Wednesday, October 31

Success

My outing to the big city proved most satisfactory. Whilst the leg now resembles an old bicycle tube covered in puncture patches, the Ilazarov is history. Instead of a plaster cast, I’ve been issued with what looks like a cross between one of Mad Max’s biker boots and something Neil Armstrong used to shuffle around the moon. We’re not quite there yet, but I’m hoping another 3-4 weeks will suffice. The guy who was next to me in recovery nearly didn’t make it and was detained overnight. To be honest I thought he was just being friendly, pulling a funny face and waving: it was the nurse that noticed his oxygen line had become disconnected.

Tuesday, October 30

Light at the end of...

The big day is almost upon me. After nearly five months performing my limp along Leslie routine it is (hopefully) coming off. I mean the ironmongery of course, not the leg. The fact they’re replacing it with a cast somewhat takes the shine off of things, but the successful outcome of my impending op remains cause for major celebrations. A large brown ale sits chilling in the fridge, waiting on my return. Mrs G. insists I drink two quarts of ‘friendly bacteria’ prior to admission in order to limit the risk of hospital acquired infections. You can actually purchase short-stay patient packs that claim to contain so-called MRSA killing materials, although for some reason this consists of a disposable tooth brush, lip balm and breath freshener? Paying through the nose for a re-branded coach class airline goody bag seems a bit foolish when Mrs G. has already equipped me with a perfectly good aerosol bottle filled with Domestos. I’m supposed to spray any of the hospital staff that exhibit a tendency to scratch. She’s also written ‘Please wash your hands’ in large letters on both of my legs with a felt tipped pen. I’m hoping the surgeon accepts this advice in the spirit intended.

Weekend guests

Sorry guys, but five minutes after you left the gale blew itself out, rain stopped, skies cleared and the sun came out.

Sunday, October 28

Sunday lunch

I’ve been banished to the office with instructions to stay put. Mrs G. is busy scattering fresh straw about the barn in readiness for arrival of our lunch party, and my Sunday go to meeting clothes already boasts large blobs of marmalade and coffee. The kitchen is knee-deep in pastries, pies and newly baked bread; freshly butchered game sits waiting the scorched earth treatment. I doubt my three cans of Heineken and bottle of South Africa’s finest will suffice, so the motor looks set for a blistering run to the Quik-E-Mart. Needless to say, it’s lashing down. And the sheep... Well, what can you say about sheep?

Saturday, October 27

Fungi

A sample of the fungi that’s appeared throughout the yard. These particular mushrooms are growing on a dead oak stump. I believe it's a form of sulphur tuft, but what do I know. I’m still not eating them. The National Trust is currently running ‘Waxcap Watch’ - I’ve tried to show willing, but watching mushrooms grow is kind of boring. To study them properly you need to get down on your hands and knees, and that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Friday, October 26

Tribal affiliations

You tend to read a lot when incapacitated (and sans satellite television). In between McCarthy, McEwan and Elmore Leonard I’ve been working my way through Simon Schama’s 'History of Britain'. Part of my motivation in reading the book was a response to England’s changing demographics - and what it means to be English in the 21st century. Thanks in part to multi-culturalism, I wasn’t sure I knew anymore; wasn't sure there was even a specific single template. Once upon a time I thought I’d a pretty good handle on my tribal affiliations, but it’s easy to overlook the dynamics of shared experiences and how they influence allegiances, how alliances develop and change over the years. Two things I’ve taken on board… Change is inevitable, you just adapt and assimilate. And more cynically, an element of the old biblical/Chinese proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t hold my hands up and admit that one of the reasons I quit south London mansions was the increasingly disparate nature of the local populace. Yet the paradox is, I felt far more comfortable shopping at Tesco’s in Lewisham than either of the sister stores in Sidcup or Barnstaple.

Whilst Schama’s three book series isn’t exactly highbrow, they’re a good primer - reminds you about some of the things you’d forgotten from school days. At the Edge of the World (3000 BC-AD 1603) is a good enough read. Volume Two - The British Wars (1603-1776) was like pulling teeth. If I never hear of Charles I or Oliver Cromwell again it won’t be a moment too soon. I appreciate they’re big on the subject along the street, in Torrington (1646 - The Cavalier Town), but it’s lost on me, however worthy the Putney debates. Am hoping Volume Three, The Fate of Empire (1776-2001) picks it up a little.

You don’t have to be too smart to work out who’s been behind all of the trouble over the years. But I guess we never learn - each generation thinks they can pull it off where others failed. Those who ignore the mistakes of history are condemned to repeat them. I was thinking of Satayana, but have probably misquoted him.

Thursday, October 25

Shell Wildlife Competition

Deep in the countryside we may be, but I’m unlikely to be afforded the opportunity of copying Sergey Groshkov’s fantastic close-up of a brown bear. That said... at night, when I'm listening to the owls hunting, there are times I think I catch a blood-curdling growl from across the Okement,

Wednesday, October 24

Time for a salad

Being a little jealous of Mrs G’s ability to hike into town, I’ve taken to wandering the farm. I use the word ‘wander’ as a somewhat expansive term in that a three field expedition is just about my limit. Think wimp if you like, but negotiating this place on crutches is a major elf’n safety violation; tripping over logs, falling into ditches, skidding on cow pats, being trampled underfoot by rabid sheep. That’s before you stumble on Farmer Charles, busy cutting trees, prior to fencing addition acreage for the livestock. Chain saws, tractors and JCB are at full stretch. It’s all hands to the pump, in that half-term means the grandkids are also out there doing their bit. It’s great to see so many young lads of primary school age working alongside their fathers and grandfather - doing manly things. You’re unlikely to find many obese children in this part of the world. Boys here are knee-deep in role models: every guy I meet seems comfortable wrestling steers, is ex-military, drives a fire truck or lifeboat, can leap tall buildings… You know what I mean: men. What humans were called before we entered the service industry age and became glorified clerks. Mind you, women hereabouts don’t exactly idle their days away: too busy skinning critters to replenish the freezer, or strangling chickens for dinner.

I’m fed up reading about obesity - primarily because the subject is too close to home. When the sky fell in five months ago I was wearing 34” waist jeans. Last week I found myself scouring the sale rack for 38” replacements. Porkers R us! Given today’s (typical) lunch was a plate of spicy ostrich sausages on a bed of parmesan-flavoured polenta, the occasional salad wouldn’t go amiss. Shit, it’s nothing I can’t rectify in a couple of months - even if the party season’s about to start. Guess I’ll just have to mobilise the (as yet unused) cycle - tie a dead sheep to the back for ballast.

Tuesday, October 23

The fly

We have biblical plagues at the barn. Today sees the return of chummy here - our Jeff Goldblum look-a-like - along with several zillion of his relatives.

Wishful thinking

There’s a good piece in today’s Inde about an engineer from Rotherham who was mistaken for a rock god in Russia after telling someone he once played in a band which toured the South Yorkshire working men’s club circuit. As it happens, we’ve visitors from the big city this weekend - an old buddy who makes his living as a Pierce Brosnan celebrity look-alike. Maybe I should line something up at the Dog & Duck - it took them a month before they sussed I wasn’t Steven Segal.

Libertarian paternalism

A radical plan to persuade people to stop smoking, take more exercise and change their diets was proposed last night by Julian Le Grand, a leading Government adviser and Professor of Social Policy at the LSE. His ‘fresh approach’ is to suggest the Government should legislate us into healthy lives by compelling individuals to apply for a chitty when and if we want something deemed detrimental to our health. This would include (for instance) people having to submit an annual application for a smoking permit before they could purchase cigarettes. Naturally, the application would have to be countersigned by a doctor. No nanny state here, says Julian, we’re not banning anything, just requiring you to seek permission before you do anything we consider naughty. ‘It’s a softer form of paternalism.’ Companies would have to provide an daily ‘exercise hour’ (think Japan), and to issue employees with an apple a day to encourage a healthy workforce. Seriously now, what planet do these guys live on? I’ve got to stop reading the newspapers before I turn into a grumpy old man.

Stovies

I need to visit the market this morning. There’s a limit to how many dishes of venison stovies a body can eat. I’ve tried them accompanied by a tin of Guinness, various exotic lagers, the odd small whisky, a glass of claret, a mug of tea; with plates of beetroot, piccalilli, chilli and HP sauces, oatcakes and crackers… Enough is enough, I need a fish supper.

More mirage than miracle

Brighter lads than I most probably have the answers, but even a schmuck like me can see the beginning of the end. In a damning new report ‘More Mirage than Miracle’ published by the free-market think tank Policy Exchange, the analysts said Britain was relapsing into high-tax and high-regulation sclerosis just as the rest of Europe begins to shake itself out of statist lethargy. They’re a great bunch, the Germans, just a bit slow on the uptake. This latest report confirms what everyone knows - that Brown’s Britain is going down the toilet. If, as some believe, the City is about to catch a cold, then as far as I’m concerned it’s Goodnight Vienna. When the crap hits the fan, significant numbers of public service workers can start looking for alternative employment - at just about the same time their homes are being repossessed and the local hospital closed (to fund a factory sized maternity unit). Even Kaletsky has changed his tune, and he’s been the economy’s chief cheerleader. HSBC warns that Britain faces a stark de-rating by investors in coming months as growth slows and funds begin to lose confidence in the country's economic management, triggering a mass exodus of hot money from the City. It expects the pound to fall from around $2.04 to $1.76 against the dollar over the next eighteen months - and that’s with an over valued dollar in freefall. Ah the good old days… I’m starting to feel nostalgic. And don’t forget, someone has still to pick up the tab for the Olympics.

Monday, October 22

Rabbits

Immigration set to increase Britain's population by a third. Thankfully, I’m not going to be around to see Britain’s population increase by another 21 million come 2074. Can you imagine trying to get on the housing ladder? This is why I can’t take climate change seriously. If, as has been suggested, the most environmentally damaging thing you can do is to reproduce (additional bodies = increased consumption of scarce resources/rocketing pollution), then exactly what sort of incentives are being considered to discourage so many punters from putting it about? I’m not unsympathetic to an element of green taxation, but let’s be fair about it - I’ll agree to pay a little more on the cost of my 4-stroke, but only provided these lads' bunny rabbit tendencies are curtailed. If half of what Rowthorn says is true, you can kiss goodbye to the NHS.

England bites the dust

It certainly wasn’t disappointing, the rugby; great entertainment - though perhaps not as gripping as the French game. And whilst the best team won, wasn’t it a shame the Argentine lads weren’t our opponents. If my dalliance with the rugby world cup has taught me one thing, it’s that the ‘passion’ element of we non-core supporters is largely down to the nature of our opposition. Nothing quite stirs the blood as a footy match against Germany, Italy, Argentina, France… OK, OK, so you’d also pay big money to watch Spain, Brazil and Holland; but South Africa? Australia and New Zealand? I mean, what’s the point?

Saturday, October 20

Game, for tonight's big game

Brrr it’s cold. Stuck my head in at the local ploughing competition this morning. After five months of being sock-less you forget yourself at times, nothing quite prepares one for wandering across frosty ground in bare feet or flip-flops. Neither is it very flattering, being mistaken for a hobbit. The next smart Alec who asks me where I’ve left Frodo gets a slap round the ear.

Am starting to max out on game. Must have eaten an entire flock of pigeons last night. Today’s lunch was fresh ostrich from a local supplier - highly recommended! And I assume from the lump of deer that’s hanging from her kitchen table that this evening features another Sherwood Forest roast. The TV is at the ready and beer’s on ice for tonight's big game. My little nylon flags are hanging from the ceiling. Whilst rugby is still seen as an elitist sport by many, everyone and his granny are expected to be tuning in. Well, maybe not everybody…

Riven by class and no social mobility - Britain in 2007. Ten years of Labour rule have failed to create a classless society, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. It shows that Britain remains a nation dominated by class division, with a huge majority certain that their social standing determines the way they are judged. Of those questioned, 89% said they think people are still judged by their class - with almost half saying that it still counts for ‘a lot’. Only 8% think that class does not matter at all in shaping the way people are seen. I guess what they're saying is if you're a black, working class Muslim with a Walsall accent, you are basically fucked.

Friday, October 19

Top cat

I see the National Lottery have commissioned a study that included their 62 lottery millionaires to determine what actually makes people happy. Seems the answer boils down to a long soak in the bath, an afternoon nap or a leisurely stroll in the park. Dr Richard Tunney, the University of Nottingham’s psychology professor who ran the study, says that loafing is the secret to a happy life. Gorblimey, I could have told him that.

Today I witnessed the igmony of the farmer’s wife having to buy her eggs from a neighbour. I was just thinking the fox had a lot to answer for, when the lad himself came scorching through the yard. A chancy manoeuvre, given Farmer Charles has his Remington primed for such appearances. I'm sitting out back, soaking up the sunshine. Watching the farm cat in action beats the pants off Attenborough’s efforts for an in-your-face display of a real killing machine in action. He disappears into the first cut of rough and always returns with a flailing victim. Eats everything, never leaves a trace; sure glad his litter tray isn’t in my kitchen.

Young Pheasant

His progress to date, over the course of my broken leg.
He’s the only remaining bird out of those eight chicks from the original brood in the yard. None of the second brood made it. And having escaped the buzzards, owl and the fox, he now has to face the guns.

Thursday, October 18

Bloody racket

They’re at it again: the Ponderosa chain saw massacre. Sounds like a motor cycle Grand Prix out there. Don’t let them tell you the countryside is a perfect antidote to city life; ignore those bullshit lines about oases of tranquillity. Young Wogan on my wireless has to compete with packs of baying hounds, quad bikes and the Rowdy Yates sized herds of cattle stampeding past the office. I fell asleep last night watching 633 Squadron bomb the crap out of Norway and woke to find a formation of HM’s finest strafing the barn.

Mornings are heavy on the frost, birds pecking at bedroom windows; they’ve gotten used to Mrs G. appearing with packets of Trill come sun up. The deer were also back in force, including a big lad with antlers - it's something to do with rutting? I promise a picture once I’m mobile.
With autumn comes robust supper dishes. Tonight’s Tripe Español is a particular favourite - always providing it’s accompanied with a glass or two of Rioja to help the slippery stuff on its way.

Wednesday, October 17

Still looking

Whilst it’s not been the best of weeks for fat, middle-class punters who enjoy a glass or two of Rioja, the IMF seem determined to put the boot in…

Britain risks the prospect of a US-style crash in its house prices as the credit crunch in the financial markets takes its toll of a heavily over-valued property market. US real house prices had risen by about one-third more than explained by fundamentals, and the over-valuation in Britain is even more pronounced. Tightening credit conditions could curtail demand for housing and house prices could decline more sharply than currently expected.

Perhaps it’s not the time to invest in bricks & mortar? I was already going cool on the house we’d been looking at... The survey reveals a disturbing catalogue of questionable traits, not least - and this is not a wind up - Asbestos Tiles on the roof; enough Radon Gas to take care of Saddam’s old Kurdish problem; a questionable private water supply of dubious quality; a septic tank that’s not been emptied since installation in 1968; and a Tarka Trail right of way, through the kitchen. The property’s original construction is dated somewhere around 1460, with a state-of-the-art 18C addition. As I told Mrs G., I’m up for a challenge, but this guy’s done his own electrical wiring and plumbing; he made all of the windows in the shed out back with what looks like a ‘little Jimmy’s joiner kit’ before installing them himself; and the two acre garden hasn’t seen a scythe since the Ministry of Agriculture’s 1939 ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.

Devon women are shrinking

Together with global warming, Labour’s obsession with telling us how to live our lives ranks right up there - alongside tooth extraction and TV’s Loose Women. King’s report on obesity is a god-send for pointless legislation and more government targets. This latest study into obesity, backed by government and compiled by 250 experts, said excess weight was now the norm in our obesogenic society (I had to look this one up), and 'individuals can no longer be held responsible.’ The ‘illness’ is a consequence of our environment. But not to worry, it can be solved through large portions of nanny-state dictat. Top of the report’s list is ‘early life interventions’ (standing fat kids in front of the class and taking the piss?). Although the obesity epidemic affects the whole country, a clear north-south divide is emerging. By 2050, as many as 70 per cent of men aged 20 to 60 living in Yorkshire and Humberside, the West Midlands and the North East are likely to be obese, according to the report. About 65 per cent of women in Yorkshire and Humberside could be obese by then. In contrast, obesity is declining among women here in the South West, with just seven per cent expected to be obese by 2050 – far below the present level of 17 per cent. Why?

Tuesday, October 16

Expensive pub food

According to the latest Pub Guide (today's Times), ordinary pubs are cashing in on the success of gastro-pubs and overcharging by almost 70 per cent for standard meals such as steak pie or fish and chips. An average two course lunch with glass of wine comes in at £20; a steak & kidney pie £10.50. The Guide contrasts this with the average Brittany restaurant where £6.60 buys a litre of wine, mineral water and coffee - and as much as you can eat from the buffet. As a frequent visitor to Brittany restaurants I’d advise you take this claim with a large pinch of Saxo; and lets face it, we don’t always relish dining out on stewed horse meat and garlic flavoured crawly things. That said, 9 out of 10 English pubs do serve a vastly inferior product and bill you in gold pressed latinum for the privilege. Too many kitchens are staffed by the landlord’s wife (think Stan Ogden with tits); ex-local authority dinner ladies mit frying pan; or spotty-faced graduates from catering college that believe they’re the next Jamie Oliver, yet can barely microwave pizza. I know from past experience that finding competent chefs/cooks for run-of-the-mill restaurants is a near impossibility; finding bodies to cook decent pub food is a virtual non-starter. Ergo, pub food is crap and its price should reflect this. Pound to a penny someone will determine it’s all Thatcher’s fault.

School days

Nature not nurture is to blame for aggressive behaviour in children. No shit, fame and fortune for repeating the blindingly obvious. According to Professor Richard Tremblay of the University of Montreal, toddlers are born with aggressive instincts rather than learning to be violent from their surroundings. Development studies show that infants aged three to four years old are more physically aggressive than adults," Professor Tremblay added. "We clearly see that the frequency of physical aggressions among children decrease substantially from the pre-school years to adolescence, except for a small group who use physical aggression most often throughout that period."
Rings a bell; my primary school years had their moments. If young Luca wasn’t stabbing other five-year-olds with his plastic pen-knife, he was shooting classmates in the eye with a pop-gun or beating them over the head with the blunt axe his father used for breaking lumps of coal. On quiet days he would organise hanging parties so we could suspend his latest victim from the climbing frame with a length of grandmother’s washing line. Luca’s nine-year-old sibling would hover in the background, dolling out Woodbines and collecting protection money from the weedy lads. Anyone not paying had sealing wax melted over their hand. Truth to tell, it was chicken feed compared to the weekly thrashing from Sister Rose when you screwed up the recorder solo. Good days. Character forming.

Boozers

Conservative voters (residents of posh towns) are putting their health at risk by consuming hazardous amounts of alcohol (more than one large glass of wine each day). Dawn Primarolo, the Public Health Minister, said: “Most of these are not young people (cheeky tart), they are ‘everyday’ drinkers who have drunk too much for too long. This has to change.” This has to change? This has to change! Go wax your lip. Apparently, more than a quarter of adults in Surrey Heath, Guildford, Mid Sussex, Mole Valley, Leeds, Elmbridge, Waverley and Woking regularly hit the bottle. More power to their elbow, I say. The latest rise in the inheritance tax threshold doesn’t cut it. Best advice is to get it down your throat before that Presbyterian nerk gets his sticky mitts on your wallet.

Venison

Talk about suckers for punishment, they’re congregating outside my bedroom window. Wait 'til I get off the crutches.

Monday, October 15

Oysters and chips

Whitstable (today's Independent) was a destination of choice for away-days from South London Mansions. It also has a lot to offer the long-weekender; boasts a number of bars; a serious gastro pub; couple of good fish restaurants, and one or two alternative and attractive eating places. Pick the right summer’s day and you can spend a wonderful afternoon on the sparsely populated shingle, after taking a leisurely walk along the sea front. Its principal fault is traffic management; along with the small but noticeable percentage of younger residents who have a look and feel that’s disturbingly reminiscent of Clockwork Orange.

Sunday, October 14

Electric dogs

Hat’s off to last night’s venison stew. I don’t know what sort of alchemy the lady uses to transform these dead bits of animal she acquires from the back of our neighbour's Land Rover, but it’s definitely the business. Her large portions of celeriac flavoured mash didn’t go amiss either. As an accompaniment, I picked up a crate of exotic beer from the Quick-E-Mart. There’s obviously been a new addition to the family as our lad has started selling Corsican lager. Probably accounts for the swarthy counter assistant who wears striped matelote shirts. This particular beer is flavoured with chestnuts that are ‘brought down the mountains on donkeys, before being added to the brew.’ The jury’s out as a regular drink, but it goes well with sautéed deer.

I’m banished from the kitchen in order Mrs G. can complete the week’s production of rye bread and almond cake. Have been rewarded with a large slice of the latter, along with fresh, home-made lemon mascarpone ice cream. You realise of course that I don't enjoy being forced to eat any of this disgustingly wonderful food: I'm only do it to test the efficiency of my statins.
I’ve been considering the purchase of a mutt. Swore I’d never get another one after Shiner expired, but they do come in handy hereabouts, and I miss the company. Trouble is, those flocks of sheep that surround the barn. When provoked, the last model was always happy to kill whatever crossed it’s path, man or beast. A number of my Afro-Caribbean neighbours dealt in wholesale pharmaceutical products, and he always provided a certain reassurance. Here, such behaviour would - quite rightly - merit two barrels from the shotgun. I mentioned my quandary to a drinking partner the other day and apparently, you strap an electric collar to Rover’s neck. Any time that he looks at a woolly, you press the button and our lad is launched into space. A few burnt nose hairs later he’s cured. Confirmed vegetarian. Never goes near a sheep again.

Seems somewhat brutal to me, but guess I’m just a city boy that needs toughening up. I’ve been reading the argument in favour electric collars in this week's Ferreter’s Weekly, but am still a ‘pat on the head and juicy bone’ kind of guy. Will have to seek out Farmer Charles for some expert advice.

Unlikely destination

Leaked NHS figures show that drink-related hospital admissions have accelerated up the Richter scale since 24 hour drinking was introduced. There appears a distinct North/South divide, with Manchester, Liverpool and Middlesbrough topping the league of piss-heads. Surprisingly, my old neighbourhood in South London comes bottom. I suspect this could well be down to the residents’ preferred choice of tipple: super skunk or khat.

Talking of cultural trends… Sunday’s Telegraph lists the towns and cities of choice, for migrants. It’s worth mentioning, if only for the fact that Aberdeen features as preferred destination for Nigerians. Aberdeen? Think about it. There’s young Oguakwa running around Lagos in his trusty lightweight polyester, thinking ‘enough of this shit, I’m off to make a new life for myself in the west. Now where will I feel most comfortable; fit in? Tell you what, I’ve always fancied wearing a parka and woolly hat, and I’m gagging for a decent fish supper and a plate of stovies: the granite city it is.’

Sorry, I just can’t see it?

Brick walls

Newspapers are what Sunday mornings were made for. At just a couple of quid, they’re a steal. Stimulate debate? Forget those heated despatch box exchanges between the Presbyterian pillock and everyone’s favourite bully boy, Mrs G’s hang ’em high pronouncements as she works her way through the pages would make your hair curl. It’s a relief to retire to my office with a softly boiled egg and cup of tea.

Grey skies can do little to curb our euphoria after last night’s game. Please let it be Argentina in the final. Like most, I’m an occasional rugby man. Although we were in Paris for the last England v France showdown, I usually watch on TV, accompanied by my idiots guide to rugby football. Yours truly played as a junior, but only because my buddy was the regimental team captain who insisted I made up the numbers. Everyone topped off at 6ft 2inches and weighed in at 14 stones. With only 130lbs to counter this threat, speed was the sole available weapon in Gudgeon's armoury. And whilst it’s surprising how fast you can move when chased by a pack of rabid, ear-less gorillas, concussion was always a body swerve away.

Saturday, October 13

Roast Starlings

Bored with my current diet and aghast at our latest supermarket bill, it is tempting to begin producing meals that are based on the fare which is openly available in the yard.The secret is to befriend resident bird life with copious amounts of sunflower and niger seed - obviously, within arm’s reach; and after winning their trust, violently assault them with your trusty Arthur Ashe tennis racquet. Barbeque, and serve on a bed of crab apple or wild mushroom flavoured lentils.

Good news

This morning’s post confirmed a theatre date for removal of my leg irons - albeit, one that’s still some weeks away. Tomorrow wouldn’t be soon enough, but it seems churlish to complain. I’ll stand in line and wait my turn. Five months since my accident! When the ambulance dropped me off at hospital I remember asking the doctor if it was going to take more than an hour or so to fix. Spoken as someone who’s led a charmed life.

The Starlings have returned for winter.

Fungus the Bogeyman

With 67 species of our fungi threatened, a National Trust audit on lawns and meadows began yesterday to assess the state of the nation’s soil. Another global warming initiative, given fungi could play a role in enabling plants to survive drier periods. Not one to shirk my public responsibilities I set forth with magnifying glass and Nigella Lawson cook book in hand to review a series of dubious looking eukaryotic organisms that lurk in the darker recesses of our yard. An interested Farmer Charles proffered his expert advice, assuring me that unless they were yellow or ponged, all fungi was edible. And just to prove his point, grabbed the first manky looking toadstool we came to and ate it. He’s quite cavalier about fungi, though I remain unconvinced. The Dutch government has just banned the sale of magic mushrooms because their ambulance service was being overwhelmed by British tourists’ insatiable appetite for hallucinogenic substances. Farmer Charles says not to worry as ours are not as toxic as heroin or cocaine - unless of course you take them with alcohol, after which, skydiving from barn roofs is not unknown. He also tells me to go easy on second portions of tonight’s venison casserole, as deer consumption of magic mushrooms could well result in my aping his Siberian cousin who eats Reindeer meat to get high. A similar effect can be derived from drinking said cousin’s pee after he’s ingested a mushroom or two. Strange customs, these country folk.

Thursday, October 11

Superbugs

Troubled times for our leaders, as Flash Gordon is subject to another Commons assault by the Eton bully boy, and the dastardly scheme for dealing with our aging population is exposed. I always thought that knocking off grandparents via an introduction of hospital acquired infections seemed a tad extreme, but guess the money to fund another increase in NHS expenditure had to come from somewhere. Probably seemed the easiest way to deal with those pesky problems of bed blocking, the rising cost of care for our elderly, and a runaway pensions deficit. Also saves the government from having to build more homes for ‘hardworking families’ by freeing up additional accommodation; and let’s not forget the cash bonanza to the Treasury from death duties. Heads will doubtless roll - probably some poor nurse and a hapless junior manager.

Tuesday, October 9

I give up

It beggars belief! That smarmy snake oil salesman Al Gore and a seal clubber from the frozen north are jointly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize? The world’s gone mad.What is it with these people? The local authorities have approved another wind farm along the street, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. A couple of jack-the-lads make a few bob, the Government ticks another box, and we lose a piece of England’s green and pleasant land. The total power generated by this latest abortion will probably provide enough electricity to power my Granny’s microwave.

Monday, October 8

The Ponderosa

It may be October, but the air out back is thick with insects - midges. The barn's thatch a mass of true flies. Given these characters usually elect to lay their eggs inside a dead animal, you wonder what’s up there. Rain is moving slowly towards us from the west, so I’ve decided to spend this afternoon making the most of our remaining sun. The fields are now empty. Mrs G. is out there somewhere, picking mushrooms for my supper. Call me chicken if you like, but the only fungi that’s likely to pass these lips are the ones that have ‘Waitrose’ stamped on the packet.

Sunday, October 7

Collared doves

These two lads have been perched on the roof since the day we moved in.

Saturday, October 6

Humiliation

The best thing about barbequed sheep is the following day’s leftovers. Day two means Turkish night - refried meat, crispy salad, chilli sauce and pita bread - with lashings of hummus. And of course, lots of Efes. Celebrations all round at the barn: England beat the Aussies, and Cyclops is forced to eat humble pie. Who’d have thought a ten point lead could have been forfeit so ineptly. Towering intellect my arse, Cruella must be laughing her tits off.

Different world

Bang goes the neighbourhood. Janice Turner provides an uncannily accurate portrait of our old neighbourhood, back at South London mansions. Reading her piece brings the place back to life. It was a nice area twenty years ago, pre IVF mothers. Nowadays you can’t walk the pavements without being mown down by a Maclaren stoller. Step into the road to avoid them and you’ll be flattened by convoys of women driving Volvo C90s or BMW X5s, twins ensconced in the rear. And the worst part… Come school holidays they climb into the same 4-wheel drive vehicles and head off to their second homes, in the south west. Argh! I think she might have seen the best of property prices for a while, but then what do I know. Remember my earlier observation about chancing your arm… They’ve subsequently dropped another £100k.

Friday, October 5

Blind man fells cripple

Would you Adam & Eve it? I was sauntering down the High Street, minding my own business, when some blind plonker - white stick in hand - cannons into me: cue artistic somersault, crutches akimbo, groceries spread across the pavement, smelly blind man sitting on my head. The immediate response was to berate dipstick for not looking where he was going, but being the gentleman I am, settled for helping him on his way - across the main road in front of a school bus.

That said, this has to be one of the nicest days of summer. Summer? It’s October! Glorious skies, brilliant sunshine, cool breeze. Of course, the barbeque has been unwrapped - the smell of scorched lamb permeates Chateaux Gudgeon. Our neighbours are hard at work with the chain saw. As I speak, their tractor trundles past, straining under the weight of a zillion cubits of wood for our winter fires. I can but raise my can of Guinness in recognition of their efforts.

Thursday, October 4

Cancel the fried rice

Sunrise over the yard.Although incapacitated, I still visit local golf clubs checking for future venues. Today’s expedition took us to Libbaton, High Bickington. A new’ish (by the look of it) parkland course. Worth mentioning, if only for the dress code advice: No shell suits and No Wellington boots.

The car park at South Molton's Chinese restaurant was full, so we had lunch and a pint at The Bell in Chittlehampton - Camra’s Pub of the Year for North Devon. From the memorabilia on their walls I assume the bar is managed/owned by Arsenal supporters. Good selection of beers, and the food wasn’t too shabby either. If today was anything to go by the pub is well supported by locals. With cod, chips and mushy peas retailing at £3.20 it bloody well ought to be. The ladies skittle team were having a pre-game strategy meeting at the next table. I’m going to have to look into this skittle business, the neighbour was out at a match last night. Maybe skittles is the new golf?

Given it’s such a beautiful day, I’ve returned to the Ponderosa. Mrs G. is out with her brush cutter augmenting the sheep’s supply of roughage. I’m trying to track the git in a jet trainer who’s back dislodging my chimney pots. Actually, the Hawks aren’t too bad, it’s those Harrier afterburners that do for the crockery. Mensahib has still to cool down, following an earlier incident with her baseball bat and the plumber. He made the fatal mistake of cleaning his tools on a favourite Aunt’s Spirit of the blitz tea towel - a treasured memento from those valiant days on active service with a squadron of anti-V1 barrage balloons.

Fried rice for lunch

Junior here is starting to acquire really colourful plumage.The sea bass we snaffled on Tuesday was a hard act to follow, but last night’s roast duck in plum sauce proved an excellent rejoinder; the dish of roasted garlic cloves served as an accompaniment a sure guarantee against bats, vampires and any of the other things that go bump in the night. You think I jest, but wait ’til you try taking a leak in the middle of the night and are surprised by a large black apparition - wings outstretched - emerging from the top of your cistern. It’s no easy feat, wiping pee from a bathroom ceiling that's only illuminated by the beam from a torch. You daren’t turn on the lights as a zillion watt wall fan that sounds like you’re sitting in seat 22C of a BAC 1-11 on take-off kicks in, waking everyone within a five mile radius of the barn.

Today is forecast to be both sunny and mild - 18° or so. Maybe a trip to the seaside for lunch? Ever since she watched Shi mian mai fu on TV the other evening, the Boss has fancied a Chinese. Short of coming up with Andy Lau, a special fried rice seems the obvious solution.

Wednesday, October 3

Guilty party

I’d begun to take my supply of free, fresh eggs from the farmer’s wife for granted. They were always delivered in a metal basin, and - unlike the Waitrose variety - came decorated with feathers and shit. Unfortunately, carnage has been visited on the coup. What the fox didn’t kill was so badly injured they had to be dispatched. Needless to say, the posse has been mobilised.

Tuesday, October 2

Carrot juice

I thought these early morning breakfast meetings were a thing of the past! A site meeting, in order that Dave the builder could run his eye over our latest prospect. Another of his teeth-sucking sessions, as he calculates the number of quarry runs required to rebuild a perimeter wall. Given our experience with South London Mansions I swore there’d never be a repeat - yet here we are. Am trying to persuade Mrs G. that - what with city bankers collecting their P45s and house prices hitting the buffers - if only she can sit tight for a few more months, we’ll be able to buy a small village for next to nothing.

Today’s market was somewhat dead; live chickens failed to raise more than two squid a piece. Our itinerate fish monger had line-caught Sea Bass on sale to make sure it wasn’t a wasted journey. And I acquired a decent joint of boiling bacon to boot, something that’s not always readily available these days. Cue the butter beans and parsley sauce.

Am in limbo, waiting on news from the hospital. Wonder what the chances are of frustrating the system with a box of Milk Tray to that lady in appointments? Nice to see the NHS languishing in 17th place on Europe’s list of national medical service provision. Still, am sure that extra £43 billion of our hard-earned cash that the doctors trousered was well spent.

God it’s quiet out there, the sheep haven’t uttered a bleat in days. An odd whinny from Trigger in the adjacent field and that’s about it. Bleak too: grey skies and drizzle. The leaves are turning straight brown - they’ve missed the golden, russet stage. Mrs G. has tried to cheer me with one of her cocktails from the juicer: Bug’s Fizz - Cava and Carrots. If it doesn’t work, she’s threatened to strap me to a chair and force me to sit through an episode of Midsomer Murders. Roll on tonight’s footy.