Idle Eye 171 : The Road

Every time it rains, snails across the land emerge from wherever it is they hang out when it’s dry and make a nighttime dash across our footpaths towards the road. Whatever’s there that lures them so is anyone’s guess, but they will not be deterred. To be honest, I’ve never quite understood the compulsion: if I carried a fragile apartment on my back and was impossibly slimy (don’t start…), I’d probably weigh up my chances before sliding off unto the breach. For that star-crossed mission will invariably culminate in mass slaughter on a scale unseen since WW1, something the molluscan powers that be seem to have turned a very blind eye to:

Col. Snail:  Thanks for coming in. Turns out not a lot of us are making it over to the road. Catastrophic percentages. Completely unacceptable.

Maj. Snail:  I’m sorry, sir, but we’re doing our best.

Col. Snail:   Not good enough. It’s been chucking it down for days, how hard can it be? Now get back outside and show some bloody gumption!

Maj. Snail:  But sir, it’s rush hour. Everyone’s coming home from work. We don’t stand a chance!

Col. Snail:  I’m not interested in your chances. I just need you to get to the road. Am I making myself clear?

Maj. Snail:  Forgive me for asking, but none of us are entirely sure what the objective is.

Col. Snail:  Have you gone completely mad? The objective is the road! What exactly is it about the road that you don’t understand?

Maj. Snail:  Er…why we have go there?

Col. Snail:  Because there are rules, Major. And your job is to obey them and not waste my time with counterproductive remarks.

Maj. Snail:  Couldn’t we go in the day? At least then there’s a ghost of a chance we’ll be seen.

Col. Snail:  Don’t be ridiculous! We have always operated under the cover of darkness and I see no reason to alter that now. Any further questions?

Maj. Snail:  Yes, sir. What are we supposed to do when we reach it?

Col. Snail:  About-turn. And then come back.

Maj. Snail:  Come back?

Col. Snail:  Yes, come back! We need the intelligence, Major. We need the intelligence.

Maj. Snail:  On?

Col. Snail:  ON THE ROAD!!! Whatever is the matter with you? Right, assemble the men. You leave in twenty minutes.

Maj. Snail: Yes, sir. One last thing, sir.

Col. Snail:  What is it, Major?

Maj. Snail:  What if it isn’t there?

Col. Snail:  What if what isn’t there?

Maj. Snail:  The road, sir.

Col. Snail:  Of course it’s there! Where else do you think I’m sending you? Brigadoon?

Maj. Snail:  No, sir. Of course not, sir.

Col. Snail:  Now get out of my sight!

Maj. Snail:  Yes, sir.

When met with indefatigable logic such as this, is it any wonder the pavement pizza count is so high? And ask yourselves: have you ever seen a snail on the road? Seriously, ever? Thought not.

IE Audio 4 : The Demon Grog

Bit of back story here. Not all that funny either, but at least it demonstrates we can pull something out of the bag if pushed.

https://theidleeye.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/idle-eye-156-the-demon-grog/

Idle Eye 156 : The Demon Grog

Of all the relationships I’ve ever had, perhaps the most difficult is the one I still hold with the booze. It’s pretty shit, to be frank, and I didn’t choose it either. My namesake grandfather died of it before I was born, as did my own father indirectly, and it will probably see me off prematurely if the snout doesn’t get me first. Its claws are pan-generational, way outside the boundaries of logic and reason, and conveniently, a quick re-read of the above somehow absolves me of any absolute guilt, thereby allowing me to persevere with more of the same in order to write dispassionately about it. As if that makes it okay. The obvious, entry-level question filed by those close enough to be concerned, is this:

Do you drink alone?’

And the most honest answer I can give is:

Yes, I do. I drink alone out of preference. Because then, finally, the ever-present critical voices (which extend into every cranny of my existence) shut up long enough for me to be able to do the things I actually care about. Until I go down the opposite slope and couldn’t give a toss any more. Can I get you a top up?’

It’s not what they want to hear. And those I’ve upset along the path (trust me, there have been a few) will see it as a romanticised excuse, along the lines of Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited, very much the architect of his own downfall despite every gift life bestowed upon him.

Someone kindly gave me a book last Christmas. Called ‘The Trip To Echo Spring’ by Olivia Laing, it discusses the troubled link so many writers have with the demon grog. Not that I have ever considered myself a bona fide writer, and thereby lies the problem. The very term has such powerful connotations that the unsure are crippled at the starting blocks, pitifully reliant on whatever it takes to be taken seriously. Until the crutch becomes counterproductive, by which time it’s usually too late. Between these, I walk a fine line: If that glorious moment ever comes about when something I have created becomes a thing, I’ll probably be too mullered to notice. But maybe you will, and I’d be grateful if you could let me know. We’ve been around the block together for nearly four years. You owe me.

I have a rule. When I spew this stuff out, usually late at night and alongside a bottle of Pinot, I resist the temptation to hit the publish button until the following morning. Because, no matter how cathartic it may seem at the time, the unforgiving light of a new day will invariably reveal my incisive efforts to be little more than a muddled, steaming pile of cack. But ask yourselves something: You’re reading this. Does that mean it’s through quality control, or am I slumped comatose over the return key?

I’ll leave that one with you.

Idle Eye 154 : The Twin Algorithms of Fame

I met someone famous last week. I’m not saying who, that would be beyond vulgar, but the reason I bring it up is to highlight the broader issue of celebrity and the effect it has on those within its orbit. For example, I like to think of myself as a man of the world, perfectly able to hold my own in conversation with people I don’t yet know, and the odd sprinkle of wit and charm adequately greases the wheels for the recipient to feel they haven’t totally wasted their time. It’s a game of badminton, in which the shuttlecock of decorum is gently rallied back and forth until someone cracks and heads off towards the canapés.

Throw in the curveball of fame, however, and these unwritten rules of polite discourse go straight out the window. Any joy to be had from chasing a sentence to wherever it may lead is countered by the suffocating fear of coming across as a bit of a tit. The celebrity in question can usually spot this, helpfully discussing themselves until you are able to regroup, but by now you’re already on the back foot and the vocabulary of gibberish is all you have left to draw from. The more you try to address it, the worse it gets. I often witnessed this with my father, who loved to ‘drop in’ to his local and chat away with verve to those brave enough to approach him. It more often than not culminated in a bizarre face-off, kicking up the following complex algorithm:

Shameless self-promotion plus apparent good nature divided by loss of will to live if he talks about agriculture one more time plus please don’t buy me another pint, I hate beer and I’ve got an expensive bottle of Pouilly-Fumé open at home which I’ll tuck into after you’ve shut up, is the square root of continued local and/or national prestige minus face if I bail too early

Obviously, this is subjective. If I were to be so bold as to suggest an pertinent alternative for those soon to meet and greet someone in the public eye, perhaps it would be something along these lines:

Anonymity plus alcohol plus neutral meeting place equals bolstered confidence minus mutual reference points minus self-awareness plus alcohol plus alcohol divided by inability to remember celebrity’s focal work is the square root of something to talk about in the pub later divided by time taken to achieve same*

A more accurate formula probably lies somewhere in between. Something to do with the synthesis of courage and generosity from both active parties, the onus being on the former. For he/she may still recall a time spent on the other side of the tracks, whereas the latter is single-handedly navigating terra incognita and trying not to blush. And adding another alcohol to the above.

*algorithm does not apply to current Duke of Edinburgh

Idle Eye 145 : The Guinea Pig Bridge

Last week, my friend Philippa sent me an internet link all the way from Australia. It led me to a short YouTube clip, showcasing a bunch of guinea pigs running with glee across a roughly-hewn wooden flyover towards an unknown bunker somewhere inside the Nagasaki Bio Park in Japan. And all to an impossibly infectious soundtrack penned by American pet songsmith maestro, Parry Gripp. Sample lyric:

Guinea Pig Bridge…
Guinea Pig Bridge…
Transporting guinea pigs
From Point A to Point B,
Utilising the latest
Guinea Pig Bridge technology,
Conveniently and safely

When I say sample, I do actually mean the whole shooting match. It is so astonishingly brief, it demands at least another watch (or in my case, a fiftieth). But let us examine this in detail:

At the outset, Gripp infers that the bridge in question is responsible for the conveyance of said critters to their port of call. However, on closer inspection, it soon becomes apparent they are doing the bulk of the work themselves, the bridge being a mere conduit, implemented in order to achieve their travel objective. Given the paucity of time Gripp has available to get his message across, it does seem somewhat duplicitous to throw in what is tantamount to a lie in the first twenty seconds, but fortunately any such misgivings are short-lived: All is beautifully resolved in the second half.

In one of the most succinct circumnavigations of Building Control ever to grace popular song, Gripp signs off his work with a disclaimer: If the powers that be have any issues at all as to potential occupational transit hazards, engineering/architectural standards or a practical yet compliant end user experience, they are conclusively put to bed in just three lines. The absurd suggestion that outmoded guinea pig bridge technology could possibly be employed here is tackled head on, leaving no room whatsoever for manoeuvre. It is a triumph, and Gripp knows it. And with that it’s all over, leaving us with the keyboard hook as outro and a gentle fade on a brown furry bottom, heading majestically towards the horizon in true Hollywood Western stylee. It is quite unlike anything I have ever seen.

Remember that 1990s ad for Tango? When the pop drinker was repeatedly slapped in the face by an imaginary orange buddha, hinting that a massive taste explosion could only be properly enjoyed if you were up for having another look in slo-mo? Well, this is the latter-day equivalent. You simply can’t not watch it again, if for nothing else than to try and figure out what’s going on. And thereby lies the genius: In our post-MTV, attention-bereft times, the money shot has to be spent and out of the building before we’ve taken our first breath. So we click back to the start and give it a second go, and before you know it, Gripp is the new Hitchcock. And that’s as it should be.