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 152 : The Angry Birds

It’s hard not to get incensed by all the stupid things people do. Whether they’ve voted wrong, or looked at you funny, or gone shopping with a ridiculous hipster hairdo or put their feet on the seats, it’s enough to have you frothing at the gills most days, right? To be honest, it’s exhausting. A quick spleen vent at work or down the pub doesn’t help much either, because there you’ll just find even more stuff to get livid about. It’s an infinite cycle of bile. A human centipede of perpetual fury. And once you’re in it, there’s no getting out. Without lithium. Or chocolate.

So where can like-minded hotheads meet and bleat when the going gets excruciating? Which crucible is robust enough to contain the white heat of contemporary rage? Yes, you guessed it, it’s our old chum the Twitter. That stalwart portal, which gives with one hand and destroys with the other, is the paradoxical Shiva of the internet. But here it is not enough just to rock up and pitch in, oh no! To be considered a player, you must have followers. Like Jesus. Or Charles Manson. When you finally get a few, you’ll be needing a few more. And then more still. Until eventually, the very notion that these followers are actual people, as opposed to numerical online manifestations of your rampant unfettered ego, evaporates like a springtime morning mist.

Anyway, I was checking my feed this morning at 5.17am (I was up early, sick with worry that I’d forgotten to charge my phone), and noticed that I had been unfollowed. Only by one, but I felt the ricochet and was smarting from it. Having that extra bit of time on my hands, I spent the next few hours trawling through recent hard drive back-ups in order to expose and humiliate my perpetrator. Unfollow me, I thought? I’ll learn ya. But this one was good. Very good. Using what they call a cloaking address, xoigirl.vikki264 had manipulated my good nature into accepting her into the fold and giving her that most rare of opportunities to shine. Which, for reasons best known to herself, she had chosen to spurn.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can handle rejection. It has been the fabric of my very existence since I told Helena Bonham-Carter’s sister I had all my own teeth and hair in an introductory email. However, I’m super-sagacious these days. I had deliberately chosen to ignore her rather pneumatic avatar in favour of what I considered a more mature approach to online platonic relationships. That somehow, in the vein of Pretty Woman, she could have been persuaded to take the straight and narrow path. But it was not to be. To say nothing of any potential misinterpretation of my intentions. So now I find myself with a mere 33 followers and yes, I’m bloody spewing. Although ViaFlowers11 is looking promising, despite the cost of the visa.

Idle Eye 148 : The Eisenhower Matrix

It’s harder than you think, being your own boss. Try it sometime and see for yourselves. Traditionally I have been pathetic at organising my day, which is why I usually get other people to do it for me and hopefully throw in a few quid at the same time. But right now, I’m out of the plane without a chute and unless I sort something out pretty quick, I’ll be land pizza before you know it. There are, however, little tricks you can employ to create the illusion of structure, some of which I shall outline below for anyone in the same predicament:

1)  The old ‘leaving the flat’ ruse is a bit of fun – Get dressed in a hurry, swig down a mouthful of instant coffee (leaving the rest) and, if you’re feeling bold, give yourself a quick peck on the cheek. Then walk around the block a couple of times and come back in, panting and complaining bitterly about the inefficiency of whichever rail network you weren’t on.

2)  Create a few formal breaks. These will prevent you from atrophying at the computer and provide the added bonus of allowing you to catch up with all the latest gossip. It’s important to stay in the loop.

3)  The Reward System, albeit rather primitive, is a great incentiviser. That call you made to Virgin Media Customer Services took a while, right? Have a sweetie. Made it through thirty emails about erectile dysfunction and/or PPI? Have another sweetie. Anything whatsoever to do with the Inland Revenue or TfL? Crack open a bottle of single vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir. Actually, make that two.

4)  Stay focused. Tempting though it may be to stray with another episode of Inside Health and discover you’ve probably got shingles/leg ulcers/something irritable going on with your bowel, you’ll only spend the rest of the day on the med sites and give yourself PTSD to boot.

5)  Draw the curtains. Because the people you can see outside are almost certainly having more fun than you, will be rich in Vitamin D and couldn’t give a monkey’s that your delete key has packed up again. For them, life is one big picnic. For you, it’s an eternal game of chess. Against Magnus Carlsen.

6)  Nothing of interest will come through your letterbox and no-one of interest will ring the doorbell. Ever. Hold your nerve.

7)  Facebook and Twitter are not your friends. They are the Trojan horses of the internet, willingly invited into the workplace where they bed in and beckon, stealing your time and reason. Like Mata Hari. With cats and babies.

After these, you’ll need an endpoint. Something to neurotransmit a strong signal to the brain, telling it to pack in the chores and loosen up a little. Sex, recreational drugs, alcohol and repetitive pop tunes have always been popular with the young, but if, like me, you find yourself in your twilight years, The Archers seems to work okay. In conjunction with the above.

Idle Eye 144 : The Kanye Conspiracy

Remember last year? Me neither, which is the predominant reason I churn out this self-indulgent effluent every week. So that, in a quiet moment of the day when the wine fog has lifted, I can claw back clues as to my activities over the last three and a half years, and make out I have near-perfect recall. Yes, like that bloke out of Neighbours (what was his name?) in Memento. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered I had attended the Glastonbury festival. Quite willingly, apparently. Can that be right? And why on earth would I have agreed to such a thing, being as I am rather ancient and unsuitably constructed for the al fresco activities of youth?

I dug a little deeper, only to find out that, to my horror, I am going again in June. And that I have already shelled out perfectly good moolah for the privilege. What fresh hell is this? If ever there was a deterrent to the perils of Pinot… Anyway, my fate being sealed thus, I thought it prudent to at least find out exactly who I shall be forced to watch, and in narratively convenient fashion, the organisers announced yesterday that someone called Kanye West will be headlining on the big stage. Kanye West? Who the shoo is she? I thought it was a holiday destination for wealthy folk, somewhere near the Keys in Florida. And whilst I realise I no longer fit the festival demographic, you’d think they could at least meet me half way: The Bay City Rollers still have a bit of spunk left, and young people can mock them on the Twitter if they get bored.

Seeing as I already had my detective hat on, I discreetly asked my niece to get me up to speed, ignorance being no excuse in these matters:

Poppy:  Are you for real?

Me:  Yes, I think so.

Poppy:  No, I mean you’ve never heard of Kanye West???

Me:  I haven’t. Does that make me a bad person?

Poppy:  He’s only the biggest rapper in the world!

Me:  Rapper, you say?

Poppy:  Yes, rapper! And he’s married to Kim Kardashian. Keep up!

Me:  Kim who?

Poppy:  Oh for God’s sake! Kardashian! With the massive arse.

(long pause)

Poppy:  You really don’t know, do you?

Me:  I’m afraid not.

Poppy:  Have you been living under a rock for the last ten years?

Me:  Of course not. But wasn’t she at Glastonbury last year with her band?

Poppy:  That was Kasabian!

Me:  Is there a difference?

Poppy:  I’ve got to go now…

So, none the wiser then. But at least I’ve gleaned that this Kanye chap has a wife with a big bottom, which will surely hold me in good stead when I’m standing in a Somerset field, knee-deep in mud and surrounded by children who know who he is. What was it again? Kim something? I wonder if she’s from North Korea.

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 90 : The Milk of Human Kindness

So then, milk. When everything around you is going tits up, what better way to block out the maelstrom than to bang on about cow juice for a few paragraphs, maybe even whilst squeezing the udders of allusion along the way. Personally I can’t stand the stuff, which is probably why my body has morphed into Orville without Keith Harris up it, but I know there are those that can so I shall tread carefully.

Earlier today, Mr Pearce came to sweep our chimney. I booked him in weeks ago, so desperate was I to avoid the queue of disgruntled SSE customers, fighting back in the only way they know how (at this point I should insert the hashtag middleclassproblems but I dislike Twitter even more than I do milk, so I won’t). Anyway, about fifteen minutes before he turned up, I realised there was no milk in the fridge. Because there never is. Because it’s shit. Which presented me with a dilemma: Do I go off to the shops and get some, running the risk of missing Mr Pearce and upsetting him and his old-skool ways, or do I fly in the face of all odds and pray that he doesn’t take the statutory 50/50 mix of hot beverage/milk that is the constant of all tradesmen? Tough one, right? But being the kindly old soul that I am, I opted to ensure his cuppa would be drowning in white mucus. Which was the right decision.

If you’re not sure what I’m on about here, try this: Next time you’re getting those chunky shelves built over the telly, or getting the interweb mended or installing those to die for cast iron radiators, offer him up a cup of black coffee over the natural break. At first, you will be greeted with an ecstasy of coughing from lactose-corrupted lungs. Then the white eyes, writhing in his face, vile and bitter as the cud. And any vain hope you cherished of patronising smalltalk will be violently dashed, like smelted pig iron on a blacksmith’s anvil, leaving you helpless, afraid and pitifully vulnerable.

In short, it’s better to have a pint indoors for emergencies. UHT if you have to, but make sure there’s something suitable in or suffer the consequences. A splash of the white stuff is the trade equivalent of popping a brace of speckled hens into a lap dancer’s G-String. It’s an emollient, particularly over the troubled waters of class. And for 58 pence (nota bene, Mr Cameron), you will secure peace of mind and an unruffled path to the kind of smug never more succinctly satirised than by Patrick Nice of the Fast Show.

‘But what of Mr Pearce’, I hear you ask? Well, after I had established the status quo, we discussed his family history, the upturn in trade for Victorian fire grates and touched lightly on politics. After which I gingerly asked if he would care for another cup:

‘Naaah, Gawd bless yer, squire, I gotta run’, he went. Which was nice…