Idle Eye 180 : The Last Time

The last time I had sex was in July 2015. I vaguely recall that it was pleasant, a bit boozy and thankfully lacking in any resultant apologies. What I didn’t realise was that that would be it for a bit; possibly forever. The consequent chasm has been, to be honest, not all that great. Occasionally, Saturday night television spews up someone who gives me a slight twinge, but for the most part, the ritual trudge upstairs sees me throwing a nightshirt over a set of flannel pyjamas and reminiscing about the good times when things were a little different.

Sex is all over the shop now. When I was a lad, I remember going into the West End with one of my many surrogate mothers, who coerced me into buying a rude magazine with my pocket money. It would be fair to say that I enjoyed it as best I could, but the guilt that ensued became so extreme, I buried it under a tree in the woods at the bottom of our garden: it’s probably still there now. These days, a quick right swipe affords the end user any manner of earthly delights, but the notion that an element of responsibility, care or, dare I say it, love, should come into it, usually gets laughed out of town. Instant gratification is all the rage, and anyone who gets hurt easily needs to man up (if you will forgive the expression) if they want to survive.

Somewhere around, there exists a revealing documentary about the musician Nick Drake. Called A Skin Too Few, it attempts to articulate the events culminating in his suicide in 1974. From all accounts, it seems he was particularly ill-equipped to cope with the mores of his generation, as an extreme sensitivity to his immediate environs simply became too much to bear. Sex and drugs were on the menu – more so that ever before – but despite wanting to dip his toes into the water, there was no safety net for people like him, and he paid the ultimate price. That wonderful, liberating ideal that defined the children of Haight-Ashbury was the very thing that did for him in a sleepy Warwickshire town, still trying to comprehend the Age of Aquarius.

Sadly, I can relate. As the powers that be continue to extract the heart from our increasingly fractured society, and I watch from the sidelines as some of those I care about gradually become products of it, I begin to wonder if I too have developed a skin too few: if I have reached a point where the zeitgeist no longer speaks for me and I must react accordingly. So tonight – Valentine’s for those who have someone, just another for those who don’t – I shall contemplate the future. Because I used to really like sex, and perhaps I will again one day before my creaking architecture finally crumbles into oblivion.

Maybe the last time? I don’t know.

Idle Eye 113 : The Refusenik (A Slight Return)

The Persians deliberately weave a flaw into the corner of the astonishingly beautiful rugs they create because they believe that only Allah is truly perfect, and it would be a bit of a slap in the face if they try to emulate him/her through their Earthly offerings. Readers, I am that rug: I got it wrong about Glastonbury (as I did with the Olympics and the once Scotch, then Brit, now re-Scotched Andy Murray). As a weathervane for the zeitgeist I can get seriously off-kilter sometimes and hands up, I’ve done it again. Not that I’m admitting it to those who dragged me there, kicking and screaming blue bloody murder to the permanent detriment of their weekend – Good Lord, no! Some things must remain between you and I, and I beg you to keep schtum on this one.

Despite the mud and the mucus, the filth and the fury, the long-drops and the long marches home, I reluctantly acquiesce that it was all reasonably acceptable. Being little more than a soldier ant in a ruthlessly efficient outdoor entertainment machine was, to be fair, somewhat daunting initially. And last time I frequented the place it was a squalid haunt of low-lives, drug dealers and hippies trying to locate my chakras. Particularly after bedtime, which it then seemed churlish to adhere to. However Glastonbury, like all things, has evolved.

Yes, it is vast and yes, it is seemingly commercial. But there are no Audi stalls here, attempting to flog you a luxury vehicle in the most inappropriate of places. No Costa, no McDonalds or Coke, miserably shoehorning their bullshit product in with anything popular they can access in order to maximise reach. For the most part (and I grant you, there are a few exceptions), the on-site businesses are small and endearingly homespun. You do not resent spending a couple of extra quid to keep these guys going. And this in itself would be enough. Perhaps a thumbs-up from this rusting ancient, best suited to keeping an eye on his portfolio in the pink paper, is not the best festival accolade out there. But it doesn’t matter, really it doesn’t.

If you fancy seeing out your ticket price in a hessian shack listening to ’70’s prog rock powered by punters on bicycles, then good luck to you: It’s there for the taking. Failing that, head off to Shangri-La when the main stages shut down and gurn the night away on substances for that authentic Hieronymus Bosch experience. Again, it’s your choice. The trick is knowing which buttons to push and which ones to let go of, and no-one really minds if you screw it up. It’s all part of the deal. Despite myself, being in a field with thousands of people yelling “ED…IS…DEAD!” at the Pixies felt curiously liberating. But if you think for a minute I’m going to let on now that I’m home, dream on…