Thursday, May 31

Still here

Bad news for Mrs G., after a lengthy taxi journey and quick consultation, Grandpa Simpson is back. I’ve been sent home for another week with instructions to pack my leg in ice. They can’t operate until the swelling has been further reduced. Accordingly, I’ve done a deal with Apu at the Kwik-E-Mart for a dozen, half-kilo bags of frozen peas to cover the offending article. Bruising and inflammation aside, guess they’ve also to schedule a slot with their slash and stitch brigade from the theatre. Am much better off in the barn as there’s something called clostridium difficile running rampant in south west hospitals and which is wiping out patients at twice the rate of MRSA. Frightening.

I think I’ve got problems... an article I read in last weekend’s Sunday Times must be putting the fear of God into doctors the length of the country. Andrew Lawson, a 48 year old NHS consultant has just been diagnosed with pulmonary mesothelioma (cancer), which he suspects can be traced to his early years at Guys hospital. He believes the subterranean corridors there were filled with asbestos-lagged pipes, and that all of the medical staff who worked and trained at Guys during those years will have been exposed to the risk and could well be incubating said disease.

Tuesday, May 29

Relaxing at home

Taking off home might present the odd problem, but swapping Emergency Ward 10 for our back step does it for me. Basking in sunshine whilst listening to the birds; a pygmy shrew and the pheasant for company. Mrs G. is playing a Miranda Richardson role (Nurse Mary). Keeping me fed and watered is easy, it’s changing the dressings on my pins which winds her up; the place is laid out like an operating theatre - sterile gloves and dressings everywhere. Must admit, I’m not particularly looking forward to tomorrow‘s re-admittance, but this break has certainly recharged the old batteries - my voice had taken on the whining tones of Grandpa Simpson. It could have been so much worse: fractured legs are small change compared to cracked skulls or broken backs. Actually, leg aside, my principal problem during last week’s sojourn was the headaches that resulted from an enforced detox - no wine or coffee.

Monday, May 28

Enduring

Let’s be truthful, how many of us watch TV soaps and think ‘please God, if it happens to me, let it be ER rather than Holby City.’ You want to be treated by an eccentric genius surrounded by space age technology, rather than Harry Worth on a 1970s Dr Who set. That said, the place I’m banged up in at the moment looks as though it’s received a fair share of the largess which has been wending its way towards the NHS. For what it is, it’s difficult to fault the service; the beds are comfortable and meals arrive at regular intervals. If you’re a frequent consumer of airline food you’ll be more than happy. Surgeons stalk the wards like a bunch of gun slingers, checking their victims. Teams of young doctors follow behind consultants, learning the ropes. There’s an enormous caste system - much more so than in most organisations I’ve come across - and after just one week, have yet to fully appreciate the different rankings. You’re always in fear of offending someone by asking a favour, just in case it’s above or below their station.

Being rooted to a bed day after day whilst staring at the same wall and ceiling is guaranteed to induce something of a stir crazy feeling. The saving grace is the sheer number of people that sail past to distract you during daylight hours… Half six and someone’s already stuffing pain killers down your throat; a new shift arrives to start the ball rolling; the next guy in measures temperatures, heart rate and blood pressure; then it’s breakfast; off to the bathroom for a shave, whilst they change the linen; quick visit from one of the surgeon’s boys; tea break; consultants and junior doctors rounds; and before you know it, lunch. The afternoon isn’t much different; augmented by blood tests, trips to the X-ray department, chat‘s with the cleaners, mobile library ladies and TV maintenance staff. Dinner arrives at five thirty; a nod to visitors, five more chapters and they’re turning off the lights. I’ve just about polished off two books, but it’s been a struggle. The biggest treat of the week was time out for a CT scan: it got me around the hospital, affording a chance to see more of my world and meet people. The sheer number of staff is mind boggling.

Leave

The stuff of nightmares. A year ago when exiting our local hospital following an outpatients appointment I experienced the sort of relief that must accompany a prisoner’s release from Belmarsh. I hate hospitals. My long enduring fear is to sustain an injury that requires hospitalisation, and which leads to death from MRSA. Whenever I walk through the doors I always wonder if I’ll be coming out. So, after a week of lying on my back - surrounded by other sick people - and the surgeon told me I could go home for three days leave, I was immediately on the phone to an extraction squad; as luck would have it, a couple of Baggies fans en route to Wembley. I’m still semi bed-ridden, but in the security of the barn. I'll take my chances with the chickens and the sheep.

Sunday, May 27

Suspended service

Having failed to injure myself when blowing up the gas fire, I decided to go for broke by performing a reverse three-and-a-half somersaults dive from the top of a ladder. Not a good idea. Morphine isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. But when mixed with that gas they feed to pregnant women and a packet of codeine, it does the trick; good enough for a leisurely ambulance trip to a distant A&E on the south coast. Don’t you just hate it when surgeons’ eyes light up. Phrases like ‘phew, this looks an interesting one’ and ‘I’d like to be up front and frank with you’ leave me totally under-whelmed. The upshot is an order for a substantial amount of ironmongery from B&Q, so they can screw or pin the pieces back together again. I can kiss goodbye the chances of an England call up - for the next 9-12 months at least. And I'd just forked out £400 for a new cycle.

Sunday, May 20

Rock - it’s bad for your teeth

This little chap’s going to be history once Mrs G. wanders out back and finds the crop of basil has disappeared. It’s her own fault, I offered to mount a counter-insurgency exercise - dust with a little DDT.

Hands up everyone who watched last night’s Seven Ages of Rock on BBC. I assume this programme was made by the same guys that did that excellent History of Soul. Unfortunately, the rock version is spoilt somewhat by a tendency to take its subject too seriously. I was a fan of Hendrix, more so The Who, but given I was only 15 at the time you didn’t have to try too hard to impress me. Although older colleagues force fed my interest with John Mayall and his ilk, I could never quite come to terms with The Cream; they always struck me a pretentious bunch of characters. I’ve an original vinyl Air Force album somewhere that I run out occasionally, and a retro-purchased Cream CD; but I still can’t see it. As for Clapton, give me Bert Weedon any day.

I’ve eaten wild boar on occasion, particularly when ground into sausage meat, however, last night’s roast was the first sizeable joint I’ve munched on in recent memory. And I have to say, it stunk. I mean rank! I jumped out of bed in the middle of the night for a leak and the place still smelt like a septic tank. I forced myself to eat the stuff - having expended so much effort in its preparation; but in truth, expected to be spending the night hunched over the lavatory bowl. My only consolation - apart from not poisoning myself - was that we had no guests for dinner. Imagine! I haven’t throw out the remains (waste not, want not), but I’m not looking forward to supper - even if it is covered in chilli sauce.

Sundays

I’m going to cancel the Sunday papers as they’re always full of bad news. House prices have gone up, again - and I don’t own one; my Allied Dunbar pension has been outperformed by everything from the FTSE 100 to investment futures in Romanian silage; ten years from now the projected inflation rate will have resulted in my hard earned nest egg being reduced to a realtime worth of £57; a zillion fuzzy wuzzies have set up home in Slough; and Harriet friggin Harman might become the next deputy leader of the Labour Party. By this time next year we’ll probably be reminiscing fondly about the fat guy from Hull.
I’ve still got the hump over yesterday’s cup final. Crap game aside (better off watching Mrs Miniver on the other side), you’d have thought the BBC would have invested in half decent cameras - ones that could handle contrasting light conditions; and who’s idea was it to film from the top of Canary Wharf? I can just about make out the TV set in the corner of the room these days, trying to identify individual players the size of tin tacks isn’t exactly state of the art sports coverage.
I don’t usually do product placement, but my new Scarpa Enigmas are the bees knees for the Quik-E-Mart walk. This morning’s road test was more than satisfactory; though my cycle dealer assures me the new Gary Fisher will be delivered by the middle of next week and I’ll finally be able to wear the ridiculous looking helmet he sold me.
New sighting this morning: Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella).

Saturday, May 19

Let them eat grass

To hell with the mower, I might as well continue to let these guys have the run of the place; have given up trying to chase them off.The major downside of my blowing up our gas fire is the hole in the wall of the barn. That, and the gale that's now blowing through the living room. My cardboard patch doesn't appear to answer.

Friday, May 18

Propane

Hank Hill would be mortified. Yours truly is in the dog house after blowing up our gas fire. Lesson number one: DO NOT switch to auxiliary tank and relight without initially turning off the gas supply at your fire. Definitely a squeaky bum experience; although thankfully, it imploded.

Thursday, May 17

The Devon Show

Marvellous outing to The Devon County Show. The place was teaming with country folk showing their prize stock, riding horses, racing ferrets, drinking cider! Lots of bowler hats on display in the judging ring; endless lines of tractors and Land Rovers; and some of the best displays of butchers outside of Smithfield. Ribs of beef reduced from £80 to £60 a throw; and I mean, ‘ribs of beef’ - you’d need to invite a fair number to Sunday lunch before polishing off one of these suckers. Lots of skilled craftsmen advertising their wares - from blacksmiths in forges to exotic dancers from Tiffany’s. Don’t miss Mike and his reminiscences of sheep shearing in Norway, or the girls from the WI displaying their lace.

The great escape

Foiled another mass outbreak by the woollies yesterday. Am getting quite good at rounding them up and returning the little critters to their paddock. Leaving the sheep to range would probably save me a day's graft with the strimmer, but I doubt Mrs G. would be best pleased that her prized garden was turned into fodder. Truth to tell, sheep are little more than eating machines; they sleep, eat grass for several hours, before head butting each other and going on to repeat the process. Looks like money for old rope to me. I’m fighting a losing battle, as three have already returned and are curled up on the door step. The fact that the cat’s chasing two pheasants across the top of them doesn’t appear to register. And all of a sudden cattle have arrived on the ranch. I don’t see a steer for months, then the fields are filled with stout looking types - doing much the same as the sheep. But where did they come from? Do they winter indoors, in local barns, to be grass fed once the sun comes out?

Tuesday, May 15

What sells

It’s funny how people look at houses, at homes, and determine what’s important and what isn’t. The property we viewed yesterday had much to recommend; all I want is a modest place that’s watertight, has a sound roof and not too many draughts. This one was of cob construction, build with mud and straw. An old farmhouse that had been significantly extended. On the plus side, it has a slate roof and is not crowned with the proverbial syrup (thatch). Unfortunately, the house also features several plastic windows. They’d spent a small fortune laying floors of reclaimed stone and beautiful oak, yet its electrics were highly suspect, the central heating system laughably utilitarian and poorly sighted. Mrs G. immediately identified potential damp problems, although - given our history with older property - I wasn’t too concerned. The last place we looked at - a Devon long house - was a dream; however, despite the vendor’s flannel about painstaking renovation, he’d covered the cob walls with cement rendering. At least this one looked a lime job. My point about what sells and what doesn’t came down to the kitchen. This one could best be described as a rudimentary work station that was never going to be the heart of a home.

Monday, May 14

Gorgeous Gus

The barn’s most flamboyant inhabitant.
Like most men, he quite facies himself.

House hunting

I know I’ve said the same thing before, but this house hunting business is a pain in the butt; my heart’s not in it. However, whilst I’m happy where we are - in our rented barn - I’d have to be pretty ignorant not to acknowledge the onwards march of property prices; they appear to be rising by tens of thousand each month. Whilst I partly subscribe to the 'it’ll all end in tears' brigade, I can’t see London prices slackening in the immediate future - and that’s partly what feeds the south west. You can’t buck a distorted supply/demand ratio.
Trouble is, there’s so much garbage on the market. Owners are asking premium prices for B&Q inspired tat. They fail to appreciate how under whelmed I am by the plastic windows they’ve had fitted to their listed, period properties. We’re off again this morning to view another possibility. A nice prospect, on paper; but I know we’ll discover its glaring deficiencies as soon as we start to poke around.
If you don’t want village life you face a choice between living in an ex-pat, middle-class hamlet (which is partly why I escaped), or an in-your-face farming environment. To date, cattle and muck-spreading are winning the argument. That said, you’d be surprised how many Dingles are dotted about the landscape.

They're back!

Peace and quiet out the window. OK, so yesterday’s weather wasn’t too clever; but I was quite happy sitting out back minding my own business, taking in the air. Unfortunately, all hell broke loose when our man with the quad bike turned up with his bleating flock, returning them to the barn.
Truth to tell, I’d missed the little critters - I enjoy the company. Over these past weeks the woollies and I have sat outside on the yard with countless bottles of beer and packets of pork scratchings whilst exchanging respective views on the world's problems, or topics of mutual interest. Tevez’s position at West Ham, for instance; Northern Ireland’s success in the five nations ploughing championships at Lindholme; the size of Melinda Messenger’s chest, in metric; Clodagh Rodgers failure to hit the big time in North America…

Sharing peanuts, in the rain

Talking of company… This lad’s now become a fixture; brave enough to take peanuts from the table, right in front of me.

Foxes

Wet it may be, but even a Vixen has to eat. She’s been patrolling out back all morning, rewarded with an occasional small mammal. The neighbour’s chickens look on rather suspiciously, as do the pheasants in the hedge.At times it seemed we were overrun by foxes in South London, but these here are of a different order: larger, and much healthier looking. As you would expect, a lot more wary than those in the city; life’s less conciliatory in the country.

Sunday, May 13

Rain, again

Our roof is occupied by nesting sparrows, that - like all the birds hereabouts - are starting to look a little bedraggled.
Organisers have thrown in the towel on the Ten Tors challenge. Rivers across Dartmoor have become increasingly swollen, making it too dangerous for participants to fjord them. Teams will be recovered and returned to Okehampton camp by services personnel, using coach, van and Sea King helicopters. Real bummer for the kids. They won’t like it, but people’s necks are increasingly on the line in this litigious, safety conscious society of ours - particularly after poor Charlotte Shaw bought it during training.
The view from the barn window resembles that scene from Forest Gump… ‘One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.’
Actually, it’s not that bad - just that the ground has become waterlogged, again. And of course, the grass has grown another foot. We donned waterproofs yesterday to walk the 5-6 miles to town for newspapers, floury baps (fried eggs for lunch), and a quick pint at the Dog & Duck. You could describe the experience as ‘refreshing’, and I’m confident the motor will be resurrected for this morning’s exercise.

Friday, May 11

Pork & Beans

It's still raining out there; the Ten Tors must be a nightmare! Our resident black bird is totally hacked off.

Could there anything more embarrassing than my answering the front door this morning to the stubble chinned, shotgun wielding farmer from next door - whilst wearing Mrs G’s pinny? What a wuss. Sometimes referred to as a ‘catering apron’, this particular model is decorated in chintzy little roses: the effect is less Gordon Ramsey and more Clive Swift - hapless, put upon husband of Hyacinth Bucket. As it happens, I was freezing my latest batch of beans; I tend to cook in sizeable quantities, and there’s only so much you can eat at one sitting. Cooking dried beans is fairly straight forward, although I substitute spices to match prevailing flavour of the month, be it Spanish, Indian, Italian, Greek…

› Roast a ham hock and leave to cool
› Sweat down finely chopped onion, carrot and celery
› Add the ham, pre-soaked beans and cold water
› Slowly bring to the boil
› Simmer for an hour, skimming any crap
› Add spices* and tin of tomato puree
› Simmer for another hour or two

Serve beans in a bowl with slivers of ham (fresh tortillas and a beer) *This month’s spices are a mix of chilli peppers - Serrano (fresh), poblano (ancho) and habaneras (dried); garlic; sweet paprika, ground black pepper, cayenne and cumin; and dried, Mexican oregano. Salt carefully (depends on the ham). Dry roast the dried peppers, reconstitute and assassinate in blender together with garlic and fresh chilli. Roast and grind black pepper corns and cumin seed.

Wednesday, May 9

Cologne

Given the number of fire engines and ambulances rocketing along local roads this morning, I assume that drivers are having problems coping with our inclement weather. As the larder had been looking a little sad, yours truly was despatched to Holsworthy market to acquire additional supplies and dispose of the empties. The fish didn’t look too clever, so I settled for sweetbreads and a loin of wild boar. Wouldn’t exactly say we’re going hungry at the barn, although my cherubic form will have to be addressed at some stage in the future - I’m starting to resemble a good looking version of Michael Winner the younger.

Am spending the afternoon on general maintenance duties: sanding down the guest quarters lavatory seat before someone damages a vital piece of (their) equipment. I guess it could do with a makeover. As it happens, included in this morning’s post was the latest catalogue from my favourite supplier of gentleman’s requisites, Geo. F. Trumper. Whilst soirees along Jermyn Street are a thing of the past, and to the consternation of one or two young farmers at the Dog & Duck, I still like to splash out on the odd bar of sandalwood shaving soap and bottle of cologne. Mrs G’s rather particular about what lies next to her. It's been my observation that men’s toiletries changed forever the day that women joined the workforce.

Monday, May 7

Cabrito

Urgh, too much goat curry too late last night whilst watching Championship league highlights. Judging by what remains in the cauldron, today’s menu is likely to include a rerun. The reek from our oil powered stove doesn’t help: place smells like the engine room of a torpedoed motor vessel.
Good on Sunderland; who’d have though we’d start next season with Newcastle viewed the junior partners in north east football’s triumvirate. I guess it’s nothing Allardyce can’t put right. Let’s hope the Baggies also pull through, although everyone I know is putting their pocket money on Southampton to reach the play off finals alongside them (11-4). Congrats also to Walsall; success has been a long time coming. The Anyone But Chelsea brigade must be pleased with themselves. Who’d have thought there’d be so many punters relishing another of Fergie’s cufflink waving jigs. I always imagine the black lads on the bench behind him shaking their heads and muttering about white guys and dancing. I’m sat in front of the TV watching Arsenal (1-14) and Charlton contest the womens FA cup final. A little one sided perhaps?

Sunday, May 6

Wild flowers at Stoney end

£500 to see (and hear) a living legend? As expected, Barbra Streisand’s forthcoming London concert sold out in double quick time. In little more than twenty minutes, so rumour says. Five hundred pounds for a 65 year old bird with a big nose may seem excessive, but - like most things in modern day Britain - it’s all about supply and demand. And this could be a one night only opportunity that may never come around again. (I know, I know, they said that the last time.)Must admit to being a fan. (Of her music, that is. God, she’s a pain in the butt when pontificating on politics, or life in general.) I was never in the same league as the Memsahib and her brother, but remain an enthusiast non-the-less. Compact and vinyl discs adorn the shelves, reflecting the longevity of interest. Music remains a medium that easily lends itself to chronicling peoples lives. Hearing a long forgotten song on the radio can suddenly and quite magically bring the past to life. For me, Stoney End is one of the tracks that defines an era of great parties in tenement apartments during the early ’70s. It never fails to raise a smile.When she last appeared in ’94 I was fortunate enough to secure four ‘front row’ tickets from the box office, at face value. Must admit to wavering slightly when someone offered four grand - but Mrs G. would never have forgiven me. To do justice to the occasion we spruced ourselves up and hired a limousine for the evening. Alighting at the venue was a treat in itself, arriving as we did along with the great and the good; paparazzi popping a barrage of shots whilst wondering who the hell we were. One of the highlight for brother-in-law was meeting Frank Worthington in the queue. Any reservations about the evening disappeared the moment Streisand entered stage right. Walking directly across to the four of us, she glaced down, and - backed by an awesome orchestra - launched into her first number.I’ve been to my fair share of concerts. Sitting next to Ray Charles when he performed in a small joint in Texas was memorable, as was Tom Petty in a neighbourhood bar; the Stones, Seger, Springsteen…; Otis Reading, way back. But nothing ever grabbed me like that performance. If you get the chance and someone proffers a ticket for this next show, don’t pass it up.

Not quite over

Do I want Birmingham to beat Preston and become division champions on the final game of the season? Is the Pope a Bavarian! That said, we’re promoted to the Premiership - and that’s what counts; bragging rights are icing. Preston have a lot to play for, but we have some form. Paddypower rates the Blues at 5-2, Sunderland at 1-2. Excitement now switches to the play offs.

The latest and greatest in state schools has no playground! The head of Peterborough’s Thomas Deacon city academy believes children should be prevented from ‘running around at break time in uncontrollable groups.’ Guess he’s from the same bunch of characters that want to ban football in playgrounds because it discriminates against girls, who can’t/won’t take part. And they wonder why obesity amongst kids is flourishing. Please, please, let there be enough budding anarchists amongst the academy’s future 3c that want to screw the system. The more you control, the greater the need to rebel. I assume this is part of the establishment's answer to narrowing our academic gender gap: by turning boys into girls.

Saturday, May 5

The staff of life

Despite the absence of whelk stalls and a decent Chinese restaurant, I can’t really complain about the supply of foodstuffs in sleepy hollow. A Quik-E-Mart and rather dire deli in the village are supported by three supermarkets, located only twenty minutes drive away. Throw in the various farmers markets and our itinerant fish man, and there’s little need to restrict your diet. The one exception is that of bread. Whilst we were fortunate in our old neighbourhood, it wasn’t unusual to run up to De Gustibus for relief supplies. Here, if Mrs G. isn’t baking, we’re reduced to pot luck at Waitrose… There must be 50+ varieties of bread on this store’s shelves, and you’d be hard pushed to find anything worth eating. It’s the most complacent store I’ve come across. Thought my prayers had been answered this morning when the Daily Rag made mention of a top notch baker in Exeter Street - only to discover said premises was located behind Kensington High Street.

I noticed the cars on today’s roads had cycles attached to their arse end: a sure sign of people arriving for the bank holiday. The RAC is predicting a ‘worst ever’ May day weekend as the world and its granny head for the coast. I can’t understand it, they must know the weather turns to rat shit tomorrow. I should console myself with the knowledge that Britons’ most popular destinations are New York, Amsterdam, Paris, Dublin, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, Dubai, Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Chicago… AND NOT the environs of Chateaux Gudgeon. Friends and relatives have recently travelled to some of these cities: I just can’t get my head around the hassle of traipsing to/from airports, standing in line, having to be polite to officious immigration staff… That said, one of the countries I’ve never had the opportunity to visit and which intrigues me greatly is India. I’d love to spend some time touring. A blog I enjoy viewing is that of Akshay, a photographer in Mumbai. Apart from his shots of local life (brilliant colour), he’s a good source of referrals for food inspired blogs. His recent piece on Mr Clean is typical, and should be required reading for whoever’s behind the Scottish voting debacle.

I continue to work my way through the local brews, but am close to giving up on Tarka Ales. Their latest offering (Black Hen) is a sour tasting porter type of ale, and reminds me of the dodgy home brew my uncle used to manufacture in the outside lavatory he’d converted. Award for worst beer of the month is definitely going to Sharps for their Altantic IPA. I’m a huge IPA fan and for a limited period of time could probably live solely on Greene King and cheese & onion sandwiches. Unfortunately, I’ve had to bin a case of Sharps as being undrinkable.

Friday, May 4

Roast chicken

This is what's classed as aircraft stacking hereabouts. I’ve continued to make the most of the sunshine, spending an afternoon out back on the steamer chair with a swallow for company. We might be fortunate for one more day, then goodnight Vienna: rain and gales return to the homestead. Suggesting we might shed our 13.5 tog duvet for something a little more lightweight resulted in another of Mrs G’s homilies… ‘Ne'er cast a clout til May is out.’ I thought of pointing to the blossom laden hawthorn surrounding the barn, but suspect my rejoinder would have earned both barrels from the ray gun.
Well done SNP. This should ensure plenty of fireworks in the future, especially with the Tories on the march throughout England. Conservatives have cleaned up in the south west, even taking Plymouth from Labour.
As the sun goes down, competing smells waft through the hacienda. Memsahib is engaged in a cook off with next door. They’ve been barbequing the livestock, whilst Mrs G. roasts tarragon infested chickens. I’m sitting with a cold one, waiting to play my part.

Bluebell woods

We’re fortunate enough to have our very own bluebell wood, here on the farm. Right now it’s ablaze with colour, and an indicator that summer may be just around the corner.

Thursday, May 3

Red faced

Dumb, dumb, dumb… A face the colour of beetroot. DO NOT fall asleep in the garden when the sun is at it’s highest and frying everything in sight. That said, by the time I’d walked to town and back, completed my Forest Gump act (mowing and strimming the grass), I was ready for a cold one and five minutes snooze. If it wasn’t for the pheasant screaming in my ear I’m probably still be quietly toasting.

Wednesday, May 2

Beautiful Demoiselle

The damsel flies are back, colourful critters that they are. I’ve been watching them take to the air, whilst barbequing tonight’s dinner: torched mackerel, with rhubarb sauce and rosemary & garlic potatoes. I could do with a drink, after suffering an afternoon of campaign speeches from our door-knocking politicos - all anxious to join the public service gravy train, courtesy of Mr & Mrs Taxpayer. Never mind, tonight it's just me and the Boss, and our wireless of course. United v the Italians - albeit, with Five Live’s commentary team.

Save our moths

Inspired by young Attenborough’s campaign launch to halt the catastrophic decline of our moth population, I set off this afternoon with bandy net and glass in hand for a quick recognitre of neighbouring woodland. The barn’s become a moth free zone since two of the little blighters ate Mrs G’s favourite swathe of cashmere. Unfortunately, it looks as though the big man may be correct… all I could track down was one sad looking speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) - and he’s a butterfly. Mind you, if my lifespan was limited to 7-10 days, I’d be a little miffed too. Undeterred, yours truly will continue to keep an eye out for any sign of an autumn rustic or oak hook-tip, as a way of doing my bit for the cause.

Tuesday, May 1

Guns and roses

YES, another Monday out of the way: now I can get on with my week. God, it’s beautiful here… three cheers for climate change. In one insane moment when showering, I actually launched into a rendition of Paper Roses (you wonder where these things come from).
I’m still stuffed from yesterday; this new healthy eating lark has something going for it. Last night’s supper of Spaghetti Vongole was the bee’s knees. OK, so the clams weren’t fresh, but it’s easy enough to dress the bottled or canned variety - given a little olive oil, garlic and parsley. I’d use cockles, if I could get them. For the first time since migrating to the south west I’ve seen a stall selling fresh whelks, so there has to be a cockle dealer in the area, somewhere.
I’m trying to juxtapose this morning’s newspaper stories relating to our Crawley mujadhid with the surrounding scene of chirping birds and frolicking lambs. Short of a stag running out the woods and sticking an antler up my jacksie, I feel fairly relaxed about terror threats. Baeder Meinhoff and the IRA appeared a more worrying proposition in days of yore. The chances of a deranged British Pakistani selecting Chateaux Gudgeon for the landing site of his hijacked 747 appears reasonably remote. That said, the sheds around the farm could well contain half the world’s supply of ammonium nitrate. Guess I should be careful with that jerry can of 4-stroke I keep for the mower. Am more concerned with our neighbourhood penchant for peppering the countryside with lead shot whilst I’m creeping about the undergrowth, photographing sparrows.