Wednesday, October 30

What goes around…

As the proud possessor of the neighbourhood’s largest flat-cap collection, it seems I’m also the coolest…at least in east London. And I have the accent to boot.

The rise of meritocracy

I’ve always had a soft spot for the dim and indolent and been suspicious of those that advocate meritocracy. Why should what is little more than a genetic lottery afford the brightest all of the prizes?

Tuesday, October 29

Rising prices

Whilst it’s not a particularly clever strategy, to accuse the rank and file of pig ignorance, Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner is only stating the obvious. ‘Saving the economy’ comes at a cost. There’s a knock-on from sterling’s depreciation, stagnant incomes and the growing weight of taxes. Rather than the usual flannel, politicians of every stripe should be shouting ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ from Westminster rooftops. I suppose it is not easy to balance the need to instill confidence in the business community at the same time you’re pissing on consumers (voters), but hard facts – the realities of life, would be a refreshing change. Romans had the Colosseum to distract, we have our adversarial parliamentary committees and assorted witch hunts. Whichever party runs the asylum, I suspect continued rationalization of public spending and increased taxes remains the only way to go…unless of course you are pig ignorant or Russell Brand.

Sunday, October 27

Be Prepared

As Baden-Powell was so fond of saying. The vanguard to tonight’s storm has already arrived, with the loss of our electricity. It’s a bright morning but blowing a hooley. I am polishing up the primus stove in readiness.

Friday, October 25

Pork chops

Despite the breeze it was a marvelous day in Dartmouth, sea air and lots to see. The town is only a short run in the motor, and I should visit more often as it generates many memories. Today’s trip was a token visit for the annual food festival. Although there is little new, the Seahorse Restaurant’s suckling pig alone – Mark Hix in attendance – was worth the effort. Most of the galleries are running shows to coincide with the festival, so we did the usual rounds, chatted to the usual faces. Treated myself to a new jacket; sank a couple of pints in a busy hostelry along the lanes.

Wednesday, October 23

Captain Phillips

The Guardian gives 10 reasons why today’s television is better than the movies. Putting the longform storytelling and the fact that Brits are particularly good at television to one side, I would contend the reason our televisions score over the cinema is that you don’t have to sit beside yet another obnoxious nerd, who, when not coughing his lungs up, farting or scratching his armpits, is stuffing ketchup-laden hot dogs down his gullet. The local, dare I say generic, multiplex has all the charm of an empty warehouse and comes with the usual substandard sound system. Instead of Mark Kermode or similar acolytes – enthusiasts, the place is staffed with minimum wage employees serving food and beverages you wouldn’t feed to your livestock. Still, there are times you can’t avoid it – having to visit the cinema that is, even if it’s just for old time’s sake. Today’s movie was Captain Phillips, a biopic relating to the Maersk Alabama’s captain, when the vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates. As a recipient of Maersk hospitality both in Denmark and America, to have missed it would have been remiss – a dereliction of duty so to speak. The film is as diverting as touted, with Hanks giving it his usual best. It takes you back, nonetheless, and was probably instrumental in my choice of drink at the Dog & Duck en route home. I couldn’t quite face Gammel Dansk, but the Lamb’s Navy Rum was a comforting reminder of days gone by.

Tuesday, October 22

Comfort food

I’ll sound like the Daily Express if I continue to bleat on about the weather. But whilst people infer it’s grim up north, the southwest has its moments too. The Met Office suggesting winds would be fairly strong was an understatement, as is the quantity of wet stuff being deposited about the homestead. The original estimate was for 100mm this week and we must have exceeded that already. It is unseasonably mild, however. Despite the gales, the thunder storms, we remain in shirt sleeve order; and truth to tell, rain is a good enough excuse to avoid those outside jobs the Boss had scheduled...To counter the media’s barrage of gloom and doom we are treating ourselves to a medley of game dishes, rabbit, partridge and venison, roasted, stewed and grilled. Damn it’s good...And perhaps because of an unconscious effort to oppose the media misery, I’m currently reading john William’s Stoner. It is kind of a Mr Chips. A story of how we endure, sans the banality of Martin Clunes. Don’t mess with a classic, chummy.

Friday, October 18

Apples, apples everywhere

Thanks to farm visits and neighbours disposing of surplus produce, apples have been in abundance this year. Mrs G. wants to try and grow some of her own and as a consequence I spent part of yesterday with a producer, sampling a score or more of locally grown fruits. His cider wasn’t too shabby either. The general consensus is that nothing will grow at our location, though that’s merely a dare for me to try. We returned home with several varieties of cooking apple and the Boss spent the evening juggling pots and pans, yours truly being obliged to eat and score the results. The cider I had acquired to accompany the taste test was nominally rated at 5% alcohol: this proved to be grossly inaccurate.

Tuesday, October 15

Ignorance is bliss

We have nothing to fear, says Steven Gerrard in this morning’s Times.You’d think the lad would know better. When expectations (grounded in experience) are so low, when failure is the default setting, of course we have nothing to fear. I can still hear the wireless commentary: ‘…and Domarski has scored.’ I kept a cassette recording for years; to assuage the inevitable disappointment, I played it whenever my confidence rose prior to an England game. Sometimes it seems all we have to show for forty years of effort is the 2001 match at the Olympiastadion in Munich. Still, he who dares… I’ve dug out my England t-shirt (a memento of the Euro ’88 tournament – Marco van Basten cost me a fortune) and have placed a couple of beers in the fridge.

Sunday, October 13

Jam today

Because tomorrow you’ll have misplaced the jam jar or someone will have nicked the bloody thing ... Is it possible to identify a moment in the past when you were most content? There are occasions, such as this morning – out early on the moor, looking down towards the coast, a warming sun on your face, – when you doubt there’s a finer view on earth. Aches and pains are forgotten, the world – at least the pastoral world – lies at your feet. If only you could bottle the exhilaration for those long winter nights, the rainy days to come. Of course it’s just about that moment the hangover kicks in – you realise the distance you’ve walked and how far back it is. Feel-good moments are by nature ephemeral: they can’t be squirreled away.

Friday, October 11

Bacon and cabbage

Kinsale’s Gormet Festival starts today. If you’re not there you are too late as it was sold out weeks ago and the pints of Murphy’s are already flowing. As foodie jamborees go this is/was one of the best and a staple of our 1990’s itinerary, along with the usual faces from West Beck and Cork. The festival came to mind this afternoon when I switched on the television and caught a nostalgic repeat of Floyd on Food, broadcast not just from Kinsale but from our regular billet at the Cottage Loft. Floyd was living in Kinsale at that time. Inspired by these memories Mrs G. is whipping egg yolks and oil into a creamy aioli to accompany the fillets of lemon sole that comprise our supper. I content myself with a glass of white burgundy and memories of The Old Head.

Transition

There is a real taste of autumn this morning what with the chill of a north wind as it roars through the trees, the crunch as you trudge through heaps of leaf litter, beech nuts that rain down and sting. Swirling flocks have taken to the sky and mole hills appear across the yard: the battle begins. Badgers have dug another exploratory tunnel and there’s a smell of fox around the barn. Prospecting house buyers sniff neighbourhood properties.

Wednesday, October 9

Girolles, ceps and porcini

Yesterday we took the day off and returned to River Cottage HQ for a one-day session in foraging for mushrooms. Mrs G. has been harvesting fungi from around the yard and threatening to cook them, and truth to tell I am a little nervous about the prospect. Our host for the day was John Wright, mycologist, author and raconteur, with a seemingly encyclopedic reservoir of spore-related trivia. About half the day is spent tramping around the grounds of River Cottage, collecting and examining specimens, being dazzled by John’s Latin; and the remainder banged up indoors, watching the resident chef demonstrate ways in which to cook the little suckers. It was a worthwhile exercise in that it confirmed my right to be suspicious of what’s put before me. Meals are part of the deal at Park Farm, though these have proved to be rather hit and miss.

Friday, October 4

Who is best at building bridges?

I can’t believe Miliband is still doing the rounds, bleating about the papers. No one likes a cry baby. I watched BBC’s Question Time last night to try and gauge which way the wind is blowing at the end of the party conference season. Not that I gleaned much. I suppose we are all motivated by self-interest when we vote, what’s in it for us; the degree to which we feel ripped off versus the amount they put in our pockets; how charitable we feel and how worthy the recipients. As Philip Collins says in this morning’s Times, we are a nation of divided tribes, north versus south, public or private, rural or urban, richer or poorer – and that’s before you factor in religion and ethnicity, gender, the nationalists... Which party, I wonder, will be the most effective bridge builder?

Thursday, October 3

National Poetry Day

Rain, Rain, Rain, come again and again,
In the winter, in the summer and in spring,
Come with joy, fall with happiness and go with sorrow,
Rain, Rain, Rain come again and again.

Rain, Rain, Rain come to relive earth's pain,
Rain, Rain, Rain come to make nature happy,
Rain, Rain, Rain come to make livings happy,
Rain, Rain, Rain come again and again.

Rain, Rain, Rain don't go away,
Rain, Rain, Rain I hope you will stay,
Rain, Rain, Rain come again and again.

To say I’m simpatico with Vikram Pratap Singh’s affection for the wet stuff would be stretching a point, particularly as the homestead is currently subject to a monsoon-like assault from the heavens. Today should be fun for those residents below us. 

Wednesday, October 2

Requiem for Lanzarote

Sorting a dusty shelf of forgotten books I came across an old edition of The Sporting Year. It’s a selection of sports writing from 1976-77, when England were on their way to failing World Cup qualification for the second tournament in succession. Worse, still, they were beaten 0-2 by Scotland at Wembley. Little wonder Don Revie jumped ship. Although Manchester Utd won the FA Cup in ’77 this was Liverpool’s era, winning the league and European Cup. It was a time of sporting champions, not least James Hunt and Barry Sheene, Alan Minter and John Conteh, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson…Red Rum. I guess it depends what you were into at that time – who you recall, but it is an interesting read and good memory prompt nonetheless. So-called minority sports received far better coverage back then, not least that of orienteering. There’s a marvelous McIlvanney report from the ’76 World Championships in Aviemore which includes a description of competitor Lisa Veijalainen that in these enlightened days of ours is certain to be met with editorial disapproval: ‘A disturbingly attractive Finnish girl whose blonde hair streams down to her shapely buttocks…’

A call to the flag

As it coincided with my tea break I listened to Cameron’s conference speech this morning. Snake oil salesmen the lot of ’em, but then you have to vote for someone to run the country be it Tory toff or son of a rabid establishment-hating Marxist. I wouldn’t hold it against the latter: it’s an adolescent phase most of us pass through, along with a penchant for folk music, George Orwell novels and cans of Party Four. Whilst there was a time I enjoyed the banter associated with the tribal warfare that is British politics, by the time you reach a certain age everyone is pretty much set in their ways and bored rigid with the same old arguments. Let’s assume Cameron’s primary pitch is to a younger generation that has yet to decide which way to jump. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your point of view – this demographic rarely bothers to vote.