Monday, March 31

The way things used to be

Without Scotland, the UK would be poorer both culturally and spiritually, writes the Spectator’s James Forsyth. Another plea (most often from Scots who make their living in England) for us Sassenachs to raise our voices in defence of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, at least south of the border, the Scottish question struggles to make the charts. We have told the Scots we love them and want them to stay; but hell, if their mind is made up...I’m sure they will continue to sell us their whisky. As for culture, and as Easter’s in the offing:

Easter, aye, I mind it fine
 Fan I wis just a loon
We used tae catch the 24
Fae Woodside tae the toon.
Climb aboard the number 10
And cross the Torry Brig
Up an ower Victoria Road
Doon tae the Bay o Nigg... 

(After rolling eggs, paddling in the bay, collecting buckies…Jim Matthew reflects)

I aften wish that things were jist
The wye they used tae be.

Sunday, March 30

Granny-free idyll

Seduced by the morning chill I set off in moleskin jeans and woollen shirt. Big mistake as it turned out: another freak spell of Mediterranean-like weather. The blackened gorse is all white-tailed bumblebees and larks; the tracks full of young people weighed down by Sherpa-sized packs, trying to make sense of Ordnance Survey maps. Ten Tors is starting early this year.

 One place you don’t want to be today – on Mothers’ Day, is the Dog & Duck. “What do you want to drink, Granny?” “Erm, erm, erm, erm, erm, erm … I’ll have a lemonade.” Repeated ad nauseam throughout the afternoon.

Which way to jump?

“I’m a Eurosceptic,” says Charles Moore, “but my vote is up for grabs.” He’s right: while May 22nd seems a ways away we should at least begin to think about the European Parliament Election. I remain ambivalent. Although happiest with a pint of ale, I’ve spent much of my working life drinking Amstel and Becks. I know voting for Nigel will antagonize, but Clegg is a licence to play silly buggers. We should have gone in mob-handed at the outset and run the show. Now it’s too late, too many other fish to fry.

Friday, March 28

I only buy them for the pretty pictures

There’s no room in the fridge for a cold beer. Despite an insatiable appetite for omelettes, aioli and custard, there are still four-dozen freshly laid eggs monopolising the fridge. Unfortunately addressing the output from Mrs G’s kitchen isn’t the only treadmill I face. Having recently renewed my magazine subscriptions, the succession of periodicals is in danger of becoming less a means of enlightenment and more an onerous obligation – duty rather than fun. On the plus side: there are all those glossy photographs of Piaget watches and Porsche motor cars to drool over.

Sages and seers

I’m gutted by the omission. This month’s edition of Prospect magazine makes a stab at identifying the world’s top thinkers, those engaging most originally and profoundly with the central questions of the world today. Bereft of shipbrokers, footy enthusiasts, drinkers and epicureans, our top sages and seers appear to be drawn primarily from the ranks of economists and philosophers. OK so they throw in the Pope and an anthropologist, but where are the lads from the Dog & Duck – where’s our modern day Alfred P. Doolittle, why no Mark Lawrenson?

Thursday, March 27

Mission creep

Chief medical officer reminds us that a resemblance to Dianne Abbot should not be considered normal.

Not so nouvelle cuisine

Cuisine Minceur may be on the way back. In today’s Times, Michel Guérard suggests we can eat well and stay slim by fasting feasting on beef broth and emaciated carrots. The lad stops short of resurrecting a taste for Gauloises cigarettes but does speak wistfully of Coca-Cola. Encouraged by the cold snap, here at the homestead we’ve returned to winter staples. A need to clean out the freezer may also have a bearing. Following a run of barbecue, Mrs G. has been busy brining tongues and boiling brisket. If the kitchen noticeboard is to be believed I have my work cut out. Upcoming dishes include pigs’ cheek in cider and mustard sauce, braised oxtail and chorizo stew, beef bourguignon (ox cheek), Madrid-style tripe, boiled leg of mutton in caper sauce, spicy rogan josh (goat) and osso buco Milanese. As chief taster I lead a hard life. Nouvelle cuisine is likely to remain a spirit of the past, alongside my Serge Gainsbourg CDs.

It’s snowing

I suspect Labour were right in the sense that last night’s debate between Clegg and Farage was a sideshow. This morning’s press response – or rather lack of it – gives a flavour of establishment disapproval for the perceived winner. Hectoring, loud and rude doesn’t sit well in the boxes. Both participants were winners, however, even though each spoke to the converted. If anything is likely to polarise debate it is these two. Criticism of Farage’s figures fall on deaf ears as voters have grown accustomed to the political expediency of ‘facts’ ; and accusing the EU of having Ukrainian blood on its hands has some resonance. That said I remain convinced the coming European election will be a protest vote and that in the big one people will return to the fold. But then life has a habit of springing surprises. I woke up this morning and there was snow on the ground.

Wednesday, March 26

This short-change business has become an epidemic

In common with most people I rarely bother to count my change. This last month or two, however, as previous posts testify, I’ve begun to take a greater interest. The latest incident was when buying a chicken and two black puddings from a butcher. “The till isn’t working, so I’ll use this electronic calculator.” For three items? “That will be £27.42.” What! For a chicken and couple of puddings? I know the chicken’s dead but even alive I doubt it laid golden eggs. “Err, what do you make it?” – as she takes out a pencil and paper. I blame the NUT.

Tuesday, March 25

Old page marker

Listening to tonight's footy on the wireless, when this drops from a book...the last game I watched at The Valley. Charlton survived but Birmingham didn't. Bloody Harry Redknapp. If I recall correctly the top four finished as Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Charlton have long since succumbed, along with Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth.

Reading in seclusion

It’s a bit of a hike, 6-7 miles, but you’re guaranteed peace and quiet. Can read the paper without interruption. My vantage point has one of the only two trees in the area and is always where I hear my first cuckoo. Given the birds are 3-4 weeks away, today I content myself with watching a herd of rabbits chase each other around the rocks – there are a number of pillow mounds in the vicinity. Remote though it is, late Bronze Age enclosures, pounds and hut circles testify to a residential past. Unfortunately that particular period of global warming came to an end, and as Dartmoor became colder, wetter and less hospitable, people voted with their feet, moving to a warmer climate. Now the pendulum is returning the National Park Authority is keen to build more homes. As in the past, however, tribal conflict has ensued. While strolling back, the local hunt came through, horns at full blast and baying hounds to the fore. The peace and quiet was over.

Monday, March 24

Popular entertainment

Wednesday’s ding-dong on LBC should be an good diversion. To remind us we were all once young and beautiful – that popular music included accomplished singers performing decent songs – a clip of Aretha Franklin singing Don’t Play That Song aired on the box this evening. An Amy Winehouse track had preceded it on the wireless. And then there’s Sam Bailey. It’s why general election debates are a bad idea. The X Factor gave us Bailey, the debates Nick Clegg. I’m hoping Farage turns out to be Eric Burdon in disguise. We don’t need an album to liven things up, just one stonking great hit.

Being English

In common with the Telegraph’s TV critic, I found Martin Amis’s programme on England mildly interesting. ‘Coming to terms with loss of Empire, yada yada yada…’ Although bereft of the trade that came with an Empire, if you’re a boomer and grew up in the 50s, the loss of Britain’s overseas dominions rarely featured in playground conversation. It was the war that continued to cast its shadow. We might have been on the winning side but you wouldn’t have thought so; where your next meal was coming from remained our principal preoccupation. And after a spell of sunshine during our teenage years, in the 70s it was all downhill again. Thank god for the 80s in spite of its faults – the John Self years, or we’d still be eating bread and dripping. Whilst Amis appears out of touch, his interpretation of what it means to be English (rather than British Asian, for instance) still holds resonance for many, not least most UKIP supporters. Unfortunately time isn’t on their side.

My apologies, I fell into the Grant Shapps trap…it should read ‘Unfortunately time isn’t on our side.’

Sunday, March 23

Sunday mornings

Don’t you love ’em. There was a time Sunday was the byword for boring and bleak. Pubs didn’t open. If you wanted a pint you decamped to the nearest hotel residents’ lounge. Times change, however. These days I have (almost) given up on a Sunday pint, settling for a more mundane routine. Reading the papers while half-listening to everyone’s favourite Scottish wuss – Andrew Marr – on the box. And of course I rarely miss Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics, even if like today it includes Toynbee as one of the guests. I’ve nothing against the girl per se, but whenever Toynbee makes an appearance I have this surreal image of a naked satyr beating her about the head with a goat’s foot. Truth to tell, and interesting as I find Ganesh and the boys, our chattering classes pale in comparison to Mark Chapman and his guests on MOTD2 Extra. Each to their own I guess, but as past masters in their craft they at least speak with authority, and are certainly more collegiate. One of the neighbours has just posted a round-robin email wondering if anyone has a boar to take his sow to. Apparently the old girl is very good natured and promises to co-operate.

Saturday, March 22

Intergenerational perspectives

“Modern metropolitans are all too young and too dull” says the Telegraph’s Peter Oborne, contrasting Clegg and Cameron unfavourably with the likes of Roy Jenkins, Dennis Healey and Barbara Castle. Charles Moore, a contemporary, continues the theme in this week’s Spectator. “Thirty years ago I became editor of this magazine (aged 27)…the same month the miners’ strike began. Anthony Wedgwood Benn won the Chesterfield-by-election and the mortgage rate fell to 10.5%.” Because of Moore’s relative age, such events, he notes, remain vivid in his mind. However a greater gap separates then and now than separated then from the Suez crisis. He recalls thinking that people who could remember Suez seemed very old and to be speaking of a different world. “The same presumably applies to 27-year-olds today when they hear archaic expressions like ‘the Soviet Union’ or ‘Arthur Scargill’.

I guess such contrasting experiences – between the boomers and Generation Y, for instance – explains the difference in intergenerational voting intentions. And then again maybe we’re not so different (although it is difficult to picture Moore in skinny jeans). The fact we voted back then could suggest we were impressed enough by our lords and masters (Jenkins, et al) to believe they could effect change; if not in control of events they could influence direction. In comparison today’s politicians often appear weak and ineffectual. Why vote, people say, they’re all the same and can’t actually change anything even if they wanted to.

Friday, March 21

Lady with an ermine

I followed a stoat as it sniffed around the yard this morning. Beautiful creatures. They may be skilful predators, but with so many adversaries the average stoat lives just one and a half years…A neighbour stopped by an hour or so later, en route to a funeral. His second in a week. Both suicides...I was interested to note the Cabinet Office has analysed the link between different jobs and levels of life satisfaction, concluding that vicars and farmers are two of life’s fortunates. Conversely, and stoats aside, serving as a publican – running the Dog & Duck, is about as bad as it gets.

Thursday, March 20

A wrench and a prawn curry

Following the excitement of Wednesday’s budget, and given today’s dire weather, we adjourned to Mrs G’s favourite Thai restaurant for lunch. I’ve been suffering the usual seasonal allergy-inspired sniffles, and if one thing’s guaranteed to clear my sinuses it is a fiery red curry, preferably shrimp, although squid will suffice. Work has been taking a backseat this week, not least because I’ve completed the easy stuff and everything left is a challenge. Top of the list remains the repair of our gas boiler. It’s an antediluvian appliance of obscure German manufacture – I think pre-Honecker GDR. Unfortunately the only engineer capable of servicing the contraption resides somewhere in Northumbria and can’t make it down as he’s having a new knee fitted. Nevertheless our lad has mailed me replacement parts along with scribbled instructions, signing off with what appears to be a tongue-in-cheek expression of good luck. Bereft of canaries I’ve hit on the idea of locking our neighbour’s sheep dog in the utility room. If the mutt is still alive in the morning and the homestead remains standing then I’ve pulled it off.

Wednesday, March 19

Inflation

My granny would turn in her grave: a threepenny bit will soon be worth a quid, and it probably buys less.

Budget supper

Ok I can be perverse at times, but I do like barbecue. It is blowing a gale outside, and don’t believe the weather boys when they tell you today is warm. It’s not. Repositioning to the lee of the homestead at least kept the flame alight long enough to singe a large portion of sheep. Not exactly Lewisham-style bush meat but it serves well enough. You have no idea how much recent reports relating to the perceived health benefits of saturated fats have cheered me. Last week’s accompaniment was couscous, this week those North African baked-potatoes I’m so fond of. I miss my okra, but then this is Dartmoor.

In the old days the Chancellor always delivered his speech with a glass of whisky; I guess our contemporary politicians are more circumspect. It’s bad form to screw the electorate while downing a large one. I felt obliged to break my mid-week dry spell in order to keep the side up, and in the knowledge I have to face Mrs G’s wrath if Moyes fucks up this evening. However, back to the budget…It was probably the best that could be expected, although Carney raising interest rates would be more to my liking. The most dispiriting part was Miliband’s response. I thought the Hague/Duncan Smith/Howard era a low point in British politics, yet this lad continues to surprise. Gordon Brown was the great intellect who turned out to be a numpty. I am worried Miliband could be a game changer, and I don’t mean that as a positive – he sounds like us when we were kids.

A brief stretch of the leg

Receiving the new season’s fishing licence in yesterday’s post prompted me up on the moor. It seemed a while. Too early for lambs but a fair few wild-grazing cattle, South Devon and Welsh Black. Beautiful animals. What with the leaden sky and tumbling mist the place was back to its bleak best, stark Giacometti-like hawthorn trees suit the landscape to a T. After a couple of days of controlled burning the ground is toast. There was an occasional glimpse of the sun, which, as always, remains unfathomable. Although the moor is an enigma – as clear as dishwater, yours truly continues to wallow in metaphor. Trite and clichéd springs to mind. A Mistle Thrush and its mate have set up home in the tree outside my window. One spends its day flying back and forwards collecting moss that grows among the drystone granite wall, the other knits together their nest.

Monday, March 17

Mine’s a large one

I might as well continue the obituaries theme. It seems somewhat ironic that the Telegraph’s tribute to Clarissa Dickson Wright appears on St Patrick’s Day. Drink being the operative word. I admit she wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but like many I liked the idea of the lady – that such exist in this sanitised world of ours. I enhanced my first glass of Guinness with a fair measure of Champagne, in a toast to her memory…and to salute absent friends.

Saturday, March 15

Tail end of the day

When the sun goes down behind the ridge and backlights the clouds, the scene is almost other worldly – the stuff of science fiction. For a Saturday there has been little time to relax; the papers remain unread. A neighbour stopped by. He’d slaughtered a bullock, and gifted us a tongue, a heart and a tail.

Digging (and barbecuing) for victory

Once the fog cleared, yesterday turned out to be another unseasonal sunny day – flamboyant t-shirt and straw-hat weather. When not playing sentinel for my still smouldering bonfire, and after venturing out for a new spirit level, I spent an hour or two constructing a raised bed for Mrs G’s cabbages, barbecuing thick-cut hogget chops, and sipping a Beaujolais whilst watching an exhilarating Gold Cup. Up above the homestead swaling is taking place, the annual burning of gorse and scrub to clear the ground and encourage new shoots, flora and fauna and the like. Hedge cutting and burning moorland needs be completed this month so as not to conflict with nesting birds. And the birds are certainly readying themselves. In the yard we have greenfinches, song thrushes and wag-tails, robins, wrens and blackbirds. The swallows and swifts are some ways away, but then this year is moving apace. What could have set the seal on an almost faultless day, an early night – sex aside, you can count the number of times during any year when I’ve been in a bed before ten of a Friday evening – was frustrated by a fire tender effecting a twenty-seven point turn in the early hours. And of course once the spell is broken…

Friday, March 14

Great nonconformist champion

It comes to us all, so I’m told – and today we heard of the death of yet another man, Tony Benn. He was a sad old bugger, and I suspect little better as a lad. Custom dictates we say kind things about people when they turn their toes up, however, given his privileged start in life and avowed ambition for ‘the people’, by anyone’s reckoning Benn failed to deliver. He was the sort that debuts for Chelsea’s youth team only to play out his days at an obscure provincial club that remains in thrall with him. Some credit Benn as a man of principle. I suspect his ego was more dear to him than the people he represented and whose fortunes he claimed to promote. Then again Benn could yet have the last laugh, should Miliband succeed at the next election.

I guess it’s all relative

We all have a shelf life; our moment in the sun. Hermione Norris bemoans the necessity of shopping at Asda. It isn’t only Polish plumbers that drive down wages; there will always be younger, prettier adversaries in the pipeline – even for those with a spacious West London home and country pile in Dorset.

The tadpoles in the yard have hatched

When you were a tadpole, and I was a fish, 
In the Palaezonic time, 
And side by side in the ebbing tide, 
We sprawled through the ooze and slime.
(Langdon Smith)

Thursday, March 13

Needles and haystacks

Although the yard resembles our neighbour’s horses’ winter coat, the mower is staying put. I’ve more urgent concerns. Today’s long overdue bonfire, the post-winter rubbish clearance, has priority. I began at half-eight and was still burning at three, missing all but the last televised race from Cheltenham. I still can’t believe this is March: I’m wearing a T-shirt and plimsolls. Actually my feet are clad in heavy-duty work boots but you get the drift. The sky is clear and blue and the only blemish are vapour trails from outbound flights that cross us at twenty-thousand feet. You’d think, given our respective security services supposedly track our every move, a Boeing 777 was the very last thing you could hide from view.

Wednesday, March 12

Minimum wage

The minimum wage will rise by 3% to £6.50 an hour in October, Vince Cable, the business secretary, has announced. Whenever this sort of shit appears in the media it invariably features a young girl washing another girl’s hair. Hairdressing: the ultimate low pay career? Today’s haircut, by a 60-something lad working in a backstreet barber shop, cost me a tenner. Mrs G’s monthly trip to her young girl who knows shit about anything – certainly nothing that runs at Cheltenham or plays at Camp Nou – costs £70. Just who is this money targeted at?

Busy busy

Reading obituaries always leads me along the same familiar path, the one where I stop and smell the roses. John Robinson, a sociology professor in Maryland, recently spoke about the illusion of leisure. That too many of us are incapable of taking advantage when it presents itself because we are consumed by the belief that if we’re not busy we are somehow missing out. Being busy, says Robinson, has become a status symbol, a badge of honour. There was a time when wealthy, educated Greeks sat on a rock and contemplated the meaning of life. Nowadays they cycle across continents to raise money for charities.

...I love these mornings when the fog has descended. The privacy and pretence of security it affords, the stillness and silence. Then in an instant and seemingly out of nowhere, two roe deer. They stand transfixed, amazed as I am by the sudden confrontation. The harsh, grating call of a crow breaks the spell, and the phantoms turn on their heels and leap back across the barbed wire into the fog. Contemplation – taking something from what I think I’ve seen – would be nice, but I have places to go, things to do.

Tuesday, March 11

Brendan O’Neill in praise of Bob Crow

Bob Crow, who – given his meals at Scott’s and holidays in Brazil – was a man that enjoyed life. Who wanted his people to enjoy life. He has, as O’Neill says, expired at the depressingly young age of 52, ten years younger than yours truly. To most London commuters Crow was a prize arsehole; to his members, no doubt, a hero, He delivered. And that’s all you can ask of your rep. Something Cameron and the lads appear to have forgotten.

Monday, March 10

The Question Time Villain

"Next time I will try pouring on the insincere empathy." I suspect Aaronovich's next appearance on Question Time would be much better served by a wash and brush up - a clean shirt and close shave. There are smarter lads selling The Big Issue on our High Street.

Downtime

The merits of idleness: I do my best.

Sunday, March 9

What a day!

Worthy of mid-summer at its best. I’ve lit a fire this evening, but more out of habit than necessity. I walked the moor sans the usual garb; 24 hours without rain and the area is an expanse of bleached straw. As a treat we dined on smoked eel and chilled beer. Watched the footy, along with Tamara Rojo’s history of Swan Lake. Whilst I’m open to most sorts, Nick Clegg will always remain a prick.

Hull City

Congrats to Steve Bruce, he celebrates with the fishes and chippies.

The Irish Invasion

Snowdrops gave way to the crocus and daffodil, and now short-tail voles and primroses have breached the surface. Tick tock. The Cheltenham Festival begins Tuesday…So powerful and sleek, he runs with his heart, not his feet.

Saturday, March 8

On time delivery.

Although starting out damp and foggy, the weekend promises fine weather. Whilst our local TV weather forecaster had waited three and a half months for the opportunity to tell us it will be dry during Saturday and Sunday, I suspect life would be much less fun if it was always sunny and predictable. Given we are short on gas – and Putin is waving his sabre – last night I logged on and submitted a request for supplies. Low and behold a tanker fetched up a 7:45hrs this morning. I would have thought the best time to begin a new cold war was autumn rather than spring, but then what do I know. If BBC 2’s 37 Days is an example, mental frailty and rank ineptitude has never been a barrier to conflict, particularly if someone is spoiling for a fight.

Friday, March 7

It's still not quite Carling

Last night’s BBC Question Time appeared to have a bit more life to it. Barking seems to have changed somewhat during the last decade, though I recall visiting Tottenham and Wood Green in the early 70s and listening to much the same conversation. It’s doubtless why we all have relatives scattered about Essex, Middlesex and Hertfordshire. And whilst this morning’s Telegraph informs us the price of a pint has since risen twenty-fold, Heseltine’s appearance reminded everyone that some things never change. His withering contempt for anyone who disagrees…A hugely successful man but still not quite Carling. I suspect Heseltine has never forgiven Thatcher for standing in his way, or Alan Clark for belittling his background.

Thursday, March 6

A happy bunny

While not convinced last week’s efforts in the kitchen delivered what was promised, today I appear to be back on song. Chicken with beer and chicory, an Elizabeth Luard recipe. You can’t beat lashings of butter and cream. The medical profession: a bunch of pricks. It called for something warming after working outside, stacking logs and cleaning gutters, washing the motor, digging in sodden ground…The neighbourhood resounds to chain saws and quad bikes. Everyone’s at it. Livestock are on the move, trees are being levelled. We have visitors inspecting filters and pumps, motor insurance surveyors signing off on body-shop repairs, financial advisors making house calls in an attempt to justify their weekend jaunt to Newquay. In an effort to air the homestead I am burning three fires. Indoors it is vest and shorts; outside horizontal rain, full waterproofs. The ubiquitous south-west wind, shivering trees and rattling windows.

Monday, March 3

On dangerous ground

“It’s a bit blowy up here” he remarked. Ever master of the understatement, our Wichita Lineman. He returned this morning to begin installation of replacement telephone poles in the yard. I say he, in truth it’s a veritable platoon of helmeted, hi-viz operatives, along with a convoy of vehicles. They come armed with heavy iron-bars and long-handled shovels for a hand dig. There’s no access point for their mechanised auger. As the terrain is a mixture of granite scree and tree roots the dig will be fun. It probably doesn’t help that on commencement of operations a series of squalls blew in from the northwest, delivering sleet and stinging hail in equal measure. I guess at some stage my broadband service will be suspended. Mr G. is outside haranguing them…they should know better than address the good lady as “my love”.

Sunday, March 2

Don’t look down, never look back

Given the obscurity afforded by this morning’s fog – the dancing conifers, there was a suggestion of barely-visible topmasts and the vast expanse of a nearby ocean. Itchy feet or an ex-port agent’s introspection? Reading Conrad is doubtless part of my musing. At the time Conrad was completing his time as chief officer on the Torrens, a Sunderland-built clipper, my paternal grandfather was being presented with a silver pocket watch to acknowledge his graduation from the training ship Exmouth, an old two-decker line-of-battleship moored off Grays in Essex. I guess a glass or two of Islay malt and a little imagination and it is possible to relate to just about anything.

Whilst tonight’s Oscars should be moderately interesting, what is on offer remains a poor excuse for this afternoon’s restored version of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Likewise, given the news from Crimea, you could be excused for believing the world never learns, that our existence is a perpetual loop. Dare I suggest little improves on an original and that contemporary life as presented is best consumed with a large pinch of salt.

Saturday, March 1

Roast shoulder of lamb

I’ve spent a fair part of this past week munching my way through a Gloucestershire Old Spot and a series of black puddings. Today Mrs G. has butchered a substantial shoulder from one of the neighbour’s Whiteface Dartmoor sheep – one of the two native Dartmoor breeds. It is currently marinating in a mixture of olive oil, garlic and rosemary. I say sheep but it is actually overwintered lamb, a hogget, and correspondingly firmer and richer in taste. Most of my neighbours breed sheep, which have been part of the Dartmoor landscape since prehistoric times. Circa 1190 the local abbey received a charter from Richard 1 giving permission to pasture sheep (and cattle) hereabouts. And whilst the Whiteface has subsequently been eclipsed by the Scotch breed, they still survive and thrive thanks to enthusiasts…of course it is a long way from my favourite Lewisham kebab emporium back at South London Mansions.

How to dress like a Mamma’s Boy

UKIP’s conference along the road in Torquay has to settle for a mention on Page 6 of this morning’s local rag, Ukraine doesn’t even feature. Instead the front page is given over to our ongoing badger wars, a bitter and divisive conflict that resonates with the readership. In this part of the world a fluffy animal trumps international strife. Not that the national news is immune to quirky priorities, today’s FT giving over a significant part of its front page to Labour criticism of free coffee from Waitrose. Then again it is Saturday. Footy previews aside we’re allowed to be diverted, to dwell on pretty pictures and exotic lifestyles – discover how to dress like an Italian.

Hill Street and other memories

As much as I dislike Mondays, Fridays arrive as a welcome release. The spring in my step is a mystery, as the most tiresome of domestic chores are reserved for weekends. I guess old habits die hard and the euphoria of the metaphorical factory whistle remains tangible even now. Unfortunately a half-bottle of Coonawarra’s finest is about as lively as the post-match celebration gets nowadays; the Dog & Duck hasn’t quite the same attraction it did in the days of Mike Post anthems.