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 151 : The Body Beautiful

I have a distant memory of my mother’s bathroom in the 1970s. I’m pretty sure it had turquoise carpet throughout (right up to the unit borders), and around the bath itself was a set of those mirrors which disappeared into infinity. I mention these because I’ve never seen anything similar since, and it did strike me at the time that they were curious things to have at all: The very notion that anyone would willingly install a primitive version of CCTV, seeking out and exposing every unsightly crevice the human body can muster, brutally illuminated under the unforgiving scrutiny of a 150W bulb encased inside an upside-down jelly mould, did seem rather odd. But, to be fair, I was only about eight. At that age, you get things wrong.

I hadn’t, though. This last Bank Holiday weekend saw me ensconced with fine friends in an Edinburgh AirB&B. It had one bathroom and yes, in what probably was a nod to the retro accoutrements of yesteryear, it also had the very same fitted mirrors. Which meant I could see my own sorry bottom snaking into the distance more times than I would care to discuss. The horrors did not stop there. When was the last time you had a proper look at your own body in its entirety? Not recently, I’d wager. As I wrestled with the shower head, and made silent prayer that the glass would steam up smartly under the surge of its own revulsion, I noted that the ageing process had effectively morphed my once relatively well-proportioned frame into something out of Lord of the Rings.

The torso looked like an afterthought. Squat, pushing out in areas I previously didn’t know existed and, to these eyes, shamefully unaesthetic, it sat uncomfortably above two vulgar flesh potatoes, crushed mercilessly out of shape by the passage of time and the ongoing onslaught of Marlborough Pinot Noir. Not being load-bearing in their own right, the buttocks had clearly begged the legs below for reinforcement, but sadly to no avail. Consequently, some not inconsiderable subsidence was evident at the join, probably worthy of one of those Heritage grants if I’d got my act together. To say nothing of the hilarious thinning pin that balanced precariously on top of all the above. The whole bloody shooting match was a David Attenborough documentary on the decline of Western human anatomy, realised in Kinder Egg Surprises. And directed by ISIS.

Now, I know we’re all supposed to accept the inevitable deterioration of the body as standard. That the vanity of youth should disappear in a plume of dust if one has any dignity whatsoever. But if you could have seen what I saw in those ridiculous mirrors, I do honestly believe you might think again. When confronted with the genuinely shocking, we tend to be genuinely shocked. As I was. Which is why, from now on, I shall be taking my showers in the dark.