Idle Eye 179 : (All Quiet On) The West London Front

They say that the wheels of society are significantly greased over three courses. In my relatively limited experience, it’s quite the opposite. For once any initial pleasantries have been dispensed with, the seeds are invariably sown for out-and-out war. Particularly in the arena of the unspoken:

Hostess:  Darling, it’s wonderful to see you!

Thanks for filling in.

Me:  Thank you so much for having me. It’s been too long!

There’s a reason for that.

Hostess:  This is Alex, he’s been dying to meet you.

Alex got here five minutes earlier and I’m bored hearing 
about his car.

Alex:  Our hostess tells me you’re a vegetarian.

I hate you already.

Me:  Yes, I’m afraid I’m one of those…difficult ones.

I hate you already.

Alex:  Well, you won’t mind if we tuck into a bit of raw flesh, will you? At least it isn’t twitching!

Do you people actually enjoy eating this shit?

Me:  Not in the slightest. Horses for courses, I say.

Yes we fucking do. Ever tried it? Thought not.

Alex:  Our daughter was a vegetarian once. Talked her out of it, of course. Not much call for rabbit food at Roedean!

Get me as far away from this prick as is humanly possible.

Me:  I suppose not. Probably not for rabbits either, come to think of it.

With those three sentences, you have a clear pathway to
eternal damnation.

Hostess:  Alex is just back from Cuba. I gather it was simply divine.

So pleased they’re getting on.

Alex:  Too many foreigners for my liking. Quicker the Yanks get in the better. Clean the place up a bit.

Nearly got the clap.

Me:  I’ve heard it’s amazing!

Bet you nearly got the clap.

Hostess:  (giggling) I’ve heard it’s quite easy to get the clap out there!

God, I hope it’s thrush.

Alex:  So then, how do you make a crust?

My money’s on artist. Looks like one.

Me:  I usually conserve and restore wallpaintings and historic buildings. But I’ve just put out my first book as well.

You have no idea what I’m on about, have you?

Alex:  Ah, a writer! Tough business, writing. Published?

Knew it.

Me:  Self-published. I crowdfunded it last year.

Take a flying guess.

Alex:  Good for you.

Arsehole. 

Hostess:  Oh, you must read it, Alex. He’s so clever! And he got all sorts of artists to do pictures for him too!

Still haven’t read it.

Alex:  How very creative. Can we get it in the shops?

As if.

Me:  You can indeed! Or I’ve a few in my bag?

It’s not for you.

Alex:  Don’t carry cash, I’m afraid. But do let us know where we can get a copy.

Please don’t.

Me:  So what do you do, Alex?

Don’t tell me.

Alex: Do? Not a lot these days, to be honest.

Do you have any idea how much time it takes to architect a basement?

Hostess:  Shall we go through? I’m famished!

Oh Waitrose, you fickle mistress.

I rest my case.

Idle Eye 114 : The Tyranny of Sex

One of the (very few) advantages of getting on a bit is that you are no longer governed by the incessant demands of your wretched, truculent body. Back in the day, you could be contentedly getting on with your life with a hobby of your choice (let’s say, for argument’s sake, gardening) and the next thing you know, an inappropriate stamen is frantically transmitting lewd signals to the pathetic pink pudding between your ears, which in turn sends an emergency klaxon to the privates which instantly shuts off the master logic valve, leaving you rudderlessly navigating your way to an inevitably messy conclusion. You have no say in this. You are putty in the hands of a force deliberately cooked up by nature to humiliate you at all costs. This will pass, trust me.

You know you’ve come through the cloud layer and are approaching terra firma when you begin to consider options:

“Yes, I could bust a blood vessel in a locked room upstairs in broad daylight at my eldest son’s graduation party, or I could eat my own body weight in artisan cheese, neck a couple of bottles of Waitrose top shelfers and pass out on the sofa as his mates search underneath me for a cab company flyer.”

This, although far from perfect, at least suggests that something is seeping through to the mainframe. But don’t get out of your prams, there’s still a long way to go.

To be fair, it does take a while for the pointless juices your reproductive system will insist on brewing, to simmer down enough for you to make an educated decision over what exactly to do about them. Over-compensation in the alcohol department is statistically a popular choice, as temporary stasis is infinitely preferable to the half-meant apologies one is forced to make the morning after whatever it was you did when you were slavering like a bull. Saga Magazine understands this implicitly, which is why they kindly start sending you a bewildering gadgets catalogue not long after your fiftieth birthday, championing electronic butter dishes and secure solutions to keep your soap dry. By the time you’ve worked out exactly what you’re meant to do with the bloody things, any urges you may once have been slave to in your prime will be long gone. It is a stroke of marketing genius.

Based on the above, my advice to the young people is this: By all means, persevere with that sexting/Tinder/anti-social networking thing you all seem to like. It’s just harmless fun and your body won’t know the difference between this and the real thing. And the salient point is that it serves as a useful segue between the tyranny of sex and liberation thereof you have yet to experience. Cyberfilth is the only working prophylactic you will ever need, protecting you from your revolting selves 24/7. Embrace it. The alternatives are far, far worse.

Idle Eye 109 : The Cotswold Diner

Like Cornwall, the trouble with the Cotswolds is that they’re woefully inadequate at catering for regular folk. By which I mean that every idyllic bar and restaurant, set in local stone and staffed by enthusiastic pin-striped undergraduates, leaves in its wake a paucity of eateries affordable to the indigenous population that isn’t a flame-haired former news editor or her tit of a husband. Even your bog-standard takeaway has been usurped by Cameron’s cronies, now profiteering proudly from weak puns and an artisan prefix. So, where to fill up without spunking away your wages when buried deep in the West Country?

Good question. And if you are holed up in a country B&B, your options are drastically reduced. For you must either drive to one of these godforsaken places, or learn to enjoy the pleasure of your own company with a Waitrose 2 for 1 nuclear meal and a bottle of anything red that will stay down. A Sophie’s Choice, basically. But then I got to thinking (necessity being the mother of all invention): What if I could harness that 1987 Panasonic Destroyer of All Hopes & Dreams to my own advantage? Perhaps even rustle up something my guts wouldn’t instantly reject, and in record time? The mind began to work overtime, like it’s supposed to do during sex or at the moment of violent untimely death…

As luck would have it, I discovered a Microwave Oven Recipe Book nestled alluringly between a brace of curry menus, purposefully placed in order to offer the budget diner the illusion of opulence. For example – How about some plaice fillets in a white wine sauce? Preparation comes in at a mere 10 minutes, presumably the time it takes to leap into the Thames in Hunters waders and net a couple of the flat bastards before they hightail it off in their inherited Aqua Rover. What’s more, the end result serves four people, a salient glimpse into the lives of others as you attempt to scrape the charred remains of sliced mushroom from the duvet cover. And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not round off the evening with a pineapple upside down cake? Simultaneously conjuring up Hawaii and the 1970’s, this delightful pudding is rustled up in seconds if you happen to have a greased soufflé dish stowed away in your rucksack and can handle 100g of refined sugar before the witching hour.

Sadly I don’t and can’t, to say nothing of the potential shame involved. To fail at cookery is one thing, but to fail at fan-assisted cookery in the seat of all things cookery is quite another. So I bailed, as you’ve probably guessed by now. However, tonight acquainted me with a spectacular 2012 Sangré de Torro (a snip at £8.99) and guess what? That family bag of farm-raised, oak-smoked Gloucester Old Spot flavoured crinkly kettle chips hand-picked by Dave on 26/02/14 doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Idle Eye 68 : The Parable of the Sower

Back in the 1970’s (forgive me for not remembering exactly when), Nibs and I had our first musical spar. We were both newts, desperately attempting to develop the first tail of experience which we could then wave about with authority and impress our mates. Obviously I had a slight edge, playing the Elvis Costello trump card over his Boomtown Rats, compounded further when our dear mother destroyed Nibs’s Rats cassette after seeing Bob Geldof on the Russell Harty Show. This wanton act of barbarism knocked the stuffing out of the poor boy, but as the eldest I undertook a mantle of responsibility with requisite seriousness, and over the subsequent years I offered him up Be Bop Deluxe, Supertramp, Roxy Music et al which he devoured with joy.

Our nirvana of choice was a tiny shop just off Godalming High Street called Record Corner, tucked away in a cobbled enclave far from the everyday needs of Surrey stockbrokers. Here you could lose yourself in formative wonder, as gigantic teenage muso freaks intimidated and beguiled you in equal measures. I remember asking, with a slight cringe, if they had Elton John/Kiki Dee’s ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ in yet and being told to piss off to Woolworths. Which, ironically, is where Nibs bought the Clash’s London Calling, but then let himself down by going to Waitrose immediately afterwards.

On my thirteenth birthday I somehow managed to get a little band together. The venue: Shackleford Village Hall, and it was here myself and three others murdered ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ by Cream in front of a live audience. And yet, five of us were guilty. Why five, I hear you ask? Well, because young Nibs had his tiny adolescent hand in it as well. At a disclosed moment, he ran onto the stage and manually plugged in a red lightbulb, giving us the kind of wow factor unseen since the Eiffel tower was launched to an anticipating public. It was a bonding moment, to be sure, but sadly failed to secure my place in a certain young lady’s heart, not mentioned here for fear she may well be reading this.

And so the years passed by, and I continued to share the pearls I came across on my musical journey. Touchingly, the stuff I actually wrote (and performed with the confidence of a startled gazelle) was most keenly championed by Nibs himself. And though we seldom manage to say it to each other (we’re British, innit?) we have always maintained a sneaking respect for the other’s ability in his chosen field. But it was music that did and will always do the lion’s share of bonding. Anyone that has ever endured an Idle Hour lock-in with its inevitable rendition of Wonderwall will understand why. All I ask is that you do not hold me responsible. You sow the seed: Some of it falls on fertile ground, some does not. I rest my case…

Idle Eye 50 : The End of the Way It’s Always Been

So, I’m tucked away inside a Warren House deep in the grounds of Kimbolton Castle with only my stalwart Roberts radio to remind me of the world outside, when the hapless Theresa May comes on. “Oh, splendid!” I thought. “What can she balls up today?” Did anyone catch this? Anyone? Turns out she reckons people what sell guns’n’stuff are as guilty as them what use them and therefore should expect tougher sentences such as, er, life imprisonment (or longer).  And as I enjoyed a glass of something vaguely palatable from St Neots’ Waitrose and watched a Turner sky disappear over rolling Cambridgeshire hills, a distant bell rang inside my head. Not the tinnitus (although this is becoming almost as irritating as Theresa), and not the call to prayer that was to come the following morning. No, it was the slow recall of a bi-annual event at London ExCel – currently being pushed online. Yes, readers, it’s the 2013 DSEI Arms Fair at which you can buy, perfectly legally, as many weapons of mass-destruction as your budget will allow, giving you that must have edge over whatever foe happens to be irking you at present (as long as they ain’t one of our lot, in which case all purchases come in a brown paper bag).

Now, I’m no logistician, but does this mean Theresa will show up at Royal Victoria Dock in her lovely grey suit and kitten heels and bust the sorry arse of whichever camouflaged warlord she can catch up with? Before buggering back off to Berkshire for high tea? Help me out. And if she is setting a precedent that the salesman is also the criminal, examine carefully the following scenario and give me your thoughts in the comments section:

Police:  Mr Nibs, we is arresting you on suspicion of selling the sum total of seven pints of delicious Harveys ale to one Dan Dodgy, who went on from The Idle Hour down the road outside and smashed in every car window what happened to be parked there. Oh, and defecated onto the passenger seat of a Mazda outside the school. Mr Dodgy has attested that he normally only has a couple and the extra few tipped him over the edge, relinquishing him of any responsibility whatsoever and thereby landing all culpability with the scumbag landlord what sold him the goods in the first place. Anything you say and/or do may be taken down in evidence: It’s the law.

This being the case, I eagerly await the arrival of a Government-endorsed SWAT team at the St Neots’ Waitrose fine wines aisle, getting those brown-aproned peddlers of doom to spread ‘em against the rotary tills and confess. And the subsequent supoena at which I am forced to admit at gunpoint that I was their most significant customer over the month of October and thereby a significant threat to national security. At which point Theresa can legitimately deport me along with my old chum Abu Qatada.