Idle Eye 153 : The Pig’s Table

The 1970s. A decade of strikes, skyrocketing inflation, shocking trousers, way too much hair and cars that didn’t start in the morning. But to this then knock-kneed schoolboy with nascent food issues and a paranoic fear of authority, it will forever be remembered as the one that threw up the Pig’s Table. And I mean that quite literally. Let me get you up to speed:

The Pig’s Table was a monstrous form of ritual trial and humiliation, cooked up by some of the sickest minds this side of the Nuremberg trials and brutally administered by a stringent headmistress and the minions under her employ. These punitive cronies were known collectively as The Danes, whose sole remit was to concoct a regular school meal that could be instantaneously jettisoned by any formative digestive system within a fifty foot radius. In this they were ruthlessly efficient. The universally feared Egg Nest™, an impossibly thick substrate of aqueous grey potato, cunningly concealed beneath a quagmire of zygotic discharge, was the jewel in their crown. Even Heston has not yet superseded this appalling Frankendish, and God knows he’s tried.

In the days before CCTV, food slop bins were manned in shifts. The trick was to get your plate of Egg Nest™ in there at point of changeover and make a break for the door before the new guard had worked out what was going on. But alas, as many did try, so many more failed and were instantly fed into the sausage machine of corrective punishment. First, an guilt-inducing rebuke. How that the thousands, if not millions of disadvantaged children in some of our poorest nations would be pathetically grateful for the delicacy you had just rejected. At which point you resisted the urge to mention Parcel Post. But then came the killer. Your penance would be exacted the very next day. You would suffer the Table.

I’ll take you through it. Like Spartacus, albeit unshackled, you were led into the refectory, filled to capacity with one hundred plus Lords of the Flies with an immense thirst for cruelty, and thrust towards a table for one. This braying throng, despite having narrowly missed the margin themselves, saw you as legitimate quarry and mocked mercilessly as you gingerly took your seat, steeling yourself for the imminent arrival of yesterday’s Egg Nest™. When it turned up, more congealed and pitiful than before, so began the painfully slow process of its consumption. The inevitable gagging was met with a wall of pre-pubescent ridicule, sweat, bile and fear meshing together as one as you prayed to whichever deity was in the vicinity to make it all stop.

It did eventually. But as you collected your thoughts in the ensuing nauseous aftermath, you knew you’d never be the same again. You had become a husk, a grotesque traumatised ghost of your former self, and mealtimes would from now on be heinous culinary skirmishes for you to fight and lose. So then, lunch anyone?

Idle Eye 89 : The Infernal Loop of Leeds

When faced with events too harrowing to compute, the human brain slows everything around it down to a manageable speed, whilst enormous quantities of adrenalin are simultaneously secreted around the body in order to cope with any potential trauma. It is an extraordinarily sophisticated defence mechanism, initiated unconsciously and, for the most part, it works. But not always. Yesterday, I went to Leeds.

I’ll begin with a caveat. If you, like me, have ever had faith in the notion that the fragile infrastructure of the UK’s urban planning will always be driven by some of the greatest minds in the field, think again: It’s not. Anyone who has had the poor fortune of attempting to navigate the West Riding’s principal settlement by car will back me up on this. Leeds City Centre is a vast, sprawling metropolis that has unsuccessfully stitched the very old to the very new, and neither one of them is gonna budge when it comes to compromise. How very Yorkshire! So when councillors Cox and Evans got involved with the CAD kids to keep the traffic flowing, the result was, and still is, one of the most appalling, dehumanising travesties of our time.

On arrival, it looks pretty slick. All the major arteries head neatly towards the centre, but before you know it you are force-fed into the obscenity that is the Loop. Here, the satanic offspring of Hieronymus Bosch and JG Ballard has been made flesh in the most destructive pact since the Coalition. Previous motorists, who have failed to correctly negotiate the Albert Speer-inspired horrorshow they have unwittingly stumbled upon, lie in various states of decomposition inside the cabs of their own vehicles, some taken violently by bitter, frustrated passengers and others by their own hand, the alternative being more of the same. And why is this? Well, put simply, because it is IMPOSSIBLE to get to wherever it is you need to be:

Me:  I’d like to go over there, please.

Loop:  Certainly. Now, veer off in the opposite direction until you come to a roundabout the size of Switzerland. You have approximately 0.6 seconds to decide which one of eight possible exits to take. All the signs will be at least 150 metres above the road and the traffic will be baying for your blood, so probably best to wing it. Oh dear, you’ve taken the by-road to Wakefield. Unfortunately you now have to drive 1.6 miles to the next exit and come back the opposite way. No, not down there, that’s for buses and HGVs and will take you into the pedestrianised zone. Reverse down this one way street until you come to the next feed. Yes, it is busy so be careful. I’m afraid you’ll just have to head towards Ilkley until you come to another roundabout. I know, there’s loads of them. When you’ve worked out which one I’m referring to, get into the left lane. Oh, you’re in the right lane and there’s four others to cross. Never mind, just do what everyone else does: Pull up onto the verge, kick the crap out of your car, kick the crap out of anyone in the vicinity and weep like a baby. No amount of adrenalin can save you now…

And yes, it’s true: The whole shebang happens in torturous slow motion. It’s her absolute, magnificent slap in the face. In Leeds, no-one can hear you scream.