Idle Eye 194 : The Guzzler

As I was straining the greens before leaving work this afternoon, it occurred to me that an actual person invented those little rubber mats that sit awkwardly in the belly of their white porcelain hosts. Someone with the nous to recognise the perils of splashback, and the business acumen to get them into pretty much every tinklehaus in the country. So I tried to imagine taking the initial concept to pitch. Like you do:

Institute of Industrial Design:  Thanks for coming in. How can we help you?

Me:  I’ve invented something very small and simple that will change life as we know it.

IID:  Oh good. What precisely is it?

Me:  It’s a little rubber mat that stops piss flying up into your face.

IID:  Sorry, we didn’t quite catch that.

Me:  A rubber mat. That stops piss flying up into your face. There’s a massive gap in the market.

IID:  A gap in the market, you say? For the prevention of flying piss?

Me:  Yes. It’s an age-old problem.

IID:  That has not once been flagged up. Until today.

Me:  Just because no one’s flagged it up doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Try telling that to Apple.

IID:  Except Apple almost singlehandedly advanced computer technology, hardware aesthetics and consumer demand beyond anything previously imagined. Are you seriously suggesting you can do something similar with the toilet?

Me:  Correct. There will come a time when we cannot envisage life without them. Like cat’s eyes. And the vacuum cleaner. Have some faith.

IID:  And does your little mat have a name?

Me:  Not yet – I’m just the ideas guy. But I’m thinking it could be a bit of fun; something to take their minds off it.

IID:  Off what, exactly?

Me:  That they’re basically spraying piss all over the place.

IID:  Fun doesn’t quite spring to mind.

Me:  Of course it does! How about “The Guzzler – putting the fun back into functional”. See? It’s even got its own strapline.

IID:  The Guzzler?

Me:  Why not? Does what it says on the tin. And it alludes to the piss ending up inside The Guzzler and not all over the end user; without making a huge song and dance about it.

IID:  Is this your first business venture, by any chance?

Me:  I’ve had heaps of ideas. But this is the one I’ve been most excited about.

IID:  Of course. And you’ve told no one else about it?

Me:  No one at all. Intellectual property and all that. I wasn’t born yesterday.

IID:  Splendid! Could you leave a copy with us? And help yourself to a Malteser on the way out, we’ll be in touch.

And that would have been it. Followed by unimaginable wealth, admiration from my peers and a lifestyle lesser mortals can only dream of. All of this from a bit of rubber with a few holes in it. So reach for the stars, my friends. Just don’t let on to Durex…

Idle Eye 193 : The Single Spies

I’ve become obsessed with Tristram Shandy of late. That entire notion of an unreliable narrator and the layering of truths to create another, even more unlikely than the sum of its parts, appeals to me enormously right now. There is good reason for this: for too long, being the snivelling coward that I am, I have swerved and dodged the slings and arrows hurled at me by those who seek to undermine my work and beyond. And, to flip the idiom to suit my purposes, if only they came in battalions! For then it would be clear – the masses have spoken and they all think I’m an arse. At which point I could sneak off, lick my wounds and start again.

But they don’t. No, they come as friends, as lovers, as colleagues. They come individually, neatly spaced and lightly armed. Their slight is seemingly insignificant, rarely an assault. Their motivation is often unclear, even to themselves, but calculated nonetheless. Yet the cumulative effect is devastating. They come in disguise – wolves in sheep’s clothing – and like a cancer, once they’re in they set to work, which I mostly exercise for them. For their design is to sow the seeds of self-doubt rather than take a scythe to the results. And thereby I become the architect of my own destruction, and the finger of blame has no one to point at other than myself. Good, innit?

So the time has come to hit back, however uncomfortable that may be (I’m a liar, not a fighter). Stasis is tantamount to an admission of guilt and weakness, so clearly no longer an option. I will draw my line in the sand and no longer shall they cross it. And to those of you I will lose in the process, I say this:

‘I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I thank you. Now fuck off.’

Do you know why? Because it’s not straightforward, is it? Read the second paragraph again with the presupposition that it is written by someone suffering from acute paranoia. See? Changes everything. But if I bring it up myself, perhaps you will salute my honesty and self-awareness, and be more inclined to side with me if it ever came to it. It’s a ruse. One chicane inside another. Although, in this particular case, it’s also a cry for help. Somewhere in all of the above, the narrative gets lost in the exposure of the framework. But by revealing a small portion of author vulnerability, I intend to cement from you a loyalty of sorts.

And so, gentle reader, I leave you with this: which layer suits you best? Which section of this woven tapestry will you believe, if any? Let us not forget I am still in character and I have an objective. But behind that character lies the reason to create him in the first place, trustworthy or otherwise. And the absolute truth is for you to decide.

Idle Eye 192 : The Grate Sex Guide

Traditionally, I tend to shy away from comment on sensational media stories. They’re usually clickbait, or cooked up from deep within the well of fake news, tailored to have us frothing at the gills over piffle we’ll have forgotten about long before they’ve come up with the next lot. No no no. I subscribe to a couple of respectable broadsheets, which conveniently afford me the illusion that I can filter out any such dross, arm myself with a succinct, accurate world view and lie guilt-free in a bed of my own smugness. For which I make no apology.

Occasionally though, something slips through the net. And today it concerned a young man from Romford, Essex who tried to have sex with a drain cover in the middle of his street. Initially, my curiosity was piqued by the use of the word ‘romp’, as I wrestled with the mental image of a Bacchanalian tryst ‘twixt man and wrought iron, with any neighbouring traffic juddering to a halt in front of the star-crossed lovers. But then I considered the trajectory of the event: there must have been a fulcrum point at which 33-year-old Florin Grosu (sic) was so swollen with lust for his intended, asking it back to his place was totally off the map. Perhaps the grate had gotten coquettish? Or that, in a blaze of white-hot alpha masculinity, our Florin had rushed towards the object of his desire and thrust himself upon it. Which spawned the obvious leading question: how?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been in a first date scenario, but from what I remember and in all fairness, it can be tricky navigating that initial moment of consent. But when he knew for certain he had a green light and his trousers were ankle-bound, the options available to young Florin became multifold. Which must have been perplexing in the extreme to someone in a presumably altered state, and to whom time was of the essence. Now, I’ve seen stock shots of your average drain cover and, to be blunt, there are approximately twenty inlets. Twenty! So what was the poor boy to do? Select at random the most alluring, or systematically make his way through each one in turn until his manhood had been whittled to a shadow of its former self? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Then must have come the inevitable wave of post-coital self-loathing. When it was brutally evident that the bond between street hardware and human being is platonic for very good reason. But imagine, if you will, there was something more to it. That, after many years of thwarted forays into the quagmire of romance, Florin had finally found something of value and was expressing his gratitude in the only way he knew how. Not so funny now, eh Romford Recorder? Shame on you! For as they say: true love, like proper news, is a battlefield.

Idle Eye 191 : The Showgirl

It’s time to scotch a rumour, now that we’re safely ensconced inside a new year and you’re vaguely listening again. And, unlike the usual ephemera that does the rounds on the social (only to rapidly disappear up its own euphemism), this one concerns yours truly and the highly improbable premise that things have taken a turn for the better in my private life. Worse still, that it may involve a certain Jenny Vegas, who has been in my employ for a few months now and, to be perfectly honest, really not my type. This kind of hearsay is not only unhelpful, but also deeply unprofessional; to the point where I had to make an awkward call to Miss Vegas in person and make an complete tit of myself:

Me:  Jenny, can you talk?

Vegas:  That you, Dougie?

Me:  Er…no. It’s Idle Eye. From the Broken Biscuits shows.

Vegas:  Aw, hiya! Did ya have a fab Chrimbo?

Me:  Yes, thank you. It was most pleasant.

Vegas:  What you doing calling mi in’t middle of t’night?

Me:  It’s 10.15, Jenny…AM. And there’s something urgent I need to run past you.

Vegas:  Is it Hollyoaks?

Me:  No, not exactly. It’s a bit more delicate than that.

Vegas:  Gi us a clue then. An don’t tek all day.

Me:  I’ll come straight to the point. There are certain, how shall we say, insinuations flying about at the moment about you and me. Have you heard anything?

Vegas:  In…sin…yer wha?

Me:  Insinuations. People are talking.

Vegas:  Eh?

Me:  Look, this isn’t easy for me. But the word on the street is that we’re somehow…entwined.

Vegas:  I only ‘ad a few Lambrinis…an’ a whiskey chaser. I were holdin’ back!

Me:  We’re not talking alcohol, Jenny. This is the hard stuff.

Vegas: I don’t do that neither. Not since rehab.

Me:  Ok, I’ll spell it out. They’re saying you and I are a couple. Romantically. As in going out together. And you have my full…

Vegas:  Whose seyin’ that?

Me:  No one in particular. But you know how the rumour mill works.

Vegas:  Yew…an mesen?

Me:  That’s about the sum of it.

Vegas:  Are yer fookin ‘avin a laff?

Me:  Deadly serious, I’m afraid.

Vegas:  Well, Mr Eye! Altho’ I am a woman of great bewtay, talent an intelligence, not to mention a consummated professional, I don’ av time for owt like tha. An even if I did, I do have mi reputat…repit…image to think abaht, yer naw.

Me:  If it’s any conciliation, it was nothing to do with me.

Vegas:  That’s right, never is wi you blorks. Nah piss off, I’m busy…

And that was that. Whilst I’m no stranger to the odd rebuke, this was one of the oddest yet; particularly as I shall be working with Miss Vegas for the foreseeable future. But if you ask me, the lady protests too much. They usually do, the little minxes…

Idle Eye 190 : The Big(ger) Picture

X:  2016 is coming to an end. I think it’s time you and I had a chat about what you’re doing.

Me:  Sure. What about it?

X:  Well, for starters, what exactly are you doing? A year ago you said you wanted to be a writer. Now it’s all about these shows and you haven’t written the blog since August. You need to be clear about your end goals because no one else is.

Me:  I wouldn’t worry about that. No one reads it anyway and I needed a breather.

X:  That kind of attitude will get you precisely nowhere.

Me:  I’m already precisely nowhere. Which is why I’m doing the shows.

X:  Okay, let’s take a different tack. Are you making any money from them?

Me:  Absolutely none. In fact, I fork out quite a bit to make it all happen.

X:  So what’s your projected business plan then? Because it’s not looking too crash hot at the moment.

Me:  I don’t have a business plan. Actually, that’s not true, I do: the plan is to keep doing stuff until something gives. Sort of like ‘paying your dues’ when you’re in a band.

X:  Bands don’t ‘pay their dues’ any more, for god’s sake! Your head’s somewhere in the 1970s. And if you don’t come up with something a little more concrete, so is your career.

Me:  I quite fancy a 1970s career, now you mention it. It was all a bit more clear-cut back then.

X:  If you’re not going to take this seriously, don’t come crying to me when you can’t pay the fucking bills.

Me:  All right, all right! Jeez! Well, the way I see it is as a package. The written stuff feeds the live stuff and the audio stuff, I get to meet some great people along the way and eventually I sell the concept.

X:  Who to? Santa? The Magic Fairy Godmother?

Me:  If you’re not going to take this seriously, don’t come crying to me when I can’t pay the fucking bills.

X:  I am serious. Who on earth is going to shell out for your ‘concept’, seeing as it’s doing so well right now?

Me:  Santa.

X:  And what if Santa only wants one of your acts? That Jenny Vegas, for example: you seem to be putting your back into that one.

Me:  You’ve just proved that my concept works in a single sentence.

X:  How exactly?

Me:  Because you mentioned Jenny Vegas.

X:  So?

Me:  Until today, she’s only been part of the shows. But now you’ve put her into the writing, and we’ll probably record this as well. And then I can sell it all on to Santa as a multimedia extravaganza and buy a house in Beverly Hills.

X:  You wrote this, not me!

Me:  Are you saying you don’t exist?

X:  You’re really not at all well, are you?

Me:  I’m fine. The back’s playing up a bit though.

Idle Eye 189 : The Wicker Man

I was in Wickes on Croydon’s Purley Way the other day. Not somewhere I would normally frequent, but I needed a quality undercoat for exterior stone and wood, and the local options were beyond lamentable. Visiting one of these places is a bit like going to an airport departure lounge: the sheer scale intentionally dwarfs any notion you may have of thrift, as eight-wheeled juggernauts filled to capacity with power tools and decking thunder their way towards the checkouts.

I weaved through the aisles, keeping as low a profile as I could muster, but then I noticed a well-dressed man hovering uncomfortably in the distance. He turned, looked up and in a flash was standing next to me in front of the two pack epoxies. It was Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet:

Martin:  Sorry to bother you, but don’t I know you from somewhere?

Me:  I doubt it. I don’t come here very often.

Martin:  No, not from here. Aren’t you that bloke who…

Me:  Martin, keep your voice down! I’m trying to get this over with as quickly as I can.

Martin:  Sorry. What are you looking for?

Me:  Undercoat. For exterior stone and wood.

Martin:  You’re way off base, mate. You’ll be after the Home Decorating section, it’s on the other side of the building. If you go down the end …hang on, let me take you.

Me:  Thank you.

So Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet and I made our way across the absurdly complex labyrinth, stopping only for him to pick up a couple of shiny aprons from Kitchenware and a retractable chalk line set from Building and Joinery.

Martin:  You’re probably wondering why I’ve got two aprons, aren’t you?

Me:  To be honest, I’m not. But I reckon you share cooking duties with your partner, and that you’re probably a bit OCD.

Martin:  They’re both for me, actually.

Me:  Ah. Are you going to tell me or not?

Martin:  Take a wild guess. Look at the colour.

Me:  I really haven’t got time for this.

Martin:  Bright metal. Quite valuable. Think Ancient Egypt.

Me:  Gold?

Martin:  Bullseye!

Me:  So you’re about to buy two kitchen aprons that happen to be the same colour as your 1983 hit record? It’s a bit tenuous, Martin.

Martin:  So what? There’s still a few people about who’ll get it. And anyway, what’s so special about your stupid paint?

Me:  There’s nothing special about it at all. Except I didn’t have a hit back in the day called ‘Quality Undercoat for Exterior Stone and Wood’. And if I did, I probably wouldn’t be here now.

Martin:  What about the chalk line set?

Me:  Oh no…not True?

Martin:  Oh yes.

Me:  No one’s going to understand that reference. Even I’m struggling, and I work in the trade.

Martin:  Yeah, whatever. Have a nice day.

And with that, he was gone. Still trying to figure out how he knows me, mind.

Idle Eye 188 : The Magic Roundabout

Like any half-decent Englishman, I have learned, over the years, to accept and obey the traffic laws and by-laws dictated to us by criminals and lunatics in suits. I’ve been burned too many times now, and any fight I may once have had in the flower of my youth has deliquesced into a tragic slurry of sufferance. In my head, I remain a Knight Templar of fierce resistance; in reality, I’m that bloke who’s married to Hyacinth Bucket.

Anyway, for reasons completely beyond me, I was forced to drive into Swindon a few weeks ago. As I turned off the M4, I tried to remind myself of any saving graces it had to offer: I knew the band XTC came from there, and I found myself whistling Senses Working Overtime over the top of Radio 4 as the landscape morphed from remote pastoral beauty into a brushed aluminium and steel megalopolis. ‘No biggie’, I thought, ‘I can handle this.’ But then, as I mentally glossed over the brutal truth that was beginning to unfurl, everything ground to a halt. The satnav, which I had recently upgraded from a bossy American cartoon character into a satisfyingly British Jeeves, suggested ever so politely that I did a u-turn. Then ever so slightly less so. And then it really kicked off:

Satnav:  Get the fuck outta here, dickweed!

Me:  Listen, I’ve just paid an extra £40 for some manners and a posh voice. What’s going on?

Satnav:  This is Swindon, man! It’s the wild fucking West! See that bitch coming up? See that? That’s the Magic fucking Roundabout, dude! No one gets out alive.

Me:  Perfectly straightforward. If we simply obey the Highway Code and follow the signs, I’m sure everything will turn out just fine.

Satnav:  Damn! I should kick your scrawny ass right down that motorway. TURN THIS MOTHERFUCKER AROUND NOW!!! Ain’t telling you again.

Me:  I can see you’re upset. But it’s only a roundabout. And it’s not exactly Basingstoke, is it?

Satnav:  Basingstoke’s got nothing on this. Do your research.

Me:  I have. According to the Basingstoke Gazette, Brighton Hill and Thornycroft are the two most miserable roundabouts in Great Britain; particularly in rush hour.

Satnav:  Yeah? YEAH??? Well, chew on this one – In 2009, the Swindon Magic Roundabout was voted fourth scariest junction in the UK by Britannia Rescue. And dangerousroads.org said it’s one of the most complex rotaries in the world. So fuck you.

Me:  Where were the other three?

Satnav:  It didn’t say.

Me:  My money’s on Basingstoke.

Satnav:  We don’t have time for this. You gonna turn around or no?

Me:  It’s illegal to do a u-turn on the approach to a junction. You should know that.

Satnav:  You brown-nosed, obsequious piece of shit. On your own head be it.

Me:  Do you like XTC?

Satnav:  They’re okay. Prefer their earlier stuff.

Me:  Shall we put some on?

Satnav:  As you wish, sir.