Idle Eye 178 : The Star Chamber

I live in a capital city – just. Every day, millions of us come into it and then go back out. It is monstrously expensive to do so, but we shell out accordingly because we don’t have any choice. And now that the oligarchs and speculative investors have snaffled every last inner city refuge and priced us out of the neighbourhoods we once made cool, we have to work longer hours and travel in from further afield. Gruelling stuff, which is why the bars and pubs are filled to bursting pretty much every evening. For one obliterating swill before the brutal commute home. I’d like you to think about that last sentence for a bit.

Ever found yourselves caught short on a station platform? Come on, be honest, we’ve all been there. Usually synonymous with the discovery that not only is the small room closed, but also impenetrably locked (with no available personnel to aid you in your moment of distress) by a star key. Quite why this is the case is anyone’s guess: perhaps they presume all pissed-up wage slaves carry a plethora of skeleton masters, specifically designed to outwit the Yale/Chubb defaults. Or that in the hub of desperation, we might consider a mad dash to the streets above, locate the nearest shoe repair-cum-locksmith and have one forged in situ. Ergo, we must be punished; for we are all essentially untrustworthy.

Let us rewind a tad: imagine, for one second, that by an astonishing feat of Houdini-esque proportion, we managed to gain access to one of these mythical star chambers. Tall order, I know. But what’s in there that they feel the need to protect so robustly? Last time I looked (back in the days when Percy policing was just a glint in the network eye), there were two or three encrusted urinals from the 1980s, an amplified bomb bay with the latch hanging off, and one cracked sink with a push-down tap set to riot control. Not exactly Hatton Garden, is it? And why do the lightweight morning crowd get a free run? A few skinny lattes before work has never once broken the seal of even the weakest bladder, and yet these bastards can stroll on in without so much as a by your leave. Sadly, necessity is not the mother of invention when it comes to a sprinkle: we’ll do or pay whatever it takes to get it out into the open. And if that means coughing up 60p at the turnstiles instead of doing a Fosbury Flop over the top of them, then so be it; needs must.

Southern/South-Eastern Trains etc, you’re missing a trick here. Fling the chamber doors wide open to all, but charge us through the nose like you usually do. We don’t care, really we don’t. And if you drop the price of your shitty coffees, you’ll really clean up. Unlike your bloody janitors…

Idle Eye 148 : The Eisenhower Matrix

It’s harder than you think, being your own boss. Try it sometime and see for yourselves. Traditionally I have been pathetic at organising my day, which is why I usually get other people to do it for me and hopefully throw in a few quid at the same time. But right now, I’m out of the plane without a chute and unless I sort something out pretty quick, I’ll be land pizza before you know it. There are, however, little tricks you can employ to create the illusion of structure, some of which I shall outline below for anyone in the same predicament:

1)  The old ‘leaving the flat’ ruse is a bit of fun – Get dressed in a hurry, swig down a mouthful of instant coffee (leaving the rest) and, if you’re feeling bold, give yourself a quick peck on the cheek. Then walk around the block a couple of times and come back in, panting and complaining bitterly about the inefficiency of whichever rail network you weren’t on.

2)  Create a few formal breaks. These will prevent you from atrophying at the computer and provide the added bonus of allowing you to catch up with all the latest gossip. It’s important to stay in the loop.

3)  The Reward System, albeit rather primitive, is a great incentiviser. That call you made to Virgin Media Customer Services took a while, right? Have a sweetie. Made it through thirty emails about erectile dysfunction and/or PPI? Have another sweetie. Anything whatsoever to do with the Inland Revenue or TfL? Crack open a bottle of single vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir. Actually, make that two.

4)  Stay focused. Tempting though it may be to stray with another episode of Inside Health and discover you’ve probably got shingles/leg ulcers/something irritable going on with your bowel, you’ll only spend the rest of the day on the med sites and give yourself PTSD to boot.

5)  Draw the curtains. Because the people you can see outside are almost certainly having more fun than you, will be rich in Vitamin D and couldn’t give a monkey’s that your delete key has packed up again. For them, life is one big picnic. For you, it’s an eternal game of chess. Against Magnus Carlsen.

6)  Nothing of interest will come through your letterbox and no-one of interest will ring the doorbell. Ever. Hold your nerve.

7)  Facebook and Twitter are not your friends. They are the Trojan horses of the internet, willingly invited into the workplace where they bed in and beckon, stealing your time and reason. Like Mata Hari. With cats and babies.

After these, you’ll need an endpoint. Something to neurotransmit a strong signal to the brain, telling it to pack in the chores and loosen up a little. Sex, recreational drugs, alcohol and repetitive pop tunes have always been popular with the young, but if, like me, you find yourself in your twilight years, The Archers seems to work okay. In conjunction with the above.