Wednesday, October 31

Still scoffin’

Whilst there’s often whimsical exaggeration to my consumption of foodstuffs, you do need to keep scoffing to survive this environment. I like to think I eat healthily, lots of fruit and vegetables, gallons of spring water and perhaps not so much red meat as the old days. That said I graze in fits and starts, on whim and fancy. There can be a run of braised beef and oxtail, before Mrs G counters with a succession of fish and chicken dishes. Game is popular just now…lamb is never out of fashion. And once a month I eat vegetarian. The first half of this week has featured lots of bread and cheese. The bread part has included mince pies, date and walnut loaf, and wedges of apple cake; cheese is local and varied. The mince pies are from our local farm shop and the finest examples I’ve eaten since Linda’s Moyhill specials (you didn’t bake enough).

It’s the way he would have wanted to go

The aging lothario that rules out in the yard spent all of last week bonking two of the mares. This morning I found him prostrate on the deck, unable to stand. It looks like he’s sired his last. I guess it comes to us all, as Kauto Star will doubtless discover.

Tuesday, October 30

The shed

You will never see it this empty or tidy again.

Beer and fried eggs

I was looking at a series of landscape photographs in a local gallery this afternoon and surprise, surprise, they were quite good. Most contemporary photography in this neck of the woods is crap or clichéd. That said, art, like food, features pretty high on the southwest landscape. You could probably walk to a half-dozen artist’s studios in the immediate area. Over the last several years there has also been a rise in local furniture makers, although most of what I’ve seen – including today – has been exhibition pieces retailing for up to several thousand and not the sort of stuff to trouble IKEA’s sales … Truth to tell (and talking of clichés) nothing beats the all too brief half-hour of a morning when the sun comes up and the trees and hedgerows are saturated in that warm light which exaggerates autumn’s colours ... But then I would be ignoring the warming taste of Meridian’s India Pale Ale accompanying tonight’s ham and eggs. The chickens continue to lay as if there’s no tomorrow.

Monday, October 29

Nutter

Much against my better judgment I was tempted to give Millipede the benefit of the doubt when addressing the subject of mental illness. Until, that is, he threw in the Clarkson jibe. A cheap shot, pure political point scoring (drinking buddy of Cameron and Rebecca Wade) and a missed opportunity on his part. One generation in and the lad’s still a prick. I’ve just doubled my not insubstantial bet at the bookies for 2015.

EU President?

Tony Blair wants a directly elected president for the EU. You can imagine the voting, viz, the Eurovision Song Contest style of voting … ‘United Kingdom: nuls points’. Tony, Tony, we understand it well enough you plonker.

Another disaster movie

Tracking the storm that is about to hit America has become compulsive viewing. Where’s Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis when you need them?

Update: BBC’s weather girl: Thousands of square meters are likely to be affected.

Drinking impairs brain cell formation

Everyone thinks they’re a smart-arse when they are young. Years later we cling to the idea we were, once. Despite the self-inflicted damage, some drinkers see it as a duty, a public service.

Chicken feed

Walk into the pen carrying leftover pasta or chopped cold baked potatoes and it’s like a scene from Jurassic Park. Ninja chickens ain’t in it: the little sods hover at chest height, savaging anything they can get their beak into.

General Maintenance

It wouldn’t be a Monday if I didn’t spend an hour or two rodding the drains. I have just been swopping notes with a neighbour who was likewise engaged and we are both impressed with what lives beneath the ground. You read stories about people flushing exotic pets down the sewer but all we have managed to come up with today is three live green frogs and two dead brown rats.

Trekking has minority appeal

It was wild out on the moor yesterday and this morning it hadn’t improved; hardly Frankenstorm I know, but it was guaranteed to blow the cobwebs away. There are plenty of youngsters tramping through the mud in pursuit of DofE glory, a number are bivouacked over the back. It would be interesting to know if the participants represent a cross section of our schools system. Girls appear to match male participants in terms of numbers; however, while you see an occasional ethnic, Asian primarily, black participants are as rare as hot summer days. Minibuses originate from Orpington rather than Lewisham. I’m assuming of course that everyone agrees outward bound activities are a necessary component of what’s considered to be a rounded education, one of the confidence-building activities that enable kids to look corporate recruiters in the eye ... Although the jobs market for school leavers is reportedly dire, you read of blue-chip organizations such as Williams F1 struggling to find suitable applicants for their apprenticeships. Are schools really that poor at teaching basic maths? Part of the reason I came late to literature is that, as school kids, the girls sat in one corner reading Jane Austen while we sat in the opposite corner clutching our log tables.

Friday, October 26

Changing of the guard

As a teenager I never got Jimmy Savile. The lad was always an embarrassment when fronting TOTP. I never understand who the BBC thought he appealed to with that fruitcake act of his? Rather belatedly, television (or rather their audience research) has determined eccentricity has had its day. Although AA Gill may beg to differ, it’s another indication of changing social mores.

Changing the clocks

David Runciman and his longer hours of daylight. This is exactly the sort of thing that pisses us off down here at this time of year.

Methinks it is time to switch on the heating

I know, I know … and it isn’t even November. But damn, it is cold out there; soon be time to break out the woolly vests. Part of the fun of autumn is raking and disposing of humungous quantities of fallen leaves, only to wake the following morning and discover overnight winds have done their worst. I guess it beats a trip to the gym, and probably keeps me out of trouble. On the plus side the mud appears to have dried a little. Unbelievably I found it necessary to cut the grass. Hopefully my last waltz around the grounds with a mower this side of next spring. I bet James Bond doesn’t do this sort of shit.

Thursday, October 25

No one knows how the future will pan out

Hess to sell its interests in the Beryl area fields. A late good friend and mentor fronted the engineering end of the Beryl field development during the 1970s. Back then it was not uncommon to view the North Sea as a relatively short term phenomenon. It was inferred that, by the mid-1980s, whatever could be discovered would have been discovered and developed, and be operated by a relatively small number of shore-based personnel. If you were a young lad, career prospects had something of an ephemeral feel. Decades later the Beryl area is still going strong, and it is the sons of those young lads who now work offshore on the rigs and platforms. Back then the SNP crashed and burned. I wonder if their legs are any stronger this time around?

The Lighthouse

Last night I escorted Mrs G to the Opera. It was a Scottish ghost story with a maritime flavour so it ticked a couple of boxes. Actually Peter Maxwell Davies’ chamber opera is more Islands than Highlands but we won’t split hairs. Although the production was limited to a cast of three and had a relatively short time span it was well worth the trip to Exeter’s Northcott Theatre. The Lighthouse has been extensively reviewed in the papers this past couple of weeks, and I’ve little to add excepting the obvious relevance of a turn of the century ghost story to contemporary life. Mansfield Park was playing last week and Mrs G would have had to come up with a lot more than a couple of pints of IPA and packet of crisps to get me there. The Flannan story, however, reminds me of a typical day at the office – large portions of guilt, obsession and demonic vision. Life writ large, with a BBC style cover up to reinforce the point. What I would comment on, apart from the excellence of the ice cream served at the interval, was Northcott's audience demographic. For a theatre located at the heart of one of the largest university campuses in Britain and one that’s just made it into the top ten, I was surprised to note that 90% of the punters were aged between sixty and ninety – with seemingly more towards the higher end of the spectrum. When the guy in the next seat bent over his programme with a Sherlock Holmes-size magnifying glass, you began to suspect that the audience itself was comprised of ghosts from the past.

Wednesday, October 24

Christmas already

I appreciate it is only October (although it hasn’t prevented the local garden centre from pigging out on Santa Clauses and reindeer), however, today’s special at the Whistlestop was a treat: a Christmas-themed lunch of roast turkey, those little sausages wrapped in bacon, savory stuffing and the full supporting cast. An absence of funny hats and Brussels sprouts didn’t seem to bother the clientele. There is a good butcher’s adjacent to the cafe, so specials tend to reflect whatever has reached its sell-by date. Steak-day is always value for money. I suspect I’ve eaten more roasts this past twelve months than in the previous twenty years – and still only 130lbs (I think I’ve got worms). This afternoon I laid nine critter traps without once severing a finger. Another record!

Even Wednesdays sometimes feel like Mondays

The mild weather clings to us for another day. But for the rustle of falling leaves, outside it is silent. No cock pheasant to greet me this morning? I assume the ground is carpeted with autumn debris as the day has yet to penetrate the fog. Land Rovers trundle by in the dark, en route to work. I light the fire and make tea…wrestle a chicken to ground and syringe gloopy medicine down its throat. Chop wood. Some mornings, usually in the depths of winter, I question our motives – what brought us here. Then you read the daily news and a spring returns to your step.

Tuesday, October 23

Younger generations screwed

Mervyn King’s cheery prognosis, reported in the Financial Times. The Bank governor urged Britain to be “patient” in the face of a difficult global economic adjustment, which may force younger generations to “live under its shadow for a long time to come”. On the plus side they are unlikely to bump into Jimmy Savile.

Usual run around

A brief pit stop at the garage to rectify a problem with the motor; on to the vet – an injection for one of the chickens (which duly crapped on the back seat of motor); before calling in at the dentist to have a crown cemented back into place; … and duly finishing with a pint at the Dog & Duck, and a packet of crisps for the chicken.

The return of George Smiley

Oh! what a tangled web we weave…When first we practice to deceive! Given the potential for a German hegemony in Western Europe, and the choice of our new best friends, I would like to believe Cameron and the boys are a lot more switched on than the reptiles our media allude to. BP’s drift from the Gulf of Mexico to Moscow suggests a changing of the guard, a partnership that – if you believe the press – was helped in no small part by a growing rapprochement between our Prime Minister and the Kremlin. Right now the future is as clear as the fog obscuring the homestead. I watched BBC Four’s Timeshift last night, The British Army of the Rhine. It was barely a generation ago but very much another time, another world. Most UK voters probably take as much an interest in foreign affairs as the American viewers who watched yesterday’s presidential debate. Until it jumps up and bites you, that is.

Monday, October 22

Proper Job Chilli

I’ve experimented enough over the past thirty-odd years to appreciate what works, and what works for me is taste over heat. Although there’s an element of pot luck to every batch I rarely turn out a dud. Dartmoor Chilli Farm is a boon to local enthusiasts. They produce a wide variety of fresh and dried chillies. I pulp a selection of their fresh chillies (several) with a hand blender, together with an onion and a couple of garlic cloves. This is fried off in a little oil and mixed into three-pounds of chopped brisket that has been browned in batches (mince is for babies and octogenarians with no teeth). To this I add a tin of chopped tomatoes and tablespoon of tomato puree, a half-bottle or more of Proper Job IPA, teaspoon of paprika, a tablespoon of cumin and peppercorns (pre heated in a frying pan and ground), two bay leaves, a teaspoon of dried oregano and sprig of fresh thyme. Finally I bung in a carrot for sweetness and colour, salt to taste, and a couple of dried (rehydrated) poblano and chipotle chillies for depth of flavor (licorice and smoke). Slowly bring to a simmer then leave to bubble for two or three hours. Cool overnight before skimming off any excess oil. Reheat (don’t boil), taste check (again), and if necessary (the beef should have begun to break down) thicken with a little corn flour. I used to buy masa flour but it was always past its sell by date by the time I got around to using it. Whilst some would add cayenne to the mix I prefer a few drops of Tabasco sauce if required, as a condiment. Although this might not be the greatest chilli in the world, it’s a vast improvement on the ubiquitous kidney bean infested chilli con carne – and much more nutritious than a salad.

Saturday, October 20

Scottish culture

Buckfast and tablet ale. Music to the ears of the BMA.

Cooking up a storm

You’d think it would be difficult to best yesterday’s fare, but that would be to disregard the delights of cold sliced lamb atop a mound of locally grown watercress coated with Mrs G’s special dressing (not to mention my pomegranate, parsley and garlic yogurt). A good part of the morning was devoted to the latest batch of ‘Proper Job Chilli’, however, we’ll come to that later.

Friday, October 19

When worlds collide


Born in a cross-fire hurricane may be wistful exaggeration, however, the Stones 50 year documentary stands as a reminder of formative years. They say you remain grounded in the music that provided the soundtrack to your 17th year, and in my case this included Jumping Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man. A pretty lame cultural touchstone maybe, but then the contemporary alternative is what exactly?

Guns and barbeque

The neighbour was out last night shooting rabbits. Can’t say I’ve seen that many around this past month, unlike the pheasants which are thick on the ground (as you would expect at this time of year). Doubtless there’ll be plenty more guns out and about over the weekend. Given this is South Hams rather than North Devon I note a brace retails in the butcher’s for £7.50 rather than the more usual four or five quid. Mind you the local florist sells anemones for £8 a bunch! It’s a nice enough place but Knightsbridge it ain’t … There is a lot of ploughing underway across the slopes and yesterday’s gulls have given way to flocks of crows. If you ignore their pagan cawing the place is reasonably quiet, no wind to speak of. In fact as this is such a nice day I can’t help but fire up the barbeque. A shoulder of lamb is being prepared as I speak, boned out and stuffed with chorizo, breadcrumbs, thyme, rosemary, garlic and lemon.

Update: The lamb was outstanding. Red rice together with a chilli and mango salsa were perfect partners. Today has been one of those rare, close to perfect days. The coffee machine was returned and a new blend introduced. Best of all I caught the mole that has been causing me so much grief. During the course of this past month the little bugger’s undermined a significant section of the yard. I’m not talking a three-inch dia. tunnel so much as the little sod’s constructed a scaled model of London’s underground system. There are Jubilee lines to the fore, Circle and City lines way out to the extremities. Having tried four different traps I now know what works, and its relatives are toast.

Thursday, October 18

Britishisms

It appears the septics have sussed our lingo.

Woman’s Hour Power List

Alice Feinstein the editor of Woman’s Hour confirms that women excel in certain areas and in lots of jobs, but are crap at many other occupations.

England salvage a draw

Hey a point’s a point, though England’s ball possession remains risible. Maybe St George’s Park the newly opened national football centre will improve our almost non-existent skills on the ball. Sadly it will not be in my lifetime. Rooney, the forlorn hope, has failed to bridge the gap between outstanding club player and world-class international. It turned pear-shaped for me the moment Poland’s Domarski put the ball in the net.

Chicken shit bingo

At US$ 500 a square the California version sounds a bit rich; however, this sort of thing could work on a quiet night at the Dog & Duck, especially if Mrs G’s chickens received a cut for their participation. That said the visiting Brit cynic is probably right in regards to meeting with official approval.

To hide in plain sight

The look is broadly familiar, although some of us achieve anonymity more easily than others.

Wednesday, October 17

The secret of success

Find something you enjoy doing then keep practising until you become good at it.

Thomas Cromwell lives again

“You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize and two come along at once.” Good for the girl. She may not be the greatest prose writer of modern times as Stothard asserts, but I enjoyed both Wolf Hall and its predecessor, and am looking forward to the final part of the trilogy. It also means I can put off reading Will Self’s book for a while longer. A 400 page non-linear stream of consciousness novel about a misdiagnosed woman in a north London mental hospital, with no chapter divisions and almost without paragraph breaks, doesn’t exactly sound like a laugh a minute. I bumped into smiley when he was writing Umbrella; he had hidden himself away in a flat down the road that belongs to one of his mates.

Tuesday, October 16

So much for an early night

I spent the day hunting moles, wading in a field of mud, painting sheds (two coats) and running errands, knowing that at least tonight I would be prostrate on my sofa watching the footy. What a bunch of plonkers…

Pre match supper

High on the list of favourite autumn dishes are this evening’s lamb hearts, preferably stuffed with dates, apple and walnuts, before being braised in a suitably rich sauce. Thanks to celebrity chefs and their signature dishes, many of the old cuts that were once acquired from your local butchers for pennies have gone by the way. Fortunately sheep’s hearts, in fact hearts of any description, have yet to find general acceptance. These came my way from a neighbour who sends his animals to the abattoir and doesn’t even ask for the dodgy bits back. The only decision to make is whether to accompany the meal with a Chianti or Rioja.

Monday, October 15

Civilisation?

Following eight caffeine-free days (the coffee machine is in dock for its bi-annual service) we had little choice other than to venture up town for multiple cups of Columbian organic. After six years the jury is still out with regards to Exeter. The city has many good points. It is a thoroughly modern city, a mix of shiny shopping malls and well maintained municipal buildings, is surrounded by well ordered retail and industrial estates. However, the preponderance of well scrubbed students and its comfortable M&S-clad residents afford the city something of an updated Happy Days feel. John Lewis opened a store last week and that was very much true to type. Not knowingly undersold, but Selfridges it ain’t. I guess Exeter could be a clone of many other provincial cities throughout the UK…over time you could lose the will to live.

The ultimate adrenaline rush

As far as someone who craps himself when up on the roof of his shed is concerned, you can dismiss the Olympics, Ryder Cup and Grand Prix racing as trifling stuff. For me, Felix Baumgartner wins it for balls of the year. Of course then you go on to think of what it must be like to work in bomb disposal on a day to day basis.

Sunday, October 14

Sunshine brings out the crowds

A change of management at one of the local hostelries, resulting in much improved fare: presentation 4, execution 3.5, service 4. That’s a pretty good rating hereabouts. As it is that time of year they are serving Dragon’s Breath on tap; a hint of treacle, smoke and winter fruits. It worked well enough with the roast pork. There are lots of visitors in the area…busy roads. The moor is knee-deep in walkers; more canoeists that you can shake a stick at. I’ve settled for an afternoon snooze.

Overheard at next table between plonker and son/nephew: “Don’t aim too high: you risk disappointment.”

Saturday, October 13

The sage

I’m sitting here munching on a bowl of Mrs G’s pear and plum crumble and supping a glass of something warming that originated beneath the rugged peaks of Ben Rinnes. The focus of my attention, however, is directed at Russell's History of Western Philosophy. I seem to have been plodding through this particular tome for an age. In my defense I was sidetracked by something more interesting that dropped in my lap. Still, onwards and upwards…I’ve only a several chapters to go, having made it all the way to The Romantic Movement – Rousseau. What a bunch of pricks. Roll on Nietzsche and Marx: yes it’s that bad. Still, another box that had to be ticked…older and wiser, so they say.

Brass monkeys and crocks of gold

It’s not quite that cold, although last week’s welcome 16º has now degenerated to a bracing 6º. When out on the moor the wind chill emphasizes the change. Needless to say it’s wet; torrents r-us. And given I’d been running around like a blue-arsed fly this morning I was a touch knackered by the end of the walk. What with our trees thinning out and the new paint job you can spot mon repos from a mile or two out. From that distance it looked like a rainbow was touching down in the yard – a not an uncommon sight in this neck of the woods. I guess the £25 cheque in today’s post courtesy of Mr Premium Bonds could count as a crock of gold.

Foot in mouth

O how the mighty … Hoisted on their own petard is probably going it a bit strong, but, after the recent revelations that BBC personnel are an incestuous bunch of self-employed tax fiddlers who work, eat and sleep together, their self-righteous anti-Murdock anti-press campaign now appears but a distant memory, lost in a firestorm of child abuse. Last night’s Have I got news for you was an attempt to front it out by turning on fairly easy targets like the Daily Mail – and why not, you have to fight your corner – but I would imagine that, at least for the remainder of this parliament, their continuing to occupy the high moral ground will be seen as increasingly untenable.

Friday, October 12

Sustainable fishing

The latest Fishlove campaign appears more to my taste than Hugh’s Fish Fight.

Lunch break

It’s those little projects that turn out to be the most infuriating. Over the years I have lost count of the number of lavatory seats I’ve changed out. It is usually one of the first things you do when moving into a new home. Not that I’m particularly fussy, but there’s always one that offends the sensibilities. In our current residence, latrine number three contains a heavyweight mahogany job that was probably acquired in the early days of the last century when crappers moved indoors. It is a decidedly manky-looking piece of kit, and from the looks of it has seen more arses than the Palace of Westminster. Unscrewing its rusted nuts from their retaining bolts is in itself a health hazard, given what lurks in the darkened recesses. Of course even with usual soaking of MD-40 they never give; and as there is an insufficient gap, a hacksaw is useless. In the end I had to drill a series of holes through the back of the seat and chisel the bolts out. Fun days, eh? It’s difficult to get nostalgic over those outside thunder boxes of childhood days and the torn strips of newspaper nailed to the wall. This afternoon I am back on mole duty.

Thursday, October 11

More boring weather stuff

Just when you thought the rain was spent … It is horrendous this morning. Waterproof clothing and wellies help, are mandatory, but the wet stuff still penetrates. I wish it penetrated the ground but as that’s essentially sodden peat and impermeable rock there’s nowhere to go. On the plus side we do sit on relatively high ground and most of the torrent flows on past. Downhill doesn’t bear thinking about, and you don’t want to be out in the motor. Visibility remains intermittent, the mist comes and goes; tractors, quad bikes and livestock pass by unseen.

Tuesday, October 9

Solitude

It’s my favourite weather this morning: an all enveloping impenetrable mist with a dash of light drizzle. It affords that warm, seemingly divorced from the world, kind of feeling.

Pecking order … Mrs McG. returns from Ike Godsey’s with the usual supplies. I get a packet of Mackie’s haggis-flavoured crisps and two bottles of ale; the chickens a forty-quid tub of vitamin-enhanced treats.

Monday, October 8

Grammar schools and clever skinheads

John Redwood is exploring the role of grammars in our state education system. If there’s one thing that gets parents dander up, it is the subject of grammar schools. I should say ‘some’ parents, because – as in the recent comments about private school bursaries that go begging – little skinheads with St George’s Cross tattoos will almost certainly be excluded. They will be excluded from grammars not least because of their parents. What the TES article may or may not confirm is that behind every aspirational Asian or Afro-Caribbean child that competes for bursaries there is a committed, ambitious parent. If grammar schools were solely to help poor kids get a step on the ladder I might be less opposed to them, though I still think the State favouring one kid over another because he/she dropped lucky in the genetic stakes remains wrong. Unfortunately, I suspect that grammars are less about helping poor kids and more about assisting middle-class kids with pushy parents who don’t want to put their hands in their pockets. I note that Redwood talks about parents who are ‘not rich’ rather that poor. Hey, if a comprehensive is good enough for Millipede…

Icons of a British childhood…


… in today’s Guardian. Mine has to be the Buntline Special, from a personal armory that included spud guns, pop guns, cap pistols, water pistols and ray guns. Modern day child psychologists would probably have a field day, but back then it was very much Woody meets Buzz Lightyear.

Sandbags at the ready

Whilst it’s true to say we’ve had a bit of rain in recent times, this past couple of hours came close to breaking the record. The ground was already sodden; you literally sink into the yard. Anything that falls around the house has nowhere to go, and this morning came dangerously close to breaching the back-door. Given how the rain used to cascade through the rear entrance of South London Mansions, it feels just like the old days. More wet stuff is due over the coming week, so in my spare time I’m back clearing drains and guttering. At least the wet stuff keeps the chickens clean and ponies watered. The prospect of a return to dryer summers has been forecast by the University of Reading’s Professor Rowan Sutton, although I note his prediction is prefixed by the standard weather man/climate change scientist crap about forecasts and causal links being more a stab in the dark than anything we should take seriously.

Sunday, October 7

The next Archbishop of Canterbury, who cares?

I’m sitting here listening to Sky News, which leads with the church service in support of April Jones from St Peter’s church in Machynlleth. As comforting as the prospect appears I can’t bring myself to believe in a deity. That said it would be difficult to ignore the church’s position as one of the cultural touchstones of contemporary Britain. Whilst much has been made about our lack of faith, that as a nation of agnostics, atheists even, we see religion as more a source of trouble than comfort, if recent events are to be believed – whether April Jones, the murdered police women Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, or during such celebrations as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – the public’s appetite for demonstrations of public worship know no bounds. As a former marketing man I fail to understand how the church continually fails to tap into this seemingly sympathetic customer base, to push on what appears an open door. Far be it for me to give advice to the Church of England, but if they wish to attract more members, perhaps Williams’ replacement should at the least own a comb and razor, look a little less like one of the homeless and more like one of those user-friendly breakfast television presenters people appear to coo over.

Stereotype

You don’t like to do it, but…in the coffee shop this morning, all of the customers (couples, boomers) opened their Sunday newspapers, and, the women grabbed the style magazines, their husbands the motoring section.

Conversely, the environs of Totnes appear to contain the highest per capita number of Staffordshire Bull Terriers outside of the Black Country.

Same old, again

I won’t say it’s becoming tedious, blaming the boomers, but then I guess inter-generational strife is not exactly a new phenomenon. Boomers could argue that at least they’ve avoided the world wars which defined their parents and grandparents: although it wasn’t for the lack of trying, and it would be to ignore everything from Vietnam to Afghanistan. I continue to stand by my original premise that people, in general, get what they deserve, what they vote for. The fallout from our current economic difficulties – and I suspect it has hardly started – was a collective finger in the ear from both generations. If something looks too good to be true then it usually is. When some idiot tells you he’s abolished boom and bust and that borrowing to spend is a public virtue, you question his sanity – you don’t dive in. Yes we could have done a number of things better than we did. However, it appears the next generation want much of the same.

Friday, October 5

Tonight’s view from the office window

I’m glad I made it out on the hills yesterday as this afternoon was strictly for ducks. The mist has descended and there’s an autumnal feel in the air and on the ground. Another two inches of rain is due this evening. Instead of escaping I knuckled down and sifted through a heap of outstanding paperwork. I do my best to burn or recycle most of what passes across the table, but the necessity for a hard copy continues to cost more trees than our wood-burning stoves. As it’s Mrs G’s turn on the cooker, tonight is large portions of beef shin. What to you and me is braised beef started out as Elizabeth David’s take on Grillade des Mariniers du Rhône, was duly amended by Simon Hopkinson, then further enhanced by Mrs G. Whatever, it remains a favourite. And at three quid a pound doesn’t exactly break the bank, leaving more than enough for the accompanying ’93 Rioja. Coffee and galette des Rois for afters.

Thank god I’m not John Terry

As a consequence of my ‘just off the boat’ throwaway line in an earlier post, and courtesy of the world’s favourite economist, my daily readership count went from twelve to five hundred. It appears there’s nothing like the scent of bigotry to stir the blogosphere. Having followed the two subsequent threads it occurs to me that (a) there’s a lot of lads at their desks with too little to do, (b) for a select number of people, words and phrases mean what ‘they’ say they mean, and (c) whilst it would appear from the comments that we are all prejudiced in one manner or other, some people’s prejudice is somehow deemed to be righteous. I wouldn’t mind so much but I’d recently nominated Mo Farah as my man of the year and had taken to supporting big girls in blouses.

Thursday, October 4

Bullshit baffles brains

Anyone with a GCSE in maths could have averted this disaster, says Simon Calder, in the Indy. I suspect the West Coast rail debacle has less to do with arithmetic and is more about a lack of subject knowledge. I have no idea as to the qualifications and mean age of DfT staff, but suspect there are few in-house railway men with experience, nor even the sort of anorak-clad enthusiasts that spent their formative years collecting numbers on the end of wind-swept platforms. Having whiled away a good part of my life immersed in transport-related tender evaluations I would love to have been a fly on the wall. Over the years, empirical knowledge has given way to the most improbable and complex tick-box assessments imaginable. It has been driven in part by management’s need to demonstrate a scientific approach to the executive and other so-called stake holders. All too often this ‘cover my back’ procedure comes in the form of telephone-sized documents that discourage forensic inspection. It seems Branson’s impending court case has opened a lid on the emperor’s new clothes of current best practice.

Wednesday, October 3

And talking of Millipede…

It’s been a fun day. One of the hens underwent a prolapse, and I’ve spent half the day stuffing its gubbins back inside and smearing Preparation H across the pertinent parts. There are times when I seriously hanker after Quik-E-Mart’s ready packed produce. Ours are excellent eggs but there’s so many of them. A couple of days ago I cooked an eight egg Spanish-style tortilla and it hardly dented the stock. At least we won’t go hungry; and in truth what’s not to like about eggs, they are versatile. Which is more than you can say for the weather these days…global warming, don’t make me laugh. “And what would you like with your rain, sir?” I could say it is good for the garden; however, the moles have taken care of that.

Tuesday, October 2

Scalp: to sell something illegally

This evening, and for the umpteenth time, I watched the Martin Ritt adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel ‘Hombre’. It was purely coincidental that earlier in the day I did a walk-in at the Exeter Gallery and discovered they were running ‘Warriors of the Plains: 200 years of Native North American honour and ritual’. As someone who grew up on Louis L’Amour, JT Edson and Elmore Leonard, Westerns and related memorabilia still resonate. And as luck would have it Exeter reputedly holds one of the strongest collections of Native North American material in the country. In one case there was a rather fetching buckskin coat decorated with an array of scalp locks that I fondly imagined were the remains of Millipede and his cohort. Little more than one generation off the boat, never done an honest day’s work in his life, and on the strength of having attended a comprehensive school our lad’s invoking the one nation paean. No wonder we’ve lost interest.

Monday, October 1

Chicken run

When Mrs G. is striding around the grounds one of the hens has taken to flying up onto the good lady’s shoulder and performing the Long John Silver act. I hadn’t bothered clipping their wings, thinking the birds needed to stay agile in event of a fox attack. However, goaded in part by the neighbour’s pheasants that perch on the branches of surrounding trees, they’ve taken to soaring over both the electric fence and the paddock fence, and having it away on their toes. I guess it’s time to reach for the scissors.