Wednesday, October 29

Woss and Brand

I’d rather eat cold porridge with HP sauce than listen to Russell Brand - and Jonathan Ross can be a plonker of the first order - but bandwagon-jumping ain’t in it since their prank with Sachs’s answering machine. You’d have guessed an opportunist-tosser like Brown would be in on the act. After inviting Mrs Thatcher to tea, he’s hardly likely to baulk at sucking up to the Daily Mail readership. Has the man no shame? (No, is the answer.) If juvenile behaviour was a sacking offence half the guys I know would be out of a job - you should read my weekly postbag.

What continues to mystify and irritate me in equal measure is the media’s labelling of Sachs as a ‘pensioner’. Worse still: a grandfather. Bet there are grandparents from my neck of the woods who’re still in their 30s. Andrew Sachs is seventy-odd - and no spring-chicken it’s true - but does age alone disqualify him from abuse, make him worthy of special consideration? Truth to tell, I’m hacked-off with pensioner buddies boasting about their free bus passes and heating allowance, whilst sitting on sufficient gelt to refinance the debt of a small African country. And exactly how does reaching pensionable age transform Claudia Cardinale or Jane Fonda into toothless crones? I know lads in their 70s who are still single-figure golfers and can play a decent game of tennis, they have more sex than their thirty-something nephews, drink like proverbial fish, and could still knock seven bells out of yours truly if I stepped out of line. The media has stopped referring to victims or perpetrators by their race, so what’s with this age thing?

Tuesday, October 28

On the turn

Last week was all peach and pastel-blue coloured skies, with an occasional confectioner’s sugar-coating of frost; tawny owls, calling, from across the gully. This morning we’re back to willy-shrinking lashings of sleet, chapped skin and muddy gaiters. It doesn’t exactly enthuse. Still, there’s always Dan-the-man and his consignment of fresh fish. I’ve had this picture in my mind for days: scallops and black puddin’. And sure to form, the lad didn’t disappoint. How about fried slices of blood sausage topped with scallops, roasted chopped-potatoes with sprigs of rosemary, and a watercress and orange salad? It’s either that for tonight's supper, or beans on toast. Lunch was a giant pot of fresh-water mussels, straight from the River Taw; and a flagon of Sam’s cider.

Monday, October 27

Visitors to the outback

Back on our lonesome, honourable nephew and young Kylie having departed on the next leg of their round-the-world tour. I doubt the delights of Devon over a rainy weekend will compare too well with the jungles of Borneo and Cambodia, but we gave it a shot, criss-crossing the moor, pigging out at our local hostelry and – forgoing the trend for recession food a la mince and coley - at Burton Race’s Blue Angel. Not sure which of the two meals we enjoyed the most. At the end of the day it probably comes down to the company you’re keeping, the food being of secondary importance. Didn’t want to say anything at the time but I suspect the dynamic duo are going to need a larger mule train to handle their luggage. This wasn’t backpacking as I used to know it.

Saturday, October 25

Things can only get better

Britain plunges into a ‘once in a lifetime crisis’ says the headlines, as we look set for a deep and long-lasting recession. The BoE’s deputy governor, Charles Bean, goes one better describing it as the worst financial crisis since Raquel Welch put out in a fetching shamy-leather bikini. I’m sure that for most people – especially those employed in the public sector – life will go on as usual, albeit without the M&S meals and next year’s holiday in Clacton. Having witnessed the shame of Healey going cap-in-hand to the IMF, various winters of discontent, the 80s roller coaster, dot.com bubbles, et al, there are worst things in life. I certainly wouldn’t swop our troubles for those of my parents or grandparents generation. ‘We’ve never had it so good,’ as Macmillan was fond of saying. A better quote than Mr ‘I’ve abolished boom and bust’ Brown. Given the current turmoil in the currency markets, wouldn’t it be nice to know the Pound was supported by truckloads of gold bars. O, wait a minute, didn’t someone flog our reserves in a fire sale? Remind me again about that old Labour anthem from the 90s: ‘Things, can only get better...’

Monday, October 20

Rain, rain, go to Spain

Despite the conveyor-belt of bad economic news I’m a reasonably happy bunny these days. Mind you, a spell of decent weather wouldn’t go amiss (five minutes ago it was an Indian summer, and he’s moaning already). I know, I know... but even when it becomes light, these mornings, it’s as though you’re seeing everything through that verdigris-like coating you get on dirty fish tanks in rundown Chinese restaurants - slime green. Because we’re below the water table, out’back becomes a sea of mud. I can sit on the step and listen as water bubbles up through the surface. Even the moles have snorkels. If it came from this one direction I wouldn’t mind so much, but it rains down from the sky as in proverbial buckets, rolls up across fields like the high tide at Bude, and sweeps in from the west with a despairing relentlessness that has you reaching for a bottle.

Thursday, October 16

Another dead critter out back

The line of sheep preceded us like Nepalese porters departing base camp. A rank smell pointed the way, and birds circled as though vultures. When we reached the place its head was still set in a macabre final pose, bloodied lips drawn back as if a scream. The creature’s eyes were full of rage; you had the feeling it didn’t die well, that at the time it had been a tad pissed off. Already eviscerated, a murder of crows was busy tearing gobs of rancid flesh from protruding skeletal bones. A herd of Welsh Blacks stood on top of the hill, silhouetted against the sun. All remained perfectly still, their heads bowed as though respectful members of some funeral party at the graveside.

New plaything

My light posting is due in part to the arrival of a new computer. It’s such a wrench, letting go of the familiar. I’d been staring unenthusiastically at this latest model for two days, summoning up the courage to switch in on. Each new machine seems a giant leap in terms of bells and whistles; and whilst it’s undoubtedly a thing of beauty, they don’t feel half as tactile as those early jobs. Have asked The Boss for a reconditioned Imperial for Xmas: that should shut me up. Given I now qualify as a student, I’ve upgraded from Works to Microsoft Office for thirty-something quid. They called the offer a steal and it is; unfortunately, Word seems to have progressed somewhat from when I last used it, several years ago.

Couple of new faces down at the reservoir this morning. A magnificent cormorant had taken up position on top a rock that was protruding above the surface (the water’s down a metre since I last looked). Huge black flippers and a beak that could do serious damage - have your eye out if you’re not careful . Its form suggests something of a throwback to prehistoric days, and I can’t help thinking of those cartoon dodos in Ice Age. He was accompanied by five, first-year goosanders. Large grey bodies and copper’ish, green-accented brown heads. I’m told that hereabouts, sawbills roost in trees, down rabbit holes, and even in owl boxes.

Monday, October 13

The shame of nationalisation.

A sorry and almost unbelievable story (I can’t ignore the news) of RBS hubris. I’ve been a customer for 35 years, and watched as it transformed itself from a customer-focused retail bank into an ego trip for Goodwin. What is it with these guys? I haven’t necessarily anything against empire-building megalomaniacs - have known enough of them; their problem, the reason that people like Goodwin come unstuck, is they use someone else’s company as a vehicle. If you want to play, play with your own fuckin’ toys.

Saturday, October 11

Sanctuary

Blue skies smilin’ at me, nothin’ but blue skies do I see… Bing Crosby or Willie Nelson: either will do for me. What a glorious day; the Indians are still with us. Mid-October and it’s footy shorts and t-shirts. Slept away the afternoon on a bench in the yard with a titmouse and stoat for company. The perfect antidote to this week’s action in the financial markets. And England win 5-1. Life ain’t so bad.

Thursday, October 9

Recent read: Revelation

Revelation is the fourth in a series of novels from CJ Samson, charting the adventures of 16th century crookback lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his trusty sidekick Barack. Given Samson is an ex-lawyer with a doctorate in history, the narrative carries a certain authority. This latest story revolves around a crisis of faith in post-Reformation England, and features a series of gruesome murders based on the cheery visions of ‘Apocalypse John’, aka the Book of Revelation. The BBC are rumoured to be working on a series featuring that smarmy git Kenneth Branagh in the title role. Truth-to-tell, whilst I enjoyed the first two, and can appreciate the political machinations of the time, Shardlake’s a bit of a sad sort: one of those painful worthies that would benefit enormously from one or two character flaws and a touch of sexual depravity. He sounds too much like Michael Gove with a physical deformity. If Samson is to continue the theme he should also reflect on his tendency to modernise character psychology as it looses something in translation. Shardlake has plenty of advocates, but our hero needs to become less New Labour and more Tutor Taliban.

The morning after

Where’s young Mainwaring when you need him. The days of solid, dependable bank managers - like NHS dentists and English-speaking bar staff - are long gone. That adage about living in interesting times never more apt. How do you persuade people to save for retirement, when overnight, years of hard-earned savings are reduced to straw. How many companies will ever be capable of replacing the millions lost from their pension funds? Individuals are discovering they need the acumen of a central banker in order to keep one step ahead of insolvency. And remember folks, it happened on Brown’s watch. Truth-to-tell we’re all culpable, having lived high on the hog this last decade. Seems churlish to point blame at the City, our nation’s principal wealth generator these many years - provider of so many of those public service jobs which keep the country gainfully employed. With Russia hovering in the wings, I can see Labour fighting the forthcoming election on the back of some ill-thought-out Marshall Plan to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and housing, in an effort to guarantee people work. After landing everyone in it, our Scottish brethren’s efforts this last 24 hours may just have pointed a away out. Though any attempt on his part to claim credit for saving us will be rewarded the same way that Churchill was, after leading Britain through the second world-war. I’ve not forgiven Lamont for the ’92 debacle and feel he should still be rotting in some third-world dungeon. Brown’s a different kettle of fish altogether, and I demand first bags on helping shape how history views him.

Tuesday, October 7

Worse things in life

I’m with Geldof when it comes to Mondays (imagine there were few cheery faces in the City or at Canary Wharf yesterday). Having experienced a succession of adventures throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, and faced more industry downturns than a chamber maid at The Grand, yesterday seemed like a taste of the old days. Headless chickens weren’t in it. If I needed perspective it came during the afternoon, with an email informing me that my OU tutor - who taught journalism at University College Falmouth - had suffered a fatal heart attack. He leaves his other half and a teenage son.

Sunday, October 5

A hard winter in prospect

As if I required a further reminder of the financial straits in which we all find ourselves, or needed to exaggerate the pain of settling my accounts with the dentist and garage, last night the electricity supply went and failed on us. Nothing quite completes the pervading sense of gloom better than a damp, freezing barn in the pitch-black. Mrs G. had been engaged in cooking my favourite wildlife-surprise gumbo (the posh version of road kill stew), and was looking forward to a relaxed evening with Chief Inspector Barnaby. I was working hard on a backlog of homework (have started another OU course).

I've often pondered that if I was presented with the opportunity of time travel which period I would choose, and have always fancied Dickens's London. Et voilĂ  , here I was: holed up in my office, dressed in a selection of ragged jumpers with a rug around my shoulders - a parsimonious Scrooge-like character, scribbling away by the light of our one and only candle, its flame dancing to the tune of a 30 knot draught from the prevailing northerlies, comforted only by the smell of wet thatch and our neighbour’s overripe cattle, and a rapidly dwindling bottle of Balvenie for moral support.

Friday, October 3

Not really the car's week

Agnostic I may be, but every so often someone sends a message that calls attention to your mortality, and which suggests that somebody up there may actually be looking out for you. I was returning from the city this afternoon - autopilot, at warp five - when the artic on point hit a mound of spilt rubble and fired a barrage of rocks at me, the first of which tore through the tyre’s steel wall and trashed the alloy wheel. Picture it: propelled downhill at speed into an asteroid storm, nowhere to go, nightmare road surface, and swinging beam on… As it happens, no big deal; we walked away. But it makes you think: it could have been my head instead of the wheel; the motor might have crossed the carriageway into oncoming traffic; there could have been a second truck at the rear… Something of an adrenaline rush at the time; though the vehicle’s now out of commission.