Idle Eye 78 : The Underhamster

Call me old-fashioned, but nothing signifies the blossoming of summer quite as much as a massive jug of Nib’s enhanced Pimms and the Brockwell Park Dog Show. Preferably both. In that order. Particularly as this year’s theme was Space Aliens, and there is nothing man’s best friend enjoys more than being forcibly dressed in Lycra to resemble Princess Leia and then paraded around a circle in 31° heat to an audience of inappropriately-clad humans. Really, they absolutely love it. And so do the dogs.

Now, I’ll be straight with you. I’ve long been pretty miffed with this blanket adoration of the canine. The little prima donnas have always benefited from the lion’s share of love, not only in person but also online, in print and in reputation. And yet their long-serving cousin, the hamster, has had to be content with any bullshit leftover scraps he can muster. It’s just not right. Even his minority status has been grammatically marginalised by the heavyweights (See title: I’m redressing the balance).

So anyway, there I am underneath the blistering sun like a low-rent George Smiley, checking out the competition on behalf of the small and furries, when I turn to the adoring crowd for purposes of reportage…

to be honest, i’m also getting a bit worried about shoehorning dogs and hamsters in with the pub, but i’m working on the presumption that you’ll all be off your tits on idle hour pink wine and you won’t really give a toss

…and, immaculately-groomed, sweat-immune ladies aside, I was tsunamied by Man in Summer doing what he does best: Wearing shorts without a top. Why does he do this? All those grotesque folds of flesh cascading over inexplicably long short trousers, as if to demurely protect the public from a full assault of thigh whilst the elephant in the room avalanches down from above. As I said earlier, it’s just not right.

However, there was an element of underhamster here which I totally approve of. Mercifully free of Posh and her vile ilk, this peculiarly British sideshow fully embraced the very antithesis of fashion and came out smiling. In laymans terms, it was a bit shit but that’s what we loved about it. Dog’s Got Talent, Prettiest Bitch, Best Puppy, Golden Oldies, what’s not to like? And the Public Address system was pure British Rail circa 1975, all feedback and sibilance that made us teary-eyed with nostalgia. Even the Mayor was there with his absurd gold chain and straw boater, giving out certificates and treats to anything with four legs and a pulse. Class.

remember last week when i said i’d do a shameless advert for the pub amongst all the dog stuff? and i promised i’d make it all tie in? well, i cocked up, so could you do me a favour? just tell nibs you really liked the dog blog and i’ll buy you a large glass of one of his responsibly-sourced biodynamic wines. cheers xx

Idle Eye 46 : The Last Good Day of the Year

I was listening to Radio 4 on Saturday morning (as one does) and this lady came on who had been struck temporarily blind. Oh no! But then she went on about how she had reassessed her life and realised it had been peppered with relentless negativity, and from that moment on she vetoed any such sentiments which in turn improved the quality of her everyday life immeasurably. Anyway, I turned it off ‘cos I was late for the Barnes Food Fair, in which Nibs had a stall doing spectacular Bloody Marys I badly needed to assess for this ‘ere blog and ran out to get the train. Cancelled. Engineering works. But before I did my usual Ian Dury (****holes, bastards, ****ing ***** and pr**ks) I thought of that woman, lifted my head up high & took the replacement bus with pride. Good on ‘em, I thought, for actually bothering to replace the entire train with a bus: Good on ‘em.

And when I got to Barnes Common two hours later, no small thanks to weekend traffic and an unfortunate iOS6 maps error, I was determined to keep this up. The sun was out, small boys were kicking a ball about (jumpers for goalposts) and everything was heading up to be a Breugel-tastic, culinary lovefest. Even a Volvo passenger opening her door into my smalls did not manage to dampen my ardour (although I did get the temporary blindness). ‘Oh yes, life is good’ I thought, after sampling several pints of the red stuff which, in turn, led me to the real ale stall where I discovered Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a 32% beauty I saw no reason not to obtain for the very reasonable sum of £45. Which, in turn, made the Barbers’ Shop singers sound so angelical I was compelled to enjoy a large Pimms in sheer admiration which, in turn, made me purchase a rather delightful fishermans’ winkle box for Ursula despite my misgivings as to its authenticity.

You see, what the R4 lady left out, and this is the salient point, is that you don’t need a life-changing event to make every day of your life the last good day of the year. What you actually need is an arsenal of high-quality booze and the ability to set aside the cold front of cynicism for the sunnier climes of La Dolce Vita. And the former aids the latter, trust me. Now, I know Nibs will be wanting me to big up his efforts right here in the last paragraph but there’s no need. Really. You all ate those award-winning burgers, drank the BM’s and had a great time. And you know what? As I struggled to focus on Nick Clegg’s apology in the freesheets strewn about on the tube home and I listened to that viral tune drawn from the very same, I felt really good for the first time in ages. Shortly before taking a very long ride on the porcelain bus…

Idle Eye 33 : The Turgid Miasma of Existence

The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted that I’ve been off-piste of late. The only plausible explanation I can offer as an apology is that I have been suffering from what I like to think of as the turgid miasma of existence, and what everyone else refers to as everyday life. This somewhat disturbing development was almost certainly the result of a self-imposed complete alcohol ban on school nights, the oral equivalent of Michael Schumacher slamming on the handbrake in the last lap of the Monaco Grand Prix. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet (there must be a couple of you, own up), let me tell you this: It’s not great, and if you can bear with me as I reluctantly come to terms with the appalling lucidity I am currently experiencing, I shall attempt to tell you why.

The body is a delicate bit of kit. It’s also a bit dim, despite what you may have read in weightier tomes than this. From cradle to the grave it reacts to the various stimuli we hurl at it throughout the duration, but not all that quickly. So, when we bung in that first bottle of cider consumed in a field somewhere at the age of eleven, it rather smartly puts its foot down. So we try again with Captain Morgan and his chums, smiling enticingly at us from his Trinidadian retreat, only to regurgitate them all as quickly as they went in. And so the pattern continues until, eventually, it goes ‘Oh, I see what you’re trying to do here’ and concedes that this could actually be a bit of a laugh.

Education being the key, we continue to train the bag of bones we carry around with us for many, many years to come, as did Pavlov and his half-witted dog, until we come through the cloud layer and reach a perfect plateau of contentment, usually in ones’ mid-30’s. It takes a while but we get there in the end. Now, just imagine for one moment the seismic shock to the system if this process is suddenly reversed, and at a time when the body is getting its metaphorical slippers’n’pipe combo sorted. It doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Exactly. Feel my pain.

So go on then, enjoy yourselves, why don’t you? Help Her Maj get through her big day by necking the good stuff until you can’t fit in no more, safe in the knowledge that the alternative is far, far worse. And for those of you down at the Idle Hour party this Saturday, watching them saucy singers Verity and Violet shaking their stuff and manhandling a massive pint of Nibs’s speciality Pimms, spare a thought for one less fortunate. A once good man trapped in the turgid miasma of his own existence, doing combat with his insubordinate innards with a glass of tap water and a stale bun. God bless you, Ma’am!

Idle Eye 27 : The Life Aquatic

Our weather, whether we like it or not, is the great leveller. Just as we were throwing sprinklers into deep storage and preparing to watch our green and pleasant land morph into parchment, the heavens opened and did their traditional holiday middle-finger salute for the full term. And that, of course, is how it should be. Lulled into a false sense of security by March’s clement efforts, we needed to be knocked into place by forces we have no control over whatsoever lest, God forbid, grown men whipped out the shorts and their womenfolk allowed it. In public.

Like the metaphoric horse, your average Brit is inexplicably drawn to water at this time of year. Whether it be heading towards it at 6mph on a snarled artery of choice or watching the educated elite slug it out on the Thames, we sure like it wet. So hats off then to plucky Aussie Trenton Oldfield, coming as he does from climes more temperate than our own, for stripping off and mucking in at this year’s Boat Race. Never mind the fact he was a bit miffed about, er, something or another: The man got wet and that’s all that matters. Welcome, Trenton: Now, deal with the rest of the year.

Consequently, it’s no surprise that Race Weekend is the busiest of the year for most pubs on the main drag and the Idle Hour, conveniently located a coxswain’s piddle from the river, is no different. So when all hope of fleshy exposure is dashed against the cruel rocks of climate, the good folk of Barnes head indoors for a restorative sharpener and watch the hardy on the idiot’s lantern. Great for business but staff are run off their feet, tempers fray as service struggles to meet demand and, at the end of play, everyone’s as shagged as the rowers (ahem). Good thing we’ve got our internationally renowned sense of humour to pull us through, eh? And as we down those optimistic Pimmses and fancy French rosés , we learn to put aside our grievances and laugh at the absurdities of life instead of having a pop or flinging ourselves into the nearest river in disgust. It may not have the desired impact but it’s a lot more fun. Damn straight.

The more intrepid Bank Holiday reader may be interested in this: I note that 100 years on, fans of failed liner Titanic are off to pay homage to Mr Cameron somewhere deep in the Atlantic. For somewhere between $4,445 and $9,520 per person. Now, call me old-fashioned but this is devotion to the cause way above and beyond: A simple heads-up on Twitter seems to suffice for most politicians and the monies spared could go some way to improving security at public events, particularly in this our Olympic year. It’s not rocket science. I wonder sometimes, I really do. Perhaps all that water’s made them soft in the head..