Thursday, May 30

UKIP attracts the black vote

“… when you put them under the microscope, you discover that the details are much more complicated than you imagined.” There aren’t enough column inches to discuss this subject in depth, and you probably have to live in South London to appreciate the rationale.

Wednesday, May 29

Fishing with a heron

This morning I walked to a local reservoir and fished in the company of a magnificent grey heron, a bird that dates to the Bronze Age. Alongside us were enclosures, pounds and hut circles from the late Bronze Age. I’m told buildings of both that period and the medieval era lie beneath the water. In Shakespeare’s time herons were considered cowardly birds, roast heron being the sort of thing you served to someone thought lacking in courage – presumably garnished with a white feather. Ginger and mustard sauce was also a popular accompaniment. Although I landed six brown trout with a small spinning lure, as veal is on tonight’s menu all were returned to the water. The heron can catch his own.

Even with the weather...

It seems there’s a disconnect between what I read in the papers and the actuality of life in the UK. We’ve made it into the top ten of the world’s happiest bunnies, our equanimity a reflection of general satisfaction with our environment, education, housing and employment prospects. I guess we just like to moan a little. This is good news for Cameron: if everyone is so happy they’re unlikely to rock the boat.

Tuesday, May 28

Circling the wagons

It wasn’t quite so bad on the moor this morning, albeit I returned from my trek dripping wet. Yesterday’s deluge culminated in a group of boy scouts requesting permission to seek shelter under the homestead’s porch until their ride arrived. None of the lads looked much over three feet in height; we have deeper puddles in the yard. Despite the wet stuff the countryside is looking wonderful. The lanes are multiple shades of green, gold and russet, embellished with a brilliant array of wild flowers and colourful songbirds. And so quiet! Not even the roar of a quad bike. Unlike Totnes, that is. It’s a nightmare down there, with what seems like half of Britain decamped for the holidays. Visitors wander around town in a trance, as you do on holiday; getting under your feet, buying up all of the bread and newspapers. Trusted brand Costa would have been doing a roaring trade.

Two old buddies surfaced this week. The first was inebriated. The lad only rings when he’s pissed; I guess that’s when I spring to mind. The second was belated news of the death of another friend, a native of Turriff with an enormous appetite for life. He’d collected a chest-full of medals over the years including a BEM, and died on the golf course. Sixty is no age to go, but then no time is ever a good time.

Monday, May 27

Palace elevated to the Premier League

Whilst disappointing on the Dortmund front, congrats to Palace – and to Kevin Phillips and Ian Holloway. There’s hope for us all. I imagine there will be lots of celebrating in Beckenham, West Kingsdown and throughout South London this evening.

Sunday, May 26

Sunburnt in May

Today’s fine weather has certainly encouraged visitors. I was on the moor at eight this morning and walkers were already wending their way up the hill, teetering beneath the weight of their haversacks. Let’s hope they packed waterproofs for tomorrow. Following a subsequent visit to a local food festival where we acquired necessary supplies I was obliged to return home and knuckle down, to trim the undergrowth – spend an hour or so applying an annual lawn treatment, to saw some logs for this evening’s fire .... Watching the weekend news on television only reinforces the distance from our previous life at South London Mansions. What I recall of our time in the borough is that people were forever being stabbed, shot or beaten, without ever making it into the newspapers. It takes the Muslim/terrorist label to turn tragedy into a circus.

Saturday, May 25

Bank holiday

A weekend of Dam Busters and Ben-Hur. At least we have a footy match this evening. I will of course be supporting Borussia Dortmund. My three years residency and a sporadic attendance record at home matches hardly qualifies me as a supporter, but you have to hang your hat somewhere and it is part of my history. The hero of those times was Siggi Held; he must be fairly long in the tooth by now. Anyway I have the pilsner on ice, and Mrs G. is knocking up a dish of currywurst for half-time snacks.

Friday, May 24

Changing behaviour

It can be so satisfying, calling a spade a spade – to vent your spleen. If only ... Truth is these days we take a deep breath before sounding off. Sally Bercow aside and even in the face of extreme provocation most people are surprisingly polite. I guess it’s the British way. Everyone has inherited prejudices, likes and dislikes – shit we’re human; but by the time you get to a certain age you are likely to have accumulated so diverse a collection of friends, relatives and acquaintances that there’s no place to go. And whilst it was once common to prefix greetings and asides that reflect a colleague’s nationality/ethnicity/persuasion/... nowadays you bite your tongue. It isn’t he will take offence – he’s a mate and gives as good as he gets – it’s the thought his kids might be offended. And no one wants to offend his friend’s kids. As with fried breakfasts, it’s another of life’s pleasures you’re obliged to let fall by the wayside.

Tuesday, May 21

A gnome free environment

Although the Chelsea Flower Show isn’t my thing I’ve plenty of friends and acquaintances that get off on dirty finger nails. Mrs G. is an enthusiast. The neighbour invited me around this morning to check out his garden, something he’s rightly proud of. I say he but in truth it’s Mrs Neighbour who does the heavy lifting. Five acres of majestic trees and breathtaking rhododendrons; a vista of exotic flora and fauna, dissected by a trout steam – what more could you ask? It’s his potting-shed whisky that does for me.

Sunday, May 19

“What’s in it for me?” you ask

Whether swivel-eyed or not. According to Danish scientists, men with significant upper-body strength are more likely to be right-wing. Which – as a strapping nine-stone son of Zeus – leaves me wondering exactly where I stand on the political spectrum? In the old days, despite a natural aversion to Geoffrey Howe and Ken Clarke, I was always considered a left of centre Tory, a wet. Now, however, I’m at a loss to know where the centre lies, or even if such a thing exists. Life used to be reasonably simple, a seemingly straight fight between goodies and baddies. These days most everyone appears a baddie, intent on promoting the interests of one or other special interest group – usually to your detriment. No one appears to be selling anything you want, most probably because you can’t have that any more. Which is fair enough, life – the world – moves on ... and the bunker wall grows ever thicker. Or to quote Motörhead’s hard-rocking, whisky-fuelled front man in today’s Sunday Times, “Politicians – well, they’re all a bunch of c****s.”

Saturday, May 18

Almost the last day of the footy season

Although three inches of snow fell in Princetown on Wednesday the cold stuff is a distant memory. At six this morning the sun was already warming the grass and the yard was alive with rabbits and pheasant, blackbirds were collecting sprigs from amongst the herbs. Along with a song thrush they have been singing since four-thirty. Great tits and chaffinches hunt for insects amongst crevices whilst voles scurry in and out of the rock wall, clouds of insects fill the air. You can hardly roll over and return to sleep on mornings like this, at least not on a Saturday. Too many things require attention. I barbequed a shoulder of lamb yesterday, so we don’t have to worry about being fed. Over the past week our diet has moved from porridge to salad. And most probably a week from now it will back to be porridge again. It can be a challenge, living here: but the compensations ... You only need to read the papers. The life of cul-de-sac man isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Thursday, May 16

David Beckham wouldn’t drive one


Mechanically unsound, perhaps, but what a beaut. Today’s visit to the Devon County Show was, as always, lots of fun. The livestock were a class act. It ain’t the sort of stuff that sits languishing on the shelf of your local superstore. We tasted chargrilled salt marsh lamb, red ruby beef, venison and rare breed pork. The locally-brewed beer was also very good, as was the ice cream. I dragged Mrs G. around the dozen or so car dealers who were displaying their wares in a vain attempt at influencing her decision, alas without success. The Bentley’s were really something, as was the range of farming machinery. However, few could compare with the older motors on display, not least the Austin Healey or the E-Type. Too many contemporary motors look the same ... they are boring. Flying below the radar’s one thing, but I am terrified people will mistake me for a geography teacher. Whilst Haakan Samuelsson may think responsibility is the new cool, David Beckham would never drive one.

The Devon County Show

The biggest show in Devon opens today.

Wednesday, May 15

Crisis of masculinity?

Dianne Abbot says too many young men are joining golf clubs in an effort to become more like their father – a misogynistic, randy old fart who drinks too much. Abbot suggests a fulfilling vocation with BBC Salford and compulsory attendance at antenatal classes could transform their lives.

Tuesday, May 14

No one likes family cars anymore

Who’d have thunk it? According to Honest John only 121 (0.05%) versions of my old favourite, the Princess, remain on the road. Whilst I liked the car (mine was a ’75 model), as with most British Leyland products it turned out to be a piece of crap, the vehicle broke down continuously. I sold it to a neighbour – a Nigerian lad – then promptly changed my address before he asked for his money back. The brother-in-law had a much better eye, buying a Triumph Stag: it appears 25% of those built are still burning up the highways. Unlike most of my friends I can’t get excited about cars. Apart from a Mini – a 1275 GT, and a bullnose Saab coupe, few are memorable. I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to fly beneath the radar and as a consequence have driven a succession of non-descript saloons in metallic grey. This time, however, I’ve given way to Mrs G. I know I’m going to regret it.

Have rod will travel

Time marches on remorselessly. Spring’s first dandelion has given way to the pale-lilac cuckooflower and scented bluebells. And rain, of course ... my nemesis: the one thing that never changes. An opportunity to resurrect my drain rods and refresh the gutters! I bet Mancini doesn’t clean his own gutters.

Monday, May 13

The Cameron proxy

Most people are idle bastards who can’t wire a plug or pull a decent pint, says Boris. We need to behave more like our Teutonic partners and be prepared to work a twelve-hour shift, to do as we’re told – follow orders. Maybe then we would win the Champions League. Boris believes a serious debate about Europe will help us appreciate what a bunch of tossers we really are. At least I think that’s what he’s saying.

Saturday, May 11

It’s lashing down, as the Ten Tors begins

After a very short night the 400 Teams are wide awake(!), breakfasted, kitted up and beginning to make their way to their assembly points at Anthony Stile for the start of Ten Tors 2013 ... Every Team will have trained throughout the winter and early spring, building up their endurance and their knowledge of the moor for this one weekend. Each individual will carry wet and dry weather changes of kit, a sleeping bag, roll mat, food for two days, two litres of water, a map and compass... As a Team of six they will carry between them at least two tents, two stoves, cooking gear and two first aid kits... Armed with this they are about to take on Dartmoor, and whatever weather it might choose to bless them with over the next thirty-six hours.

Actually it’s not that bad out there, a bit windy and (now) only the odd shower. A number of army lads – there’s one thousand providing support – are bivouacked on the slopes above the homestead. There’s also plenty of riders out and about. From their attire and general demeanour it could well be the local hunt taking exercise. Magnificent beasts, the women riders; the horses are big buggers too.

Thursday, May 9

The world’s going to hell in a handcart

Or a golf buggy ... Someone groped my breast when I was sixteen, says Vijay Singh. It ruined my life and I want compensated.

Choice eggs

I have to say the quality of the homestead’s freshly laid eggs is second to none. The chickens eat the finest commercially available feed, augmented by freshly cooked pasta and organically grown vegetables. It appears the clincher, however, is their appetite for slugs and snails and puppy dog tails, including a fair proportion of the homestead’s juvenile lizard population – swallowed whole.

Civil Servants given bonuses

Just for doing their jobs. I’ll give this the benefit of doubt. Back in the 70s, Labour’s Incomes Policy spawned a whole raft of benefits and reimbursable expenses; it gave birth to the company car. Given the current constraints on public spending it is to be expected that ways are found to circumvent the system and reward and retain those members of your team who can read and write.

A discretion/valour sort of thing

Given the media coverage you could be misled into believing it was the Queen that had abdicated rather than Ferguson. As luck would have it, his notice of retirement distracted from a disappointing Queen’s speech. Watching our lords and masters file between chambers yesterday you’d be forgiven for thinking it difficult to assemble a more banal group of individuals. The fact barely one third of us bothered to vote at the recently local elections only serves to underline the old adage about getting what we deserve.

Good luck to Fergie in his semi-retirement, though part of me can’t help reflecting that even Gordon Brown would have come good in the end if he’d have been indulged to the extent that Ferguson has at Old Trafford. I’m obliged to join the tribute band when in Mrs G’s company or else I don’t get fed, discretion being...

Wednesday, May 8

Unleashing my talents

Although you can barely see the end of the yard through the fog and rain it would be churlish to complain: the recent spell of weather is worth a squall or two. It’s back to work this week, on painting duties. In line with the Queen’s speech I’m unleashing my talents ... and already resemble a syphilitic outcast from a St Paddy’s day party. A face of black mottles from the gallon of Hammerite ‘direct to rust’ I was applying has now been enhanced by a coat of bright green Cuprinol. I’m not adverse to paint as such, it is the sanding and wire wool that grates – all that sawdust and iron filings. Fergie doesn’t realise what’s waiting for him at home.

Monday, May 6

Tossers

Whilst it costs as much as it saves to close this so-called pension loophole, whatever kudos the Government thinks it will earn from bashing ‘foreign’ dependants is more than outweighed by public outrage at the thought that (a) the bastards are reneging on yet another agreement, and (b) their rubbishing the concept of providing for your family. This is the same bunch of guys who’ve been busy trashing everyone’s savings and retirement income. I appreciate it’s not quite that simple and this probably needs to be done in order to close a whole bunch of other loopholes but the perception remains.

A return to normal service

After yesterday’s hordes – and apart from a neighbour riding out on her steed – there wasn’t a living soul out on the moor this morning. The only sound either there or back here at the homestead is that of a giant aviary. Amongst the wheatears and snipe, ladybirds, butterflies and oil beetles ... Everything is growing at last.

Sunday, May 5

The sun is always shining for someone

Driving around this morning you could be forgiven for believing half of the country had decamped to Dartmoor for the bank holiday. Some of the roads resemble an Isle of Man TT. In town we were overrun by Morris dancers, along with their black faces and archaic rituals. It looked like Reggie Hunter and his mates taking the piss ... In much the same way Hague was this morning. Don’t keep prodding people, William: they’ll cut off their nose ... should you continue to belittle voters. Whilst the Tories don’t necessarily need to move to the right, UKIP may be more than a protest vote. It could be voters of a certain stripe regard all of you – Conservative, LibDem and Labour – as a discredited (generic) form of politics, and have decided to back someone who represents their specific interests, even if this puts them outside government. In Devon, other than Exeter and Plymouth, the Conservatives have pretty much swept the board. However, UKIP are now installed as the principal party of opposition.

Saturday, May 4

Cats and bags

I’m not convinced this is a sea-change in British politics, though local elections have served to emphasise the gulf that exists between our metropolitan political elite (including the media and much of the commentariat) and a significant number of the electorate. Not the silent majority perhaps, but obviously enough to make themselves heard. And it’s difficult to see these people returning to the fold given the derision heaped upon their heads prior to the election. I suspect they’re not there to be placated: people are out for revenge – to poke someone in the eye with a blunt stick. What they viewed as their country has been irrevocably changed this past two decades, and rather than being persuaded of the need for change they were presented with a fait accompli and told it was good for them. To like it or lump it. The establishment were of one accord and to dissent was to be a reactionary, a fruitcake and most probably a closet racist. To be derided as a Little England Nationalist. Now I doubt a referendum on Europe or pretendy clampdown on immigration will suffice. These people want exclusive representation, and Cameron needs to stay in the centre ground in order to win in 2015.

Thursday, May 2

Local elections

Polling Station open two hours and I am second voter through the door.

Wednesday, May 1

How to get along with strangers

Labour needs to become more libertarian and accept that Thatcher was right about markets, says party guru. I can see this working with the boys from Unite. Miliband may be ‘energetic and smart’ but it would be nice to be a fly on the wall when he suggests to Tom Watson that fat lad should be a little more obsequious and act as a ‘bridge’ to the 1922 Committee. It will be even more fun when one of Labour’s new community organisers knocks at the door and attempts to ingratiate themselves with Mrs G.