Saturday, September 28

Tough at the top

Mrs G’s antipathy for Moyes strikes me a tad unfair given his brief tenure. After last Sunday’s game, however, there is no stopping the good lady. I could hear her muttering in the kitchen: ‘He’s Ed Miliband in disguise.’ As long as United don’t ask for Jesse Lingard back said I. After this afternoon’s match I’m keeping my distance.

Hammer Films

I woke this morning to a flash of lightning and the sound of thunder, a bat circling overhead. I thought we had an agreement: I stay out of the loft and they steer clear of the bedroom. Spooky though. Mrs G slept on, seemingly oblivious – an occasional flicker from her blood-red eyes. Imagination can get the better of you, living in the sticks.

Tuesday, September 24

Woody Allen’s existential abyss

Some call it the black dog, though the phrase has become clichéd. It seems most everyone and his granny is suffering, hamstrung, that we live beneath a great nefarious cloud. To some it smacks of whining, an appeal for attention – demonstrates a failure to deal with life’s challenges. Grow some balls, they say, act like a man…whatever that means in the modern world. It’s difficult to function well in this emasculated culture of ours when everyone appears ready to take offence and feels cheated of their due. For myself I’m just trying to get from A to B as best I can. If you agree not to burden me with your problems, then I won’t cry on your shoulders.

Sunday, September 22

Blacks and sorrels, bays and pintos

Given it is Sunday and the weather so benign you’d have thought there would be more walkers on the moor. I was out before eight and in t-shirt order. Buzzards, a sparrowhawk, and larks galore…tiny lizards and slugs in equal numbers. And of course the ponies. I returned in time to escort Mrs G. to an open day at the artist Heather Jansch’s studio – her ponies are of a different sort.

Friday, September 20

No fear of sleeping in

The pheasants have returned with their early-morning din, the racket augmented by a scheduled trial of the heating system programmed for six and which shook the homestead. Not that heating is required, given our current spell of mild weather. Having recently relined the chimneys, yesterday I lit all three fires to test their efficiency. Furnaces weren’t in it. It would be comforting to believe we are this toasty in the depths of winter. Although too early for crows to dominate the trees, magpies are plentiful, and the yard is playing host to a score of wood pigeons. The moor is thick with ponies and black-faced sheep. The Tour of Britain’s Stage 6 arrives today, Bradley Wiggins et al. If the neighbours’ new-found enthusiasm for bicycles is anything to go by, it’s proving an inspiration.

Thursday, September 19

Mrs G. at the hairdresser

How good to have the house quiet
all to myself again, to be able to walk
towards a room and know
I shall be the only one there
no movement except my movement
no sounds except the sounds I make
(Geoffrey Squires)

Carrots, Beetroot and Fennel

... courgettes, tomatoes, red cabbage, beans, squash, onions, kale and corn. We ate an outstanding supper last night. It was billed as an evening with Guy Watson, the man behind Riverford Organic Farms. He describes himself as a left of centre anarchist, and given the lad’s formidable size I wouldn’t argue the toss. Riverford sells vegetable boxes to food conscious consumers and boasts a turnover in excess of £45m. This is a lot of carrots and must make them one of the largest employers in the immediate area. His entertaining banter enlivened a meal that, typical of the Field Kitchen restaurant, was heavy on the vegetables. If you are thinking of converting to a meat-free diet this would be a good source of inspiration, albeit last night’s feather-blade beef was cooked to perfection. As always the puddings were outstanding.

Wednesday, September 18

Ten billion smackeroos down the plug hole

As with so many things, especially when you’re playing with other people’s money, the old adage about it seeming like a good idea at the time seems most relevant. It’s no use whining about piss-ups and breweries, every organisation you’re likely to work for – come to that, every home in the country – loses a fair percentage of its hard-earned cash through making dumb mistakes, from poor investments. Just look at crappy Italian designer suit you bought, those kids you sired. Will we see anyone banged up for the abandoned NHS IT system? Is Fred Goodwin languishing in jail? You have to be sanguine about this sort of thing and ride with the punches. Continue to get up every morning as you always do, trudge into work and put your nose to the grindstone. Then at the end of the month when they hand you a cheque with half of your due missing, you can be gratified that someone somewhere is gainfully employed and having fun spending it for you. Clegg and Cameron are just typical of the new breed of 21st Century philanthropists.

Tuesday, September 17

Time to chop more wood

Although it is far too early to switch on the heating, what with the drop in temperature (14º inside the homestead) and the persistent rain, it’s good to see a fire back in the grate. Along with a bottle of Speyside’s finest it is one of my principal guilty pleasures. There may be some sort of Spartan virtue, a certain manly satisfaction, in dismissing the vagaries of our climate, but once my body temperature falls below a certain level I feel like a character in an episode of Cadfael ... It appears my copper bracelet is not the panacea I’d hoped.

Monday, September 16

They don’t get it

A vote for UKIP is a vote for a Labour government, says Peter Osborne. The Tories, he says, need to impress upon the electorate the downside to voting UKIP: Ed Miliband as prime minister. What Osborne and the Tories fail to grasp – and I can only go on what I pick up at the Dog & Duck – is the sheer bloody-mindedness of the people involved. They’re past voting for the best worst-option and are prepared to accept the status of a minority group, providing the party they support – whether elected or not – specifically and exclusively addresses and promotes the interests of their particular tribe, and that appears to be UKIP. I don’t believe these voters are too fussed about who sits at the top table, be it Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative.

Sunday, September 15

Let’s hear it for grouse

They were a tad ripe to say the least, but damn it the birds were good – surpassing, even, last night’s partridge. Having cooked the little suckers a la Tebbit, served them up on fried-bread trenchers and accompanied by bacon and damson jelly, the bread sauce – as the old boy suggested – was superfluous. And of course it was an excuse to sample the Famous Grouse itself. Today’s storm appears to have run its course and there’s blue sky to the north east. My waterproofing efforts have worked out reasonably well, although I’ve some remedial work tomorrow.

Small mercies

Wind farm opponents live in the ‘stone age’ says Lib Dem nut job who would doubtless have us rubbing sticks together in preference to building nuclear power stations. But what can you expect from a party whose principal policy initiative is to pay a surcharge of 5p for not shopping online. Then again I guess we could be governed by a coalition that included the Greens – real nut jobs. From the periphery of our homestead it appears all the Conservatives have to do in order to walk the next election is to bung mothers a couple of quid and undertake a slight body swerve to the right. My money’s on a move to the right, but via a Labour/UKIP coalition. Trust me it’s not as daft as it sounds, though Labour would have to dump the Wally that’s leading them and grow some balls.

Normal life resumes

After a rude interruption for two international games it’s good to have the footy back. As with the seasons, the turning of the tide, the game provides a reassuring continuity to life. Saturdays (and Sundays) aren’t quite the same sans the anticipation, the coverage and subsequent analysis – though I can’t say I’ve come across much in the way of enthusiasm for football amongst my rural neighbours ... Commiserations to James Dickens, down but hopefully never out – a great fight.

Saturday, September 14

A return to root vegetables

Another local foodie meet today: the Ashburton Food and Drink Festival. There were a number of the usual faces on show, including a selection of Devon’s celebrity chefs. Returned with a bag of partridge and grouse, the latter imported from Yorkshire – scuttling back in time to catch the footy commentary on the wireless. As it happens it has turned out a pleasant afternoon, prior to what is being billed as our first real storm of the season – a chance to test how well I’ve done with regards to waterproofing the homestead. We may be losing the summer sun but it’s good to see parsnips and neeps back on the plate. And talking of turnips...today was the fourth successive defeat for City, their worst start to the season for 25 years.

Tuesday, September 10

Arty day out

We spent today touring a selection of venues from the Devon Open Studios. It’s an annual opportunity to visit a number of the county’s artists in their studios, most often their home, to view and discus their work. I’m afraid there were no Van Gogh discoveries, but it is a chance to meet people of a different stripe and to learn from them. Highlight of the day was the veggie burger I ate for lunch. Spotty-faced Goths they may be, but assuming you’re ok with beetroot and garlic, the food ain’t bad. The wine left something to be desired.

Same old

Attenborough says the boomers generation is as good as it gets, and without natural selection the future is all downhill. Greek philosophers probably sat around arguing a similar thing. At least the old boy’s not suggesting we let runts die, or promote war and disease as a means of culling the population – as he says, humans are a resourceful species.

Monday, September 9

Irish whiskey is making a comeback

Last week I toasted Heaney’s departure with a glass of Green Spot, my current tipple of the month. After a century of decline Irish whiskey is making a comeback, together with spuds and crubeens. It seems the growth is down to young people coming of age and developing more sophisticated tastes. That and the frequent reruns of John Ford westerns.

Sunday, September 8

Change in the air

The trees are full of barking crows...only a couple of swallows remain, reluctant to depart. The stonechats have seemingly packed their bags, the wheatears, too. I managed to get out across the moor this morning. A number of runners were training, one or two serious all-terrain cyclists. Grey skies and squally showers above...underfoot, bracken and rush shrouded in spiders’ webs. To the left, ponies hunkered down in the lee of the rocks; to the right, vessels anchored in the bay. Everything appears to be readying itself to turn a corner, to move forward.

Buckshee day

This morning is the first for a while I’ve woken and faced a blank. I haven’t anything scheduled, that needs to be done – requires painting or has to be fixed. And it’s a Sunday, to boot. Eight a.m. and I’m already bored.

Friday, September 6

So much for holidays

So far this week I’ve spent more time up a ladder or fighting the undergrowth than on my backside. I haven’t walked on the moor for a couple of weeks. That said my stomach isn’t complaining: we are eating good food. Today’s lunch party included a couple of girls on a literary retreat and a classic refugee from the summer of love. Most every person I meet appears to be a neurologist or general medical practitioner, and am I really the only lad in Devon who hasn’t attended Oxbridge or art school? I need to get back to Dog & Duck.

Thursday, September 5

Sweet tomato

This summer has easily been our best since moving to this part of the world. Tomorrow, however, things change. So for our last day of sunshine (and in the interest of further research) we walked a local farm in the company of a keen horticulturalist, sampling the produce, not least the dozen or so varieties of tomato grown on site in polytunnels (the gang boss is an Italian national). It seems nonsensical for us to consider growing our own when there’s so much fresh produce available locally. But then why bother to cook when the Quik-E-Mart has a chill cabinet.

Wednesday, September 4

They’re banged up again.

Let’s hear it for the start of another school term.

Monday, September 2

On holiday

This morning we began our staycation, holidaying from home. First duty was to pick up the new motor from the dealers; the remainder of the day being spent familiarising myself with something six inches wider and what seems a foot higher than our traditional mode of transport. After 160 miles of Devon/Cornish lanes I’m reasonably comfortable, but an evening studying the vehicle’s manual will certainly help. The onboard computer is a challenge, as is the stereo which is far superior to the sound system in the office ... It appears an Indian summer is a strong possibility, providing – if this afternoon is a guide – you stay away from the north Cornish coast.

Peas and carrots

Yesterday’s trip to River Cottage HQ was worth the effort. We spent the day with Craig Rudman, a man who certainly knows his onions. Despite a predilection for scientific names the lad was a mind of advice on such things as rhizome inoculants and the necessity for thermal stability in the subsoil ... precautionary tales about the constituent parts of municipal compost and unscrupulous seed merchants. His overriding principals appeared to be a necessity for quality soil, a large polytunnel, and the need for plenty of graft. The day attracted a variety of punters, from surfer Rastafarian roadies to the cashmere and diamonds brigade, and included a leisurely three-course lunch, along with a demonstration of how to hot-smoke pigeon breasts from one of their chefs – a cheeky chappie from Islay.