Idle Eye 138 : The Windows to the Soul

When he put his mind to it, my father had a great smile. It was one of those magnificently craggy ones, as pioneered by WH Auden towards the end of his own years, which dug huge trenchlines into the soft tundra of his face and suggested, whether it were true or not, that he was kind and genuinely delighted to have you as company. Yorkshire Television was quick to pick up on this most saleable of assets, so in pretty much every publicity shot taken from the 1980s onwards, you can see him attempting to squash his nose hard into the well of his cheekbones, like some sort of demented human Corby trouser press, whilst simultaneously keeping his eyes open and looking sexy. And, unlikely though this may sound, for the most part he pulled it off.

As the firstborn of four, I have inherited (to a lesser extent) something similar. When it first appeared I was horrified, so desperate was I to preserve the illusion of perpetual youth, and those appalling fissures, snaking their way across my cheeks like levees towards the ocean, became impertinent reminders of my own mortality. Which I bitterly resented. But as the years rolled on, I kind of grew into them, accepted them, and now I shall ruthlessly exploit them for my own financial gain. Hear me out:

I’ve only ever had publicity shots done once. It was back in the day, when I was trying to look moody and angst-ridden for an art-rock band which I fronted. The fact that we never got picked up, and that the photographs fell into the dustbin of insignificance, was clearly down to the fact that I was not yet ready to face the full-frontal glare of fame and fortune. And possibly because a previous night’s drinking had made my eyes look like pissholes in the snow. But now I am older, wiser and sly as you like. So, what if I harness Dad’s old ruse for the back cover of this book that I’m doing? That, instead of going all Charles Bukowski on you, I could make you believe I’m enormous fun to hang out with? Simply by wrinkling up my face! It works across the board: The oldies will think they can trust me, and the young people will find me endearing. Sexy, even.

Now, I’ve been practicing in front of the bathroom mirror, but I think the silver must have buckled. When I scrunch up one side (leaving the other unwrinkled and all come hither), it looks like I’m having a stroke. Yet if I go for both at once, the eyes are lost in a sea of unsightly crevices. And the eyes, as any fule kno, are the windows to the soul. I’ve even tried the direct approach, looking straight into camera with just a hint of crumpled world-weariness. But I just come across as a massive tool. And we can’t have that, can we?

Idle Eye 115 : The Tinder

It has been suggested to me by a colleague (who shall remain nameless) that I should ‘have a go on the Tinder.’ Now, not being at all worldly in these matters, I presumed it was the sort of thing that men of a certain age bragged about in the pubs of the North when they had illegally bagged a massive rabbit or somesuch:

“I’m on t’Tinder”
“Aye, champion. Bring it round back after hours. And mind it’s skinned and scrubbed first”

But, turns out, it means nothing of the kind. Apparently, ‘having a go on the Tinder’ is a handy way for the young people to meet up and exchange fluids without all the bother of actually having to talk to each other. Which does indeed seem splendid, if any of the monosyllabic displays of syntax I have been witness to of late are anything to go by. What is less clear is why said colleague would imagine, in her wildest dreams, that this is the vehicle for me. Painstaking research has revealed that, whilst being quite the thing for some no-strings How’s Your Father, the demographic comes in at a terrifying 27 years young, and these people are circling around you like ravens over roadkill. Surely I need an app to keep them at bay, for Christ’s sake?

But cast your minds wide open. Imagine, if you will, that I accept this noxious challenge. That I Right-Swipe a cute little thing in a gingham dress who is cool with my involuntary farting and wants to meet up. And let’s say that we do so at a neutral space of her choosing: The Chelsea Hospice for the Critically Insane. Gingerly, I spy her at the kiosk in the foyer and, plucking up courage, I make my move:

“Err…Hello! Thanks for coming in. Are you on the Tinder?”
“Nan, there’s one for you ‘ere. Take your teeth out.”

And it is precisely the potential for this brutal, on-site humiliation that I think it unlikely I shall be adopting the Tinder for the foreseeable future. Perhaps, if these clearly adept tech wizards can come up with something posthumous, or approaching it, we could have some kind of dialogue (although I currently take my lunch break in Brompton Cemetery, which may well create its own unique set of problems – Any kind of romantic liaison with those who have ‘made the journey’ will almost certainly be frowned on in these litigious times). So, in short, I am doomed.

I know what this looks like. That I am poo-pooing any chink in the armour of despair the young have to leapfrog themselves towards a brighter future. Not so. By all means, roger yourselves senseless with whatever tools you have to hand: I salute you in all your endeavours. All I ask is that you don’t involve me, pitiful ambassador of debauchery that I would almost certainly be. But I figure you already know that.

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.