Idle Eye 181 : The Brixton BookJam

I have an event coming up: it’s called the Brixton BookJam and, being as I am from South London with a book in tow, apparently I qualify. Trouble is, I’ve never really seen myself as a bona fide author. For the most part, all I do it sit about of an evening and churn out cobblers that hardly anyone reads, so quite why I’ve been allowed to speak at a hallowed portal such as this is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the fact that my contribution is a hardback has been of note? Or maybe it’s some kind of charity do, where people like me are given a once in a lifetime opportunity to let rip in public. Anyway, whatever: I’m doing it and that’s that.

Obviously, the main thrust will centre on appearance – Hair/clothing. The barnet needs major reconstruction if I am to be taken seriously, which might compromise the ‘four cuts a year’ deal I have struck with Simon at Willie Smarts. I’m thinking I might go for a short sides affair (suggests attention to detail), amalgamated with a tousled, greying mop to top it all off, hinting at integrity and a devil-may-care naughtiness (not to be confused with the Savile, which, as we all know, is just shit). Then there’s the attire: teeshirts are a bit of a no-go area when you hit the oxygen-free zone of later life, but then again a suit is just caving in. Striking that perfect balance between resistance and acceptance has never been an easy gig, but I’m sure I’ll work something out: you’ll just have to trust me.

Next up is demeanour. I’ve never much cared for the schtick stand-ups go for, where they bounce on and stomp about like bright kids on Ritalin. Nor for the more sedate approach, dragging the audience into a quagmire of its own worthiness. The entire ‘putting yourself down before anyone else can’ slant is a difficult one when you only have a few minutes to get your message across, so it will probably have to be vile, hate-fuelled tweets beforehand to get everyone geed up and in the mood (if Twitter ever gets around to sending me the fucking manual). Also, I’m absurdly excited about there being a Green Room. The last one I went to was at the Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead back in the mid-80s, and that was only because my pal Peter was doing the washing up. If someone had told me back then that one day, light years into the future, I would be one of the people worth washing up for, I would have laughed them into the foyer. But talent will out (as they say), and I shall enjoy it to the hilt.

Finally, let us consider the material. My lightweight fluff will be rammed up against far weightier tomes and forced to hold its own in erudite company. This is a first. Be gentle with me…

Idle Eye 131 : The Herald Angel Sings

I’ve had the same car now for eleven years. It was a replacement for an identical one which had the tits ripped off of it, on a roundabout in West Dulwich by a woman who didn’t look right when she should have done, putting me in plaster for five months. Over which time I was compensated, lost my job, split up with my fiancée and oversaw the untimely death of seven out of thirteen gerbils who had made their way into my inner circle, euphemism fans. But the new car was astonishing. I could never have afforded her initially, it was only the accident money that made it possible, so I made a small promise to myself on the day I took her down from Fife, Scotland to her new home in South London:

‘Come what may, I will look after you, keep you going and perhaps if I do, there may be a ghost of a chance that we’ll be together until one of us snuffs it.’

It was a marriage of sorts. And yet, curiously, I am not a car person. I couldn’t give a monkeys about what goes on underneath the bonnet, and even less about performance, reliability and safety. All I care about is that she is a lovely thing that gives me pleasure each and every time I sit in the driver’s seat and if, for whatever reason, she gives me gyp, I just learn to put up with it or try to fix it. As many of my close friends will testify as they have towed me home in the small hours or watched, incredulously, as one of her wheels overtook me on the M40.

Over the years, I’ve had all the dull jobs addressed: New gearbox, new clutch unit, something or another to do with diffs (whatever they are), the pointless points (enjoyed that one), carbs and sparks and trunnions and God knows what else. Which you have to do or the bloody thing doesn’t work. But none of this stuff is visible: Kind of like paying an arm and a leg to get the drains sorted outside your house, when actually all you want is a cooker that says more about you than money ever can. The cosmetics play second fiddle to those hardcore kids in the playground built like pit bulls that always seem to get first dibs.

But not this time. I’ve been watching an arc of rust creeping across the bonnet for the last two years, and the hood frame above me decomposing and freezing me to bits on every journey. And those classic Old English White wheels that now look like they’re just home from the Somme. So I’m getting them all done. In one hit. And when they are, I shall renew my vow of 2003 and look forward to our next swathe of time together on the open road. Because in my humble opinion, a car is for life. Not just for Christmas.