Idle Eye 168 : The Ladygrape of Wrath

Wrestling myself into consciousness on Saturday morning I noticed, right there in the bed beside me, a bump I didn’t recall inviting in the night before. It had not been a dramatic Friday, for I’d only had a quick pizza with my friend Donald before making it home without a statutory flying visit to Wetherspoons. I did briefly consider waking it and offering it a cup of coffee until I discovered, to my escalating horror that, indeed, my guest had not muscled its way back after an ill-advised drinking session, but was actually attached to my person. And as if that wasn’t appalling enough, to an area not traditionally associated with the finer points of romance.

A more intimate inspection was clearly requisite, one that involved my shaving mirror and a rudimentary attempt at yoga. And there, as in one of those early Victorian birthing daguerreotypes, was a minuscule extension of myself, nestled deep within the nucleus of an unattractive forest of hair and flesh. It was approximately the size of a hazelnut and seemed perfectly at ease with its newfound location, to the extent that it made me feel like a low-rent Henry Morton Stanley having just stumbled upon Dr Livingstone. I almost apologised for disturbing it.

Several online diagnoses later brought me to the unhappy conclusion that I was going to have to radically alter my diet, drink less Pinot and more water, do exercise and shower every five minutes just to appease the little bastard. For this was to be no symbiotic arrangement, at least as far as I could tell, which I bitterly resented. And as its correct medical moniker was way too long and disgusting for me to use on a regular basis, I decided to call it Samantha by way of softening the blow. In retaliation for this perceived slight, she made it nigh-on impossible for me to sit down for three days.

Unless I’m steaming, I’ve never been particularly deft at making new acquaintances. I tend to linger behind the protective cloak of shyness until somebody else makes the first move. The doctor at my GP’s, however, was unfettered by any such inhibitions. She and Samantha got on famously, chatting away as if they were ensconced inside a nightclub lavatory and had known each other for years. I lay on my side, facing the acid green wall with my knees pressed up against my ears and wondered at which stage of the appointment they might notice I was still present. After they’d exchanged phone numbers, I was told that Samantha and I would have to learn to get along, and turfed out into the rain.

To be fair, she’s eased off a bit on the searing pain. But frankly, I’m getting sick of having to make all the effort. If she were a flatmate, I’d have words. But she’s not. She’s a thrombosed external haemorrhoid. Try telling that to your mates and staying fashionable, bitch.

Idle Eye 135 : The Thing About Charlie

Have a look at the mast drawing above. That’s me, that is. Drunk, scribbling unrecognisable nonsense as per, wide-eyed & tousled, inappropriately attired for a man of my age and surrounded by semi-mythical beasts which may or may not represent the muses I wrestle with on a weekly basis. All contained in one simple statement with the site name teetering on the verge of collapse above me. How very apposite. When I briefed Dan back in 2011, I knew I wanted a sketch rather than a designed header with slick typography, because the best ones condense all the relevant information into a single visual hit. No frills, no waste, and therein lies the power.

I bring this up for two reasons: Firstly, and primarily, because current news events that cannot have escaped anyone’s attention have brought it into sharp focus. And whilst I won’t be drawn into spouting cause and effect rhetoric (this is not the place), it does demonstrate just how incisive the pen can be. Satire, by its very nature, apes and distorts its targets to drive the point home, which is why it sits so (un)comfortably with the cartoonist. Perhaps photography is too ‘real’ to get under the skin in quite the same way. Charlie Hebdo knows this all too well, hence their medium of choice. It’s quick, brutal and it takes no prisoners.

On the exact same day of the attacks in Paris, I was with six artists (amongst others) in a wine bar in central London, revitalising an idea that has been in limbo for a year or two now. It was also my birthday, and fuelled by copious quantities of Hungarian Pinot Noir (the kind that strengthens the resolve the more of it you have), I dared to ask for contributions towards an illustrated book of this here blog. And, no doubt for the same reasons, they were granted. In less than a week, the number of pledges has swelled to sixteen and they’re still coming in, brilliant, disparate and from all over the planet. I am simultaneously humbled and terrified.

As outlined in the first paragraph, in my head I’ve always seen the book as illustrated. Anyone who has ever read the bilge I come up with every week will interpret it differently, and what better way to represent that than a bunch of artists doing their thing. I pray the fact that I am the common glue does not put them off any. My default setting when things start going well is to run for the hills and hide until it’s all over, but not this time, not this time. With an apolitical nod to Charlie, this time I’ll commit. If you believe in something strongly enough, show some balls. And show them I shall.

I will, of course, let you know as and when things start to happen. But, in the meantime, there’s stacks to moan about and I’ve lost a bloody week now. Thanks for that.

Idle Eye 64 : The Long Good Sonday

Oh dear, it’s that time of year again: When supermarkets are brimful with leftover Lindt reindeers cunningly repackaged as bunnies, when television spews out blatant hints that our homes ain’t exactly lemon fresh, when every roadside flower seller gears up for the big one and every self-employed soul in the land prepares for a two-day pay dock. Yes folks, we’re on the Easter runway and already we’re feeling the love. The pope has been picked, the weather is promising to be spectacularly shithouse and the M4 is wetting itself. With joy, you understand. With joy.

I’ve never quite got my head around the whole Easter deal, to be honest. As an excuse to bleed the nations’ wallets once again, it’s badly timed. Too self-consciously close to Christmas/Valentines Day, the concept is far-fetched and not particularly sexy. But Jesus was no fool: He implicitly understood that the gap between Bank Holidays badly needed plugging (40 days was quite enough for him), so with one eye on the Letts and the other on electability, he got them to roll back that stone. And the rest is history. Two thousand plus years on, however, and something significant has got lost in translation. When the fantastical rebirth of the figurehead of all modern guidance is represented by a chocolate egg stuffed with Smarties, you just know we’ve got something out of kilter. And an M&S £10 dine-in almost certainly will not bring a loved one back from the dead or help anyone in their quest for salvation, although it must be said that I have yet to try their lamb bhuna.

You know, if I was God with all his incumbent powers, I’d probably be a bit miffed with the bastardisation of my message, what with the sending down of my only son only to to be müllered by idiots. And yet you’d also think that I’d be savvy enough to stop it happening, being God and that. But maybe that’s just it: If you’re the boss, you just have to let go a bit and let the little people figure it out for themselves, no matter how far from the point they stray.

Having said all this, the Idle Hour will once again be pushing the boat out on March 31st. The italics because, due to some bizarre stroke of fate, the anniversary of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ just happens to fall on the exact same day as the Oxford/Cambridge boat race. It’s the kind of double whammy that only happens once in a millennium and consequently needs exploiting to the hilt. Expect tankards filled with Thames water to be converted into Pinot Noir, organic soda bread to be broken on winning rowlocks and live crucifixion of your coxwain of choice in the beer garden. Because that’s what He’d have wanted. And anyone that tells you different is a liar and a charlatan…