Monday, November 30

Life goes on

Eleventh place! Hats off to Big Eck; Scotland’s loss, as they say... Added cheer on top of yesterday morning’s walk. It was cold and wet over the weekend, though good to be back out on the moor. Whilst the light’s not great – trees almost bog-oak black – the lemon gorse gives a lift to the whole scene. Not many bodies about, just nervous goosanders shadowing two stalwart canoeists on the reservoir. Must admit – and though our friends at Moyhill and in the Grampians may beg to differ – we appear to be located at the cutting edge of climate change in Devon. As a sceptic I have my own theories about the Bond-like villain who’s behind the global warming scam, and doubtless the 16,000 personnel attending Copenhagen at someone’s expense will be promoting their own ideas. What isn’t in doubt is the profit margin on those Wellington boots for sale at Ike Godsey’s. Whether or not climate change will be a catastrophe remains a mute point; however, you can be certain that (1) a great number of individuals will enjoy lucrative careers from exploiting the public’s concerns, and (2) politicians of every persuasion will see the debate as another excuse to milk us.

Friday, November 27

Banks

Who would have guessed it? According to JP Morgan, Royal Bank of Scotland has been the biggest loan arranger for Dubai World since January 2007. Was nothing safe from the reckless advances of this avaricious bunch from Gogarburn? You can only envisage taxpayers reaching into their pockets yet again, and more largess from Mervyn. And still Goodwin escapes the pokey. I suppose it could be worse: one of my drinking partners from the Dog & Duck owns a flat on the Persian oasis. All that the rest of us see is the same old apparition that involves our pension funds sinking deeper into the mire. And the fun hasn’t started: wait ’til those post-election taxes fall due – squeaking pips, sackcloth and ashes. On the plus side... we’ve a seemingly endless supply of potatoes, pheasants and ducks. And Benylin.

Monday, November 23

The big sneeze

Wicked overnight gales and heavy rain: so what else is new? Roads and track have significant deposits of standing water and mud; I’ve managed to slide the motor beneath a tractor, into a Devon bank, and through the paddock fence. Probably better off staying home, especially as I’m suffering from man-flu. Half-way thru my second packet of paracetamol, washed down with large portions of hot toddies. Better now than at Christmas I suppose.

Friday, November 20

Duty Cook

A veritable torrent of Christmas puddings and steak & mushroom pies are flowing from the Boss’s kitchen. Mrs G. has also acquired industrial quantities of Graisse de Canard in which to store her burgeoning duck mountain. It’s not quite Cumbria, but should Hilary Benn’s once in a thousand year storm turn up in this neck of the woods we ain’t gonna starve – there’s already enough stockpiled confit to see the Foreign Legion through the winter. Our local guns have been active and Farmer Charles has stopped by with the first of this season’s pheasants to add to the six pigeons I’m supposed to be turning into a pastilla for the great lady’s birthday party on Sunday. After a week of my Balkan-inspired suppers – heavy on the baked, stuffed courgettes – I’m now Mr North African Cuisine.

Thursday, November 19

The Phoney War

Talking of the ’30s... It’s difficult to stir myself these days but this one I couldn’t ignore. According to the latest official figures 50% of poor white boys are unable to read and write, and only 5% progress to higher education. We’ll leave to one side what constitutes poor (free school meals) and the fact that the media are suddenly and ominously referring to white English people as an ‘ethnic’ group (BBC Live at Five). A couple of things spring to mind ... Was it Labour who came to power 12 years ago boasting education-education-education? Just what-the-fuck have they been spending my money on? And who exactly are we recruiting to the teaching profession?

Do Labour really believe the public is as dumb as their propaganda suggests, that we can be so readily dismissed? Young Finkelstein thinks so, and maybe he’s right. I appreciate most of the piss-taking is just McPlonker shoring up what’s left of his vote; who knows, maybe Labour’s vote consists almost entirely of poor white boys, their mothers and the women that teach them? But please, exactly where do we draw the line – have you seen those borrowing figures?

Where you food comes from

This meandering odyssey that’s supposed to assuage my misspent youth has now entered the realms of surrealist poetry and avant-garde jazz. Whatever happened to those vodka-fuelled guitar riffs at the Happy Valley? At the least by now I’d hoped to have moved on from Auden’s bunch and the Spanish Civil War, but there’s obviously some way to go before adios-ing the 1930s.Not much in the way of direct expression of the unconscious un-obscured by rational thought at this morning’s cattle market. Who’d have thought I would one day find myself content to hide out amongst flat caps and moleskin trousers. Some nice looking animals on sale, and if I’d been any less circumspect when scratching the curly locks, I could now be the proud owner of an 800kgs bull, returning home several hundred quid lighter. You only have to look at the crowd to determine farming’s not a young man’s game, at least not at this level. If the next generation had the inclination where would they start? Just can’t see there being much money in the game. Treated myself to a mug of tea and Chelsea bun along with the waiting transporter drivers. You could resurface roads with that tea.

Friday, November 13

Resting up, post Ireland

Rather inclement weather at the barn: heavy rain and gale-force winds bringing down trees. Given our flickering lights and faltering wireless reception it seems we should have stayed on Craggy Island.

Talk about a busman’s holiday. The Cliffs of Moher afforded spectacular views out towards the Arran Islands, and I would have taken photographs with which to impress, except the ice formation on my mitts made it impossible to retrieve a camera from the rucksack. It was more sheltered elsewhere on The Burren, and as we were guests of two local archaeologists, very informative – I now have GCSEs in clints and grikes, and megalithic passage tombs. That and the consumption of Guinness. Would you believe the black stuff’s close to four quid a pint! No wonder Ireland’s economy is up shit creek. Our hosts, old friends and colleagues, live on a smallholding in County Clare which is even more remote than the barn, along with a donkey, sheepdogs and assorted livestock for company. As food and cooking is a principal interest we were well served with traditional fare, including their own lamb, fried kidneys and black and mealie puddings, soda bread and boiled bacon. A still-warm liver from the most recent cull came home in Mrs G’s handbag and is to be sautéed for supper.

The trek home was a marathon 17 hour affair. We stopped off to attend a John Behan exhibition in Limerick, though stab-city isn’t necessary the place you’d choose to linger. Plenty of company in the ferry’s lounge, mostly engaged in the horse racing industry. Our fellow travellers talked non-stop throughout the four-hour passage, seemingly unable to complete a single sentence without the obligatory feck or fecking to colour their dialogue. Once again we hurtled through Wales in the dark – past Swansea, Port Talbot, Cardiff and Newport – without occasioning the sight of a single body. There must be a curfew between the hours of midnight and three? Bristol to Exeter was a breeze. Excluding the sea passage we clocked up 900.4 miles (return trip), arriving home this morning at 05.00 hrs.

Monday, November 9

On manoeuvres

The propane-fuelled fire has recently developed a tendency to explode when I light it; time for a service methinks. Thanks to unremitting greyness November is rarely an inspiring time of the year, and this one doesn’t disappoint, even the Dog & Duck has a depressing air about the place. That said we’re keeping pretty busy, and as is usual when work beckons I contrive to slope off somewhere. If posts are few and far between this next couple of days it’s because I’m adrift in the the St George’s Channel.

Friday, November 6

Life

The reason I promised myself we’d have moved house by now arrived yesterday morning through cracks in the window frames and gaps surrounding the doors. This however proved small beer compared to the 40kts gusts on the cliff top at lunchtime. Down along the shoreline things were spectacularly worse. It wasn’t so much the rain as the sea spray, which seemed to freeze in the air above the breakers and fashion itself into waves of needle-like projectiles that were hurled onto the beach, impacting my skull with the malevolence of a 10-guage. OK I’m exaggerating but it was a tad wet and chilly. The tide clashed with the prevailing north-westerly and I was caught when it turned unexpectedly, having to wade through the surf and scramble across the rocks. Experience has taught me to carry a change of dry clothing in the vehicle. Seemingly at home within the maelstrom a kestrel hovered effortlessly, tracking its prey amongst the scrub. Appears there’s always something out there waiting to bite you.

Thursday, November 5

Vision check

Following concerns raised by the optician during a recent eye test (pressure readings of >23 rather than <21) I was referred to the glaucoma unit at our local general. Between you and me it smacked of box-ticking, however, better safe than sorry. Another excuse for well meaning individuals to poke me in the eye with a blunt stick. A one-hour examination in all. Fortunately – and after reviewing a collection of spectacular stereo-photographs of my eyeballs – the optical equipment appears to be operating within prescribed parameters. You wouldn’t want to drive afterwards – it took 5-6 hours before I could see clearly. Spent the afternoon stumbling about Exeter city centre, purchased a new pair of spectacles (eye-watering prices for the lens). At least I can now see what I’m drinking.

Monday, November 2

Rain’s back

We might not have copped for it the way the Grampians have but still ... At least the reservoir is topped off and water’s cascading down the face of the dam. Quite hypnotic. It was quiet on the moor, though Mondays usually are. Company was limited to a herd of bedraggled, sulking ponies parked arse-end to the furze for shelter. Am pleased to say that soup as a staple has returned with the weather, and as Sunday lunch was roast-chicken, today the inevitable Cock-a-Leekie.

Kai? The only Kai of my acquaintance was an old partner in crime from the steamship days. A Danish sea captain with a taste for aquavit and marinated herrings. He was a short, dumpy guy who ... OK, I get it.