Sunday, August 31

The Homestead Fringe

Little wonder my jokes fall flat: I can’t do impersonations. Mrs G. wonders why my Arsene Wenger always sounds like a lisping Pakistani, and Alex Salmond has seemingly morphed into Ole Gunnar Solskjær. …In an effort to trump yesterday’s melt-in-your-mouth braised beef cheek, the Boss is serving up veal steaks, yoghurt smothered home-grown beetroot, guacamole, and tomato and onion salad. The sun is shining and footy commentary is on the wireless: what more could you ask. Turteen t’tu. That’s what the bookies are offering on Mario Balotelli scoring the first goal. See what I mean.

Friday, August 29

Mince, my head's...

It turned into a mince week – and not the grey, viscous stuff of John Lanchester’s school days. Minced beef with cabbages, mince with mashed carrot and swede…lots of runner beans, too. So today by way of relief, an extended lunch at Riverford Field Kitchen, the homestead’s local noshery of choice. I don’t believe we’ve eaten a poor meal there, and the company is usually good – you share a table of eight with whoever walks through the door. The food is a no-choice dish of the day. Today’s fellow diners were a typical draft of old British hands that served in the colonies. It’s easy to default to stereotypes, however, experience has taught me to curb my tongue until verifying the lie of the land. We swopped travel stories, the various homes, sights and sounds of distant continents, and agreed our memories and preferences were people orientated rather than place and time. The rather chic lady seated next to me had seemingly travelled everywhere and lived a colourful life but was so softly spoken (and my hearing so damaged) that I missed most of her punch lines. One smiles and nods enthusiastically, batting back vacuous responses you hope suit. Mercifully, politics and religion remain verboten in polite company. An opinionated Gudgeon and a bottle of wine are boorish in the extreme.

Too sentimental about our armed forces?

In today’s Times Richard Vinen disparages the armed forces’ totemic status, comparing it to the left’s mawkish adoration of mineworkers. I guess he’s taking a contrarian view in an attempt to get a rise out of his readership following the profusion of WW1 Centenary events? He implies our current sentimentality is somehow related to how few of our soldiers have died in recent years (in comparison to Korea), and which is due in part to our reluctance to sacrifice them? Dare I suggest that contemporary respect for Britain’s armed forces has a lot to do with the fact that whilst our grandfathers fought in the trenches and our parents’ generation on the beaches, we now ask other peoples’ sons and daughters to do our fighting for us – and there’s an understandable reluctance to sacrifice these people every time Johnny Foreigner brandishes a spear.

Thursday, August 28

Will the future be kinder and fairer?

Probably not in my lifetime. But good on Douglas Carswell. There aren’t many people in Westminster – and let’s give him the benefit of doubt – with both principles and testicles (Austin Mitchell says we can disregard the rest). His move certainly adds to muddy the water. Whilst I can’t see our local MP Sarah Wollaston quaking in her boots, the odds on Cameron leading a majority government after the next election must have lengthened. As far as Ukip is concerned, although Carswell is only one man, momentum is a wonderful thing – especially following on from today’s immigration figures, and Labour on the ropes over Rotherham. In September’s Prospect magazine Andrew Marr writes that power is up for grabs, suggesting we are entering an extraordinary new age of politics. I originally thought the lad was over-egging the story, however, as he says, what with the Scottish referendum preceding the general election, chaos in the Middle East, the worldwide rise of Islamism, a mischievous Putin, stagnation and political lassitude in the EU, and an uncertain and less-decisive United States, all of our futures look a lot less certain.

Wednesday, August 27

Wasting my money

Up town this morning for the motor’s annual service (and a skive). I declined the offer of a courtesy car in favour of my bus pass, but couldn’t leave without sticking my head in at the adjacent Ferrari dealership. They have a promotion on the Maserati Ghibli – the vehicle supposed to take Maserati mainstream, and are knocking them out for £48k. Unfortunately next to a Ferrari the Ghibli looks a tad boring, and its diesel engine doesn’t exactly say sexy performance car.

 Breakfast in the usual coffee shop, which, like most university cities, has a fair share of student customers. Give me students any day of the week: a lively enough bunch, and they don’t have prams. Forty passengers on a bus and all it take to make our lives a misery is one screaming brat.

 Nipped into RAMM to take a second look at the Detached and Timeless exhibition, featuring twenty-five contemporary artists inspired by nature and spirit of place. They’ve beefed up the local collection with works on loan from Plymouth, London’s Southbank, and the national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art. I’m sure I will return again.

Lizzard or Toad? says Matthew Parris in today’s Times, musing on what it means once you turn sixty. He’s not been the same lad since shacking up with a toy boy.

 Back at the homestead it continues to rain. As a treat for the motor I blew seventy-quid on a top of the range valet job. It lasted as far as the final four-hundred yards of my return journey, a fetid slurry of mud, manure and dead badger.

Tuesday, August 26

Rising prices

Never mind Angel di Maria, I paid £2.25 for a sausage roll from a deli in Ashburton this morning. Greggs it ain’t, but even so…

Talk is cheap and on the day I suspect…

Salmond won. But then all Darling had to do was avoid a catastrophe – the lad did well. I don’t think any of us believe the Scots will vote yes. Too much uncertainty, risk. It’s why the UK will never vote to leave Europe.

You should never wish your life away

Nevertheless I’m pleased yesterday is over. Although a Monday – Bank Holiday Monday, it felt like one of those Sundays of old: sitting around, staring out of the window, desperate to get back to work the following day. Not that you necessarily enjoyed the treadmill, but at least it was something that engaged your mind, validated whatever it was you thought you were. …Early this morning a beam of sunlight broke through the cloud, and immediately thought better of it. The rain continues even now, however I have places to go, things to do.

Monday, August 25

Evening entertainment

The Man City v Liverpool match commentary or Darling v Salmond?

Valid opinions, and personalities

Fkn Chink, as Malky might say. I’d be lost without my weekend reading material – and it more than makes up for those missed opportunities at the Dog & Duck. At three-quid the FT Weekend is good value; and whilst irritated by the plethora of young Jock scribblers and nancy boys, I will renew my Spectator subscription. Taki remains my aspirin against the urge to political correctness. In this week’s instalment he muses on such diverse subjects as Peter Sarstedt lyrics and the Battle of the Bulge. As a Birmingham City follower, Robbie Savage is hardly my favourite Welsh nerk. However I would be remiss if I didn’t afford the lad as much attention as I do A.N. Wilson, Susie Boyt or Irwin Stelzer.

The homestead is rockin’

A late night: I had to drag myself from my pit this morning. Today’s weather isn’t encouraging, certainly not the sort of stuff you’d choose to camp out in. The local fete appears doomed. Even the Dog & Duck is too much an effort. Why bother when both the larder and cellar cupboard under the stairs are so well stocked – and then there’s the bonus of Radio 2’s ‘Greatest guitar riffs in musical history.’

Sunday, August 24

Sunday at leisure

Today is cooler and beginning to spit, but the moor was spectacular this morning. A number of walkers out. Lively skylarks mobbing a sparrowhawk that encroached on their territory. Although the Belgium GP is now playing in the background, this afternoon’s principal interest is a giant shoulder of lamb on the barbecue. I’m not a fan of new world wines – and will be guided by our man in Brisbane, however, this Mac Forbes Coldstream Pinot Noir is going down reasonably well.

Saturday, August 23

Downtime

Whilst the forecast for Bank Holiday Monday’s fetes and fairs is dire, today is all sunshine and butterflies. The marjoram that grows outside my office window remains knee-deep in pollenating buzzy things. Though time marches on we retain plenty of colour in the yard: pinks, blues and yellows, pale tints of violet – in your face scarlet and orange borders…sweet peas and flowering gorse. Although the grass has stopped growing (slowed), autumn is just around the corner: there’ll soon be leaves, leaves everywhere.

After a morning’s graft I’ve retired to listen to the footy commentary with a glass of Navarra’s finest and a plate of tapas. A friend texts from the Chelsea/Leicester game to tell me what I’m missing.

I have a problem rationalising the price of things. Lidl sells leather biker’s jackets for £14.99, yet my local shop stings me £6.25 for a jar of peppers. They’re nice peppers but even so…Inflation is falling in part due to lower food prices – and yet a decent loaf costs three quid.

Woken this morning by the cry of a hunting horn and baying hounds. When I went for the papers the single track lane was blocked by a convoy of Land Rovers following the action. Boorish tosser that I am I was rude to a sweet old lady blocking my way.

Friday, August 22

Hobbies can incur expensive mistakes

I was slow off the mark this morning and as a consequence arrived in Totnes to find my usual parking space taken and the fishmonger bereft of lemon sole. There must be close to a dozen car parks around town and by eleven all are full. Accordingly it was fishfingers (again), enlivened by Mrs G’s tarragon and lemon mayonnaise. I’ve been on a German wine kick recently so supper came with a bottle of Riesling. I say German, however everything of the genre I’ve drunk so far has come from new world vineyards, Austria or the Alsace. My knowledge of Riesling stems from that awful ’70s stuff that accompanied a vindaloo. This evening’s offering was from the Zind-Humbrecht stable and came across somewhat dryer than I recall. To be truthful my recent excursions into alternative wines have been hit and miss – more miss than hit. But then that’s part of the fun…at least that’s what I tell myself when pouring it down the sink.

German visitors head the list

Last summer the number of overseas visitors to the South West increased by 50%. It seems we are the go-to destination for July, August and September. The largest contingent came from Germany and spent much of their time walking. If the number of Audi and Volkswagen motors are anything to go by, this year they’re back with a vengeance.

Thursday, August 21

Bite my tongue

If you were following today’s news you’d think the world was going to hell in a handcart. Yet given my recent reading material, an off world observer would conclude it is business as usual. If the Greek epics are to be believed, rampaging across the countryside inflicting mayhem and misery has been a valid career choice for centuries; and the young British men interviewed on television yesterday are merely demonstrating the same enthusiasm for fighting in Syria and Iraq as the recruits to pals’ battalions in WWI. I’m no George Galloway apologist, but what’s the difference between the reprobates heading off via Turkey – other than a tendency to psychopathic behaviour – and the much lauded socialist heroes who went to fight in Spain during the ’30s? Needless to say such careless talk in the vicinity of Mrs G. gets short shrift. When you’re married to someone who thinks Sarah Palin a wimp you have to choose your words carefully.

Aberdeen-based mafia

They say the feared Camorra mafia operate from a chipper in Torry.

Wednesday, August 20

A bitter aftermath, whichever way

Professor Charlie Jeffery, of Edinburgh University, said it was “striking” how tough the English are on Scotland. He said: “There appears to be little appetite for the Scottish Government’s vision of independence amid continuing partnership with the rest of the UK on the pound, Europe and Nato.

He demonstrates a remarkable lack of understanding with regards to human nature. I’ve no doubt that, despite what they say, in the event of a yes vote the Westminster government would be keen to negotiate an equitable and affable separation agreement, including the currency issue. It’s the sensible thing to do. Unfortunately voter backlash south of the border – if you’re not with us you’re against us – would be such that the disunited kingdom would likely suffer a generation or two of enmity and resentment before shaking hands again. It always makes for a lively discussion in the Gudgeon household.

Tuesday, August 19

Onwards and upwards

Exeter yesterday. Some days you spend a half-hour inching yards between roundabout and traffic light, other mornings it’s Robert Mitchum and Peter Faulk entering Rome. I guess everyone is still on holiday. ...Cameron was in town (in between holidays), flashing our cash in support of family-friendly policies. The South West has been a banker for the Conservatives for too long and may well frustrate him at the coming election. ...At least this morning is sunny and tranquil, deckchair weather. Unfortunately I have work to do; there’s been more than enough sitting around recently. Last night’s BBC Newsnight was a wake up call, a lesson in what happens when you let yourself go. My god she’s a grim-looking woman.

Saturday, August 16

The footy season begins

Partial validation of David Moyes? A disappointing start for Mrs G., whereas I never begin a season in hope. Experience has left its mark.
We had another mare and foal delivered this morning, boosting the yard’s herd to thirteen - The Thirteen Warriors. Let’s hope we’ve enough grass to keep them happy. While the neighbours stable a mix of saddle ponies, Dartmoor ponies and horses that run point to point, we have our hands full with the miniature version. In truth the mites are less trouble than that shoal of koi carp we maintained at South London Mansions.

Friday, August 15

Honourable my arse

I didn’t think I’d stay the course, but there’s been a lot worse than The Honourable Woman on television recently. Given what’s happening in Gaza I doubt the BBC can believe their luck. The honourable woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) looks too much like Cilla Black’s botoxed stepsister for my liking, and comes across as a very unsavoury type, as do most of the female characters. That girl who worked in Martin Clunes’ surgery and makes her living eating Maltesers is pretty good. She’s certainly nifty on her feet for someone so far gone. I’m looking forward to the final episode, although, given it’s the BBC, I guess we all suspect the Americans are behind it.

Cornish Pastis

We were down in Plymouth this morning for the annual Flavour Fest, supposedly the South West’s largest ‘free’ food and drink festival. As it’s free it attracts the sort of people who can’t afford to buy the produce on display at many other food festivals. Most of the producers we met in Plymouth several years ago no longer attend, having determined it is not worth their time. Full marks to Boringdon Hall for sponsoring this year’s festival, and to the producers that hang on in there. I came away with a Cornish Pasty Pastis and a bottle of gin.

 We lunched on fish and chips at Mitch Tonks’ RockFish restaurant in Sutton Harbour (seafood dining in a beach shack setting). My impressive portion of haddock was the size of a small dolphin. The chips on their own would have fed a family of four, but then a significant number of the diners would have made four of me. The downsides to fish and chips is Britain’s obesity crisis. To rub it in we splurged on Salcombe Dairy ice cream.

Thursday, August 14

Critters

No luck with the mole traps this morning, although I caught one that had been tunnelling beneath the cabbages a couple of weeks ago. The marauding band I’m currently tracking appear to be heading in three or four directions at once and are proving a canny bunch. It must be that time of year as the squirrels have also returned, and there’s rabbit droppings and badger crap in the yard. On Tuesday night a bat flew into the room while we were both half-dozing by the fire and lost in a book. We didn’t see it immediately but you always sense a presence. The swish of its pterodactyl-like wings is probably a giveaway. This one was considerably larger than our usual pipistrelles. ...Camp sites that have sprung up in neighbouring fields have taken a battering from the elements over the past couple of weeks, though what visitors I’ve met seem happy bunnies. The farmers, too – everyone appears to have their winter feed cut, rolled, wrapped and stacked. Ahead of the game for once.

Wednesday, August 13

Saving for the future – a mug’s game

I see Mark Carney has told everyone to kiss goodbye any chance of a savings rate hike this side of the election. And yet if the financial press is to be believed, individuals and institutions are jettisoning equities in favour of cash? With commodities heading south and house prices supposedly a bubble, what exactly are you supposed to do with the couple of bob you have salted away at the Post Office.

 Came across an impressive forty-strong pony herd when out walking this morning. Watched as a rival stallion attempted to cut out a few of the mares to supplement his rather meagre band. Unfortunately for chummy, he was playing outside his league. Which was what I thought when the lad emptying our septic tank earlier today purloined Mrs G’s garden hose without express permission, in order to wash down his equipment. I’ve seen men lose hands for less.

Nails and herons

The storm left the homestead bird-free, a no-fly zone, so yesterday afternoon I took off across the moor to try out my new Swarovski glasses (birthday present from the Boss). It too was quiet. Just the familiar sight and sound of juvenile stonechats with their pink bibs and snowy, mottled down. An occasional furtive wheatear (John Grieve again). ‘Just,’ I say. There was a time I was pathetically grateful to catch sight of a sparrow in a neighbour’s garden. I also came across the grey heron that’s taken up with a meandering stretch below the Brockhill Mire. Wind and rain kept the walkers away and I had the place to myself, time to sit and appreciate my surrounding – soak it in (literally). I could also use new waterproofs. It’s a long way from the sour smell of a Halesowen nail shop.

Monday, August 11

Height of culture

After finishing The Mighty Dead, Why Homer Matters, I spent the afternoon with Whisky Bob (ah, Macphail), TV John and Lachie Junior. It’s lashing down outside. I MEAN lashing.

Thumbs up for the microwave oven

The birthday porchetta was an outstanding success. Today it’s pork cobs, mild and bitter. Unfortunately none of our neighbours produce pork as there’s little money in the business. Whatever we buy comes from two specialist breeders and it can cost. So much so the future of one of our principal farmers’ markets has been called into question. It appears stagnant wages have exacerbated the Lidl and Aldi mentality, seemingly at odds with television’s cooking and baking infatuation. People watch and drool but in reality…Between Ireland’s beef, Canada’s pigs, Eastern European tea-leaves and rustlers and town planners, our farmers’ life is not a happy one.

Carbon footprints

In an attempt to anticipate their delivery I followed my new binoculars from the suppliers in Müngersdorf to various locations around Köln, before they headed off to Brussels, across the channel to Barking, up to Tamworth, back down to Exeter and on to the homestead. Given what the postage cost in relation to one of our typical runs to Plymouth it seems a bargain.

Sunday, August 10

Birthday Boy

Middle age was recently defined as the years between 41 and 63: so this is my final year. I can’t help wondering what happens in 12mths time. Will parts of me drop off? No socks or ties this year (when did I last wear a tie?), but lots of books, smelly potions and kitchen implements. A potato masher? Men get to carve meat and mash potatoes, anything else we attempt in the kitchen is carried out under sufferance - a trespass on another’s domain. A wonderfully wild day outside, the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. I am planning to consume my five a day, although they probably mean portions of fruit and veg rather than bottles.

Saturday, August 9

Bugger the lot of ’em

A nice run across the moor this morning, to Tavistock for the farmers’ market. It’s where we buy our pork. Porchetta is on tomorrow’s menu and Mrs G. is fussy as regards breed and provenance. As you would expect just now there are lots of people out and about; every fifth motor is Dutch or German – we’re knee-deep in X5s. Returned home to follow the action from Ascot and the Football League. I know, I know: should be out in the fresh air – exercise and all, rather than prostrate in front of the television. But then (according to Mrs G.) there’s lots of things I should or shouldn’t do. I’ve stacked logs, painted a shed, cut grass and swept the yard: my conscience is appeased; have resorted to Mr Bennet mode. I wonder at the percentage of people that bother to watch the news these days. Life has enough challenges; you don’t need it.

Friday, August 8

Coincidently

What price coincidence? On Monday, by chance, I discovered our neighbour of 20+ years at South London Mansions, Lena Schwarz, had died (18mths previously) at the age of 89. Then yesterday I received a book my brother had sent. It is the reprint of a story about his home town Halesowen, originally published in 1955. Lo and behold our old neighbour is the author, her artist husband, Hans, providing the illustrations.

Courgette omelettes

I’m sure we will tire of courgette-crumble but at the moment it continues to serve as the ubiquitous accompaniment. The peas are also a hit, eaten raw, though I’m not sure about purple beans. We are also eating eggs with just about everything as the chickens’ productivity has soared. The rank and file, not least me, is confused by the concept of productivity. Our financial press are continually telling us the UK’s productivity is crap, yet everyone I know puts in the hours. If we’re so bad how come I can order something in the UK and track it minute by minute through the system. Every cog appears to operate on a 24hr basis and the package rarely spends more than a couple of hours in any one location. It is unusual to wait more than 36hrs from order to receipt. Conversely if I buy something from a German supplier the process slows to a crawl, a day becomes a week – and then turns up when you’re not at home. They make great products but our Germanic cousins will never feature in the Guinness Book of Records for delivery.

Thursday, August 7

Life in the slow lane

Yesterday I sat idling for twenty minutes or so, before trailing a neighbour’s flock along the lane; this morning it was the dairy cows returning from milking. It’s difficult to rush anywhere in our part of town; change up a gear to third and a tractor will jump out from behind a bush. The hedges have grown so thick that the motor now brushes both sides. Its glossy paintwork isn’t what it was. The eight-wheel tanker that collects milk from local farms cleaves the countryside like an icebreaker on a run through the Northwest Passage. Time and distance govern day to day activity in the sense that there’s no corner shop or hardware store – the cost of this morning’s new manhole cover included a gallon or two of diesel along with the VAT. My monthly haircut (in the opposite direction) likewise. It leads me to wonder about the sustainability of new-building projects in rural areas.

What women want

Given my sense of humour - or rather the lack of one - I assume it was the ability to maintain a decent set of accounts that swung it.

Wednesday, August 6

Just waffle

Whilst I missed last night’s Scottish independence debate, there was a moderately interesting programme on BBC2 entitled The Secret History of our Streets. The series about archetypal streets in Scotland featured Aberdeen’s Fittie Squares. I mention it purely for the erroneous throwaway lines that punctuate this type of thing, and which are presumably accepted by viewers as historical fact. That and the programme’s unnecessary subtitles. The English language, its colloquial nature – delivery, separates so many of us. ...And yet nothing separates like Jeremy Clarkson, in the news after it was revealed his employers have been looking again at the production of Top Gear thanks to his use of inappropriate designations. Over the weekend I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve seen the film countless times but never previously read the book – had always assumed it was something on the school syllabus I missed. However, given the n word features on every second page, I wonder to what extent it is now redacted for school use. For old time’s sake I recently reread a collection of the Dear Bill letters from Private Eye and could but chuckle at what Guardian reviewers make of the judicious use of such epithets as coon and wog. Times change, I guess, as do our social mores. But to what extent do we rewrite history in order to assuage contemporary embarrassment or offence?

It'll have your eye out

After thinking everyone was away I bumped into a succession of neighbours yesterday when en route to the moor. Seems there’s nothing much in the way of gossip or scandal to report. Two steers are being slaughtered, so I got my order in quickly. Managed five or six miles without the heavens opening up – an attempt to walk off the execrable lunch in Totnes. The trouble with village cafes and restaurants run by unwashed hippies well-meaning amateurs is they tend to be very much hit and miss, with a good deal of the latter. There’s a new establishment on the block – an offshoot of the adjacent baker. They dispense the sort of wholefood roughage my neighbour feeds to his cattle. I’ve watched a succession of customers buy one of their filled rolls or sticky buns, only to take two bites and toss it over the nearest wall. It’s the sort of missile that could do serious damage to an innocent bystander watering their geraniums.

What with another night’s deluge our newts and toads are well pleased. The pond is unlikely to dry up any time soon. Between the toads and song thrush we have less of a problem with slugs and snails this summer. Horse flies and midges are another thing.

Tuesday, August 5

Burgers, sans the courgettes

There’s no need to water this morning as a fair part of the Celtic Sea appears to have been deposited on the yard overnight. I’ve lit a fire to air the homestead. It’s not exactly trickling down the walls but humidity here is so high you’d think we were afloat.

Just now the area is both quiet and busy. Some of the neighbours are away and there’s no one for white-van-man to deliver to, and no school bus or early-morning commute. Conversely there’s a steady supply of hikers, and the principal roads are bumper to bumper caravans and smart motors (Sunday en route to the Dog & Duck I passed a Lamborghini).

Lunch in Totnes today, for a change of diet. We continued the fish theme following Friday’s goujons. Pan fried scallops with ginger and spring onions (and Thai rice) gave way to crab bisque, potted shrimp, smoked allsorts, and an excellent salmon, with refried pink firs from Mrs G’s vegetable patch (deluxe fish and chips). This morning I feel a burger coming on, preferably one that is fish-free and isn’t accompanied by courgettes.

Monday, August 4

The war to end all wars

Yes, that worked well. Whilst it deserves to be commemorated, today’s centenary events appear more a jamboree for the great and the good than a period of sombre reflection.

I know this is a cliché but, as I’ve said before, I wish I could bottle certain moments for those long winter evenings. Earlier tonight the wireless was broadcasting live from the Albert Hall, with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra making a good fist of portraying the haunting nostalgia of Vaughn Williams’ reflection on the past with his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The moment was perfectly integrated with what was happening outside of my window. As the strings played, mighty clouds rose up above the ridge, swallows soared overhead, wood smoke emanating from the neighbour’s cottage wove its way in concert through the tall firs...a shepherd and his three dogs drove a huge flock across the slope in and out of the dappled light. Ten minutes later everything had gone and all that remained was silence and a large crow on the gatepost...and people squabbling over wreaths.

Friday, August 1

Fish fingers and fast horses

A thumbs up and thanks for the bottle of Yamazaki Single Malt Distiller’s Reserve I received as an early birthday present. I once owned a motor cycle with a similar marque. It went like shit off a shovel – and stopped just as quickly. Usually when I came into contact with a wall, bridge or ditch somewhere along the A939.

Off to the market early this morning before the rain and crowds arrived. I’m a fan of courgettes (and purple beans, snap peas, cabbages, etc.) but you need something else on the plate other than lentils and rice or the numerous varieties of home-grown potato. If the Boss digs up many more spuds I’m going into the vodka business. As it is Friday I settled for the usual: fish-of-today being goujons of monkfish, together with a glass of Sancerre and Glorious Goodwood on the box.