.

Anyway, I decided to listen to the R4 coverage of the funeral which allowed me the illicit thrill of being the enemy within, to coin one of hers. And, if I’m honest, I was a tad moved by the whole pomp of the thing as I was, despite myself, by the Jubilee and the Olympics. But then young Amanda T pitched in with her biblical passage (in your baskets, euphemism fans) and the whole shooting match came crashing down like a house of cards. What, in Baby Jesus’s name, has the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ got to do with anything? Yes, I know it’s a quote, but I fail to see how Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (whoever they were) makes a suitable analogy for a nation trawling the wake of a controversial leader’s legacy. I seem to remember a certain J Aitken brandishing the ‘sword of truth’ speech when he needed a touch of gravitas, and look where that got him.

Now, I’m going to have to tread carefully here: Check out Nibs’s Twitter feed down there on the right and you’ll see why. And apart from anything else, I have to be seen as politically non-partisan yet a sworn devotee to the IH cause. Which, of course, I am. And yet not. So let’s strike up a deal: You drink and eat the stuff that keeps me in work, and I’ll tone it down a bit. Okay? It’s what she would have wanted…

Idle Eye 42 : The End of the Affair

So, how y’all coping then? Spent? Deflated? Blaming the Met Office for the traditional wet patch that came just after? Thought so. And to be fair, it is kind of strange right now if you happen to be a Lahndan resident riding out the aftermath of a cultural event that was, against all odds, rather, er… good, actually. Let’s forget about the bill, Boris and the Bonkers song for a bit (and the right royal slagging I gave ‘em a couple of weeks ago), the London 2012 Olympics (can I say that now, LOGOG?) were quite a hoot, no? And despite not having made it to one single event, I managed to bask in the shared vibe a little and, God forbid, I even allowed a tad of sport to beam through the idiot’s lantern indoors: Now that’s progress.

I’m not going to sound off too hard with football comparisons as I’ve done it elsewhere (as has every columnist in the land, it seems), but I do sincerely hope the overpaid muddied oafs learn a few lessons from the last couple of weeks. Excellence, commitment and humility in both defeat and victory, for example. And when it came to the old in-out in-out, apparently rife in the Village, we were spared the potato-faced Neanderthals grovelling publicly to their equally vile WAGS having been caught in flagrante delicto with a couple of headline-hungry models up to their eyeballs in Class A. No, they did it all with style and it felt okay to be patriotic for the first time since God knows when, I don’t recall.

I even managed to coax young Nibs and his good lady out from his warren for the first time in eons for the closing ceremony thing. Not the one in the stadium, mind, that would have been vulgar beyond language and we would have had to watch Brian May and the Spice Girls being shite. No, we caught Blur, the Specials, New Order and the magnificent Bombay Bicycle Club in the throne contender that was Hyde Park, and they delivered. Admittedly, I was six sheets to the wind on corporate lager (£5 a pop) but sometimes you just have to bin your politics and get on with it. And if anyone cares to question the fact that three out of the four fall neatly under DadRock, I would ask you to just try ‘em and see. The Specials in particular: An inspired choice, reflecting all that is good right now (and then) about multicultural Britain and the perfect musical mirror to what was happening further east. I never thought I’d say this but BT, I salute you.

But now the lights are out and curtains closed as the capital wakes to a new dawn of massive forthcoming rail hikes, euro uncertainty and George Osborne. No, the horrors never went away, kids, they just hid for a bit under the rings: Bummer…

 

Idle Eye 41 : The Face-Off

Anyone who has ever attempted the dark art of writing to a 500 word count will implicitly understand what a taut organ it has to be. One sentence, a word even, can throw the balance of the piece so completely off-kilter it has to be dramatically re-approached, and punctuation (don’t get me started on punctuation) must ripple through the paragraphs like miniscule unseen roadsigns, steering the reader towards the inevitable. So imagine my dismay when I got the call from Idle HQ after I had mentally constructed an hilarious appraisal of our countryside:

Nibs : I know you’ve already done this, but I’m gonna need a big up on Britain’s Favourite Burger this week. Keeps it fresh in their minds.

Me : But I’m doing the country. It’s a corker, trust me.

Nibs : Fine, do the country by all means but just stick in a few words about the burger thing. Why not say I got a bronze? It’s topical & you can put that in the keywords if LOGOG will let you.

Me : You don’t get it. I can’t just bung in stuff about burgers. It doesn’t work.

Nibs : Well, make it work then. Cows come from the country, right? There, you can have that one on me.

Me : It’s not that simple, bro. You can’t just stick in a few words. Writing this blog isn’t just bunging in stuff about burgers. It’s a craft! I think about how it all fits together for days and when I know it’s right, I get it all down. I wouldn’t tell you how to cook one of your specials, would I? Yeah, just bung in a few bits & bobs from the fridge? Jesus H!!! I have my art and you have yours. Now let me get on with it.

Nibs : Stop being a dick. I just want you to say I came third in the burger competition. Bloody hell, get over yourself!

Me : It compromises the whole thing, man! Every piece I write is linear, right? There’s a start, I piddle about with it in the middle and then go in for the kill at the end. And it works like that every week which is why people like it. The comfort of familiarity via comedy of repetition. It’s a tried and tested formula that you can’t screw about with. So if I suddenly bring in burgers it loses its entire thrust. Something would have to give and there’s no fat to fry.

Nibs : You just said it, right there. No fat to fry! Now stick that in the blog & stop being so bloody precious! Jeez, anyone would think I was employing Coren.

Me : Ok bro, we’ll play it your way, shall we? Not a problem! Right, let’s kick off with the classic urban take on our impoverished rural cousins. Except they’re not, are they? Impoverished, that is. Down in that Chipping Norton they’re all stinking, right? Enjoying BRITAIN’S THIRD FAVOURITE BURGER while Rebekah gets her

Idle Eye 40 : The Shady Side of Forty

Some of you may have noticed that I got a bit carried away of late, what with that Wimbledon, the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. It’s understandable, (I need to vent the ole spleen from time to time), but it’s not exactly what Nibs shells out for on a weekly basis. So, in the interests of fair play, I have decided to big up his little boozer in the style of another cultural phenomenon currently doing the rounds. Strap yourselves in, literature lovers, this week the Eye gets down and dirty with the unspeakable smut known in smart circles as ‘Pubby Porn’ (those of you of a weaker disposition may prefer to click away here):

Innocent Young Barmaid : Oooh, Mr Nibs! I’ve never worked in a pub before. And I’m so young and innocent, maybe you could show me how you pull that massive pump of yours so I can give all of your loyal customers the satisfaction they so rightly deserve.

Nibs : Yes, it is a magnificent beast, to be sure. And I am a masterful landlord, strong, handsome and yet curiously aloof. But just this once I shall assist you in your endeavours after which you’re on your own, love. Now, grasp the shaft with all those tiny, innocent fingers and pull down slowly until all that lovely frothy stuff comes out into the glass.

IYB : Oh my! As a young, innocent woman I can honestly say that your masterful teaching has unleashed my inner goddess. Never have I felt so vulnerable and yet so empowered. And still young and innocent.

Nibs : Hold up, I haven’t shown you how to unload the dishwasher yet.

IYB : Mr Nibs! No-one has ever taken me to such places. It’s making me go all funny down there.

Nibs : Ok, we’ll do the cellar next if you want. Now, we get most of our deliveries in through the rear. Is that something you’re familiar with?

IYB : Well, not exactly, but I’d be more than happy to learn. What with me being so young and innocent, like.

Nibs : Excellent. Most of the staff get the hang of it within a couple of days.

IYB : But I worry so, Mr Nibs! How does it all get inside?

Nibs : Don’t worry your pretty innocent head about that. It’s like the bloody Tardis in there, I should coco.

IYB : Now you mention it, it does all seem to fit in. Just perfectly.

Nibs : Oh, and have I told you about our magnificent burgers? Somehow we’ve managed to squeeze them into the nation’s top five?

IYB : Oh pleeeease! Tell me more! Every time you squeeze a burger a little piece of me melts inside.

Nibs : Think you’ll find that’s the cheese.

IYB : Oh, Mr Nibs, take me now! Hard, rough and up the M40!!!

Nibs : Yes, we need to do a run to Costco, you’re right. Is there anything else you’d like to slip in?

IYB : Sixty Kettle chips and a bag of night-lites?

Nibs : Thanks for coming in.

Idle Eye 39 : The Lon*** 2**2 Ol**pi*s™

Alright now, that’s enough. ENOUGH! The sinister orgy of branding masquerading as the Lon*** 2**2 Ol**pi*s™ has slapped me in the face one too many times and I have just hit my Michael Douglas in Falling Down moment. I tried to be good, I really did. Over the past few months I have learned to shore up my chakras when it came to vile mascots We**ock™ and Ma***ville™, to shrug off the utter chaos on the roads, to smile encouragingly at hapless joggers bouncing their way towards an early grave, even casting an inquisitive glance at the bizarre structures rising up around the Mall and St James’ Park which I pass every day. The risible logo no longer reminds me of Lisa Simpson giving head and I drew some not inconsiderable mirth from the G4S fiasco. All in all I have been coping pretty well. Thanks for asking.

However, (and here’s the rub), I draw a line at ‘restricted words’. Actually, screw it, I draw a line at the insane paranoia the big four ****ors™ have created, protecting their already saturated global coverage from small butchers shops in Dorset that presumed to arrange a string of sausages in the shape of the Ol**pi*c™ ri*gs™. And when it comes to the biggest of the lot, M*Dona**s™, you have to ask yourselves what exactly they so badly need protection from. It sure ain’t the public, because around every corner you turn, there invariably lurks a statistically obese brand fan squelching down on yet another B*g™ Ma*™ in flagrant denial of their forthcoming trip to the nearest NHS ticker unit. Perhaps, just perhaps, the brutal truth lies somewhere in the exclusion of competition:

If we just get rid of all the other players, maybe the gullible public will actually think our burgers are halfway decent. Because, God forbid, if they cottoned onto the fact that there are thousands of less corporate ways of enjoying wholesome food, (Mondays at the Idle Hour, for instance) they might, actually, stop buying ours. And we can’t have that.

The Lon*** 2**2 Ol**pi*cs™ will be ring-fenced alright, but not to keep out the suicide bombers, the ‘quiet loners’, the snipers, the deranged clerics or Black September. Not this time. Neither will it give much credence to the athletes who will have waited all their lives for those glorious few seconds of competition. Oh no. These gam*s™ are all about keeping the suits happy at the not inconsiderable expense of the general public. And no amount of monocular furry mascots can detract from that. Yes, it would be wonderful to have a level playing field where we could all choose what we ate and drank as we cheered on our respective nations. But dream on, my friends, dream on. And welcome to Britain, 2**2™…