Saturday, January 31

I’ve glimpsed the future

As someone whose career predates the introduction of facsimile machines, two items in today’s papers caught my eye. The first was by Gillian Tett who attended last week’s World Economic Forum. She writes about a familiar subject: the breakneck speed of technological development and its impact on the changing face of employment. It seems the Davos elite are anticipating extraordinary opportunities from the cyber revolution and predict barcodes and robots will replace humans at an accelerating rate, potentially replacing 45% of current US jobs over the next 20 years. Although Davos luminaries (and their computer programmers) expect to benefit big time, the consensus is that the middle tier of jobs will disappear. They anticipate a future world bifurcated between low-skilled, low-paid service jobs and highly skilled elite jobs. So if you think inequality is a problem now, you ain’t seen…which leads to speculation about how society adapts, and the enthusiasm for the large scale redistribution (or not) of wealth in a globalised world. The second article features a guy named Demis Hassabis. He is a 38 year old polymath who runs DeepMind, an organisation of 100 or so PhDs at the front end of AI development (think Arnold Schwarzenegger and Terminator). Although he waffles about appointing an ethics board of philosophers and such like to govern how his technology can be used, we all know the way it ends. What set my alarm bells ringing is his belief that the process of eating food is time wasted (interview takes place over lunch in Michelin-starred restaurant) and that he would prefer it involved no more than swallowing tubes of paste. Anyone who dismisses one of life’s principal pleasures so casually needs to be treated with extreme caution. Thankfully I’m on the home straight, and not a school careers advisor.

Saturday wimp

Driving through the sleet this morning I was harbouring thoughts of watching a local rugby match – the corner flags were out. Put some colour in my cheeks, I thought. I was further encouraged by the sound of next-door’s guns making the most of their final day; rubber-suited stalwarts lowering kayaks into the Dart. My enthusiasm wasn’t dimmed when passing a neighbour leading his horses, head down, fighting the biting wind. And yet here I am in full idler mode beside the fire, listening to Alan Shearer on the box, waiting for the action from Sandown and Wetherby.

Thursday, January 29

Sod off

‘In the last few years alcohol has become the leading cause of death in men under 50 years of age…’ The Spectator – staffed by some of the biggest pissheads in the business (if their stories are to be believed) – gives space to yet another Nutt proposing minimum-priced alcohol. Of course it won’t affect any of us, they say, it is aimed at those sorts who drink super-strength lager, and gormless youngsters loading up before a night out, etc. Once introduced, however, other problem drinkers will emerge. And sure as shit the minimum price will increase incrementally until everyone speaks Norwegian.

Sumptuary Laws

Hurrah! Feels like winter has finally arrived. Have lit a fire in more than one room – even with sweater and furry boots, 13˚C feels a mite cool indoors. Given their cavernous halls and double glazing-free doors and windows, the characters portrayed in Wolf Hall must have been made of sterner stuff. Perhaps it’s wearing a cap that does the trick; it certainly ain’t their picky food. I thought there were laws about that sort of thing: what happened to the suckling pigs and haunches of venison?

Get thee to Mayfair

Scotch pop-up bar, open now at Brown's Hotel.

Let’s hear it for England’s green and pleasant land

Robert Tombs’ The English and their History has been one of the more enjoyable non-fiction books I’ve read recently. It is a familiar story of course, at least familiar to anyone over forty. They tell me the subject currently taught in schools consists of little more than Hitler, Hitler, Mary Seacole and Hitler; and as Lawrence Olivier said to Yussel: “If you don’t know where you come from…” Tombs reminds us that as with literature and art, history enriches our understanding, expands our sympathies and gives pleasure. The downside depends on whatever prejudicial views are espoused by the writer. I suspect Richard Starkey’s England, for instance, is quite different to that of Will Hutton or Hilary Mantel. Tombs offers a very positive view of the English. Let’s face it, anyone equally disparaging of Blair, Cameron and Arnold Toynbee can’t be bad. He reminds us how lucky we are to be born after 1945; to be forever grateful for the English Chanel; and that whilst England remains the largest nation in Europe without its own political institutions, we live in one of the richest, safest, best governed places on earth.

Wednesday, January 28

Everyone gets there in the end

Dream on. It looked like this last week. Today’s jaunt was less a case of blowing the cobwebs away and more my lurching in whichever direction the wind blew. Two and a half hours through the mire, birds grounded, saplings bent horizontal to the ground. It beats being trapped in the office.

I am wearing new headgear following yesterday’s triple salchow from the ladder, cracking my head on the deck. You can hear it can’t you: ‘What did I tell you, blah, blah, blah…ladders–wind, blah, blah, blah…’

Vincenzo’s Sausages with Parmesan Polenta for supper. Whilst it loses something sans a glass of wine, Dry January draws peacefully to a close. I can’t quite manage Anthony Peregrine’s Gallic antidote but Sunday lunch should still be a lively affair – there’s a bottle of Pol Roger in the fridge to (belatedly) toast the big lad’s anniversary.

Well done the Saddlers. It’s only taken 127 years.

Monday, January 26

Burning the furniture

Those dastardly energy companies. We let them build their pesky power stations and pipelines, and then they bill us. Surely it should be free at the point of delivery? The government must do something! I have to admit there were one or two grumbles when I did the monthly cheque run this morning. There aren’t any cheques of course: they went the way of trim phones long ago. Nowadays I settle on-line or in cash. Five hundred quid for a tank of propane, three-fifty for electricity and a couple of hundred on firewood. It adds up – you find yourself looking at those chairs of Mrs G's you never liked. Then again I don’t own a so-called smart phone. Someone recently told me they pay more per month for their phone than for food?

Changed times...or not

It is common to see ourselves a more civilised people than our forebears, having learnt the mistakes of history. Yes, really. Whilst none of us could conceive of another holocaust, I wonder how the people laying wreaths and lighting candles at Auschwitz tomorrow view our devaluation of the term survivor, an appellation that now incorporates most anyone who’s had a bad day at the office.

A historian’s view of English people during 1940 (György Lukács?). They were a cantankerous and contrary lot: highly critical of politicians…and the BBC; disliking censorship and shocked by prosecutions of grumblers for ‘defeatism’. Whilst we haven’t yet sunk to the latter, his description has a familiar ring to it.

Sunday, January 25

Chalk and cheese

This morning’s absence of walkers was in direct contrast to the number of riders. Most every girl between the age of seven and seventeen appears to ride a pony. They gallop about the moor in small bands like Mongol raiders. And it is always girls; you wonder what their brothers do for entertainment? It would be nice to think the lads are outside somewhere kicking a ball about. More than likely, however, they are in their bedrooms watching internet porn, or breaking into someone’s shed and stealing the mower. …Back home in time for Sunday lunch (mutton curry) and the match. After yesterday’s shock results I will have to put my money on Bristol City.

Whilst we can attribute the Green Party’s fast growing membership to misguided teenagers, you have to admit there’s no fool like an old fool – especially when armed with knitting needles.

Great country walks

Been there, done that – including the Rugglestone (on a number of occasions). Nice pint, served from the barrel.

Saturday, January 24

Vodka and tonic, and Kalashnikov rifles

One of the many contentious points raised during last year’s referendum debate was the question of cross-border trade and the implications of our using different currencies. We import, for instance, a not inconsiderable quantity of whisky; and in return export the produce of our local abbey. Buckfast Tonic Wine attracts a fair amount of negative press, but as I’m reluctant to criticize something I have never tried, when the claymore-wielding hordes came to stay last summer we undertook a pilgrimage and purchased a bottle from source…And it is still sitting on the shelf, unopened – although I have promised myself I will attempt a glass at Mrs G’s deferred Burns supper. I only remembered the bottle this morning when queuing for my Saturday Sun at the newsagent. From his attire I could be reasonably certain the lad in front of me was off for a day’s shooting, and along with his newspaper, he purchased a bag of refreshments to guard against the winter chill. Needless to say I won’t be venturing out this afternoon, at least not in the company of whichever shooting party is being fortified by three bottles of vodka and six of Buckie.

Friday, January 23

A good big ’un

Always beats a good little ’un, or so the boxing adage goes. Following the recent departure of a neighbourhood stalwart I am occasionally called upon to fix things and run errands. There are, however, limitations to a sub-ten stone frame. Even with Mrs G. on my shoulders for added weight and purchase, I have been unable to shift a granite cap stone dislodged by passing vehicles. Thankfully most of the other lads hereabouts are built like Jack Reacher and happy to oblige. There are one or two girls I wouldn’t argue with either.

Mixed communities

Poor boys fare worse in rich areas, suggests research. So what are we proposing, the abolition of ‘social/affordable housing’ as a precondition to new developments and a return to out of town council ghettos? I guess it’s another stick the nimbys can use to beat their opponents. ‘You think poor kids have a problem’ says James Blunt, ‘try being posh in an industry that’s full of oiks.’

More than the sum of its parts

Feminists are oft heard to remark that behind every successful man there’s a woman. So it was interesting to hear Shirley Williams declare in today’s Daily Politics’ interview that the principal reason Margaret Thatcher became PM and she didn’t was Denis Thatcher. Without a supportive husband, Williams believed, she failed to acquire the ‘supreme confidence’ (her words) deemed necessary to reach the top. The abolition of grammar schools arguably remains Williams principal achievement, though given her privileged background and subsequent education many regard it as hoisting the ladder. I hadn’t appreciated the good lady auditioned against Elizabeth Taylor for the Velvet Brown role in the film National Velvet. Always the bridesmaid: but then the most accomplished of bridesmaids.

Thursday, January 22

What about George Galloway

If you’re going to have seven parties in the TV debates, you’ve got to include the DUP. And what about Respect, the Monster Raving...?

Dangerous ground for any man

In my wildest dreams would I dare to comment on Mrs G’s attire. “Does my bum look big in this?” Certainly not, dear, Cleopatra ain’t in it...And so Im in awe of Tom Gordon, The Herald’s Political Editor, who risks a swift kick up the kilt from the nippy sweetie girl for his take on her latest outfit: As a clueless bloke who only owns blue shirts and black socks, I have no right to discuss fashion. But sometimes the outfit simply demands it. A Gary Glitter-style number, with Joan Collins shoulders and a tartan as loud as a flight path, it made her look as if she were being constantly mauled by a travel rug, as if a fabric monster had leaped on her back and refused to let go. Ouch. British Caledonia cabin staff, I remember them well – marvellous girls.

You have to die of something

It appears 150 minutes of exercise is too challenging for most people, and doctors who recommend this Olympian regime should aim lower – maybe 20 minutes/week is sufficient? Why bother getting out of bed I ask. You can tick off 20 minutes walking back and forwards between bed and throne – gradually working up, perhaps detouring via the fridge to pop a tin. Not that I have room to talk: there’s a distinct whiff of pots and kettles to my faux affront. In order to digest Tuesday’s calves liver and fried potatoes, work up an appetite for last night’s ration of pork chops and sauerkraut, I completed the obligatory walk ’round the block. Chill it may have been but a glorious day nonetheless – the view from the ridge is inspiring. Inspiring and noisy. An RAF Puma had decided to inspect the homestead’s chimney pots, and our neighbours were entertaining visitors in a concerted effort to recreate the Somme Offensive. It was raining pheasants (the season ends next week). I’m already lamenting their disappearance from the menu.

Wednesday, January 21

If I ruled the world

“I would go for global equality” says novelist Dame Margaret Drabble in February’s Prospect. “I’d like to put all the world’s assets and cash into a big pot and shake them up and redistribute them like confetti…The notion of every single person on this planet being given a chance to play this game of egalitarian roulette fills me with dizzy delight…I see them, the endless multitudes, their eyes gently and humbly bandaged with the white veil of unknowing, patiently waiting to cast their votes for a fairer world. Wealth…would flow freely from free nation to free nation, and cascade down the redeemed generations.”

If the good lady really did rule the world I suspect few of us would be afforded the opportunity to vote on her proposition. I’ve noticed the people most anxious to confiscate my nest egg at the Post Office are either loaded or, like Drabble, have one foot in the grave. I recall sitting at my desk when in my 20s fretting over the mortgage and contemplating another supper of boiled rice or tinned pilchards, while my boss was on the phone to his broker ordering another pallet of Krugerrands. During his later years, however, he became the most benevolent of Fezziwiggian philanthropists. Fairness and morals appear flexible concepts that change with your circumstances.

Fatalism

Can’t believe I sat and watched another episode on the box last night. Smiley’s People – the BBC adaptation – seems so dated, the acting unbelievably hammy. Whilst Beryl Reid’s performance remains a treat, Bernard Hepton was never going to headline at the BAFTA’s. I reread the book a while ago – and you’d suspect me a cold war enthusiast. I just enjoy John le Carré stories. Britain’s supposed infatuation with ‘the war’ and its aftermath mystifies German acquaintances (though never the Eastern Europeans I meet). History (human nature) remains our best guide to the future and is probably the one subject our schools choose to ignore. Following May 7th and true to form whichever government is elected will cut the armed forces (we’ve never looked back since embarking on Brown’s peace dividend). Then at some stage in the future we will bankrupt the country rearming.

Tuesday, January 20

Anne Kirkbride

The last time I watched Coronation Street Alf Roberts was still selling biscuits in his corner shop. Grief! I can recall Ena, Minnie and Martha (my aunts). The Telegraph’s Ben Lawrence pays tribute to the death of another stalwart in today’s paper, remarking on the character’s essential ordinariness as her principal attribute. Given the misogynist invective of contemporary life it’s somewhat comforting to recall the limit of abuse once directed at girls who were rather drab: ‘My god she looks like Deirdre Barlow’.

Monday, January 19

Dry and sunny today


Much more of this and I’ll be wheeling out the barbecue.

The perils of seeking employment in your 40s

You’ve been to the gym, applied the Grecian 2000 and bought yourself one of those ridiculous Paul Smith suits…only to bugger it up bragging about your O-levels.

On British dental hygiene

As with so much in life you generally get what you pay for, not least with the NHS. Free at the point of delivery seems more a euphemism than an aspiration.

Sunday, January 18

Back to the future?

In glorious sunshine, this morning, winding my way through the Dart Valley admiring the view, the fancy of a steam locomotive on the track alongside, Aker Bilk’s melodious clarinet was playing on the radio…and I’m passed by an E-Type at full throttle. If Nigel Farage had been at the wheel, silk scarf trailing in the breeze, it would not have surprised me. …I’d earlier skinned my knee trying to grab the remote when Clegg appeared on breakfast television. They tell me despite losing half their seats the LibDems could remain kingmakers after the coming election. Whether Clegg would support a party with the largest number of votes (Conservatives?) or the greater number of seats (Labour?) is reason enough to increase footfall at the bookies. Fingers crossed Clegg goes with the latter. The opposition benches would consist a foaming-mouthed coalition of nationalists, unionists and Ukip, alongside a post-Cameron Tory party that’s body swerved to the right – all supported by an equally rabid popular press. I’m almost tempted to vote Labour to help bring it about: would make bear baiting seem tame.

Saturday, January 17

A rare and cerebral pleasure

We happily scoff chicken liver pâté but, for most, brains are a step too far. It’s been a while since Mrs G. served up brains for supper. Given the fallout from BSE, certain categories of offal fell out of favour and became difficult to source. Whilst tongue and tripe, sweetbreads and stuffed-hearts still feature on the homestead menu, brains on toast is a distant memory. Like many esoteric dishes they’ve become the preserve of Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurants. They tell me the most glamorous place to eat a plate of brains is at the sparkling chrome-and-marble counter of Sam and Eddie Hart’s tapas restaurant Barrafina in Covent Garden.

Hibernating ’till the world heats up

I wonder if everyone struggles to get out of bed these dreich winter mornings as much as I do. At this time of year we should go easy on ourselves. The forecast was certainly correct: rain falling on frozen ground = ice. Thankfully the propane man stopped by yesterday. If 2014 really was the hottest year on record it couldn’t have come too soon. …I’ve grown accustomed to those markers that carry me through each year, swallows arriving and departing, so it is gratifying to see a spread of snowdrops across the yard.

I’m not Julian Fellowes says ugly woman.

Friday, January 16

Declinism

The good old days? If you are aged between 15 and 25 make the most of it. Thereafter, apparently, life – or at least what you later recall – is all downhill. Must admit it was fun, but I’m not sure I would like to relive those days. Your 30s, they are the best. Although, both physically and mentally, bits are beginning to drop off, most of what you have remains in good order – and there is a decade of experience in the tank.

Rural fuel price rebate

Tens of thousands of motorists living in rural areas will receive a reduction of 5p a litre at the petrol pumps after government plans were approved by the European Commission. Those living in Devon, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and the Scottish Highlands will benefit from the fuel rebate scheme. Governments always present it as a rebate when agreeing to limit the amount of money they take from you. And sanctioned by those nice men in Brussels too. Of course I’ll believe it when I read the small print and see it in action, I suspect it relates to a circumscribed area within the county of Devon.

Thursday, January 15

Snow, bogs and duck legs


I do try to drag my sorry butt from behind the desk in an effort to meet the prescribed daily twenty minutes of exercise. Not easy at this time of year when I seem attached to the office’s blazing stove by an invisible cord. It’s not that you can walk anywhere in twenty minutes. Yesterday morning it took almost three hours to slog up hill and down dale, through standing water, cloying mud and a particularly vicious bog. So this afternoon I settled for a walk around the block which on a good day takes a mere ninety minutes. A wise decision as it turned out. Within seconds of returning the homestead was hit by one of those freak storms that bring down trees and separates roof from home. As I speak the snow is streaming through air vents and showering my keyboard. No smart comments from Brisbane if you please. …On the plus side said exercise fosters a decent appetite. Tonight is one of my standards, duck legs and carrots. It is a repost to Mrs G’s salt & pepper squid of yesterday evening, which itself was in response to Tuesday’s Gudgeon Goulash. A competitive business is cookery.

Tomato tomato

Today’s BBC Daily Politics featured my old stomping ground Gt Yarmouth, in a story pitting the Tories against Ukip. Matthew Parris was guest commentator, and so given his history with Clacton it was potentially red-rag stuff. Whilst back-peddling as best he could, it didn’t help the lad’s cause that, on being accused of an anti-working class agenda, Parris told us seaside towns weren’t so much blue collar (a seemingly respectable group of people) as scummy underclass. He wasn’t quite that forthright of course but it was left unsaid. Politics is so nuanced these days, blue collar and working class infer different things. Would you believe Des O’Connor is still headlining on the pier.

I’m warming to this man

The new politics suggests we focus not on policies but on groups, tribes, interests, says Simon Jenkins. We need a party of the left, one that stands up for poorer people, that displays a healthy enthusiasm for the true spirit of redistribution. Of course his article is tongue-in-cheek and one long wind-up – a teenage socialist’s wet dream, where Isis meets an Orwellian fantasy. These sort of delusions are not choices, as he well realises, and they do not come to fruition via the ballot box but at the point of a gun.

In a fit of largess I picked up a print copy of The Guardian when up town on Tuesday. After reading a fair proportion of the content I thought Big Issue and War Cry the better purchases. The Telegraph, too, continues its downwards spiral. David Aaronovitch’s column in today’s Times, however, is why (and despite my vehement disagreement with more than half their columnists) I continue to shell out for the publication; ‘the weasels’ constitutes the final word on the subject of Je suis Charlie and the right to free speech, at least the final word of what I intend reading. It’s why he is paid the big bucks and I am shovelling chicken shit.

Wednesday, January 14

You have to be there

It was one of the best matches I’ve seen in recent times. Although we were listening to the game on the wireless, you can’t help but visualise play, every jink and pass, each tackle, the shots on goal and fingertip saves. Great commentary from the Radio 5 team. The big lad from Dudley’s having a good run.


A dusting of white stuff outside, the mercury reads zero but the wind-chill says different. You’d have thought the chickens would have learned to let themselves out of a morning without my help.

Low prices are here to stay, says George Osborne. I wish he wouldn’t say this sort of thing, the last idiot that let his mouth run away with itself claimed to have abolished boom and bust.

Tuesday, January 13

Eating out in Bromley

If you have to eat out in Bromley the Toby Carvery probably isn’t the place. Unless of course there’s the chance of an impromptu floor show.

Wishful thinking

Inflation has fallen to its lowest in fifteen years. What’s not to like? More money in everyone’s pocket, if not in my nest egg – interest rates remain dire, and this morning’s announcement was closely followed by an email from the Post Office confirming another quarter-percent reduction. Whilst I don’t complain when filling the Land Rover, I suspect firewood is another of those things that isn’t included in the CPI basket of goods and services. Thankfully the US$ continues to perform. It rescued the Gudgeon beer fund last year and could well do the same in 2015.

Monday, January 12

Worthless resolutions

The local deli is producing a great line in empanadas, top-notch pastries filled with crab, curried vegetables, pork or chilli beef. However Mrs G. has decided that, sans alcohol, I will be compensated during January with solid nutritious Scottish fare. Today’s specials include porridge, Scotch broth (yesterday was boiled mutton), and another clootie dumpling. Whatever else, I’m not going hungry – but then neither are the festive inches falling away. So much for my New Year healthy eating/enhanced exercise regime. Then again I am dining in more salubrious surroundings than those Taiwanese creative types.

Semi-skimmed Winston Churchill

Carlsberg are to produce a semi-skimmed Special Brew in an effort to stay below the four-unit limit. It must be a couple of decades since I last downed a glass – had a Danish friend who used it as a chaser for his Akvavit. I did, however, consume a couple of bottles of Meantime IPA over the festive period, and was half-way through the second before realising it contained almost two days’ units per bottle. Mozambican pombe beer is also off the menu.

Cheap milk

Milk is now cheaper to buy than bottled water. Four-pint bottles of milk, a key weapon in the ongoing grocery price war, have been cut by Asda to 89p. I must admit my local Kwik-E-Mart is knocking out semi-skilled at 25p/pint – although after noting the level of pharmaceutical products ingested by the cows of larger producers, Mrs G. insists on so-called organic. My neighbour sells his stuff to Yeo. Assuming farmers are making a living and milk is purely a supermarket loss-leader I haven’t a problem. My bugbear are those sub-£3 chickens. If we are going to kill and eat animals – and I have no intention of amending my diet – the least we can do is to raise them decently. Worrying about paying too little for your food is another of those first world problems.

Sunday, January 11

I need a shave

How come other lads who skip shaving resemble a rough and ready George Clooney and I look like Wilfred Brambell? My trip down the hill for newspapers and a pint of milk yesterday morning took slightly longer than usual. Newmarket came to mind. I counted 24 runners and riders between here and the Dog & Duck. Given the single track lane, each rider I meet necessitates a swerve into the hedge until lady and steed pass by. Paintwork takes a beating – the Devon stripe. I know men ride horses because I follow the action on Channel 4. Equestrians, however, recall my English Literature tutorials, with one male to every nine women. I’m told it’s why they don’t earn the big bucks. These sort of things people do for pleasure; only the exceptional derive a living.

Saturday, January 10

Sad and probably true

I was going to say Brendan O’Neill at Spiked is the best chuckle of today but unfortunately it rings too true.

An aid, not a weapon

And so it reached its predicable conclusion. There follows the usual hand-wringing from the commentariat, brickbats from the rank and file. I’m always minded to cut people slack, put these aberrations down to one or two nut jobs, embittered losers, but after watching BBC Newsnight’s foray into the Muslim community you despair. How far do we bend? We’ve seen it all before of course. I’m halfway through Robert Tombs marvellous book, The English and their History (circa page 500). If it wasn’t Muslims I’m sure it would be Presbyterians or Druids. I appreciate religion can be a useful crutch: but you’re supposed to lean on the damn thing, not use it to beat someone’s head in.

If you were of the religious persuasion and had been outside this morning, you would doubtless conclude the big lad’s pissed with it all. Tempests ain’t in it.

Friday, January 9

It’s all in the mind

It is blowing the usual hoolie this morning, the homestead’s rattlin’ worse’n my old motor. Yet in the midst of winter, there is in me an invincible summer. Yes, I know: old ones are the best. I’ve compromised, complementing my heavyweight alpaca wool socks (Xmas present) with an old psychedelic Pat Magee T-shirt. They can probable see me in Princetown. Warm feet, warm memories – you need more than marriage during the wilderness years. A mix of Latin and reggae playing in the background. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to open a bottle to accompany today’s veal scallops and braised sweetbreads.

Thursday, January 8

While back in that other world

It’s difficult to acknowledge the Paris atrocity without some sort of kneejerk response. I guess most of us generate similar instinctive thoughts, the foremost concerning repatriation to wherever ‘they’ came from. When it was first reported yesterday the newsreader (almost) concluded with ‘While back in that other world…’, and went on to inform us that 35 had been killed by a car bomb in Yemen and a further 7 in separate incidents in Afghanistan. People are shot, bitten or stabbed everywhere every day – the sun rises, the sun sets: and truth to tell, I’m not really arsed unless it happens in my neighbourhood, to me and mine. I’m sure this makes me a selfish person, and human. Part apathy, part compassion fatigue. Of course me and mine is a broad church that includes all of my compatriots across the channel, friends on the other side of the pond – and anyone who’s bought me a pint during the last 20 years. The two turds in Paris are as Muslim as Martin McGuinness is a Catholic and I’m an Anglican. I guess it will always remain part of our respective cultures, identity politics. Let’s face it, a big lad with white beard charging across the sky in his chariot? Seriously?

Tuesday, January 6

Payment for aspirins and sticky plasters

Simon Jenkins may be an old fart but on this subject I find myself in agreement. Surely we all acknowledge payment for front line treatment is inevitable? It’s merely a question of how long our chicken-shit leaders can continue to dodge the bullet. Probably because I’ve made little use of the service over the years (tempting fate), I struggle to understand how the NHS has attained such iconic status (other than as a source of well-paid employment). The cynic in me believes I will never have the opportunity to find out. In the same way I have dutifully paid insurance on cars, houses and pets, etc., only to find my claims deemed inadmissible, I just know that (a) when I reach the age at which I will qualify for receipt of an old-age pension it will be abolished, and (b) when my decrepitude eventually requires some sort of acute medical care, everyone aged over 70 will be taken out and shot.

Once it was just gloves and goggles

My ignorance knows no bounds: but then each and every day I get to learn exciting new facts. When reading of the current German Vulgarity War in today’s Telegraph, I learned that many current purchasers of Bentley motor cars wear something called wife-beaters?

Perspective

The most active people in their 70s are as fit as those in their 50s. Whilst it’s true I have friends who’ve passed 70 and still play a mean game of tennis, they can’t disguise the pain. Even Ryan Giggs would admit that, fit as he was in his latter days as a footballer, it hurt. I recall trying out for something in my mid-twenties and, though I passed the test, was made to realise I wasn’t 18 anymore.

Give it a rest already

Weather wise our days alternate good and bad – an occasional spell of sunshine to lighten the January gloom. At this time of year access lanes are invariably flooded and the wind always blows. And yet though the festive seasons is a memory, everyone manages to smile, waves a greeting. At least adults do. Unless on top of a pony, teenagers appear a sullen bunch. Doubtless something to do with their returning to school and the dark nights. That and our pathetic broadband speed, currently running at 0.37Mb. I can open a web page in approximately 7 seconds or download a film in 226 minutes. Superfast broadband is another of those promises made by politicians at election time. The campaign only kicked off yesterday and I’m already bored, am getting my news from Al Jazeera and the old girl at the post office.

Monday, January 5

No country for free speech

The plod have certainly gotten up Alex Massie's kilt.

Once more unto the breach

To all intents and purposes today is my first day of the year. The day I put festive season excess to bed and return to the struggle, take down the tree and remove those flashing lights – it has begun to resemble a motorway accident scene. If the past is a guide, the tree with languish behind the barn for the next couple of months, prior to its incineration on the spring bonfire. At this time of year my goals are less than inspirational, matching socks would be a start.

Sunday, January 4

After the Lord Mayor’s Show

Tonight’s supper was an old standby, namely sweet and sour pork. Given the quality and quantity of food consumed over the festive period it was good to return to something resembling normality, or what passes for standard fare when it’s my turn at the stove and there is footy on the box – i.e. quick, and manufactured from leftovers and/or whatever’s on the shelf. Last night was braised sausages and cabbage. And of course the usual dry January applies (I’d petitioned for relief, citing my dry October in lieu, but was given short shrift).

Our festive food awards were a toughie this year. After much deliberation the goose secured top spot, Mrs G’s clootie dumpling the best pudding. Best in cakes and baking went to her Dundee cake. The outstanding buffet meal was a slam-dunk for our New Year’s Day session, thanks primarily to the quality of the gravadlax, and the blini. Best cheese was Cropwell Bishop. And whilst the red cabbage salad and the red rice are both worth special mention, best veg award had to go to the traditional roasties. The booze wasn’t exactly a disappointment but it would be fair to say el vino was overshadowed by the food. There was a good Pauillac from Lafite Rothschild and an interesting Spanish white, however at festive times Mrs G. makes the calls – and unless it features bubbles and the words grand cru… My crate of Samuel Smith’s Pale Ale, as always, was much appreciated.

Misty moors and thin skins

Considerably quieter out there today, and relatively mild too. The moor is covered in mist; managed a two-three hour jaunt early morning. Not many people out – the occasional farmer on a quad bike, a couple of serious runners, three big lads riding all-terrain bikes who sounded like they’d escaped from Last of the Summer Wine. We don’t hear many northern accents this neck of the woods – guess they have plenty playgrounds of their own up there. Needless to say the reservoir is full. Water is the one thing we’ll never run short of – that and the traumatised victims of privileged white Anglo-Saxon shits that lie in bed all day and torture dark-skinned folk for amusement at night.

Saturday, January 3

Onwards and upwards

Given today is a Saturday it would have been nice to treat myself to an extra hour in bed. Unfortunately, though the wind is relatively subdued, the sheer volume of rain falling on the homestead’s roof – the noise that generates – makes sleep impossible, its manic drumbeat frustrating any opportunity for wistful contemplation. No choice but to get up and put the kettle on, light the fire, check news headlines – check for leaks. You can face almost anything provided there’s milk for the tea, and firelighters.

Friday, January 2

Election hustings

If you want to escape with dignity, blubbing probably isn’t the thing to do (unless desperate for the women’s vote). A prominent beer belly and overly tight clothing doesn’t help either; although the lad doesn’t look much better. I know, I know: not particularly gallant. But then I suspect the Telegraph has been both deliberate and mean in their selection.

Ukip voters are closer to Labour than they are to the Tories in their economic views. Fighting for the centre ground, I guess? Who is advising these guys, Tony Blair?

It certainly ain’t Rod Liddle.

Democracy’s a bugger, eh?

Thursday, January 1

Tosser

A rousing rendition of Delilah rings around the Britannia. There’s been some talk of banning it recently. It is one of the more unpleasant club anthems in my view.

Begin as you mean to go on

The guns are out in force this morning. I’m staying put – perched on my throne, next to the stove (arm in sling, from beating egg whites). It wouldn’t be New Year’s Day without Mrs G’s blinis proving in a warm corner of the office. Whatever resolutions I made last night faded with the second buck’s fizz. I’m watching/listening to the action from Vienna's Musikverein. You have to admire the Viennese: they’re so smug, well oiled, they make Chris Pattern look like a down-at-heel itinerant.

Channel 4 Racing – cutest girls on the box.

And so another begins...

2015 roars in on the back of a traditional south-west gale, albeit with temperatures in double figures. Last night was one of our better (tamer) Hogmanays. As tradition dictates, Mrs G. had cleaned house in readiness; any thought of touring the neighbourhood with a six-pack and half-bottle are long behind me, ditto those competitive celebrations at Trader Vic’s. Two champagne cocktails is about my limit these days. Whilst the spirit is willing…