Idle Eye 163 : The Builder Jour

Now don’t get me wrong, I know people need to get works done from time to time in our fair capital. How else can we justify those absurdly inflated prices for what effectively are outmoded hunks of Victorian brick? But there comes a point when you just snap, and last Friday I did exactly that. When you’re running a Kickstarter campaign from home and the din and dust from downstairs penetrate through to the very fibre of your being, words have to be said.

To be fair, I held off as long as I could. I was pleasantly chatty (in that monosyllabic way builders seem to enjoy) when our paths crossed in the street. I pretended not to mind having to listen to Taylor Swift thirty times a day at ear-splitting volume, I managed to feign some kind of interest in the project and I even shrugged off the endless banging (that made my treaty glass of Pinot do a Michael Jackson across my desk) as the inevitable consequence of home improvement. What’s all that about? Why hasn’t someone come up with a device that just hits whatever it is they’re hitting once, very hard, job done? I don’t claim to understand what’s going on down there but it is positively Neanderthal. Yet still I did not react.

The final straw came when my water got shut off for the weekend. The builders had done a POETS day, the owner was on a train to somewhere foreign up north and I hummed like a lactating hyena. Then, finally, I saw red. A torrent of pent-up fury was unleashed down a broken phone line, made worse by the excruciating platitude that these things happen. I calculatedly escalated the intensity and tone of my delivery which would have culminated in a commanding Sgt Major roar, but unfortunately I had lost my voice a couple of days beforehand and ended up coming across as a mildly peeved Joan Rivers.

At approximately 11.30pm, a builder reappeared. He had hightailed it back from Southampton and was clearly steeling himself for the raving neighbour I’d no doubt been portrayed as. However, I was the consummate gentleman. Together we investigated the site and found the main feed, wrapped in white tape and haemorrhaging water into the back garden despite being turned off. Calls were made. Brows were furrowed. Not a lot could be done. Until tomorrow. Sorry, mate.

At this stage of the proceedings, there remained but two courses of retaliation. The first being an out-and-out screaming match which, as we’ve already established, was sadly denied to me. The second, ultimately more satisfying option was to plough into a freshly purchased bottle of Bulldog gin and stay up most of the night ranting and listening to vintage Australian pop. And then turn up at Crystal Palace Food Market (where I had a stall to promote the campaign) still steaming, still stinking and looking like death itself. Which is what I did. Obviously.

Idle Eye 87 : The Quantitative Theory of Stuff

Contrary to popular belief, the trouble with getting on a bit has not so much to do with the various bits of you packing up, but that the grey bits you actually have left are already at capacity. They’re maxed out. Overloaded. Which means that if you so choose to bring something fresh on board, say a critically-acclaimed movie or this year’s page-turner, you have to bin an existing item to make room. You’d think this would be pretty straightforward, wouldn’t you? Out with the old, in with the new, and everything ticks along nicely, right? Wrong.

Why so, you ask? Well, the ageing brain does not give up its data lightly, oh no. It’s a hoarder. So when the new kids on the block come a-knockin’, it balks like a reluctant dog with his special stick. Let me give you an example: Last week, I made the mistake of telling a younger colleague that I had never listened to One Direction. Not once. No space for any direction now, I explained, it’s all filled up with grown-up business. This did not go down well:

Youth:  You serious?

Me:  Absolutely. Don’t judge me, it’s just what happens. You’ll understand one day.

Youth:  But they are huuuuge!!! And OD make more dough in a day than you’ll get in your lifetime, grandad!

Me:  Apparently so. How do you think that makes me feel?

Youth:  Old/sad?

Me:  Now look. I know this is going to be hard for you to take in, but it’s just stuff. And I’ve got years and years of stuff rattling around in there. It’s got nothing to do with One Direction: I’ve never listened to Taylor Swift, never listened to JLS, never listened to Miley Cyrus. And you’d probably think it a bit odd if I had. I’m in my forties and, I’ll be frank with you, they’re all shit. So why would I even bother?

Youth:  Nothing to do with them being shit, man. Just being current. You’ll understand one day.

Touché. But I look forward to the day when her head is rammed to bursting with crucial stuff she just can’t let go of, and I can struggle out of my wheelchair if and when we next meet, twerk along to the dulcet tones of ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ and embarrass the crap out of her in front of her children. And if, for some strange reason, she has difficulty with this, I will recite, word perfect, the lyrics to ‘Bye Bye Baby’ by the Bay City Rollers and illustrate with a graph (or whatever Jonathan Ive equivalent is around at the time) the cyclical nature of the Quantitative Theory of Stuff. And maybe, just maybe, she will become aware of the sheer joy available to those who can shed the present. I hope to be high on that particular list.

Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold.