Friday, July 31

A Blue Moon

Is illuminating the yard.

Friday means beer and barbecue

Quad bikes are tearing back and forwards along the bridle path; livestock on the move. Summer visitors too. ‘Are we on the right track to...?’ One pair I met yesterday were unlikely to complete the course: sandals and paunch to the fore. Up in Totnes this morning there was a real holiday atmosphere. Sunshine: it makes or breaks. I’m always tempted to stereotype the locals as Conservative-voting Guardianistas, what used to be called Tory Wets (Blairites?), characterised by our local MP Sarah Wollaston. Tree-hugging, anti-hunting, public sector employees, whose Mom still eulogises about her days at Greenham Common. The sort of people that sympathise with the Calais migrants’ plight; who would crap themselves if a thousand Eritrean males appeared on Fore Street. Inspired by the scenes on Sky News I am singeing a sizeable slab of bushmeat on the barbecue. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, the Kwik-E-Mart doesn't stock Asmara lager.

Thursday, July 30

Oil companies travel back to 1986

I remember it well. There was no Christmas bonus that year. Come to think of it much of the 80s was a washout.

I’m still stacking logs – it’s thirsty work

The homestead is home to ‘swarms’ of insects and a corresponding number of birds. It has been a great year for our swallows – the resident flight can hardly believe its luck. Whilst we have swallows, the neighbour attracts house martins? Neither of us has seen a swift this year. The yard’s recently fledged inhabitants includes multiple broods of song thrush, wagtails and spotted flycatchers. Magpies and jackdaws stay the other side of the fence with the pigeons and grey heron. Up above us there are stonechats and buzzards.

Wednesday, July 29

Embellishing our past to appear cool

Life was far easier when you just made it all up as you went along. Hands up anyone who hasn’t included a little bullshit in his CV.

Time and tide


A drenching out on the moor this morning. Hoping to watch Glorious Goodwood on the box, always assuming I finish log stacking – the time of year I begin hoarding firewood for winter.

I must buy a new CD player for the office, even the motor’s music system is superior to everything in the homestead. It doesn’t help that Mrs G. has fitted each unit with a governor.

Monday, July 27

Proud to be British

So, thank you, Lord Sewel, for reminding us what scandal really means. Snorting cocaine off a prostitute’s breast, badmouthing politicians before getting your end away — now that’s what I call scandalous behaviour. He has to resign as chairman of committees, of course, but let’s congratulate him too, for rescuing the ideal of ignominy from the easily shocked, sleaze-dodging dullards who now dominate politics.

Sunday, July 26

Wet and windy

Damn but it’s grim out there. Marvellously grim. What wilderness is supposed to be. Thank god for wax jackets and wellington boots; that I’m able to walk the walk. The homestead is a long way from Gypsy Lane.

Money begets money

Basking in her £25 windfall from Ernie, Mrs G. wins £25 gambling on the National Lottery.

Middle class threatened with downward mobility

Pilloried for their drinking habits, the middle class are now criticised for teaching their progeny to read and write. The Orwellian sounding ‘Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’ say that if kids from ’umble backgrounds are to succeed, a cull of the better-off is required. Success, it seems, has as much to do with your grandfather as your school teacher. However I’m at a loss to imagine how Dr Abigail McKnight can stop my neighbours buying their children ponies and music lessons, any more that she could have prevented Dianne Abbott sending her son to the prestigious City of London school.

Saturday, July 25

Sunshine! At least for today

Holiday-makers are thick on the ground, not least in the immediate vicinity. I wish them well; unfortunately I can’t control the weather. Lots of little people – young families with kiddies. I will never understand why doting parents believe it permissible for their adorable urchins to wander the Kwik-E-Mart food isles, pawing the produce with grubby disease laden mitts. Kind of defeats all those latex gloves and hairnets so evident elsewhere in the food chain.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Samuel Johnson thought patriotism the last refuge of scoundrels; the misogyny gambit appears the first port of call for third-rate politicians.

Friday, July 24

Good luck with that one

Scientists at King’s College London ‘discovered’ that aptitude and intelligence are inherited. Report author Professor Robert Plomin said that children should be genetically screened at the age of four so that an individualised curriculum could be tailored to their needs.

Switch to wet weather programme

The cattle have moved on, leaving a close cropped, well manured back yard. Job done I guess. Unfortunately they ate everything and anything including the the pump house roof. Of course after driving to Ike Godsey’s for another roll of felt and undertaking the necessary, I realised the grass required cutting, paving slabs cleared of weeds and repointed, drains unblocked…blah, blah, blah. Which is just as well given the overnight rainfall. I suspect there will be zero outside duties on today’s roster – a chance to catch up with my reading list.

Wednesday, July 22

Monthly infusion


Although the treadmill is a distant memory I never quite lost the taste for hotel minibars – those miniature bottles. Now there’s an idea for a Lawrence Osbourne book: ‘Minibars I Have Known.’ Four birthdays ago Mrs G. was kind enough to gift me Ian Buxton’s 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die. Such is the breadth of the whisky world I have already been twice reincarnated. Unfortunately the days of reasonably priced booze are long gone, distillers capitalising on a seemingly insatiable market. And so along with my monthly supply of reading material from Amazon and the occasional CD, I have taken to subscribing to Drinks by the Dram. It affords an opportunity to try before you buy, so to speak, and to sample the sort of stuff you can’t really afford to purchase in the 70cl form, including obscure whiskies out of general circulation. Three centilitres doesn't sound a lot, however when the evening light blazes through the homestead and you're downing 18 year old Springbank whilst serenaded by the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Chorus's rendition of Hugh Wood's Epithalamion...Yes the Proms are back.

Tuesday, July 21

Peter Allis at the Open

Octogenarian commentator Peter Allis in ‘sexist’ storm. Used as an adjective, ‘storm’ used to imply something dramatic. Nowadays the bar for drama is set much lower. I thought Allis’s best remark was an aside to Hazel Irvine, when he asked if she recalled an incident at an earlier Open and Irvine responded coyly that she was much too young. “You wish” muttered Allis, or words to that effect. I don’t really believe people are more touchy about perceived slights these days, I guess it’s more a consequence of social media and 24hr news – the need to fill column inches, to vent hot air. Yes Allis can be a bore but it’s what granddads do, you need to cut them a little slack.

Monday, July 20

Why I’m the silent type

As a dark skinned summer-born baby with a Brummie accent it makes me wonder why I ever bothered getting out of bed of a morning (it’s really a Black Country accent but the difference is lost to most). Part of me thinks the more these supposed barriers are highlighted the easier it is for kids to reach for an excuse and throw in the towel before they start. Either that or spend the rest of their life excusing failure with the preface: “It’s because I’m a…”

Sunday, July 19

Cloudy with a high chance of intoxication

Buckfast at Borough Market, where meteorology and mixology collide.

Sundays

In contrast to the forecast it turned out a sunny morning. Totnes Good Food Sunday at its best, with more stalls than I have seen for a while (this year?). The beer, cider and cheese festival was a bonus. Returned home with a dozen assorted bottles, though truth to tell I don’t expect much. The lad from Ennis produced a better drink than many of the so-called craft beer specialists. It’s easy to knock the commercial market, yet those guys are pros and in the main deliver consistent quality ale – I drank a couple of Taste the Difference beers from a well-known supermarket earlier in the week and they were excellent.

Am glued to The Open – have a shilling or two on Paul Lawrie. I’ve only played St Andrews once and that was the New Course, albeit one of my better rounds – ticked off by the marshal for playing off the Championship tees. An ounce of pretension...Nowadays I am strictly pitch and putt.

Friday, July 17

Good god what's the world coming to?

“The woman who breastfed her child did not have a bra on. She just lifted her T-shirt.” Wearing a T-shirt in the Club House: where will it end?

Tim Farron and prejudice

Irritating he may have been, however having listened to the new Liberal Democrat leader for just two minutes I suspect we will miss Nick Clegg.

It seems we are all prone to stereotypical views; but some of us, as we get older, are less able to disguise our prejudice.

Stumpy

Breezy and wet this morning: the latter a good enough excuse to get out of cutting the grass – after yesterday’s jaunt I’m stumbling around the yard like Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo. At least the lads managed to finish the paint job; with two fresh coats of Dulux Weathershield you can spot the homestead from as far afield as Torquay. All I have to do now is to touch up the not inconsiderable expanse of woodwork.

Who’d have thought it: I was a ‘special needs’ baby.

Thursday, July 16

Sore feet

Grey as usual, oppressive humidity, the homestead enveloped in mist. However I need the exercise. The track to the great outdoors is a funnel of brambles, chest-high nettles and giant hog weed – swarms of bitey stingy things. The moor itself has its own hidden dangers, most of which I seem keen to embrace. I walked a circuitous route to the old china clay mine and then south along the Puffing Billy track to Ivybridge. A fair hike, in all fourteen or so miles. Caught a cab back home.

Tuesday, July 14

Continuing the fish theme

A grim trek across the moor this morning in driving rain. Multiple changes of clothing – the visitors I met who had braved fresh air wondered what they’d signed up to. Lunch in Dartmouth: oysters, hake and lobster, an outstanding Romesco sauce and a none too shabby Muscadet.

Monday, July 13

Work till you drop

Foul weather, the day enlightened by classy gravadlax and a tottering stack of Mrs G’s blinis. I also hoped for fresh beetroot, however when checking the allotment discovered rodents have destroyed our entire crop.

The insurance company has loaned me a shiny new Land Rover Discovery Sport while my motor is in dock; the two drivers that delivered this seven-seater bus to the homestead boasted a combined age of 152.

Sunday, July 12

Deserting the sinking ship…

New London homes sell out in five hours. Don’t blame baby boomers for the lack of homes. Stephen Conway, the chief executive of Galliard Homes, said that the international buyers that have invested in Maine Tower were dominated by Greek... buyers looking to sink their money into London property and invest in sterling.

The price of food

£100 a head. £65 for steak and chips! I’m embarrassed at the amount of smackeroonies Mrs G. and I spend of food. I defend it by telling myself it is one of our principal interests, what we choose to spend our income on – one of the joys of life. Also in the realisation that good food – the sort of stuff that doesn’t come from a giant warehouse courtesy of minimum-wage staff – costs money. But £9 for a plate of battered onion rings? I’m familiar with the Adelphi Building, an old stomping ground, and for this sort of money you’d be better served walking the extra 100 yards to eat at the Savoy Grill.

Saturday, July 11

Picking your pocket

These past two days I’ve shopped in four establishments and been short-changed by all four, be it six pence or six pounds. Pennies maybe and my own fault as my mind was elsewhere: I deserve to be robbed. And yet whilst appreciating the minimum wage is being raised I didn’t expect to bear the brunt.

Women’s footy: Sorry but I can’t see it. Serena Williams, however: What a competitor – athlete. Champion!

Friday, July 10

Cheers it ain’t

The rain has ceased and swarms of flies have descended on the homestead – it’s the season. Compared to the thatched barn we inhabited prior to the homestead our current infestation is but a minor irritation. It doesn’t help we’ve a dozen cows fertilising the back yard – there are lots more up above us grazing on the moor, Welsh Blacks and South Devon cross. Today is market day, my weekly opportunity to interact with what passes for civilisation, stock up on bread and olives – have a pint in a bar where nobody knows your name.
 

The river this morning resembled one of Seurat’s scenes. The town itself bedlam, buskers having given way to bands – everyone enjoying themselves. Heavy on the cosmopolitan accents and languages. If you arrived late it was a case of no room at the inn. Crossed my mind to sell my parking space instead of just vacating the spot when finished. Old habits...

Wednesday, July 8

One way traffic

Up to Plymouth this morning for supplies. Not a lot of people about, though the weather isn’t exactly encouraging – faces exiting the County Court looked glummer than usual. The gulf between Exeter and Plymouth appears to grow with each successive visit, one or two of the residents would benefit from a bar of Dove. If Plymouth was Barclays you would consider sacking the chief executive. Returned home with a haddock and tub of rollmops in time to catch the tail end of Osborne’s budget. Much comment and analysis, albeit the Tories appear to be in the ascendancy. A forlorn Harriet Harman and lots of nonsense from that wet little sod Chris Leslie.

Tuesday, July 7

Keeping busy

Commencement of the homestead's triennial external painting program was deferred this morning. You can't paint in the rain, and for some reason lump sum contractors are reluctant to waste the day sitting in their van. Fortunately we all had a Plan B to go to, albeit my intended skive morphed into a Plan C. It seems electricity meters have to be changed out every 15 years, and as the previous residents had constructed a fa├žade to disguise its existence, a half-pound of nails and screws had to be removed and subsequently replaced. Then it transpired the replacement water filter was tainted, and by the time I’d replaced said filter, disinfected and flushed the system, the gas boiler engineer arrived to carry out an annual service. He tells me the unit continues to operate at 99.4% efficiency. In between I was attempting to rectify a problem with my computer, a corrupted registry system had shut down my emails and word processor. In the end I put myself at the mercy of a Microsoft engineer in some far off land, who spent two hours inside my machine sorting the registry and removing and reloading software. The two hours is down to our restricted download speed. A frustrating hour was also spent talking to my motor insurance people, along with the garage and a car hire company. Then our neighbour turned up with a herd of cattle he thought I could use. Sheep, it seems, won't do the trick. Back in the old days our neighbour used to knock on the door and offer to cut my lawn – a less than subtle hint I was letting the side down. Now they bring cows.

Saturday, July 4

Trigger warning

I know it's not gallant but The Times should really put a trigger warning on their magazine when portraying the unfortunate features of columnist Caitlin Moran. She came to mind when I was rear-ended this week driving to Exeter for supplies. Whilst no great damage was done the inconvenience of garages and hire cars is a pain. At the moment of collision an Elvis number, Dixieland, was playing on the dashboard radio. Guess which of the two offends contemporary mores the most.

Friday, July 3

Plan B

As the hamstrings have barely recovered from Wednesday's exertion I've borrowed several sheep from the neighbour to complete the job. They're from his drawdown stock so I will probably be eating one in the very near future. Given today is Friday I have acquired a four-pound sea trout for the barbecue. It will be served up alongside grilled fennel, tomatoes and asparagus, together with something from the Loire region.

Shoulder to shoulder in Totnes this morning, the town overrun with visitors. In addition to the usual market stalls there was an entertaining Django Reinhardt tribute act alongside our ubiquitous Big Issue lad and the Sketch Your Portrait artist. Lots of ageing hippies, doubtless hungover from Glastonbury. It had the feel of Greenwich of old, before young families began to infiltrate. Doubtless the scene will change next week as schools break up. That said there's a Telegraph sponsored festival featuring Polly Toynbee, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Martin Bell, George Monbiot and Will Hutton What fun.

Wednesday, July 1

Good Day Sunshine

Can there be a finer life when our weather plays ball: let's hear it for climate change. Weather is the story of Britain in one, not least after a day spent hacking through waist-high vegetation with a blunt scythe. I retired tired, burnt and bitten to buggery, having accomplished my goal. Not something I would choose to do for a living, but better undertaken in sunshine than grey skies and drizzle. The reward for my efforts was a plate of Mrs G's minced beef, washed down with a tumbler of Kamikaze-san's finest. The outside world struggles to break through: Greece, Syria and Heathrow runways seem far away.