Tuesday, March 31

Keeping active

If you’ve watched the recent BBC Four ‘Japan’ series you’ll have cottoned on to their charmingly descriptive phrases. The sensation in your legs after running up stairs is described as ‘laughing knees’. No I didn’t get it either; if I did, this morning’s walk on the moors would have probably made it into the hilarious category. Still, I suppose it’s better than swallowing polypills. Beer, sausages and exercise seems to be working well enough. Apart from the six Westland Sea King helicopters there was little or nothing about, always excepting those ubiquitous ponies.This little blighter had it away with my bag of sherbet lemons while I was reading the newspaper.

England v Ukraine

‘England can win every game’ says John Terry. Dream on, John, dream on – you’ll learn the hard way, through experience. In the wake of euphoria that came from watching ’66, I naively expected us to conquer Mexico in 1970. Discovering we could actually lose to Germany was no fun because at that time I was residing there. Still, faint hearts and all that... Confidence remained high during qualification for the ’74 competition, and somewhere deep in my desk I have a cassette tape on which is recorded that infamous ‘Domarski has scored’ line from the wireless commentary. Rubbishing Tomaszewski serves as a reminder to what a plonker Brian Clough could be when he put his mind to it. 1978 was our second successive failure to qualify; watching the final on a big screen in the States in the company of Dutch friends proved little consolation. Come ’82, and despite a team of my contemporaries, I was proved right to be skeptical. In ’86 we returned to Mexico and the infamous ‘hand of God’. 1990 – at last a semi-final. Unfortunately it was against our old nemesis, and neither Pearce nor Waddle could take penalties. So it seemed only fair that in 1994 normal service was resumed: we failed to qualify. England made it to France in ’98 and I watched in disbelief as that Danish prat, Nielsen, spoiled a brilliant second-round game by sending Beckham off; shock, horror, we lose on penalties. Korea saw us cuffed by Brazil in the quarterfinals. Ditto Germany in 2006, albeit this time we lose a penalty shootout to Portugal. I remember watching Spain in the most recent European championships, thinking it was a blessing we failed to qualify. But perhaps I’m being a tad defeatist?

Monday, March 30

As exciting as the G-20

The magpies are building their nest again. Last year they drove away our blackbirds and I swore to discourage them this time around. Two pairs of great spotted woodpeckers compete for the rights to the insects in our lightning tree. The larger green woodpeckers – or wet birds, as they’re sometimes known (rain bringers) – are more reclusive, though their bright green and crimson plumage is worth your patience. Blue tits have begun to clear out an old wren’s nest above my window in readiness for the season. Most everywhere I look there are dunnocks and robins and goldfinches. Two wagtails play ‘king of the castle’ on a molehill in the yard. Yes, the mole epidemic is still with us; as with government, a cross we have to bear.

Sunday, March 29

More recession food

I seem to have spent the week living on Peter’s Porkers, unbelievable value at three packs for £6. Stewed bangers and mashed spuds; grilled sausages mit tinned tomatoes; and a half-decent cassoulet with some of those little Toulouse jobbies. OK, so they were washed down with a half decent bottle of something nice, but the thought was there. Whilst recession food might not always be the healthiest option, given this week’s news that drinking tea may be little better than smoking a pack of Woodbines, what price fat content?

Life seems to be run at two paces: 33mpg or 40mpg. Grouchy, distracted, or pushed-for-time is reflected in my driving, which results in the motor returning an inferior fuel consumption as I stab at the pedals and shoulder Devon banks. Manana tends to get the job done but at a more economical and greener pace. As today’s weather is gloriously sunny it definitely qualifies at a 40. The barbeque is resurrected and baby back ribs return, this time accompanied by a rather tasty potato salad.

Friday, March 27

More maintenance work

I was recently out and about with my cameras, and it wasn’t until returning home and downloading the results that I realised how much crap had infiltrated the bodies; the sensors looked like they’d been inside a vacuum bag. Having investigated sending them away to be professionally cleaned, rightly or wrongly, I determined the servicing would probably end up being undertaken by some NVQ trainee on work experience and that I was better off attacking the thing myself. After coming across these guys and reading their ‘help and guidance’ I duly ordered an assortment of cleaning products and proceeded as instructed. Trying to set up a ‘clean room’ in the barn is no mean feat, and my hands are not exactly the steadiest pair of mitts in the business, but I have to say I’m more than pleased with the results.

Sticky buns

Breakfast was enlivened this morning by the heated remains of Mrs G’s initial batch of Easter buns. I say ‘initial’, as betwixt here and the 10th April there’ll probably be several variations on the theme. That French baker chap in Bath has introduced a whole new slant to her range of comestibles, and of which – as you’d expect, I’ve been happy to review. Two buns don’t make a winter however, so I elected to fortify myself at the Dog & Duck’s Friday lunchtime session. Gone are the days of crisps and salted peanuts, today’s bar snacks included an eclectic mix of hard boiled quail’s eggs, fat-encrusted lardons of black pudding, and jellied eels. Conversation amongst the regulars centred on more bad news: hot on the heels of Ultravox’s proposed reunion, Robbie Williams announces Take That are to be reformed.

Money for old rope

Having become mightily bored with middle-ground consensus I’d stopped watching BBC’s Question Time years ago. However, the scent of blood has rekindled my interest. I’ve even begun warming to that oily apparatchik, David Dimbleby. Living in our rural backwater I’m somewhat divorced from prevailing trends and look to studio audiences for a flavour of the public mood - and which is why last night’s show was such a surprise: when did the Geordies go Tory? You’d have thought it was a home-counties venue, particularly after the pantomime hiss when Harriet Harperson was mentioned. The last time I enjoyed the company of our bare-chested friends from the north we were putting one over them at The Valley, and I’m sure it was Newcastle Brown rather than the old Conservative Stalinist logo that adorned their shirts. The panel were good value for money, especially fatty Pickles who didn’t know when to stop digging. Old duffer Michael Winner provided the laughs, decrying bankers and foreign idiots, whilst advocating teenage sex.

The row over MP’s expenses is playing larger than I’d thought and continues to rankle with the public. Andrew Neil’s show This Week which followed on pursued the theme, with an entertaining piece by Christine (how to look good at 59) Hamilton. On the question of MP’s salaries, just how much do we think they’re worth? Forget all the bullshit about having to pay good money to attract good people (like that worked). If we accept that someone’s ‘worth’ is primarily about supply and demand (the cost of a Rooney versus the cost of a van driver), and what an employer is prepared to pay, I suggest the audience member who thought a salary commensurate with an assistant head teacher, and B&B expenses when away from the constituency, is about right. Let’s face it, if you advertised the job we wouldn’t exactly be short of applicants.

Wednesday, March 25

Demands on the public purse

There was a time I’d have risen enthusiastically to the Toynbee bait, though it became a mean spirited thing. I still read an occasional piece, buy the newspaper once a fortnight to see how the other half live, but – as with that awful bore Heffer from The Telegraph – they’re now a parody of themselves. Monday’s call for the newspaper industry to be taken into public ownership was priceless, and a sign of how desperate the dead tree press have become. She bemoans the industry being little more than a plaything for maverick plutocrats, but it appears to me that is what newspapers are for, what they’ve always been – be it Conrad Black, the Barclay Brothers, Rupert Murdock, Robert Maxwell or William Randolph Hearst. Alexander Lebedev is just following tradition. Two lines jumped from her article: the first was an admission that several of the local editors she had spoken to had no knowledge of their newspaper’s financial accounts, advertising revenue or true costs; the other was the journalists’ assertion that ‘bean counters don’t understand the paper.’ Whilst such attitudes lend themselves to public ownership, I suspect our taxpayers are much keener to see their money spent on upgrading hospital consultant’s 7-Series Beemers, and in employing semi-literate women to teach primary school children how to twitter. I won’t mention Goodwin’s pension or MP’s expenses any more.

Taoiseach on the crapper

Would that we had such inspirational artists. There must be someone out there who could do a reasonable job on McPlonker. Oil or water colours - who cares?; they’d sell, big time.

More rocket science

In the latest edition of the British Journal of Psychology, a Cardiff University team led by Dr Michael Dunn published the results of a study, after showing a group of women pictures of the same man whilst he was sitting in (a) a Bentley Continental and (b) a battered Ford Fiesta, and asking them to express a preference. Unsurprisingly the girls didn’t go a bundle on our lad in the banger. Conversely, men in a comparable exercise always went for the woman’s tits, failing to notice either the car or her law degree.

Minorities on the increase

Mild winters and adapting to garden feeders have propelled the long-tailed tit into the UK’s top ten list of birds that were spotted in our gardens. The ‘Bum Towel’, as it’s known in parts of Devon, is the only species from the ten that is absent from our yard; but then we're knee-deep in goldfinches, greenfinches and siskins. You have to go a mile or so to find the tiny mite. Their bottle shaped nests are considered things of beauty, luxuriating in the application of shredded wool, moss, spider silk, lichens and feathers.

Monday, March 23

Gales return

As no one appeared to be discharging weapons in the training area, this afternoon I went for a stroll to the top of High Willhays. Needless to say, the blue sky that was forecast by our local weatherman failed to materialise, and a brisk 30 knot WNW wind made short work of last week’s mild temperatures. If I hadn’t been wearing a decent pair of woollen drawers it could have been a tad uncomfortable. No humans in sight, just the usual herd of Shetland ponies – small red beasts with long blonde manes. Can’t get over how dry everything is; or was. As I speak, large portions of the Atlantic are raining down upon the barn.

Top Gun

Who’d have thought it – Tom Cruise had a British accent.

Sunday, March 22

Plonkers, the lot of ’em

Peston's comments on Friday, regarding the National Audit Office’s report into the events leading up to Northern Rock’s demise, serves as a useful reminder to those poor souls who still feel there’s a future for McPlonker and his bushy-eyed sidekick. The phrase ‘Lions led by donkeys’ was once used to describe our stalwart Tommies and the disparity with their piss-poor commanders; and if you think of the God-awful mess the likes of Goodwin and McKillop have made of our banks, the paucity of talent that’s been available to Government this last five years or more, then today’s Isabel Okeshott article in The Times, profiling a damning report on the foreign and Commonwealth Office, comes as no surprise. Tony McNulty is yet another minister to be caught with his hand in the till, and – if the News of the Screws is to be believed – Nigel Griffiths has been doing his bit to remind fatty Prescott that the tradition of rumpy-pumpy at Westminster is alive and well. It’s no wonder there’s little respect amongst the general populace. Sherriff Bart seems to be faring no better across the pond. Vote for none of the above, that would be my message.

Friday, March 20

Wear and tear

Must admit, this is probably the best spell of spring weather we’ve had during these last three years. Not content with barbequed sheep and racks of baby back ribs, tonight we’re gravitating to charred duck and large portions of sweet corn. Spending time out back is the perfect opportunity for a cold one with Farmer Charles, and news of fluctuating prices at the livestock market. He’s had trouble with his hens eating their own eggs; apparently, you fill said eggs with fairy liquid and, after they’ve on chomped one or two, the problem goes away. ‘Learn something new every day’ that’s my motto. I should be servicing the machinery and getting down to work, but then manana’s the middle name. And talking of chomping... a crown that was installed by some wizened Chinaman back in the 80s has finally succumbed. Would that everything I’ve shelled out for these past years proved so durable.

Wednesday, March 18

Hunting for a billet

Everyone and his granny seems to be out in the fields, muck-spreading - and I have to tell you, it’s hard on the eyes. As the crow flies I probably haven’t travelled much more than 40 minutes in any one direction, yet have still managed to clock up close to 280 miles of country lanes and farm tracks this last 72 hours, looking for Mrs G’s mythical country cottage. I’m probably wasting my time given the dearth of properties on the market. Unless they have to, potential vendors are reluctant to sell at the sort of distressed prices many buyers deem necessary before parting with their money. Unbelievably, one pile of crap I thought would go for 60% of the asking price has found a sucker willing to stump up the full amount; another we looked at would probably bite your arm off for 75% of what he’s been asking (and it’s still too much). Let’s face it, whilst we all abhor nimby’ism, you’re hardly likely to beat a path to the door of someone who has a flotilla of 400ft turbines or a gypsy encampment parked alongside, even if the travellers in question bear a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp and are partial to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

Monday, March 16

BBQ

At this time of year - the tail end of winter/early spring - it’s easy to forget why we came here. Two days of sunshine and everything falls into place; I’ve even the makings of a sun tan – in March! As we’ve been visiting people it seemed only courteous to wear a clean suit of clothes – a mistake I now readily acknowledge, after being subjected to the combined slobber of five dogs and two horses. By the time I’d tramped though a bog, coming back across the moor, the effect was complete. Yellow gorse is at last beginning to colour the landscape and the ground is alive with insects and sky larks. After making a fresh batch of beans over the weekend, tonight sees our first barbeque of 2009 – a butterflied leg of lamb.

Saturday, March 14

Upheaval

It’s a close call when there’s a Man U/Liverpool match on the wireless as to whether you stay hungry or visit the kitchen for a sandwich and risk being skewered on one of Mrs G’s Sabatier knives. That prick Alan Green has a lot to answer for. Violence was very much in the news this morning; another soldier bought it in Helmand. Mathew Parris speculates in The Times on the difficulties facing the Tories in arriving at defence consensus; and let’s face it, given the bills we’re likely to face in the future, what price those two new carriers and attendant aircraft. Dangerous times ahead, made worse by McPlonker’s fabled ‘peace dividend’ (remember that?) which robbed our forces of equipment in order to enrich those buggers in the medical and teaching professions. Niall Ferguson states the blindingly obvious a couple of pages later, serving up a reminder to participants at the G20 that future budget constraints will be further strained by the dual demands of international strife and domestic security.

Friday, March 13

More fun than an Isa

Kauto Star all the way. I looked more tired than the horse did at the finish. Not my most successful festival, but another £50 premium bond cheque in this morning’s post has helped mitigate losses. With Bath’s betting shops a distant memory and the Gold Cup behind us I can maybe get back to work. Must admit it’s been a while since I’d had the opportunity to spend an afternoon or two in the bookies; the four I frequented this past week were certainly a blast from the past – let’s face it, other than McPlonker and his ilk picking my pocket to fund their second homes, nothing’s so guaranteed to get the pulse racing as watching your beer money disappear over the horizon without a jockey on its back.

Thursday, March 12

Back at the barn

There are reputed to be 120 restaurants in Bath, the highest number per capita outside of London; yet quantity doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. I managed to break free and eat in three - one of which (TGH) was pretty average, the other two dire. There’s an old Victor Lewis-Smith review of FishWorks that I caught on the web, and as the establishment in question sits opposite the pub I was using, lunch there seemed a good idea. It was only after I’d eaten that my fellow drinkers put me straight. I should have known better, having witnessed the chef fillet fish and thinking there’s no way he’d make it in West Side Story. The lunchtime special was spaghetti with mixed seafood, and if Vesta did one, this would be it (no disrespect to Vesta). My other gripe remains the availability of calves’ liver in this part of the world. Having grown up on those thin slivers of flash-fried melt in the mouth delicacies favoured by our Italian compatriots, I can’t quite come to terms with being served the type of stuff Mrs G’s Mother once used for soup. Note to The Garricks Head (and this Guardian review is closer to the mark): unless you want to piss people off, don’t serve calves liver in ¾ inch-thick lumps that are not pink but purple, semi raw and cold - I am not a Native American on a buffalo hunt. And whilst I appreciate you’re only a so-called gastro pub, try trimming those tubes and assorted sinews – chances are your customers would prefer to use their jaw muscles for conversation.

Wednesday, March 11

Pushing her luck

Not wanting to burden myself with having to lug a computer about I’ve been using the local public library’s facilities to get online – three quid an hour. During the whole of this morning’s session there’s been a two year old Afro-Caribbean girl with a hairstyle copied from Sideshow Bob who insists on using my chair as her own private fairground ride whilst shrieking loudly in my ear. Little does she know that, because the hotel’s hot water system broke down this morning and I had to shower and shave in ice cold water and forego breakfast, that she is about three seconds away from having her head bitten off and dunked in a saucer of chilli sauce.

Bath

No I didn’t pick Punjabi (who did?), and the fifty-quid float went west long ago. It had slipped my mind what an architectural theme park Bath is (think I've said that before), but like most cities on the planet, if only… (traffic). No shortage of pubs: from the quintessential ‘drinkers’ bar the Old Green Tree (only serves one lager, and that’s imported Czech) with its wood panelling and bench seats, familiar east-European barmaid and the less than subtle tang of backed-up latrines – all the way through to establishments like O’Neills, languishing under a cloak of chips and ketchup. Despite my moratorium on acquisitions there are plenty of galleries to mooch around in. The Victoria is running a retrospective on John Eaves (‘in colour’) which is worth a look; and although it’s not yet open, there’s an exhibition of Ronnie Wood’s stuff that you can preview. He makes a better fist of his box of crayons than I would, but you still feel that buying one of his prints would be a little like acquiring an Ashley Cole shirt from a charity auction. Spent an hour or two in the Museum of East Asian Art. As with their women, I just don’t get jade; ceramics however – earthenware, stoneware and porcelain – and bronze and silks I find particularly interesting. There’s a good selection of photographs from Sébastien Muñoz’s trip to Mongolia.

Having arrived at a short-list of four restaurants for our evening’s entertainment we ended up picnicking on the floor of the hotel room with a bottle of syrah and the proceeds of Mrs G’s day at the ovens, whilst watching Liverpool humiliate Real Madrid. She baked what must have been the biggest pretzel this side of Munich.

Tuesday, March 10

On the road again

The Boss has dragged me off to Bath for a couple of days so that she can work on her pain de campagne with that Bertinet chap, the French baker who wrote ‘Dough’. He has a school hereabouts. I’ve been told to go away and amuse myself, and accordingly, have found a suitable hostelry next to the turf accountants where I can follow the Cheltenham Festival. She’s even subbed me £50 from her weekend lottery winnings to get things started.

Monday, March 9

Put upon

An old story overhead in Ike Godsey’s store over the weekend, but it still makes me chuckle. A local farmer was recounting the details of a visit by the Department of Work and Pensions. They claimed he wasn’t paying proper wages to his farm workers and told him he needed to make a list of all his employees and how much he was paying them. “Well” replied the farmer, “there’s my farm hand who has been with me for 3 years, I pay him £200 per week plus free room and board. The cook/housekeeper has been in place for 18 months and I pay her £150 per week plus free room and board. Then there’s the half-wit. He works about 18 hours a day, every day, and does about 90% of the work around the farm. He makes about £10 a week and pays for his own room and board. I buy him a bottle of whisky every Saturday night and he occasionally sleeps with my wife.” “That’s the guy I want to talk to” says the official, “the half-wit.” “That’ll be me” says the farmer.

Saturday, March 7

Weekend treats

Budget constraints are increasingly evidenced by the number and depth of the pot holes that litter our highways and byways; dead badgers and other assorted road kill lay strewn amongst the craters. There was a time I’d salivate at the sight of a Ferrari; nowadays a highly polished John Deere sets the heart racing. The drive to Crediton Market was worthwhile if only for those little cheese and onion rolls from Betty’s Cakes. Whilst recession era Britons rediscover the taste for nostalgia food brands, consuming ridiculous amounts of Bisto gravy, Birds Eye custard and fish fingers, I stay loyal to my old spot pork and suitably provenanced mutton. Not everything on the stalls is a given just because it’s a ‘farmers market’, though the lad selling fish had some outstanding soles. Hell would freeze over before I’d pay £1.75 for one of those toy-town-sized loaves from the resident baker.

Friday, March 6

Rising to the challenge

Given this week’s news that (a) middle-aged gents who exercise live longer* and (b) public houses are a declining species, I elected to do my bit by having Mrs G. park the vehicle an additional 100 yards from the bar. Today’s venue was another old favourite: The Bell, in Chittlehampton - a village of some 650 souls, the square of which is flanked by St Heiretha’s church (an Anglican pile believed to date back to the 14th C.), and a smaller, suitably austere Wesleyan Chapel. The walls of the pub itself are lined with Arsenal memorabilia, and from my earwigging of adjacent tables, populated by ageing north London lefties. Having to eat her luncheon beneath a portrait of Tony Adams did little for the good lady’s indigestion, though I can’t speak too highly of the home-made faggots and peas. Not a great selection of beers, but always worth the trip.

*I haven’t read the report in detail but the gist appears to be along the lines that spending five days a week in the gym during your 50s and 60s could afford you an extra 15 months slumped in a chair in a care home during your gaga years.

Quantitative easing

I appreciate the thought behind quantitative easing – to free up the money supply and make credit so ridiculously abundant and cheap that punters can’t pass it up? But I still don’t believe you can convince sane people to go out and borrow money for a new BMW when they’re already up to their eyes in debt and, no matter what they do for a living, have a fair chance of losing their job during the next three years. I can see the attraction for (a) someone who’s so deep in the shit they think they might as well be hung for a sheep as a kangaroo, and (b) companies that are past their sell-by date and trying for a stay of execution. Either way, it’s running up yet more debt for the taxpayer; debt that will ultimately be reflected in the cuts we make to public spending. That said, if this latest ‘last throw of the dice’ doesn’t achieve the desired result (whatever that may be), we’ll probably all be growing potatoes in the back yard. There was a girl on last night’s post-Question Time review pleading for politicians and economists to come clean about the sort of crap we face this coming decade. I suspect, deep down, we don’t really want to know.

Thursday, March 5

Sucking up to Sheriff Bart

We’ve all been there: the house is burning down, and that old geezer from down the street who you’ve never really liked (he stabbed an old mate in the back and repeatedly ridiculed your golf swing) turns up at the front door with a bottle of malt and offers to buy dinner. You know damn well he’s only doing it because you’re the new club captain and he wants on the committee; but manners are all: you smile like a good un, offload that box of DVDs you picked up at Woolworth’s closing-down sale, tell him you’ll keep him in mind, then get back to fighting the fire.

Fate worse than...

Michael Jackson has just appeared on stage at my old stomping ground to publicise a series of concerts, having no doubt been told by his brother that he needs to resurrect some sort of a career or will likely face the frightening prospect of spending his remaining years being holed up in Barnstaple, competing with Devon’s tribute bands.

Arsène Wenger has wings

I was fortunate to return from last night’s soirée at the Dog & Duck with an emergency four-litre container of Sam’s dry - given we woke this morning to find ourselves marooned. That said, the Ponderosa isn’t exactly Val d’Isère, and sunshine and snow hereabouts rarely mix for long. If the crump of falling white stuff from the roofs of surrounding buildings is a guide, I should be out if here this afternoon. At least we can see outside, thanks to yesterday’s visit from the lad with the shammy leather; tells me business is booming and that he now has a waiting list of prospective customers (doubtless sweetening me up for a price increase). The downsides to his shiny windows is a mirror image of the surrounding hedges and trees, which results in flocks of assorted budgies performing kamikaze-like dives into the glass. Mrs G. seems happy to sit them in her lap and talk the critters round; an hour of listening to her analysis of Arsène Wenger’s tactical shortcomings is more than enough to get them back into the air.

Wednesday, March 4

JTR Rhyl

Indesit - once known as Hotpoint to you and me - is bowing to economic realities (too many people manufacturing washing machines) by axing its factory at Kinmel Park, Bodelwyddan with the loss of 300 jobs. I mention it because Kinmel Park was also the location of JTR Rhyl, one of those character-building establishments that specialised in shaping young lives. Whilst not in the same league as my Grandfather’s experiences on the Training Ship Exmouth (he's one of the boys featured in the 1893 photo), Kinmel Park Camp remained a lot of fun. I can’t understand why the MOD disbanded what was for many teenage boys the only way out. Wonder what happened to my old Imperial 55 typewriter? It was the pinnacle of my acting career, with a leading role in the drama group’s production of The long and the short and the tall.

Tuesday, March 3

Another nag

Today’s forecast may look dour but at the moment it’s a beautiful soft morning. We’ve a new horse billeted in the yard. The neighbour’s daughter is growing, both in height and proficiency, and just when I think I’ve made friends with her nag, a larger version appears. This one - model number three - arrived on its toes, full of vim and vigor. A couple of weeks of standing up to its fetlocks in mud has proved enough to dampen enthusiasm. It looks like an animal that went long on grain before being burned in the commodities market.

I am still working my way through Christmas presents and currently reading Andrew Roberts’s Masters and Commanders - another, albeit scholarly take, on the relationship between Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Alanbrooke during the second-world-war. Also on my list of required reading/viewing is the recently re-released DVD of Smiley’s People, an outstanding piece of television and at odds with the crash, bang, wallop of modern film. I’m not necessarily hung up on the past but I do believe that man has a history of ignoring history. Each generation thinks it knows better than the last, yet ends up repeating the same mistakes, having to learn similar lessons. Likewise, yesterday’s Redwood post reminds us that, when push comes to shove, impulses tend more to the traditional and tribal. Many would like to believe that England in the 21st century is something of a multi-cultural melting pot, yet at heart we remain an island nation born of ancient rivalries and instincts that preclude first and second generation compatriots. I’m not knocking the European community, it remains the answer to a number of our problems; however, to think we’ll all willingly pitch on in there for the common good is wishful thinking. At the very least I urge our politicians to play the game to the degree of self-interest that’s practised by our colleagues on the continent. One way or another, Brown’s trip should help people to recall who their friends are (i.e. Obama reminding his visitor about the number of times McPlonker has told the world that ‘it’s all America’s fault’).

Sunday, March 1

The good life

Seafood with angel hair pasta - $65.90 a plate! And I thought last week's Torquay bistro a rip off.

Young Warren loses his shirt

Then goes out and buys another. It seems even the mighty Buffett is fallible. If the biggest and best can make the odd dubious call, you shouldn’t necessarily beat yourself up for taking a punt and getting it wrong. I’m a nothing ventured nothing gained man myself, and, so far, gut instincts and Mrs G’s sage advice have served me well. That said, in the current market there are times you just have to take it on the chin and move along. Biggest danger is listening to people with vested interests. Whilst always looking on the bright side, I suspect the process has barely begun and that there’s a lot more shit backed up in the pipeline. Wish I could point the finger at someone and tell them it was their fault because they voted for McPlonker, but of course none of us did. Truth to tell, we were happy enough to turn a blind eye and keep spending the money.