Idle Eye 184 : The Sea, The Sea

One of the nicer things about blogging is that you can snatch content out of the ether, sometimes even from the canon of others, in order to add value to your own efforts. This has the knock-on effect of making you appear well-read and approaching intelligent, the beauty of which is that you’re probably not going to be hauled over the coals for plagiarism. If, like me, you have about five hundred regular readers who can’t even be arsed to leave a comment, let alone set up a complex litigation process, you’re almost certainly in the clear. So, when I needed to come up with a header that hinted at an imminent move to the coast, I delved deep into the net and came up with the above.

Now, I’ll be straight with you: I’ve never read anything by Iris Murdoch, not one jot. But I liked the cut of her jib, and made a stab at what counts as research in this neck of the woods (family-sized wine box/Wikipedia/online Oxford English Dictionary/12.5g snout). There, as I was scrolling through endless, worthy literary appraisals of her oeuvre, I discovered that The Sea, The Sea concerns a middle-aged, male DFL (down from London), who is pompous, deluded, paranoid, and using a location shift to put into some kind of context and write about the lunacy of his own existence. To boot, there are a couple of ladies he needs to get his head around, and he’s not much cop at the cookery either.

I mean, really! Clearly, this Murdoch woman was a fantasist of the highest order, trapped inside and by the treacly brown caricatures of her own epoch. The very thought that such a wretch could make it through to the end of a day unscathed, not to mention be taken seriously enough to have his witterings read by anyone other than himself, is absolute nonsense, and both he and his creator should be judged as harshly as hindsight allows. Perhaps back in 1978, this kind of poppycock had its place, but not today, lady, not today. Besides, every man and his dog now has a signature dish, right?

I know what you’re thinking. What about this new lot, with their 140-character Twitters, the Instagramming of whatever grub they happen to be eating, and the showing of bottoms and worse on self-destructing media platforms? Well, let me tell you something: these people will not be troubling Random House any time too soon. They know their place, and we should applaud our youngsters for ‘letting off steam’ in plain view, freeing up the marketplace for those with, how shall we say, a little more gravitas.

Enough now, I’ve got a flat to paint and flog; these things don’t take care of themselves. And then I’ll be off. All this mediocrity is getting me down, and the sea air will do me good. Can’t wait…

Idle Eye 126 : The New Suits of Bedtime

I was down the pub on Monday with a trio of men of a certain age and, in amongst the plethora of utter bollocks discussed, the subject of nightwear was gingerly raised. Obvs I plumped for the pyjama, but regrettably was riotously trashed at the post in favour of going commando, something I must confess I find rather disturbing in one’s advancing years. The very thought of all that naked flesh frotting away against raw cotton (or Crimplene – I do not judge) cannot in any way be conducive to a good night’s sleep. To say nothing of the potential for lewd thought or any derivative thereof: The filth and the fury, the filth and the fury.

No, it’s the pyjama every time in my book. The fact that they are restrictive is ironically at the very core of their genius. By wearing the things, we willingly shackle ourselves to such laudable values as propriety, comfort and common decency. And I’ll go you one further – It is no accident they have matching tops and bottoms. Move over, city slickers: These are the new suits of bedtime, and ones we can all wear with pride and dignity at a fraction of the cost of their daytime equivalent. They are truly the egalitarian attire of our age.

I’m not saying they’re for everyone, mind. There is a certain build of man that insists on the elasicated waistband, a more vulgar thing one could not wish to see, let alone wear, despite its obvious practical advantages. Fortunately, modern manufacturers have taken this on board and come up with the button fly/drawstring combo. This cute little trick simultaneously gets you out of the shit whilst somehow keeping you fashionable. And, more importantly perhaps, avoiding the phenomenon that is ‘Ankle Island’, an exposed tundra no man beyond his fortieth year should ever have the misfortune to frequent. I take my hat off to these people. Just my hat.

To drive the point home, I purchased a classic striped PJ set from an expensive Chelsea retailer on my way home the very next day. Not for one moment that I imagined my friends would catch a glimpse of me gliding around my bedroom in those generously cut trousers with their two side pockets, or the timeless jacket with its full 5oz of cotton flannel. No no no. The exquisite pleasure gained here is not for sharing, which may explain why there is a paucity of targeted marketing on your social media. Access to such hallowed portals comes either by word of mouth, or from those bizarre mini-catalogues that drop out of the subscriber magazines. You know, the ones from which it is actually possible to buy salmon pink corduroys or a watch which apparently you don’t own, despite having shelled out twenty grand for it. The beauty of a quality pyjama can only be genuinely appreciated by the man inside.

Tonight, and for the foreseeable future, I am that man.

Idle Eye 120 : The Lives of Others

Earlier this year, Stewart Lee beautifully articulated his disdain for Twitter by describing it as “a state surveillance agency staffed by gullible volunteers.” By which he meant that his entire successful life could be accurately traced by reading through inane tweets sent in by the public as to his whereabouts at any given time. And that these same people would be equally fascinated by the tittle-tattle others just like them offered up for general consumption.

On Monday, I arrived home after an an eight mile cycle ride (eight miles, Twitter fans) from work. Needing provisions for the evening meal and a following breakfast, I leapt into the car & headed off to Sainsburys, unthinkingly clad only in my cycling kit, in order to purchase a few necessaries (one packet Beanfeast Bolognese, one bag organic carrots, one carton orange juice, one bottle Chilean Pinot Noir). It took less than ten minutes. After which I headed back, only to discover that my inconsequential trip had been monitored and posted for all to see by someone who, shall we say, does not have my best interests at heart. Here’s the tweet verbatim:

“Well, that was an ill-timed Sainsbury’s visit. Still, always fun to see a middle aged man dressed like Kevin Rowland c. 1983 from knees down”

Initially, I was rather flattered that a man of my crumbling stature could still conjure up the ghost of Kevin Rowland in his prime, rather than that of Marley or an extra from any of George A. Romero’s oeuvre. But then I became increasingly baffled as to why this would be of any interest whatsoever to a bunch of followers who have no idea who I am, and had not themselves doubled back on their journey home upon spotting my car (Triumph Herald), in order to claim their visit to said supermarket was “ill-timed”. 140 characters or less, by their very nature, cannot accommodate shades of grey. The whole truth requires the same event to be seen from different angles, no matter how obtuse or inconvenient. And the clandestine observation of my rolled-up jeans, paraded to an early evening set of shoppers as a misguided fashion statement of yesteryear, could legitimately have been interpreted otherwise.

Many years ago, when I was learning the finer points of filmmaking at Sheffield City Polytechnic, I watched Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter for the first time. The scene that most stayed with me was that of the demonic preacher (played by Robert Mitchum), standing outside and staring ominously up at the home he was soon to infiltrate, an evil omnipresence in hard contrast black and white. Perhaps if Mr Laughton had been born a tad later he would have set his unsettling movie online, the perpetrator being well versed in the dark art of social media and all its blunt power. And perhaps, just perhaps, my sartorial faux pas would have been less compelling to those who really should know better.

Idle Eye 99 : The Social Leper

I’m not much cop at this whole social networking business. God knows I’m trying, but the bewildering plethora of platforms, plug-ins, avatars and what-have-you leaves me yearning for the good ole days when the only time all your friends knew what you were up to was at the village hall on your birthday:

How did they know it was your birthday?

Because you had gone to WHSmiths, purchased a bumper fun pack of cards with balloons and bears on the front, sifted through your Letts address book and made a list of definites, possibles and last resorts (letters sent out accordingly when the chosen ones had been drawn up), created a second list of acceptees, booked the hall with the vicar (with the help of mum), ordered in a vile selection of foodstuffs and low-alcohol punch materials (with the help of mum), checked off the arrivals on aforementioned list with accompanying tick-box for gifts given (with the help of mum, to be doctored at a later date), and then, when asked what you had been doing lately, you lied back at them with a straight face. These were simpler times.

What about gigs? You used to do them, remember? Social media is a direct, targeted tool to reach your fanbase. Discuss.

True, but that was the ’90’s. If you had told any one of my ‘fanbase’ that they would have to turn on a computer, log on with personal details they had set up at the same time as ordering a pizza from Camden Town, pretending they had read something by Charles Bukowski to a lady with smudged lipstick and a bob whilst attempting to chop half a gram of Persil White into recognisable geometric shapes, perhaps they would have opted for more traditional methods of communication.

Despite being a society of essentially like-minded animals, we have become more disparate than ever before. As our governments continue to fail us, perhaps the duty of care falls to those at the forefront of technology?

Are you sure about that? The very thought of an army of one hand typists having any kind of input as to how we conduct our lives is, to say the least, somewhat worrying. Larry Page’s Financial Funfare, anyone? Or how about Mark Zuckerberg’s Fiscal Fury? Some things are just best left to the suits.

And finally, your blog: Try getting it out there without us.

I can’t. Which is why I’m having to rely on this hackneyed attempt at nostalgia for times past which in turn generates ‘likes’ from various friends I once made in the real world and a few new ones I got off you. Hopefully our unlikely partnership will bear fruit in the near future. I will not, however, do anything you consider fashionable and my reluctance thereof will possibly get us further ‘likes’. Why did you have to call them ‘likes’? Do you have any idea how shit that sounds? Didn’t think so.