Idle Eye 46 : The Last Good Day of the Year

I was listening to Radio 4 on Saturday morning (as one does) and this lady came on who had been struck temporarily blind. Oh no! But then she went on about how she had reassessed her life and realised it had been peppered with relentless negativity, and from that moment on she vetoed any such sentiments which in turn improved the quality of her everyday life immeasurably. Anyway, I turned it off ‘cos I was late for the Barnes Food Fair, in which Nibs had a stall doing spectacular Bloody Marys I badly needed to assess for this ‘ere blog and ran out to get the train. Cancelled. Engineering works. But before I did my usual Ian Dury (****holes, bastards, ****ing ***** and pr**ks) I thought of that woman, lifted my head up high & took the replacement bus with pride. Good on ‘em, I thought, for actually bothering to replace the entire train with a bus: Good on ‘em.

And when I got to Barnes Common two hours later, no small thanks to weekend traffic and an unfortunate iOS6 maps error, I was determined to keep this up. The sun was out, small boys were kicking a ball about (jumpers for goalposts) and everything was heading up to be a Breugel-tastic, culinary lovefest. Even a Volvo passenger opening her door into my smalls did not manage to dampen my ardour (although I did get the temporary blindness). ‘Oh yes, life is good’ I thought, after sampling several pints of the red stuff which, in turn, led me to the real ale stall where I discovered Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a 32% beauty I saw no reason not to obtain for the very reasonable sum of £45. Which, in turn, made the Barbers’ Shop singers sound so angelical I was compelled to enjoy a large Pimms in sheer admiration which, in turn, made me purchase a rather delightful fishermans’ winkle box for Ursula despite my misgivings as to its authenticity.

You see, what the R4 lady left out, and this is the salient point, is that you don’t need a life-changing event to make every day of your life the last good day of the year. What you actually need is an arsenal of high-quality booze and the ability to set aside the cold front of cynicism for the sunnier climes of La Dolce Vita. And the former aids the latter, trust me. Now, I know Nibs will be wanting me to big up his efforts right here in the last paragraph but there’s no need. Really. You all ate those award-winning burgers, drank the BM’s and had a great time. And you know what? As I struggled to focus on Nick Clegg’s apology in the freesheets strewn about on the tube home and I listened to that viral tune drawn from the very same, I felt really good for the first time in ages. Shortly before taking a very long ride on the porcelain bus…

Idle Eye 43 : The Priory Priority

Interesting stuff. Yesterday evening threw up one of them family parties which involved myself, Da Mudda & Ursula all pitching up at Idle HQ to accompany Nibs in a cab that shot us all off to Esher, where we celebrated not one but four (count ‘em) birthdays in some way connected to The Firm. Most of this I have scant recollection of due to usual suspects, but what I did note before succumbing to the ensuing jollities was that legendary sleb hospital, The Priory, was but two minutes away from the Idle Hour itself. Now, I know my brother reasonably well, and when it comes to business I’m afraid to report, gentle reader, he leaves me in the starting blocks. So this salient fact is unlikely to be a mere accident, no siree. And my suspicions were further raised when I did a little, er, research earlier this afternoon. Let me elucidate:

As we all know, what goes on in the Priory is supposed to stay in there, but, human nature being what it is, this is rarely the case. Perennial reoffenders, such as tubby Take That favourite Blobby Williams, fall over themselves to break out of those forbiddingly high perimeter walls, blurt out their respective misdemeanours to whichever red top will shell out a few bob, only to check themselves back in there a few weeks later, steeped in remorse and seeking the kind of meaningful salvation only prohibitively priced clinics can administer. This being the case, we need to get inside the mind of the fugitive patient to fully understand why Nibs chose Railway Side to be his bedrock:

Once out, he/she will almost certainly be on the sniff for somewhere to unwind. Now, according to google maps, the only logical route to achieve this would be to head north.

‘Why north?’ I hear you cry.

Well, listen up: As they hit the Upper Richmond Road, they will invariably come across a hostelry called the Halfway House. This will resonate with the afflicted in a way we cannot begin to comprehend, and will simultaneously spur them on to seek out their real nirvana. And as they stumble towards the railway crossing like Paul towards Damascus, they will find another sure sign that they are on the right track: the Vine Road Recreation Ground. From there it is but a hop and a step to the Vegas that is Idle Hour.

But don’t for one minute think that this is one way traffic: Nibs is far too smart for that. When the seasoned drinker reaches saturation and the bosom of his/her esteemed family can no longer tolerate the inevitable, redemption can be found by simply retracing ones’ steps and heading south, where it is highly unlikely all that personal info will yet have been scrubbed from the database. It’s a narcotic Pushmi-Pullyu situation, in which the hapless addict bounces from one haven to the other.

Bro: Respect is due.

Idle Eye 19 : The Rug Rethink

Now, the very few of you that have ever met me in the flesh will know that I have been sporting a rather fetching slickback hairdo of late. At least, I thought it was rather fetching until a recent confab with her indoors which brought it rudely to my attention that, instead of a real-life incarnation of Ralph Feinnes from The English Patient, I actually resembled a grizzly Tory MP who has spent way too long in the Club’s Smoking Room. To paraphrase:

Ursula : You look like a bag of spanners. Get it cut.

Me : Ok.

So I’m in Willie Smarts with my new favourite barnet builder Simon, and we’re discussing the power of advertising, as you do. How just a seemingly inconsequential spruce-up can make a seismic difference to one’s self-confidence and, perhaps more significantly, how others then perceive you. And as we’re chatting, I have my OMG moment: (For those over 40 I should point out that OMG is yoofspeak for Oh My God. And for those over 60, yoofspeak is what you used to do when you wore shorts). Because it so turns out that as you read this, Urs and myself will have completed a fancy new Idle Hour Barnes design that will be with the signwriter this week and, hopefully, swinging majestically outside the pub before too long. You see, although we all know and love that insect-ridden behemoth, we all felt that it was kindest to ‘let it go’ and replace it with a dynamic, all-singing, all-dancing younger model. Like Kennedy would have done if he’d relocated, given up politics and tried his hand at SW13 hostelry. Oh, and hadn’t been shot.

Anyway, using my forthcoming rug rethink as a metaphor, I asked Simon how he felt about saving me from the Green Room of irrelevance. And then we laughed, oh, how we laughed! Because, despite my heartfelt plea that he paid special attention to my ‘thin patch’, he insisted I had a magnificent head of hair and proceeded to prove it with precision Samurai slashes to my nurtured loved ones. It hurt, but it was for the best. And he was right. Because now I resemble a David Niven understudy from A Matter of Life and Death (if I was just that tiny bit posher and in black and white). It’s the Shiva Effect. Slash and Burn. Out with the old etc.. What could be more appropriate for a sartorial Idle Hour blogger who has just done exactly that with the logo? Sometimes life just ties itself up in a bow, no? And that’s why we keep on going.

Some say that God is in the detail. Others say the Devil’s in there. Personally, I don’t give a monkeys who’s doing what and to whom as long as the end result is justified. When you first clap eyes on the little beauty you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. And the sign’s not bad either…

Idle Eye 12 : The Bruises (Fah La La La La, La La La Lah)

I woke up this morning with two large bruises on my person. The first, a striking black bloomer, was nestling obstreperously on my right knee, and the other, an iridescent slow-burner like Christmas lights seen through an orange segment, sat resplendent on my left forearm. Now, I know for a fact that these babies weren’t there last night because I checked. It’s what you do from time to time when the body begins to rebel. So where did they come from? And what could they possibly want? At first I presumed they were oncoming signs of seasonal ailments suffered almost exclusively by the self-employed, but I was otherwise in good health and indeed had just carried a case and a half of holiday cheer in from the car. Perhaps it was the work of a rogue banker, splashing a small portion of his/her bonus on a voodoo curse in revenge for last weeks post. Unlikely, requires imagination. Bewildered, I called out for help:

Ursula:  What now? I’m making pies.

Me:  I’ve got two weird bruises. I think you should come and look.

Ursula:  Let me get this straight. There’s two shopping days to go, I’m cooking for eight, the flat is a tip and you want me to look at your bruises?

Me:  Something like that, yes.

In a second she was at my side, eager to discover something fresh and exciting about her partner. I peeled up the leg of my pyjama bottoms to reveal Exhibit A, glistening enthusiastically in the raking sunlight.

Ursula:  Is that it?

Me:  No, there’s another one.

I rolled up my sleeve with pride to the location where Exhibit B was vying for position. Ursula shot me a tender look that could have knocked small birds from trees and left, but at that very moment something astonishing happened. The darker bruise appeared to pulsate as I watched it, and as I drew closer I could see there was movement inside, the movement of what seemed like tiny people in what seemed to be a tiny pub, clearly enjoying themselves and raising their tiny glasses towards the huge figure looming above. “Merry Christmas from the Idle Hour Barons Court”, they cried in unison before clanking their respective tipples together. Squinting harder, I could just make out a miniscule bearded man in a Miami Vice jacket and penny loafers embracing another absurdly small representative from the Jägermeister company. In the background I spotted a lavish North African drinking space (ideal for pint-sized parties, by the way) and off in the kitchens an award-winning chef called Tony was creating a fabulous meal for everyone present.

Me:  (urgently) Urs! URS!!!

Ursula:  (in distance) **** off!

I was on the cusp of leaping from my bed when I noticed the second bruise. Not to be outdone, it was ebbing and flowing like a seasick calzone on a waterbed. I took a closer look out of fairness, and again I saw a myriad of microscopic pub-faring folk in mid-carousal just underneath the surface wound, only this time they were crowded around a log fire, being served what looked like mulled wine from a man wearing a somewhat vulgar Miami Vice jacket and Penny Loafers. At first they were blissfully unaware of my ugly moon face peering down at them, but eventually someone shouted and pointed:

Tiny Reveller:  (to room) There appears to be an enormous bloke watching us from above.

Me:  Fear not, small beer-swilling man, I mean you no harm.

Tiny Reveller:  But how are we to know this, vast crater-faced monster? We are here to celebrate what we call Christmas at the Idle Hour Barnes with our favourite award-winning landlord Nibs, Da Mudda and his brother. Could you come back another time?

Me:  His brother? Are you sure?

Tiny Reveller:  Of course I’m sure! Would you like to buy him a drink?

Me:  You know, I think I would, drunken gnome. Please send him forth.

In what felt like slow motion but actually was slow motion, I watched as a perfect replica of myself in 1/75 scale reached up and asked me for money. This was too much: I leapt back, banging my head against the Louis XIV mahogany headboard and instantly knocked myself out.

I cannot say how long I was gone for, but when I awoke I immediately noticed the bruises had disappeared. Oh, and that I’d pissed myself. Again. Looking around me I became aware that it was Christmas Day and my entire family had gathered around to celebrate the occasion. Da Mudda was smiling and pretending to like Bing Crosby, Nibs was smiling and pretending to like Bing Crosby and Ursula was going at my crotch with a J-cloth. And way, way off in the distance, I saw my own reflection. It was drinking an oversized glass of Jägermeister and giving me the thumbs up. And smiling.

Idle Eye 10 : The Rebuff 2 (This Time It’s Personal)

Sorry I’m late. Really, sorry. I did try to get this one in on time, even wrote a couple of drafts about an Idle Hour demon that kept me up at night (written at 1am) but Nibs gave it the thumbs down. And he was right to, in fairness. High on booze, wasabi peas and lack of sleep I bunged it all together like a fake Jackson Pollock and then tried to justify its brilliance in a heated follow-up call deep into the small hours:

Nibs:  Look, you know I love what you do. You know I do. But come on! This one’s so…so…well, angry.

Me:  Angry? Angry? You don’t geddijewewe? Corsets angry! Eye-mmaking a point about time and how weedon tavenuffuvvit. Angry? ARSE!

Nibs:  Mate, why don’t you have another look at it in the morning. It’s late, I’m busy, Barnes is still chokka and you’re pissed.

Me:  GnnNOT PISSED!

Nibs:  I think you are, Bro.

Me:  S’pose you think Charlie Brooker zangry then? Or your bezziemait Giles Coren? S…Spose Jonnoz Born wazzangry too? Eh? EH? But Bro…Bro…(whispers)…thazza point. Thazza holefuggin point.

Nibs:  It’s a pub blog, Bro, not Look Back In Anger. I just need you to be the funny guy so I can get more customers in to buy beer and eat food. Bums on seats: It’s really that simple.

Me:  Z’nuthin simplabout gudriting, man. Snot teasy making this shiddup every we…week y’no.

Nibs:  I’m not saying it is easy. That’s why I pay you to write it. Otherwise I’d do it myself. But calm down, have a good night’s sleep and have another go tomorrow. You’ll thank me for it.

Sound of hysterical laughing in background

Me:  Hang gone…(goes into kitchen. Vulgar swearing, shouting and stumbling followed by phone drop) Bro, you there?

Nibs:  What’s up?

Me:  Ursula sritten ‘Primadonna’ onna blackboard!

Nibs:  (stifling further hysteria) She’s got a point, mate!

Me:  Bar studs! BAR…SSTUDS! FUGG YORL! (Slams down phone and retires)

I woke up this morning still utterly convinced that my misunderstood work would stand the test of time. After all, Jesus had a bad ride, no? And Sophocles wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves in Ancient Greece. I even uploaded the bloody thing onto my phone so I could bask in my greatness on the train. And then I read it.

There is a fine line between genius and bollocks. The greatest minds our crowded planet has ever produced had the courage to surf this line, some close to the mark, others actually touching it. But no-one, not one, ever crossed it. And the ones that did have been consigned to the dustbin of history, their stories never to be passed on. Ever. And that’s as it should be. For they shall be cast out of the Kingdom of Heaven for trawling too wide a net. And trying to polish a doo-doo when they don’t.


Idle Eye 9 : The Legend of the Pigeon of Chevening Road

Not long ago, there lived a great scribe who was on his way to Sainsburys to purchase some things for the weekend. As he drove his dilapidated car past the park he spotted a pigeon lying sick and injured in the road, and being of good heart he picked it up, took it home and took care of it with the help of his lady friend Ursula. The pigeon had been mauled by a wild beast, was blind in one eye and his chances of survival were slim but the couple kept him warm and comforted him. Much to their delight his health improved and by the next day, despite horrific injuries, he seemed perky and up for a chat.

‘Oh, pigeon’ said the scribe, ‘I am happier than you can know that you are well again, but my master Nibs pays me to relate tales of his pubs in Barnes and Barons Court and I fear I have nothing to offer him this week because I have pissed my time up the wall looking after you. Whatever shall I do? I am undone.’

The pigeon thought for a while and did a tiny white dump. Then, raising his little head up high, he did another dump, this time slightly more robust with a flat underside.

‘Pigeon, is this a sign?’ said the scribe. ‘Ursula, come see, our feathered friend has helped us in our hour of need. What does it say in The Lancet about white ones?’

Ursula rushed to the internet and to her astonishment she discovered that indeed, a white stool following trauma suggested that a certain independent time-related pub in Barnes would experience a record-breaking week. Without wasting a second, the scribe made a swift call to Nibs on the blower:

‘Awright Bro? So how was last week?’

‘Unbelievable! Best week ever. Our chef Piotr was running about like a pigeon, man.’

Hanging up in disbelief, the scribe made a beeline for the pigeon who was preparing a third dump, this time not unlike egg-white with a maggot in the centre.

‘Pigeon,’ he went, ‘is this another sign?’ Ursula squealed at the computer as she raked further information from it. Turns out that a wormlike plop in a mucus membrane strongly hinted that the same pub would shortly have improved toilets and an extended kitchen.

‘Hell’s teeth, pigeon, can this be true?’ The scribe made another quick call:

‘Awright Bro? When are you going to sort the bogs then?’

‘Why you asking? I’ve got Tonino painting them now. And I’m sorting the kitchen next year as well.’

Shaking with incredulity, the scribe and Ursula peered back into the pigeon’s box. He was sitting down and preparing for a night’s rest, but before he did so he let off an enormous guff.

‘Urs, what does The Lancet say about that, then?

‘Less Jerusalem artichokes, apparently’

And so it was, the pigeon was spared that rotten vegetable for the rest of his years. And so it was The Idle Hour Barnes got pukka toilets and a new kitchen. And, God only knows how, the scribe got away with another one.