Idle Eye 149 : The Road Less Travelled

There is a certain issue that instils terror into the hearts and minds of those of us who, for whatever reason, have failed to reproduce. And it stems from that most innocuous of sources, the supermarket, where we like to believe we can conduct our business from behind the veil of relative anonymity. Which, to a point, we can. However, just when you think you’ve come through the process unscathed, an atrocious ritual humiliation lies in wait at the tills. A poison bullet with your name on it. A five word bombshell that suggests that you are pitifully lacking as a human being:

“Are you collecting School Vouchers?”

It is a question both pertinent and unspeakably cruel, for it must be answered on the fly and will be absorbed by many. Rejection of the wretched things is tantamount to saying “I do not care for children. Consequently, I shall not be providing a brighter future for them with my wine purchases.” There will also be a phalanx of affronted mothers behind you, boring fiery holes deep into your soul with the sheer force of their unbridled contempt. At which point, you have two choices:

1)  Announce to the rapidly-assembling crowd that you were struck barren at birth after an unfortunate circumcision accident, and that collection of said vouchers will only add to the escalating mountain of angst you have already accrued. If you can weep a little, so much the better. Just don’t get out the goods if asked to prove it. You’re no Dustin Hoffman. 

2)  Take them. Take them and run out into the High Street in order to create a massive paper rick of lost hopes and dreams. Then light a match and sing ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’ in Scottish, like in the Wicker Man. No-one will like you for it but they probably don’t anyway. Sod ‘em.

When I was working in Egypt, I was asked on several occasions how many kids I had and whether they were boys or girls. Initially I tried to set the record straight, but soon found out I was on a highway to nowhere. To them I was, at best, a curio, so I decided to lie in order to get by. I invented a beautiful wife, four sons and two daughters, and by the end of the season had become quite jealous of myself. Why didn’t I have a life like that? And how would I keep my new-found family in the style which we had yet to become accustomed when I got home?

Standard existential stuff and nonsense. But in those frozen moments back in the supermarket, I often wonder how my other self would have felt, watching a middle-aged man bundling booze into a bag and denying the next generation a decent start in life. And if I’m honest, I’d probably be in the vanguard of those livid mums, silently berating myself for having taken the road less travelled.

Idle Eye 113 : The Refusenik (A Slight Return)

The Persians deliberately weave a flaw into the corner of the astonishingly beautiful rugs they create because they believe that only Allah is truly perfect, and it would be a bit of a slap in the face if they try to emulate him/her through their Earthly offerings. Readers, I am that rug: I got it wrong about Glastonbury (as I did with the Olympics and the once Scotch, then Brit, now re-Scotched Andy Murray). As a weathervane for the zeitgeist I can get seriously off-kilter sometimes and hands up, I’ve done it again. Not that I’m admitting it to those who dragged me there, kicking and screaming blue bloody murder to the permanent detriment of their weekend – Good Lord, no! Some things must remain between you and I, and I beg you to keep schtum on this one.

Despite the mud and the mucus, the filth and the fury, the long-drops and the long marches home, I reluctantly acquiesce that it was all reasonably acceptable. Being little more than a soldier ant in a ruthlessly efficient outdoor entertainment machine was, to be fair, somewhat daunting initially. And last time I frequented the place it was a squalid haunt of low-lives, drug dealers and hippies trying to locate my chakras. Particularly after bedtime, which it then seemed churlish to adhere to. However Glastonbury, like all things, has evolved.

Yes, it is vast and yes, it is seemingly commercial. But there are no Audi stalls here, attempting to flog you a luxury vehicle in the most inappropriate of places. No Costa, no McDonalds or Coke, miserably shoehorning their bullshit product in with anything popular they can access in order to maximise reach. For the most part (and I grant you, there are a few exceptions), the on-site businesses are small and endearingly homespun. You do not resent spending a couple of extra quid to keep these guys going. And this in itself would be enough. Perhaps a thumbs-up from this rusting ancient, best suited to keeping an eye on his portfolio in the pink paper, is not the best festival accolade out there. But it doesn’t matter, really it doesn’t.

If you fancy seeing out your ticket price in a hessian shack listening to ’70’s prog rock powered by punters on bicycles, then good luck to you: It’s there for the taking. Failing that, head off to Shangri-La when the main stages shut down and gurn the night away on substances for that authentic Hieronymus Bosch experience. Again, it’s your choice. The trick is knowing which buttons to push and which ones to let go of, and no-one really minds if you screw it up. It’s all part of the deal. Despite myself, being in a field with thousands of people yelling “ED…IS…DEAD!” at the Pixies felt curiously liberating. But if you think for a minute I’m going to let on now that I’m home, dream on…

Idle Eye 15 : The Scotch

Burns Night. What’s that all about, eh? Come on you Scotch, I want an explanation. And it had better be a bloody good one. Seems to me you get in a bunch of transvestites partial to a bit of sheep’s entrails boiled to buggery in it’s own stomach lining, get them half cut on single malt and let them loose on poetry. What could possibly go wrong? Now, any one of the above would normally be cause for alarm but, as Aristotle once succinctly remarked, ‘the whole is profoundly more disturbing than the sum of its parts’. And he was wise..

So let’s take a step back and put it all into perspective. Can you imagine the flack if we foisted a similar indignity on our deep-fried Mars Bar munching chums?

The Scotch : Ah dinnae ken this Pam Ayres, laddies.

The Brits : Ahem… Well, she’s a completely irrelevant poet who we drink to until we are sick, every year, then we read her poems which no-one understands or likes while we eat a traditional British dish that no-one likes. Then we dance about a bit and chat to the food in an accent that no-one understands. Then we go home.

The Scotch : Are yuz tekking tha puss?

The Brits : Not at all. It’s really good fun. You just have to get into the spirit of

SMACK!

…it.

*bleeds*

Anyway, turns out that Nibs is throwing a gourmet version of this, frankly, astounding evening at Idle Hour Barnes this coming Wednesday and, if for no other reason, I’d be grateful if you’d all go along and report back here. For instance, I’d like to know what exactly is the posh version of a haggis. Is it free-range? Left to amble freely across the heather-strewn highlands and islands until such time that Alex Salmond needs a bit of free PR and the axe comes down in the back of a soundproofed tartan Range Rover? Does it sport a diamante sporran perhaps? Or, specced up with free education, does it take the moral high ground over you the humble diner, sweating miserably over your forthcoming university fees? All these and more are questions I would like answered by this time next week so please, do your bit.

Finally, I’d like to round up this weeks’ waffle with a plea (yes, another one, don’t get out your pram). Like the Good Lord himself, this blog needs followers, and I’ve heard tell that it has been a bit tricky of late to subscribe. There’s a reason for this : I failed to add the button that lets you do exactly that. Until now. It’s on the Posts page, RHS, up top. So if you’ve arrived here via Arsebook etc.. please don’t bail out. Click. Subscribe. And trust me, I will make your life a sorrier place than it is already. On a weekly basis. And you can’t say fairer than that xx