Saturday, December 31

Each day as it comes

As 2016 draws to a close everyone appears busy moving livestock or shooting game, eating stale mince pies and consuming bin ends. Gudgeon is running errands for the infirm…acting as caretaker for absent neighbours. Although our Christmas tree is looking a little sad there are (apparently) rules about when it comes down; and needless to say (as I’m married to a Scot), the homestead has to be scrubbed clean for Hogmanay. Provisions for this weekend are centred round a giant roast rib of beef, a four-day tour de force. Simpson’s eat your heart out. I can’t be arsed looking back across the past year…and will think about 2017 tomorrow.

Thursday, December 29

Wednesday, December 28

Seasonal Sales…and the health police

They go on, don’t they? Seems our ‘modern lives’ – the lack of physical activity, an excess of booze, and eating too many pork pies – is doing for us. This latest nudge is intent on catching a guilty post-Christmas public contemplating New Year resolutions. To set an example I donned my walking boots and took off across the moor this morning, beneath a glorious blue sky and rising temperatures – passing lots of neighbours on foot or horseback with the same idea. Returned home to find our post had arrived, with entreaties from Berry Bros, Yapp and Majestic Wines, offering up to 40% off everything from staples to Grand Cru Burgundy and Classed Growth Claret. Lets hear it for our modern lives!

Tuesday, December 27

Definitely not a turkey

Despite my faux-protestation, Tuesday is day three of ‘the goose’. The best bird I’ve tasted in several years; and, given the cost, four days of dining is the least two people should expect from one of these suckers (tomorrow is the traditional ‘big soup’ day). An excellent right-bank claret from Denis Durantou served up in support. Tempting though it may be, goose remains a once-a-year treat. The arteries couldn’t take much more.

Monday, December 26

Never gonna dance again

Everybody knows George Michael’s songs and can sing them whether they want to or not.” Err, no. Though I do recollect a number of the gang I worked with in the ’80s, and who are ten years younger than Gudgeon, were big fans. Pop music for the current batch of fifty-somethings.

Sunday, December 25

Hi-tech gifts

Following our over-the-top Christmas Eve knees-up, two glasses of Pol Roger and a half-bottle of Meursault was about the limit to today’s festivities. Gudgeon has eaten more than enough goose, and if I never see another dish of bread sauce or sage and onion stuffing… Ditto the Christmas pudding. On the plus side: Santa delivered enough books to restock a small provincial library, yet more socks, and an electric razor. I tried one 45 years ago and didn’t warm to the contraption.

Saturday, December 24

Rockin’ all over the world

2016 has to go down as one of those ‘fuck you, arsehole’ kind of years. What with Brexit and the like, and despite our everyday wars and strife, life continues to be one long party – more fun than most of us boomers aspired to or dreamed of.

Friday, December 23

Spooky

On cue and out of the blue: an invite in today’s post from the old Selhurst Park crew, to a long-overdue reunion. Those still living, obviously.

Clapshot and cabbage

Although there aren’t any manger scenes on this year’s Christmas cards, four out of five received from neighbours (unsurprisingly) feature sheep. However it is venison rather than lamb that has been on the menu this week, with large amounts of mashed root vegetables and winter cabbage. There’s an outstanding range of quality green leaf vegetables available just now, no doubt harvested with Eastern European labour. Back to the market this morning before Storm Barbara sweeps in.

Bedlam in town. Lots of men dispatched on the inevitable quest for turkey and chipolatas. Cheery souls happy to have escaped the house for a couple of hours, obviously terrified of returning home with alcohol on their breath as the Dog & Duck was bereft of customers. The one thing I miss about cities are the bars: rural pubs can be desperate places during daylight hours.

The Stones new album ‘Blue & Lonesome’ has attracted almost universal positive reviews, and yet to Gudgeon’s ear it’s still a bunch of old geezers jamming in the back room of their local.

Thursday, December 22

Theresa May and Alan Pardew alike

You live and die by results. Having spent a number of years on the terraces cosseted within one of Selhurst Park’s corporate boxes I’ve a passing interest in Pardew's demise, and while Malcolm Allison and Terry Venables (to say nothing of Dario Gradi, Steve Kember, Alan Mullery and Steve Coppell) are a distant memory, there are lots of friends still flying the flag. Perhaps another chapter in Big Sam’s career?

Wednesday, December 21

Surely there’s only so much you can eat and drink over the course of one weekend?

Not my best start to Christmas: contracting the winter puke bug, then an adverse reaction to a vaccination, before falling prey to a virus of some kind. This is what happens when obliged to mix with the rank and file – or rather their offspring. Large quantities of red wine and paracetamol seems to dull the pain… Despite a yuletide exodus of neighbours and friends to warmer climes the lanes are busy with visitors heading in this direction. Shoppers are double-parked outside the Kwik-E-Mart, stockpiling for the weekend. Gudgeon is desperately searching for presents for his nearest and dearest.

Have just written a cheque, the last in this particular book. The first was dated June 2014. A thing of the past, maybe, but for some situations a cheque remains the only practical form of settlement.

Sunday, December 18

It may be cold but we won’t starve

Zero-degrees this morning … freezing fog and a heavy frost. Watching the lads lower their kayaks into a swirling mist on the River Dart did nothing to encourage my participation. Returned via the Good Food Sunday market with our usual supplies, including woodcock, wild venison, wild boar, veal sweetbreads and a loin roast.

What’s yours is mine

Or rather, the government's, says Phillip Inman. It seems the quarter of one-percent interest that the Post Office is paying me on my savings account is still too much for the Guardian.

Friday, December 16

Cheese on toast

There are huge demands on my stomach at this time of year. Although everyone believes they can cook, in reality most women and even fewer men can scramble an egg. That said of course the point of communal dining is the company and conversation rather than the food. I don’t frequent the Dog & Duck for their cuisine – pubs lost the plot when they elected to upgrade from Scotch eggs and pork pies. Ok I’m snobby about food but Gudgeon is a creature of his age. Our mothers boiled everything to within an inch of its life, then reheated leftovers for supper. School dinners were slop and gristle (Army food by contrast was haute cuisine). And yet despite fond memories of various Mayfair/Soho eateries, the years of exotic foreign nosh, I doubt I’ve ever eaten as well as I do now.

Theresa-no-mates

“You arrive at the party alone, hoping there’ll be people you know…No one even looks your way.” It’s what happens when you brag about not being clubbable, profess to be pragmatic and blunt, make a virtue of not socialising and scheming in Westminster bars.

Wednesday, December 14

Work’s Christmas Lunch

Fish and chips in Dartmouth. Excellent fish (Brill), half-decent chips and good service.

Drink responsibly

Bucky, our most famous export, enjoys boom in sales.
Conversely (outside of the Buckfast triangle) just one in six children below the age of 15 has ever had an alcoholic drink - a record low, according to new national data. Findings from the annual Health Survey of England suggest that today’s youngsters are the most “clean cut” generation on record, and the least likely to have touched alcohol or tried a cigarette before they turned sixteen... Not sure which side I feel sorry for.

Tuesday, December 13

Yuletide spirit kept in check

An article I read yesterday implied that at 65 if I’m lucky I can expect 10-11 years of continuing good health followed by several years of poor health, before expiring in a pool of dribble. A sobering assessment of my remaining time... Walter Swinburn joins AA Gill on the list of recent obituaries, and at 55 and 63 respectively are a reminder I shouldn’t count my chickens. While living each day as your last isn’t necessarily a bad outlook on life, I find partying like a Russian can be prematurely wearing.

Monday, December 12

BBC Music Awards

Am watching tonight’s show on the box… like the FA but (marginally) younger.

Saturday, December 10

There’s no hearth…

Window vents are screaming like banshees and the yard is waterlogged. Fireside (following the action from Cheltenham) seemed my best bet, snacking on the remains of yesterday’s hake and an indifferent Chablis.

As The Times continues to retreat ever further up its sanctimonious arse let’s hear it for The Spectator. I once had hopes for Sky News too, now little more than a mirror image of the BBC's metropolitan media consensus. Fingers crossed for Murdoch’s Fox takeover and a potential change of editorial direction.

Friday, December 9

Lacking seasonal spirit

The tree is up: 7ft of pine deodorizer. Flashing lights and zillions of baubles – a garish Santa, scented candles wreaking of frankincense and myrrh… and yet I can’t get into the Christmas spirit. Brexit appears to have put a damper on our traditional joie de vivre? Lots of cards this year, including a photocall from the wider family. Think Rock Hudson and Giant, when Bick Benedict casts a doleful eye over his grandchildren.

Wednesday, December 7

The price of nostalgia

Up town this morning to retrieve my wristwatch. It had been returned to the watchmaker for repair. The cost of repairs and periodic servicing over the past thirty-plus years dwarfs its original purchase price.

Tuesday, December 6

Winners and losers

A mild, almost tropical feel this morning. Relative I guess. I prefer the cleansing, restorative feel of a heavy frost.

These are interesting times we live in. The 70s and 80s had a similar divisive feel – and maybe you do need to shake things up occasionally. If the events of 30-40 years ago taught us one thing, however, it’s the inevitability there will be winners and losers. Which side you are on may well determine the complexion of your future life. Sour, chippy and resentful doesn’t cut it in the happiness stakes.

The ongoing revelations of historic sex abuse in football provides a career opening for sporty girls. I suspect we will now have to kiss goodbye to 20-30% of our youth coaches, given a significant number will follow the lead of male school teachers and scout masters by staying well away from children.

Friday, December 2

Aargh!

I don’t hold it against the voters of Richmond Park – it was their choice. Unfortunately the rest of us are now obliged to suffer that snivelling shite Farron mincing in and out of television studios the length and breadth of the country.

Wednesday, November 30

Kicking off the season

Our first serious festive lunch and at the grandest of venues. Five hours around the table without anyone taking a leak! Impressed the hell out of yours truly. Am gratified in this age of identity politics you can still muster such a diverse group of individuals determined to enjoy a drink and put the world to rights. Even more impressed with the hostess who we left behind to clean up.

Sunday, November 27

Nowadays everyone’s a potential crazy

Today has resembled one of those old fashioned Sundays: when everything stayed shut, including the pubs – when you actually looked forward to returning to work Monday morning. Watching paint dry ain’t in it, so when someone knocked on the door I jumped at the opportunity… Many years ago there was a literary community in situ with a reputation for what my grandmother would have categorised as ‘loose living’, and while there are a couple of books that address the era, there’s always someone who thinks I can shed fresh light on the subject. That a number of the visitors look like a cross between Grayson Perry and Charles Manson explains why so few make it across the doorstep.

Saturday, November 26

Black Friday frenzy?

Let’s face it, the last place you would want to be on a sunny day is up town. I’m an online shopper at this time of year, and if the number of delivery vans are a guide so is everyone else along the track.

It wasn’t so much Black Friday that felled me yesterday, rather a rack of mutton we ate for lunch that had been in the barrel too long. Today I’m functioning on one cylinder. Although the thermometer outside reads a reasonable 5˚ it doesn’t feel that warm, and impressed as I am with the neighbours get up and go – Saturday mornings are for guns and horses, I’m not quitting my fireside.

Thursday, November 24

Mr Incorrigible

Although we’ve eaten some nice food this past couple of weeks, yesterday’s Irish fry – the bacon, cabbage and spuds, is about as good as it gets. Another unexpected treat today, with a bucket of oysters from the fishmonger. We don’t see the little suckers too often here in the sticks. As much as I enjoy oysters and the effort involved, they’re worth it to witness Mrs G’s face when I’m rolling about the floor with a shucking knife – she has the emergency services on fast dial. The highpoint of today is a bake off between Mrs G’s Dundee Cake and the local Artisan Baker. Of course there’s only one thing you can drink with fruit cake... Given we are all going to hell in a handcart what more can you do?

Wednesday, November 23

Schoolchildren beat up police officers

I see the old neighbourhood hasn’t changed. Remind me again why we moved to Devon ten years ago... Escaping knife-wielding teenagers, only to be trampled underfoot by marauding sheep.

Tuesday, November 22

Party day

              Normal service resumes tomorrow.

Monday, November 21

Damp but undaunted

Today’s atrocious weather has been kept at bay by two blazing stoves. As always I’m pleased to be on top of the hill rather than down below in sleepy hollow, beneath two foot of flood water. Comfort food for supper: wild-venison steaks and baked potatoes. Another busy week in the offing, places to go and things to do.

Sunday, November 20

Local markets

There was a time the local bakery and chippy, the café, were repositories of local cuisine. Nowadays your average market stall holder has a degree in gastronomy from an Italian university and sells the sort of produce once the provenance of Soho family grocers. It’s a long way from Dolmio sauce and the just about managing.

Saturday, November 19

Citizens of the world

The Trump revolution is doomed to fail, says Martin Vander Weyer. “Only a third of Houston’s citizens are white, and only 22 per cent of under-20s; the Latino population has risen from 6 to 41 per cent in two generations, its birth rate boosted by a culture of family support that tends to produce healthier babies. What’s significant about this, according to sociologists at the city’s Rice University, is that by 2050 all of the US will look like Houston today, with a majority of minorities in all age groups below 60.”

I appreciate it’s pure selfishness on my part, but I lived in Houston for a while in the 1970s. Think Travolta and Debra Winger, Mickey Gilley’s in Pasadena. Many of the lads were good old boys from the country and the city was a touch pastiche. Back then I loved jetting about the world, the diverse cultures, before returning home to my comfort zone. Unfortunately in much the same way our cities boast identical international chain stores and restaurants they now appear to host a similar cultural mix. You don’t have to go anywhere anymore because everywhere is on your doorstep. Am not sure there’s anything wrong with this, but sometimes – for just a minute or so – I miss the excitement of travel as was, the differences.

Hunkered down

A decent night’s kip would have been nice. Unfortunately the neighbour’s remuda escaped, resulting in a posse of quad bikes and a moon-lit roundup. Today has been grim, chill, even before Storm Angus arrives. Am thankful for log fires. Chased round all morning in order to leave the afternoon free for Saturday's racing and footy... Scotland v Argentina. Shoulders of Whiteface Dartmoor for supper, a glass or two of rich and savoury Rioja (soy, peat, morello cherry and ripe plum).

Thursday, November 17

Remember Dolly the Sheep?

A fun day, yesterday. Wayne Rooney would have loved it. Even the weather played ball. Thursday by contrast is Bad Day at Black Rock, with gusting winds (40+kts) and heavy rain – my Thomas Magnum aloha shirt a major wardrobe malfunction. Thankfully this is not Aberystwyth and we don’t live in a caravan. As for yesterday… if we eat turkey again this next millennium it will be one time too many. Fortunately today’s grocery delivery included a half-carcass of lamb – a strange beast with one leg, multiple shoulders, eleven hearts and three livers?

Wednesday, November 16

Indian tycoon hosts £59m wedding for daughter

£59m??? If the Gudgeon celebrations cost as much as £100, 43 years ago, I'd be shocked. I borrowed £20 from the mother-in-law to buy a round of drinks.

Asceticism is for January

Mounting obituaries and this morning’s routine scan at the clinic are timely reminders the clock is ticking, that one day those pesky chickens will be banging on the door wanting to roost somewhere. For today, however, the chickens can bugger off. We are celebrating our wedding anniversary with a free range bronze turkey and a bottle or two of Bodegas Gramona’s finest. El pavo comes with all the traditional (non-Iberian) trimmings, including classic oatmeal stuffing, cranberry confit and bread sauce.

When icicles hang…and Tom bears logs into the hall...

Not quite the full moon this morning but more than sufficient to light the yard. A pair of tawny owls are always on duty when I step outside for firewood, warning each other, to-whit, to-whoo, I’m up and about.

Tuesday, November 15

Silence of the hogs

Out and about yesterday. Eight of the twelve vehicles I passed or that overtook me were Land Rovers. You wonder what the roads will look like a decade from now when these old workhorses have gone. Picked up something for dinner from a familiar source; rural and isolated springs to mind. A great bear of a man from the pages of Stella Gibbons, the gregarious sort who stumbles from the shed to greet you with lots of back slapping and hand shaking. It’s the dried blood and entrails decorating his overalls that worries me.

Saturday, November 12

Bollywood comes to Dartmoor?

No Lord Mayor’s Show, albeit a sizeable (Asian) crew filming below Huccaby Bridge this morning. A brave starlet in diaphanous frock, risking life, limb and pneumonia, perched on a rock in the river.

Friday, November 11

England v Scotland

While hardly the muscular rivalry of bygone years, you’re still going down.

Always comes in threes


Leonard Cohen expires and is lionised as only popular entertainers are. At eleven the country marked Armistice Day, my Grandfather’s generation. Then this afternoon's post delivered news of a death in the family, along with the tinge of guilt such messages encompass. You grow up alongside each other only to end up communicating via greetings cards at Christmas. And when the cards fall from fashion…

Thursday, November 10

Calm down, dear

Paul Mason may be unhinged but Simon Schama is merely a prat.

Equal opportunity offenders

On reflection it’s been a wonderfully entertaining couple of years, what with the General Election returning a Conservative majority and Jeremy Corbyn, a European Referendum that resulted in Brexit, and now America’s Presidential Election. By ‘entertaining’ I mean both the quality and emotional content of commentary. It’s gratifying to know people still care. Whether headlining on broadsheets or indulging in banter at the Dog & Duck, everyone has an opinion and is determined to voice it. I acknowledge there may be an element of racism in some of the more intemperate broadsides, but it’s refreshing to call a spade a spade sans the obligatory threat of medieval retribution. Racism and virtue signalling – Farage and Toynbee, Trump and Merkel – are sides of the same coin.

Wednesday, November 9

So much for pundits and pollsters

I nod off in my chair at half-one, with Andrew Neil and entourage confidently calling the election for Clinton. The end of old, uneducated white men, they say – let’s hear it for Latinos and women. Gudgeon wakes at half-four to find the Donald is looking a winner?

Tuesday, November 8

Who has the best lines?

Deep garnet-purple coloured and scented of baked blackberries, cherry coulis and cassis with nuances of eucalyptus, black pepper and liquorice. Medium to full-bodied, it fills the mouth with expressive black berry preserves and peppery flavours supported by firm yet approachable tannins and finishing long with a menthol lift... Greif but they’re full of it. “A veritable bargain in a stellar line up,” says my wine merchant, an impressive wine and a nice drink. However let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves: truth is a roast chicken was the star of tonight’s dinner.

Back to the barricades

While arch Bremoaners are invoking Harold Macmillan’s “Winds of Change” as a reason the 52% should roll over and compromise (this morning’s FT), most other papers continue to stoke the furnace, echoing the late Ian Paisley’s cry of “No Surrender”. Paul Mason is urging a re-run of Cable Street in this morning’s Guardian (the Met are already banking their overtime). Frozen out by Corben, Mason has become unhinged. It’s not so much winds of change as guaranteeing a return to the past. Who needs an Orgreave inquiry when we can sit and watch a rematch on the box.

Sunday, November 6

Our Spanish odyssey continues

The goat was a huge success, ditto the bottle of Rioja. I’m working my way through a list that takes me from bog standard rot gut, via Reserva, through to Gran Reserva. As an avowed Francophile, drinking Spanish (and Italian) wine is very much an adventure. I generally know what I’m paying for when it comes from Bordeaux and Burgundy, but varieties such as Mencía, Bobal and Merseguera are a stab in the dark.

Saturday, November 5

Political rebellion

“Activist judges rocked by populist backlash after Brexit ruling,” declares the weekend press. These superannuated Establishment lackeys, what on earth did they expect? It feels like a rerun of the 70-80s as two tribes go to war. I don’t necessarily disagree with the judiciary, but being thwarted by rich people and their lawyers is pure red rag stuff. Alex Massie can hardly deny us the opportunity to scream and rage snipe from the sidelines.

Friday, November 4

Our best hope?

Without a big sister to do our heavy lifting we are finished, says the Guardian. For fuck sake grow a pair and stop relying on American taxpayers to fight your battles.

Why deprive yourself?

Such is the fraught nature of yuletide nosh – having to choose between turkey and goose, smoked salmon or baked ham – we have submitted to eating all and everything, albeit spreading the meals over a two month period rather than a seven-day binge. This week’s glazed ham, a Christmas-week favourite, a case in point. Why deprive yourself when this sort of treat can brighten a grey November, partnering that 1er Cru Chablis I salted away. On Sunday Gudgeon barbecues a goat and Mrs G. bakes chocolate cakes.

Makes for lively conversation

I imagine Europe will be seeing a lot less of us in the future given last night’s conversation in the Dog & Duck. Having just returned from their usual trip to the continent, neighbours are aghast at the demise of the Pound and its effect on their spending power. Staycations are the future. Brexit continues to divide the community and I fear yesterday’s decision in the courts is merely inflaming rhetoric. Biting your lip appears the best course of action, and of course Gudgeon is known for his tact and diplomacy.

Thursday, November 3

Eviva España

A bit cooler these mornings, down to low single figures. Laying a fire and brewing tea are first order necessities… Our neighbour has recently slaughtered a steer, another neighbour several hogget. This morning I collect my portion from each and pick up additional supplies in town. November’s theme is the cuisine of España. Although Spanish nosh a la chorizo, tapas and tortillas has become a little passé, it’s basically an excuse to drink lots of Cava and Crianza.

Not so much Boris’s Titanic as the Vital Spark. Smoke is billowing from chimneys at either end of the homestead. I actually cut the grass this afternoon, hopefully its final trim until the spring of 2017 – before setting off across the moor and getting drowned in a downpour. Cold and wet I may be, but you wouldn’t swop this place.

Tuesday, November 1

I think we can answer this

'How did my mum manage with nine kids and just one tap in the house?'

Wall to wall Trump

Given the blanket coverage of America’s presidential election you’d be forgiven for thinking England was the 51st State. I can understand our interest – leaders of the free world etc. However part of the reason we remain so indifferent to our continental trading partners is the almost Europe-free content of our national media. I suspect we know far more about the hopes and aspirations of Ohio’s residents than we will ever know about the bürgers of Lower Saxony.

Friday, October 28

England’s oldest hotel in flames

Guess I’ve eaten my last meal at the Royal Clarence.

Your neck, your decision

Patient choice is bad, writes the Telegraph’s Jane Merrick, and will lead to a fundamental change in the relationship between doctor and patient. Although deference is a thing of the past, she says, when we enter a consulting room there remains a powerful contract between doctor and patient, entwined in the Hippocratic Oath and a mutual trust and respect for medicine, that “doctor knows best”. Dream on, dear lady, dream on. If you’ve been around the block a couple of times it will have dawned on you that GPs are not the magic fountain of knowledge you imagine, and good as many are, you wouldn’t stake your life on an half-arsed consultation any more than you would the reassurances of a politician or climate scientist. Merrick echoes a similar line I heard from a number of women yesterday, the fear of choice – a reluctance to accept the risks that come with personal responsibility.

Thursday, October 27

Crap motors I have known

Outside resembles a miners’ convention, helmet-lights illuminating the track. Our intrepid Search and Rescue Group engaged on a night-time exercise, support vehicles bringing up the rear. As it happens my Land Rover is in dock this week, and the garage has assigned Gudgeon a go-cart as courtesy vehicle. In comparison to the 1275GT I foolishly acquired many years ago the current reincarnation is even less engaging, and like British Rail, proving to be a waste of space on wet leaves – let alone off-road. On the plus side its engine starts first time and doesn’t cut out in the rain.

Wednesday, October 26

It still beats work

Forget the gym and dreams of becoming an older-preneur, raking leaves is more than enough exercise for Gudgeon. I say raking but truth is I’ve shelled out for a leaf blower, a four-stroke model (two-stroke machinery has proved a false economy). The exercise part comes from wheeling a barrow back and forward to/from the composting area thirty or forty times (100yds e/w). At the end of the day the yard looks good for about ten minutes, and then… Sisyphus ain’t in it. That said, thanks to an absence of gales, we have the all too rare opportunity of enjoying the mists and mellow fruitfulness of a wonderful autumn display. Atmospheric, life-affirming stuff.

Sunday, October 23

At least we won’t be bored

Sunday afternoon, post lunch (poached gigot of mutton with caper sauce), listening to the footy on the wireless while reading the papers… Suzanne Evans draws fire from Nigel Farage for vowing to shed Ukip’s ‘toxic’ image. Theresa May also sees these votes worth courting, even if it results in a number of suburban (soccer) moms defecting to the Lib Dems. If May is serious about a hard Brexit it could be a sensible strategy, though I struggle to imagine large swathes of northern England voting for the Tories (or for Suzanne Evans?). Still, what do I know? Most everything appears to be in the mix just now. Although Brexit negotiators will play their cards close to their proverbial chest, our media will ensure passions remain stoked. The migrant crisis will also exercise minds, as will American politics and the advent of a new Cold War. Then there’s the economy, stupid; the potential demise of the City. Throw in those inevitable unknown unknowns and yes, a definite roller coaster.

Mrs G. is in the kitchen baking large quantities of blini in readiness for next month. The reason they’ve become a traditional November staple escapes me. Whatever the motivation, I’m not one to pass up on luxury foodstuffs – the aquavit isn’t too shabby either.

I can almost taste it

Must be the time of year (hibernation mode), given I slept through till half-eight Saturday morning – and it was much the same today. Autumn is well and truly here. Everyone has their winter feed baled, wrapped and stacked, and there’s a characteristic smell of barley that is all too reminiscent of a brewery (nine days and counting).

The ponies are acquiring winter coats and will soon be returned to their owners, moved to lower ground. As with the swallows you miss them when they’re gone.

My best wishes to the big lad currently making his way to Madagascar for the cycle challenge. As long as you’re happy subsisting on a diet of rice and Three Horses Beer am sure it will go well.

Friday, October 21

Wild boar to the sun-dried swamp

Despite a chill 4˚C the Dart’s bank in full sunshine at slack water was the place to be this morning. The weather will eventually turn but for now there is barely a ripple on the surface. All the boats have departed for winter storage, and except for several mallards and our ever present gulls the river is empty. Breakfast, haircut, then on to Exeter for an eye test and supplies. Back home and out on the sun-dried moor… too good to pass up. A loin of what purports to be wild boar for dinner, along with more roast root-vegetables (and pears) than a man can eat. Only one thing missing.

Thursday, October 20

Fate, karma, whatever…

Gudgeon is on a health kick this month in readiness for the traditional festive splurge. Lots of green-leaf vegetables and endamame beans, zero alcohol and a reasonable amount of exercise. Boring but sneaky. At the beginning of every November I pay my once-a-year visit to the GP for an MOT. As his questions are always directed towards my behaviour over the previous four weeks I am able to present myself as a model citizen. Of course this lasts for as long as it takes for my blood-test results to be returned, at which point I get the usual nagging telephone call about cholesterol levels. Doubtless something to do with the steaks and the slabs of butter. With a sub-21 BMI and decent blood pressure readings (104/70 - 66rhr) I am reasonably comfortable with my health. However, you and I know the game is something of a lottery, no one has a clue what may be rotting away insides. And no amount of kale or oily fish will save us when falling from the top of a ladder or being trampled underfoot by the neighbour’s bull.

Tuesday, October 18

Return of the seventeen-point turn

Whilst hardly an Indian summer our October weather is proving reasonably benign. Good for visitors/walkers and bad news for the homestead. School teachers are wonderful people, ill-suited to driving a minibus.

Sunday, October 16

Living in interesting times

Totnes Good Food Sunday, to stock up on cabrito, veal, wild boar, venison and game birds. Whatever else Brexit has in store, the homestead won’t go hungry. Although the florist has increased prices by 12%, Marmite aside, he’s the only indication of inflation I’ve seen so far – and while I am sure we’ll be a lot less sanguine in twelve-month’s time, if you lived through the 70s and 80s you will have some idea of what’s coming down the line. I take issue with those who infer we didn’t vote for the UK to become poorer and that parliament should have a veto over Brexit terms: for better or worse we chose to risk the unknown rather than continue with unfettered immigration, voting with our eyes wide open and heart in our mouth.

Saturday, October 15

Idyllic Saturday,

It’s pouring down. Which means I get to spend a guilt-free afternoon in front of the box, following the footy action and the racing from Ascot.

Thursday, October 13

Exploring a sense of place and identity

Looked in on Bovey’s Devon Guild of Craftsmen this morning. The current exhibition is titled ‘Home Ground’, exploring a sense of place and identity* by showcasing the work of contemporary art/craft practitioners that use locally distinct and sourced materials to produce work which reflects and sustains their locality and its culture. Keen to develop new audiences the project focuses on football supporters, more specifically through the fans of Sheffield United, Stoke City, Crystal Palace, Luton Town, Macclesfield Town AND Walsall. The Saddlers primary material being leather, artist Melanie Tomlinson has produced a pair of gilded 1950s style footy boots – the sort of thing we played in as kids. The reason they resemble hobnail boots with steel toecaps was displayed alongside: a replica 1950s leather football made by John Hagger, a Devon-based leather worker who learnt his trade in Walsall. John sourced the pattern from a German Football Museum, fashioning the ball from the hide of a roe deer (road kill). I admired the Walsall children’s collages, particularly their wishful thinking as regards Walsall beating Chelsea 4-0.

*Brexit is about lots of things, but central to all remains the desire for a sense of place and identity.

High on Fellows Park nostalgia, tonight’s supper is a large dish of tripe. With a nod to the modern game, however, less tripe and onions in milk and more Trippa alla Fiorentina.

Poland puts its faith in American cavalry

Seems not everything is sweetness and light across the channel, with Poland walking away from negotiations with their EU partners for replacement helicopters in favour of a deal with the Americans. Local jobs aside, Poland doubtless believes it will be lads driving Black Hawks that will ride to the rescue, rather than the mythical European army we’ve heard so much about.

Wednesday, October 12

NHS, a bottomless pit

The only answer to obesity is to devour less calories. You can’t blame medical conditions or genetic disposition, says Ian McColl, exercise doesn’t help weight loss either – you have to cease stuffing donuts down your throat. If you can’t afford decent food and are obliged to eat crap, then eat less crap. ...I appreciate we consume fewer calories than we did 40 years ago, but it is still far more than our 21st Century sedentary lifestyles require.

Rather belatedly George Monbiot gets on board with Cameron’s ‘big society’.

Monday, October 10

Protest songs

England is an old country, whose dotage is portrayed as a crabby resentment, a place where there is a collective wish to lock all the doors, says John Harris in The Guardian. This, he conceedes, is (in part) down to our politicians’ reluctance to recongnise England’s existence, let alone promote its virtues – allowing England or Englishness to repainted in ugly colours. Such an aberration, says Harris, demands the attention of musicians, writers, dramatists, journalists – and the millions of people in England who surely feel a deep dismay about what is happening. We need to fight back by organising rock concerts, like we did in the 1970s. …Given it was followed by the 1980s and Margaret Thatcher am not sure the strategy worked especially well for the left.

Sunday, October 9

Roasting the peasants

Usual Sunday morning, listening to Marr, Peston and Andrew Neil... You’d think we’ve more than enough on our plate without the chattering class fixating on Donald Trump. And Brexit! Give it up for fuck sake. Most of the studio guests are either selling a book or whinging. Whinging is what passes for opposition these days. I agree with Chakrabarti on one thing: that Jeremy Corbyn has been seriously underrated. Where we differ is in acknowledging the lad is living proof our restricting immigration is a good thing, in that it affords more middling plodders such as Corbyn and McDonnell the opportunity to rise to the top. At least Labour can thank their lucky stars Tim Farron isn’t running the show. You could dig up Jeremy Thorpe’s corpse and it would do a better job.

At this time of year Norman Tebbit’s cook book comes into its own. Ate grouse a week or so ago, albeit more out of tradition than enthusiasm. Today’s lunch is an old favourite: roast pheasant on a bed of lentils. Given October is a dry month, the day’s highlight has to be my standing on Mrs G’s shoulder as she douses the bird in flaming brandy.

Saturday, October 8

Moor goats

This morning to Tavistock market for supplies; an afternoon trek in the wilderness; then horse racing and footy on the box. What is classed as a day off.

Passed by a couple of weekend ramblers on the moor but otherwise it’s quiet out there. The Snipe have begun to arrive, exploding from the mire beneath my feet. “Suddenly some scrap of dried fabric rips itself up from the marsh-quake, scattering a soft explosion of twilight in the eyes...” Burns called Snipe “the Blitter frae the boggie”. Here in the Southwest they were once known as Gaverhales (Moor-Goats), which chimes with the Welsh diminutive ‘Goat of the Spring’ (Gafr-wanwyn) and the Celtic ‘She-goat of the Air’ (Gabhar Athair).

Free range meat

Doing my bit for conservation: pony burger for breakfast; bresaola and salami for lunch.

Friday, October 7

Jury is out

In Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen’s auto-biography, ‘The Boss’ makes clear the need for his total control of musical output, ruling over his band like a benevolent dictator. Unfortunately this appears to extend to the biography as, while a master craftsman when penning adolescent rock anthems, he can’t write that well. He should probably have let someone ghost the story or hired a decent editor. After digging through the office shelves I find my collection includes only two Springsteen albums. The River which I bought when released in 1980 on the recommendation of a friend (pot smoking slacker); and The Rising, some twenty-two years later, as a ‘wonder what he’s doing these days’ kind of purchase. Neither have seem much light of day.

Although what do I know? According to the FT’s Janan Ganesh, Born to Run should be awarded the accolade ‘Political Book of the Year’. “Springsteen loved these communities and hated their stifling monoculture; respected their values and yearned to transcend them… Understood why redundant workers cheered Margaret Thatcher’s defence of the Falklands even as they cursed her neglect of their industries.”

I concede Springsteen’s back story chimes with current events in terms of Trump’s blue-collar support in the States and here in England with the rise of our ‘left behind’. However, truth to tell, Gudgeon is still reeling from the Conservative Party Conference. Have been a Conservative voter all my adult life, and much of what Theresa May said in her speech echoes what I’ve been spouting this past couple of decades. Her words should be music to my ears... and yet? There’s something about the girl and her home secretary that doesn’t sit right. Perhaps my being a contrarian and instinctively opposing consensus cant? When someone tells you it’s the thing to do it usually isn’t, is too late. Am so conflicted I walked out the Kwik-E-Mark this morning and donated my beer money to a forlorn soul who was collecting for Amnesty International.

Thursday, October 6

There’s a song here somewhere

Only a handful of ponies this year so the grass remains lush... One of the mares is looking a bit heavy: appears Trigger has stopped firing blanks. A high pressure system is blocking our usual southwesterly, which is just as well given there’s plenty of work to finish outside. Although the neighbour has decided it’s a perfect day for muck spreading, the sun is shining and all is well in Gudgeon’s world. We’ve a kestrel in the yard hunting voles – flocks of long tailed tits and wagtails too, a ginormous charm of goldfinches… the usual crows and wood pigeons. Thrushes and blackbirds fight it out for the rowan berries. Is even more inspirational out on the moor. On a day like today ya never wanna see the sun go down.

National Poetry Day

Widgeon
Seamus Heaney, for Paul Muldoon

It had been badly shot.
While he was plucking it he found, he says, the voice box –

like a flute stop in the broken windpipe –

and blew upon it
unexpectedly
his own small widgeon cries.

Wednesday, October 5

Big speech from scary woman

I don’t know about you but she scares the shit out of me. Not so much one nation politics as jack boots and whip. Hadn’t realised I was such a libertarian until listening to Theresa May’s speech. Interventionist government a la May usually means someone poking their nose into my business and/or picking my pocket.

Dianne James

Shades of Steve Coppell?

Standing by remains our watchword

Con Coughlin writes in today’s Telegraph bemoaning the West’s inaction in Syria, reminding everyone of our foot-dragging in Bosnia. Every night television screens are filled with the fallout from Aleppo and camps in Lebanon, though to what purpose I’m not sure as no one appears prepared to sanction much of anything. The two obvious gambits, presumably, are that we engage in military action against Russia or open our homes to refugees… I don’t see the public voting for either, and without public support our political leaders won’t act. It’s easy to point the finger at Obama’s lack of leadership. However, the Americans have been carrying the West for too long; the UN are impotent; and talk of a European army is fantasy. Truth to tell, too many people wish Saddam and Gaddafi had been left in place to torture and brutalise their respective populations, and in the deeper recesses of their heart probably think the sooner Assad and Putin finish things off the better. Talk of war crime retribution is hardly a deterrent.

Tuesday, October 4

Conversely...

Standing in line at the builders’ trade counter this morning... have leaking water pipe, so need to cut holes in internal wall, locate and fix leak. Two women are queuing in front of me. It’s great to see girls walking the walk – paint-splattered overalls, work boots and body art, nipped ciggie behind the ear. Unfortunately each spent as much time at the till humming and harring over rawplugs and masking tape as they probably would when selecting a lipstick.

Conversely... Woman engineer arrives at homestead, portable air compressor in one hand and wrench in the other. Takes twenty minutes to fix problem that has confounded two men, and at a fraction of the price.

Sunday, October 2

Returning home

To sunshine and clouds of buzzing insects. Files of high school students heading out to the moor; mountain rescue deployed in force. We enjoyed the break but it’s great to return to your own bed, to decent potable water and simple fare. There’s a limit to how much foie gras and truffle I can stomach. That said, am sure we’ll back before long.

With no football on terrestrial television, today is given over to the American version. Preceding the live Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars game, I’m watching Reggie Yates presenting a look at America as seen through the eyes of the NFL small town teams, as he travels to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to meet the Green Bay Packers. Cheesy people, apparently – or is it canned meat. I’m confused.

Beer of the day.

Are perverse convictions worth a flutter?

“…to my astonishment, some of my oldest Republican friends who are among the most civilised, enlightened people I know, were contemplating voting for Donald Trump, as were some newer acquaintances who did not remotely resemble the uneducated bigots who are generally thought to constitute his following.”

I haven’t visited the States and sat across a table from anyone over there for more than a decade, and have learnt not to trust what I glean secondhand from the media. But let’s take the Telegraph’s Janet Daley at her word. What is going on in the American Presidential election, she says, is not precisely what it seems. That the rise of Trump has more to do with Clinton’s threat to the self-determination of the individual, a principle considered so sacred that the risk of losing it makes any act of opposition acceptable – and that this irrepressible strain of perverse conviction will be what wins it for Trump and saves America in the end... I can’t decide whether to risk my pocket money on the outcome or to buy another Premium Bond.

Saturday, October 1

The Hordes

Given how much I enjoy myself when visiting Bath it seems churlish to moan. But damn it, the crowd! Takes me three days to acclimatise. I find it easier to navigate a bumper to bumper three-lane highway at 85mph in pissing rain than to walk along a pavement when everyone’s attention is directed at their smart phone instead of where they are heading. On the plus side there’s a pleasing absence of pushbikes. “The only thing that could spoil a day was people …People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as the season itself.” Yes, yes, I know, he was speaking of spring. However it works just as well for autumn. Don’t mean to sound misanthropic… just a little grumpy.

Friday, September 30

Exhausted


Another day slogging around the streets of Bath. Dropped lucky with the weather. Unfortunately – thanks to our intrepid weather forecasters – I was dressed for a trip on a beam trawler in the Bristol Channel. More good food and an enjoyable couple of pints. Looked in on Stubbs at the Holburne… Not really my sort of thing. Discovered an Italian lad more to my taste. I suspect tonight is going to be one of our infamous carpet suppers, with Desmond Carrington and the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Carrington retires in four weeks time. If the BBC dares replace him with someone similar to that ginger-haired fuckwit I will not be pleased.

Thursday, September 29

I wish...

One of my many reasons for visiting Bath was to see the Kenneth Armitage retrospective at the Victoria Art Gallery. I’m a big fan. As a kid at school we were taught woodwork – and when most of my classmates were fashioning inlaid cabinets and sailing dinghies, Gudgeon was nailing three bits of wood together and calling it a letter rack. Likewise in art class – when everyone was mixing fine art, architecture and photography, and winning scholarships to art school, yours truly was still dabbling in plasticine. I remain in awe of anyone with a modicum of talent (but would still encourage kids to pursue STEM subjects).

Of course food beats art (though some would say food is art). Today’s lunch was another favourite: The Circus Restaurant. Hake alongside a flavoursome dhal (and stolen chips from Mrs G’s plate). An exceptional (for the price) Macon Chardonnay. From my guesstimate so far, restaurant wine hereabouts is subject to a 3-400% mark-up.

Mark-ups aside, inflation is a bugger. Post lunch, in a swanky city bar, I sank a couple of measures of Speyside’s finest at £10 a shot. I recall downing the same brand in a similar establishment when it was priced at 27p – and still feeling I’d been stiffed.

Money for old rope

A headline in one of today’s papers informs us there is “Conflict and division as May’s £100m child sex investigation heads for ‘fiasco.’” A hundred million and still counting! Turn the page and you read that taxpayers are also forking out another £100m to defend Fred Goodwin and his colleagues, the ex-RBS management, from a £4 billion lawsuit by retail investors and other assorted institutions. I appreciate it’s just pennies in the grand scheme of things, a mere day in the life of Premiership Football. But even so…

Wednesday, September 28

Civilisation

For all the beauty of its Georgian architecture, Bath hosts the world’s worst buskers. I need to undertake these trips more often (been a couple of years since we last crossed the county line), if only to reassure myself our homestead lifestyle is the way to go. I guess Bath is as good as it gets as regards civilisation – there are plenty of pretty girls walking the streets, lots of pubs and restaurants, and galleries galore. The scents and smells of the city is the first thing to hit you. I don’t mean that negatively; it’s just different. Even the wonderful Royal Victoria Park, the green stuff, has an alien whiff. Lots of wrinkly visitors as you would expect this time of year, and more Asians than I’ve seen outside of Soho. Although I like the place, it has more the feel of London than Devon. A kind of halfway house. I’ve certainly no hankering to return to South London Mansions, ranked by a number of its current residents as the most miserable borough in the capital.

Rest and Recreation

Gudgeon is ensconced in his suite at one of Bath’s premier hostelries, while Mrs G. spends a couple of days at the spa – bathing Cleopatra-like in milk and honey. I have been issued with a comfortable sofa, a bottle of malt and lots of reading material, to say nothing of the Michelin-starred restaurant. Guess this is the sort of thing that Rifkind lad was talking about.

Big Sam RIP

All England football managers, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of international football and of human affairs. When the FA appointed Fabio Capello I naively thought, well this is it – one of the biggest and best. If this doesn’t work then we’re done for. Little did I know Mr Mediocracy Mk IV was already waiting in the wings. After Woy anything was worth a punt, and Big Sam had seemingly earned his stripes… What did I know! At least I’m old enough to have seen England win a World Cup.

Tuesday, September 27

Only fools and horses

Following on from the Shadow Chancellor’s dream of a universal income in yesterday’s Conference speech, Hugo Rifkind (one of those silver-spoon slackers that writes in The Times) tempts us with the picture of a future where ‘real work’ will never rival ersatz – where even the most basic biological urges might not get people off the sofa, a world in which – thanks to the new technological revolution – human labour is still required, but few actual humans can be motivated to do it because they have better things to do than work… I seem to recall Mrs G. directing a similar pointed observation about Gudgeon only last week.

Sunday, September 25

The old retainer

Out early on the moor this morning… returning home to continue the autumn maintenance programme. More caulking and painting, up ladders clearing gutters, chopping wood, attending to leaky pipes. Yesterday’s storm resulted in significant ingress of water through a troublesome section of the homestead. All good stuff, I suppose. Keeps me out of trouble. As long as I’m fed and watered am happy to plod along. Every woman should have one.

I’m listening to Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s on the wireless... The big lad is probably considered naff these days, yet back in the grim times Meat Loaf was guaranteed to set the foot tapping. A session in Falmouth is especially memorable. Cher and Queen, Bob Seger too. What wasn’t to like? I hate to sound like a smug boomer but I feel that musically we had the best of it. That said, those days are long past, and much as it seemed like fun, why Corbyn would want to revisit the era beats me. Returning to old haunts is never a good idea, ask Jack Reacher. Onwards and upwards, mon ami, onwards and upwards.

Saturday, September 24

Living the high life

A sign of relative affluence, when you get to eat ‘two’ Dover soles for supper… with lots and lots of peas.

Friday, September 23

Life before safe spaces

Have finished Brendan King’s Bainbridge biography. It was more engaging than I’d expected… Reminds you of those people that were fun to know but dangerous to befriend. Not necessarily ‘national treasures’ like Beryl, but you miss them when they’re gone – the anecdotes they leave behind are more than most of us bequeath to posterity.

Thursday, September 22

The message eventually sinks home

The homestead isn’t particularly large, and in the early days we trusted that visitors would bang on the front door. Unable to make themselves heard, we installed a heavy iron knocker. This too proved insufficient so we fitted a ships bell in the porch, a brass thing with trailing cord. Our final gambit was an electric chime that has two internal speakers… Yet visitors still tap on the door and then go away when we don’t respond. Walk through the front door for fuck sake, stand in the hall and shout. One of us is bound to hear you!

Trek to town

Up to Exeter for supplies. Although the university is miffed at being bounced out the top one-hundred, like the city – not least their MP, the place often appears a little smug with itself. We dropped into RAMM to look at Kurt Jackson's exhibition, then on to a fashion show hosted by one of Mrs G’s favourite frock designers. Lunch at our usual Asian restaurant – the food continues on its downwards trajectory. Plymouth may be on the back foot but it has superior food and footy, to say nothing of its harbour and pubs.

Wednesday, September 21

The joys of city living

Living in a goldfish bowl and having paid £4.5m for the privilege. I suspect a naked Paul Finchley standing at the window of his Neo Bankside home might be just as big a problem for the children on Tate Modern’s 10th floor viewing gallery.

Tuesday, September 20

The smell of the ground

Enjoyable meander across the moor. The landscape is changing colour and distant slopes have already turned to black. Mist and a soft rain this evening… frogs in the pools, singing.

    Every leaf is wet
    and the fox hurries to his destination
    small worlds of rain on a grass-blade
    shaken by a spider at work again (Geoffrey Squires)

The growing market for social connection

Many younger people are having trouble finding others to talk to. If you have the money, apparently, you can now Rent-a-Friend, pay for cuddles, or dine with strangers. And this is a new phenomenon? Prostitutes/escorts anyone?

The over-50s abandon cities

The not so old shouldn’t abandon cities? Am not sure Nick Curtis’s premise is entirely true. It seems to me that for every middle-aged couple that relocates to the sticks for fresh air, the peace and quiet, there’s a comfortably-off ageing couple returning to a metropolis to be close to hospitals, theatres and restaurants. Where they can provide free childcare and school fees for their grandchildren – with an expectation that when times comes they will have someone to wipe the dribble from their chin.

Monday, September 19

There’s life in the old place yet

There are still lots of bees in the yard, butterflies and dragonflies too. Our swallows snuck away a couple of weeks ago without saying goodbye, the bastards. But there are larks on the moor and lots of finches feeding off seed heads… the usual pigeons and crows. Of an evening bats come out to play, the tawny owls to feed.

Sunday, September 18

Heartache Tonight

On such a wonderful day as today (sunshine) I’m willing to cut everyone slack, not least yours truly. Cheers! Neighbours are outside trading horses, basis try and buy. Though not exactly gypsies-r-us there’s a disturbing number of lurchers and whippets crapping on my yard. It’s ’70’s Sunday at the homestead (and on the wireless), everything from Carly Simon to Abba. Large portions of curried goat with frosted jugs of Kingfisher. Rod Stewart (The Faces) and the Eagles (Heartache Tonight)… I'll regret it in the morning.

Saturday, September 17

Call me Mr Tibbs!

Putting in a regular shift and then partying all night is a big ask these days. Thankfully, following Friday’s session, the neighbours have deferred tonight’s ‘get together’. I’m usually game but September is a busy month; so many chores, so many diversions. Although I retain the appetite of a twenty-something, I have the body of Ed Balls…

Way to go, Baggies. Pulis must be enjoying a couple of large ones this evening…

And if there’s one thing you don’t do these days, the ultimate faux-pas, it is to encourage the lynching of a black person...

We were invited to a gallery yesterday, launch of a new exhibition. Heavy on the cobalt blue. Tonight’s sky, however…

Friday, September 16

Senior moment

The Telegraph continues its downward trajectory, columns increasingly filled with populist click-bait for the online crowd. I don’t blame them; no one buys newspapers any more. The newsagent I use in Totnes has thrown in the towel, a waning appetite for papers and magazines cited top of his list. You can’t make a living selling gumdrops and an occasional packet of fags.

Thursday was another day of painting, and some very nice singed lamb. Can’t imagine there are too many barbecue days left as the leaves have begun falling. Trying to do three things at once I walked out the back door to find flames licking up the homestead wall. No damage done. Pure coincidence the house and contents insurance renewal had arrived in the morning post. So much conflict in the world, yet most of us will  perish at our own hands.

Prospect magazine prizes independence over ideology and debunks popular wisdom. That said, no less than the BBC describes its editorial content as left-leaning. I don’t mind, providing the articles are cogently argued, however the new editor Tom Clark needs to up his game if I’m to renew my subscription.

Thursday, September 15

Time to disband and return home?

“Sod off back to the shires and hearths of England whence you came” says Harry Brennan. While acknowledging Ukip’s leadership contest is a selection of uninspiring, unpolished candidates, I doubt the rank and file will automatically fall in step behind a right of centre Theresa May. Europe remains unfinished business.

Wednesday, September 14

In the real world life is more fun

Spent this morning up a ladder, painting woodwork; the afternoon attacking grass and undergrowth. I’m buggered. Last night’s storm didn’t help, lit up most of Devon and Cornwall. Not exactly conducive to a decent night’s sleep. Tonight’s reward for my effort is a glass of Sancerre and a plate of something or other from Mrs G’s kitchen, the last of her allotment produce. Am quite partial to Loire Valley wines – as is the chief protagonist of Ian McEwan’s latest offering, Nutshell. One of the better books I’ve read the past couple of months. Loosely based on Hamlet, the story is narrated by a foetus. Think Stewie Griffin from Family Guy. My sort of humour. Most of the world is so fuckin’ po-faced these days. An old friend has just emailed from a bar in Spain… Retired CSM Royal Marines. His comments are followed by a missive from that well known potty-mouthed South London Italian. The concept of political correctness doesn’t exist in the everyday world of most people I know.

Wonderful evening. Peaceable. Drink in hand, rabbits feeding on the yard. Up above quad bikes emerge from the mist, headlights illuminating the way. Indoors there is footy on the television.

Tuesday, September 13

Bacalhau (Cod Fish)


Another recommended Portuguese favourite for today's lunch.

Monday, September 12

Brown Willy for sale

Keith Vaz puts himself on the market. Yes, I know: schoolboy humour. Primary school.

Chancer leaves the stage

Petulant, no lasting legacy, and doesn't care. Let’s hear it for the fruitcakes and loonies... the deplorables.

Friday, September 9

Thursday, September 8

Home maintenance

That time of year: washing down, sanding and painting exterior woodwork – clinging to the top of ladders. Not so much titivating as something we do in advance of winter, the homestead being a high-maintenance residence. As a slacker I wish it wasn’t so, but then there are lots of things I would wish away. Found time for a meander across the moor. Desolate except for a lone White Ass, Stanechacker. The song of a Wheatear is sweet and quite musical like that of the Skylark in its beginning.

Wednesday, September 7

Mist and drizzle

Most everywhere in the Southwest has been dry and warm today. Except of course…

Just the thing for the school run

A drinking partner calls to tell me he’s taken delivery of his new motor. Looking (to Gudgeon) like the archetypal family estate and weighing 2.0 tonnes, its engine generates 600bhp, can accelerate from 0-60mph in 3.7secs, and boasts a top speed of 189mph... I’d be dead within a week.

Grammar schools and social mobility

Leaked document suggests more grammar schools, despite severe opposition. Although critics rightly point to the relative low number of pupils from disadvantaged homes (commonly categorised as qualifying for free school meals whilst maintaining a subscription to Sky television), social mobility isn’t just a first-rung game. There’s an argument for supporting the children of the tax-paying lower middle class by affording them an opportunity to progress to our better universities and thereby access to the upper echelons of establishment professions such as the law, medicine, the media and government. Family mobility is more likely an incremental progression than a one-off fast track to the top (always excepting an advantageous marriage).

The nonsense of stats and why so many people want to move to England… £38,500/year gross income and your household is classed as at risk of social deprivation. £44,000/year gross and your family is living in poverty.

Sunday, September 4

Old-fashioned values

In need of a bookie at the end of a telephone, Robin Oakley writes he’s become a client of Balthazar Fabricius’s Fitzdaresthe Annabel’s of bookmaking. Touching on the changing face of business and harking back to the days when a gentleman’s word was his bond and personal service saw give and take on either side, Oakley includes a marvellous story about a punter named Frank ‘Potato’ Dennis. As Frank spent all day out on his tractor he was allowed to phone in his often hefty bets after racing was over. Such was the mutual trust that one day our intrepid punter came on the phone to say he couldn’t have a bet that day because his trainer Jack Fawcus had already sent him a telegram congratulating him on their winner (he’s been planning £1,000 each way at 10-1). I too remember how business was conducted in those days. Life – an agreement – has since evolved from a handshake or scribbled couple of lines on a single sheet of paper to sixty pages of shite. Fortunately Gudgeon is a past master when it comes to drafting reams of shite.

Saturday, September 3

French wind-up

Secularist Jean-Pierre Chevènement has been appointed by President Hollande to build an Islam of France, respectful of Republican values and a rampart against Anglo-Saxon multiculturalism. Good luck with that one JP! “This burkini affair has a lot to do with the heatwave – as well as the British Empire since it was designed in Australia,” he says with a smile.

Have read a couple of despatches from France this week, along with one or two from Germany and Sweden. I can’t see the European Muslim problem ending any other way than badly, and would respectfully remind our friends across the channel that it’s theirs to fix. We have enough on our plate as it is – and anyway, we did our bit with the Huguenots.

The Student Cookbook

16 recipes our gilded youth should know. Or if we are to believe The Times, the reason students leave university saddled with debt. Simple roast beef, for instance: 1kg sirloin that has been hung for 21 days. Aged sirloin – it’s Brideshead Revisited stuff! What happened to pizza and pot noodles?

Friday, September 2

The weekend beckons

An early start and a fair bit of running around. But then ’twas always so, given Fridays are about completing whatever’s required asap with a view to sneaking off for the traditional lunchtime session and an early afternoon exit from one’s place of employment. Though there are few lunchtime sessions for Gudgeon these days, the early finish still works – returning home for a steak supper (rib-eye) and bottle of plonk (’98 St-Julien). Desmond Carrington on the wireless. Yes I know but… as much as I enjoy the crack there’s no fireside like your own.

Thursday, September 1

In another galaxy far, far away

Up town for lunch... Chatting to a lad in the London property business, Canary Wharf, Battersea, etc. Sells to investors from Dubai and Kuwait. Clients that fly in and purchase a whole floor of units rather than single flats, a complete terrace of town houses. Eye-watering, abstract sums of money. Properties are subsequently sold on as safe assets to overseas investors unlikely to ever live in the UK… In the same way I remain ambivalent about overseas money owning our car producers, nuclear power plants and football clubs, am not sure I have any particular view on this subject either.

You can’t wear that tie with that suit!

Forget race and religion, graduates fail City interviews by not knowing how to tie a half Windsor. A Sutton Trust report “Socio-Economic Diversity in Life Sciences and Investment Banking” explains why applicants from non-privileged backgrounds fall at the first fence... There was a time when a Windsor knot of any description marked you out as a wrong ’un, never mind the brown shoes.

Wednesday, August 31

Tinned tuna recommendation

If you are into tinned tuna, as I am, these guys are well worth a try.

Tuesday, August 30

Physical graft trumps clerical drudge

It cost me a gallon or two of four-stroke to remove the past fortnight’s growth in the yard. While thirsty work under today’s sun, it was a welcome release from the paperwork stacked on my desk. Filing for Gudgeon is up there with cleaning gutters and rodding drains, and, though we live in an era of on-line bank transfers, I also have the periodic cheque run to complete. Who insists on cheques? My insurance agent, as a for instance – with whom business is conducted via a judicious mix of fax machine and telepathy.

Monday, August 29

Michael Jackson

Is 58 today, and like most of us, not wearing well.

A mature immigration debate?

“Immigration is manageable for the private sector” says the Spectator’s limp-wristed editor: “there’s no lack of food in Tesco, no lack of clothes in H&M” (who shops at H&M?). “It is government that can’t manage, because government feels the need to delude itself that 100,000 is going to happen. It just isn’t. A failure to prepare for that means misery for those who have to compete with migrants for resources.” ...Let’s face it, nice as that West Indian man living at No.23 may have been, and the Polish lad who stayed on after the war, multi-culturalism (never such innocence, never before or since) has morphed into rival tribes in competition for finite public resources and cultural hegemony. I would have thought that, post Brexit, the time for a mature immigration debate is fast running out.

Red Arrows

Our very own low-level fly through at the homestead… très impressive. Presumably en route to/from the Isles of Scilly Maritime Gathering & Round The Island Race.

Gender pay gap a thing of the past

If the BBC says it is so then it must be true... Strip out the part-time workers, and the gap pretty much disappears for women aged 22 to 39.

Bumped into a neighbour during this morning’s trek. When the spirit takes her she sleeps out under the stars on the moor. I must confess to a personal need for comfort these days, not least the roof over my head.

Sunday, August 28

Singed sheep

I had such expectations for today… most certainly sans the rain… rain, rain and more rain. Not that it threatens my Sunday barbecue, roast leg and racks of lamb – a range of cuts, different breeds. Côte de Beaune versus Côtes du Rhône.

An evening beside a roaring fire with Daniel Barenboim… Martha Argerich and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Not the sort of people you’d expect to be invited to perform at Celtic Park. Outside there’s a suitably animated sky. Whilst not the greatest of days, a holiday nontheless.

Saturday, August 27

Treats to accompany the afternoon racing

After the fried cashews, iced shrimp and monkfish goujons – poached wild salmon steaks dressed in watercress sauce... a zesty Vins de Pays Côtes de Gascogne.

Fitting in

It appears we have the hunt with us this morning. Awfully well spoken and impeccably attired. I always feel I look smell the part, after ploughing through the several cwt of horse manure that litters the lane. Identity, fitting in, is a more nebulous concept these days, whether on a beach in Nice or here in the sticks. I recently heard one of the lads in the Dog & Duck refer disparagingly to visiting holidaymakers as grockles. The lad himself is a blow in, been here five minutes – a Mainwaring character that volunteers for local councils and committees, intent on ingratiating himself with the local community.

Friday, August 26

So long as men can breathe

We’ve enjoyed some wonderful times this summer... afternoons spent comatose on a bench beneath the awning, mewing buzzards and distant quad bikes. Never mind Philip Green aboard Lionheart, the homestead is as good as it gets.

Thursday, August 25

We’re all still kids at heart

If only we could bottle these days – that today was the norm (fine weather). Skived off this afternoon, snuck through the hedge to our neighbour’s property and borrowed his dingy. If the trout were bigger I’d have brought my rod. A private wilderness. The sort of environment we had access to when we were kids, before they built on everything. Not that I can imagine today’s kids running wild in the way we did. A couple of weeks and the guns will be out and everything will be off limits.

Planning for the future

As Allister Heath says in today’s Telegraph, while contemporary Britain rests on a number of grand bargains, society’s paternalistic model, and concepts such as hard work, thrift and long-term planning, are fast disappearing. Thanks to low interest rates and the decline of compound growth, those savings you prudently put aside for the future are a piss in the ocean. Although it is possible to make money from stock markets, if my own experience is a guide, you are well into your third decade of contributing to the bottomless pit before there’s any noticeable progress. For millennials, saving is a major act of faith. Working till you drop appears the more credible option – effectively desk-blocking the aspirations of succeeding generations (dead men’s shoes). Wiser heads than Gudgeon’s may provide answers but I won’t hold my breath.

Tuesday, August 23

Excellent diversions

A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees (Essays in Idleness), or Gate of the Hundred Sorrows?

Following a decent night’s kip and faced with a day like today (sunshine, baking temp), it has to be the former. My recent birthday presents included a collection of Penguin Classics’ Little Black Books – the perfect partner to my deck chair.

Sunday, August 21

Cathleen

Lovely whore though,
Lovely, lovely whore,
And choosy –
Slept with Conn,
Slept with Niall,
Slept with Brian,
Slept with Rory.

Slide then,
The long slide.

Of course it shows.
                (Tom Macintyre)

Aah, Bisto!

Monthly trip to ‘Good Food Sunday’ – stocked up on veal (and cake). Worth the effort if only for the smells emanating from the market’s hot food-to-go stalls. Though I rarely sample the fare, the aromas provide a wonderful appetiser to Sunday lunch... Braved afternoon squalls to patrol our neighbour’s grounds (away in the tropics). Thought he’d spotted an American mink two weeks ago but I’ve yet to catch sight of the critter. Trudged home to check the livestock and watch the last of the Olympic boxing.

Talking of The Boss…

What a brilliant 5,000m run by Mo Farah.

Saturday, August 20

Conflicted sentiment and Corbyn’s Labour

While I don’t agree with some of his assumptions, obviously, I concede Janan Ganesh is one of our better columnists. The lad’s belief that Springsteen’s Born to Run memoir should be political book of 2016 a case in point – would that UK Plc boasted a social commentator who could compete with ‘The Boss’ he implies. “Springsteen loved these communities and hated their stifling monoculture; respected their values and yearned to transcend them… Understood why redundant workers cheered Margaret Thatcher’s defence of the Falklands even as they cursed her neglect of their industries.”

Thursday, August 18

BBC peddling tabloid chauvinist schlock

Simon Jenkins stirring the pot… “I have intermittently enjoyed the Olympics on television. Mostly it is hours of flatulent BBC staff killing time by interviewing one another, interspersed with a few seconds of mostly baffling hysterics. Clare Balding appears in perpetual shriek: “Oh my God, I think our great British paint is drying faster than the Russian and the Colombian paint – but we must await a decision from the judges.”         I’m tempted to agree with Jenkins assessment of the television coverage but… I can think of few other cultures that are as keen as ours to amplify the country’s shortcomings and to and denigrate its success.

Wednesday, August 17

A stroll in the sunshine

Last week it was an annual visit from the man who empties our septic tank, this morning the motor’s annual service and its first MOT. That time of year (service/tax/insurance). Apart from a new tyre everything passed inspection. The engine starts first time every morning, what more can you ask? Wandered into the Ferrari dealership across the street to lust over the vehicles on show, then sauntered into Exeter for a coffee. Have discovered a new route, cross country as it were. It involves climbing a couple of stiles and sprinting across railway lines (damn they’re fast), but the walk is a pleasure – through attractive amenity land and along waterways. A number of elderly vessels rotting at their moorings, a vintage tug boat seeking benefactors with deep pockets and the hulk of an oak planked/oak framed trawler beyond hope. They sit uneasily alongside a newbuild work boat being fitted out for service offshore the Highlands of Scotland. A fair number of holidaymakers (families) in canoes, and students in coxed fours. The basin is well served by cafes and pubs… As I said, on a glorious day like today, “What more can you ask?”

Tonight’s supper, for one... a navarin of lamb made from the sweet tasting meat of an ancient breed with Bronze Age roots and Viking ancestry. Superlative!

Tuesday, August 16

I need a bigger saw

Woken at six by the neighbour’s bellowing cattle. Am all aches and pain following yesterday’s hike. I wouldn’t like to be me in ten years’ time… although I recall making a similar observation 20-30 years’ ago. Morning mist but no breeze, outside all is still in anticipation of the rush-hour. Places to go and things to do. The homestead has become entombed within overhanging beech and rampant hedging which is infested with spiders and songbirds, beetles, bats and badgers. I need a bigger saw.

Monday, August 15

Cool Hand Anita impresses

I’m following the action from Brazil, watching the women’s hammer throw – as Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk breaks the world record. The commentator believes Anita ate nine hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. Am impressed. Britain’s diminutive Sophie Hitchon does not eat so much, but manages a bronze medal and new national record.

The fine weather continues

Out across the moor early morning to blow away the cobwebs. Lots of ground beetles on the deck and skylarks in the air. Grazing herds of impressive looking steers… walkers exercising lurchers and whippets.

A succession of blue ribands

After expressing disinterest in the Olympic Games I find myself sitting up all night watching Andy Murray and Usain Bolt on the box. Great 400m run by the South African lad Niekerk.

Saturday, August 13

McEwan’s Export better value, more appropriate

While I can’t imagine hanging onto a bottle of wine for long enough for it to be an investment opportunity it’s interesting to read in the FT that a combination of the Brexit effect and rising demand from Asia has given Bordeaux wine a boost. Though top Bordeaux wines are traded around the world it seems many are held in bonded warehouses in the UK and priced in sterling. As a result, when the pound fell sharply post Brexit, international buyers benefited from a reduction in prices. At the peak of the market, according to Berry Bros, a case of ’82 Château Lafite Rothschild was selling for around £45k. The price has now slipped to a mere £26k. Someone might think this a bargain, but can you imagine washing down a plate of stovies with a two-thousand quid bottle of wine?

Decent sausage rolls

The tractors were baling until well into the evening – after chucking-out time, and they still hadn’t finished this morning. Jumped into the Land Rover and drove across the moor to Tavistock for a sausage roll. It’s a forty mile round trip, but then they are great sausage rolls, and I had promised pork chops for dinner. Quality pork is in short supply. I also enjoy the drive, not least at this time of year with so much yellow gorse and purple heather (rhubarb and custard) – and the rowans’ scarlet berries. Plenty of walkers… lots of sad sorts on bikes. I can’t watch the action from the velodrome without thinking of a ’69 Pollack film ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ However I concede the final of the Men’s Pursuit was exciting stuff.

Friday, August 12

It passes so quickly

A large flight of swallows gathered above the homestead this morning, reminder that next month they leave us and head off across the Pyrenees. Our bats, too, though less ambitious travellers, are also active. For now the sun continues to reign and I intend to enjoy its warmth for as long as summer lasts.

The morning in Totnes was bedlam, streets full of visitors shuffling along at two mph. Lots of wannabe James Taylor buskers, a half-decent Jethro Tull tribute act. Adjourned to the Dart… sat on the river bank Seurat-style alongside a trio of cider drinkers and ate breakfast. Queued for twenty minutes at the fishmonger (lunch). So little time … so much wine – today's star a 2010 Sauternes to accompany the peaches and walnuts.

Thursday, August 11

After the Lord Mayor’s Show

Following the gross indulgence of recent days I am back on hardtack and camomile tea (just as soon as we finish the cold beef, red-cabbage slaw and refried potato salad). The bunting came down too… in the cold light of day Gudgeon is less sanguine about the age business. My mistake yesterday was to smoke a cigar, being less of a health issue than the destruction of my remaining taste buds. What’s the point of gourmet food if you can’t appreciate it?

I should make an effort and watch the Olympics coverage. BBC are doing their best to hype it up, but how many of us really give a shit?

Wednesday, August 10

Birthday treats

It takes you back… to an era of fine wines. Dare I say corporate largess, South Western rather than South East London. Melted licorice, barbecue spices, violets, black currents, and a hint of blackberries. Incomparable. Decent Bordeaux, even third-growth fare, is a rare treat – red Burgundy a bit girly by comparison. Next week I return to the usual Rumpole-style hooch, but for as long as my birthday lasts…

Salut!

For ever year of life we light 
a candle on your cake 
to mark the simple sort of progress 
anyone can make, 
and then, to test your nerve or give 
a proper view of death, 
you’re asked to blow each light, each year, 
out with your own breath.    (James Simmons) 

OK the candles don't fit, but the sentiment is there.














George Monbiot has been to Devon and decided we should forgo meat. Whilst I’m an open-minded sort and reluctant to dismiss his suggestion out of hand, Gudgeon is busy preparing a humongous rib of beef for today’s barbecue… opening bottles of vintage Pol Roger and appropriately aged left-bank claret.

Tuesday, August 9

At rest with the seals and dolphins


Ageing semi-sub Transocean Winner decides to abort voyage to Turkish scrapyard in favour of ending its days adorning well-known beauty spot. Pic supplied by ex-colleage to remind me what I am missing... Would remind him Gudgeon’s first tow was the Sedco 135G (Bugsier tug Atlantic) – long, long ago.

Sunday, August 7

The hypothesis is bollocks

Why the generation gap is a myth.

Days of wine and roses

Saturday was warm and sunny and we are hoping for a repeat today – as soon as the mist and rain clears... a fair number of walkers and a couple of runners out early.

We are into a ten-day food fest, indulging ourselves yesterday with lunch on the yard. Padrón peppers and lots of charcuterie, cheese, olives and breads. Very Mediterranean. Pesto-flavoured spaghetti giving way to hake in green sauce. Sunday lunch is roast chicken and a spectacular Puligny-Montrachet. Oatmeal stuffing to die for.

Saturday, August 6

New Orleans jazz clarinet virtuoso dies

I remember partying amid the balconies, flower-baskets and quadrilles during the 70s, listening to Pete Fountain play. Fun times... But then Rosemount was the equal. Everything is fun in your 20s.

Friday, August 5

We are all Keynesians now

Savers hopes dashed again, with Gudgeon’s rainy day fund continuing to generate diddly-squat. Fortunately for me, this coming week, I celebrate my birthday. Gudgeon comes of age and qualifies for a State Pension. I’m no stranger to State largess, already in receipt of bus pass (used six times these past five years), and an annual winter fuel payment that equates to almost one month’s supply of LPG. No bad return for fifty years of contributions. Good lad that I am, I will respond to Carney’s entreaties to boost the economy by blowing my pocket money on a crate of Pale Ale to celebrate the big event… misbehave for a couple of days. Gudgeon recalls feeling rather bitter when turning sixty; sixty-five is a far nicer place.

Monday, August 1

Today has been a tad wet...

“Rain. Floods… Dull roof-drumming. Wraith rain pulsating across purple-bare woods. Like light across heaved water… And the poor fields.

I recall reading Ted Hughes Moortown Diary a decade ago in the midst of our first Devon winter when the poem seemed particularly apt. I think it rained for four months straight. Hughes had once worked a farm not far from our new home. Although we arrived some years later, Moortown’s visceral verse (together with a collection of James Ravilious photographs) was a good introduction to the area – life had moved on from the ’70-80s but perhaps not as much as elsewhere in England and certainly not in comparison to South London Mansions. An interesting (and very wet) five years and a timely escape.

Sunday, July 31

Scrapping the pension triple-lock

Quite right! Why should old fogies get all the breaks, the bastards… Ten days and counting.

I know what I’m eating today…

And for the next couple of days! There’s a cauldron of ox cheeks and tails been simmering on the stove for several hours. I appreciate I’ve banged on before about Westcountry beef, but having eaten more steaks than I care to remember, from the Pampas to Texas and Aberdeen to Paris, our local meat remains the business. The wine, however, has some way to go.

Banged up

At long last our escaped lynx has been returned to captivity, with a taste for lamb (and veal).

Despite a childhood spent scrambling around Bentley Common, old mine workings and clay pits, the wider canal system and what is now Rough Wood Chase, my knowledge of natural history is strictly back of a fag packet. However the yard is a treasure trove if you’ve half a mind. I’m good on the basics such as Thistles and Knapweed, the Daisies and Meadow Buttercups, Cat’s-ear, Foxgloves and Rosebay Willowherb… but need the assistance of my old Ladybird book to pursue the subject further. Today’s discoveries include Selfheal (good for wounds, internal injuries and sore throats), the Ivy leaved Bellflower, Lesser Stitchwort, Bird’s-foot trefoil, and Soapwort (used before soap became available for washing). Insects are out in force and the Swallows are taking advantage. Bees and Demoiselles… Large White butterflies. Suspicious looking red toadstools.

A typical summer weekend

The reason No.1 neighbour has been so solicitous this past month became apparent yesterday morning as a convoy of vehicles swept into view. He has a music festival running this weekend. Given our other neighbours have either absconded to Lake Como for the week or are down in Cornwall on their surfboards, it’s left to stumpy – yours truly, to play the grouch… Totnes & District Show is also on the go today, horse boxes were on the move at 06.30hrs – walkers of every shape and size passing by en route to the moor. It’s a fine Sunday, blue sky and no breeze. What’s not to like.

Saturday, July 30

Pratfall

One of my more spectacular falls when out walking this morning… bounced a fair distance before coming to a halt. Ankle has doubled in size – I’m laid up in front of the box watching the action from Goodwood, alternating packs of ice and strapping. A number of cuts and bruises but more embarrassment than pain. Put a damper on today’s plans (and relieved me of one or two onerous duties this weekend).

Friday, July 29

Friday fish

A whole sea bass (line-caught) flavoured with fennel and baked in wine and Pernod, accompanied by a cheeky Muscadet. I’m not a huge fan of bass but I persevere. You can’t knock a bit of haddock.

As to banning alcohol in airports… Those years spent vegetating in Schiphol’s departure lounge would have much less bearable without a bottle of Genièvre to pass the time.

Scepticism... spirit of the age.

More by coincidence than design I have just read two novels with the theme of addiction, one by Charles Mercer, the other Lawrence Osborne – and my current bedtime reading is The Biology of Desire by Marc Lewis. It is the second book I’ve covered this month written by a quack neuroscientist, both with a claim to be ‘expert’ in his field. The jury is out. In an age of public cynicism with regards to the so-called Establishment – not least our politicians and media, scientists and other experts are generally assumed to offer sound dispassionate analysis and advice. The more I read, however, be it from environmental, behavioural or any of the many social sciences, the more my doubts and reservations. This morning I read a scathing account of the IMF relating to the Fund’s tangled political role in the Eurozone debt crisis. Throughout the Brexit campaign we were exhorted to trust such advice, and it seems we were right to doubt them.

Thursday, July 28

The nudge-nudge continues…

Desk-based workers threatened with imminent death if they don’t get off their arse for an hour or so. Once upon a time we used to exercise by way of trooping round to the pub at lunchtime for three or four pints and a bag of crisps. Nowadays everyone is encouraged to sit at their desk with a Tupperware box of the wife’s crummy sandwiches and a bottle of pop. Sad ain’t in it. However, point taken – and so as soon as I finished today’s paperwork and watched Mehmas trounce the opposition, I donned my cagoule and set off up the hill and across the moor into mist and rain. It may be a mere five miles but there are enough hills and bogs to give the heart a decent workout and sufficient hazards to make it interesting. No sooner had I returned than the sky cleared and the sun came out. It’s always the way.

Tuesday, July 26

Beggars and choosers

Syrian refuges complain Bute is full of old people waiting to die. I recall living in a similar community, by the name of Gorleston-on-Sea. Have also dwelled in far worse towns. You go where the work is. Or at least where the natives don’t threaten to stab, shoot or bomb you – unless of course it’s Grab-a-Granny night at the Ocean Room.

Background noise

Society always needs a bogeyman to act as a lightning rod. Philip Green, Russian athletes, Islamists of every shape and form… Cliff Richards. If only we could provide better jobs for ‘ordinary’ people, says William Hague, all would be milk and honey. I wonder if the so-called elite appreciate how much the prefix ‘common’ or ‘ordinary’ irritates us voters. Their designation of our behaviour as ‘rampant populism’ has replaced ‘the great unwashed’ as a term if abuse. I appreciate they have to be seen to be doing something, but we’re probably better served by just getting on with our lives rather than letting the likes of Hague run it for us.

Monday, July 25

“Let’s go get the cat.”

Back to work this morning… with no complaints about last week’s holiday. The weather was marvellous – dropped lucky for once. I finished several pounds heavier, with a fine tan, countless insect bites and a sore head. As for the cat… Strother Martin.

Saturday, July 23

Food glorious food

The town looks a picture for its big day, a fair amount of primping and painting. Heavy on the flags and bunting. Out on the moor, too. Lots of people on the go… this morning turned into a multiple contact walk (most days you don’t meet a soul). “What’s the weather forecast, I’ve grass to cut; have you seen any of my cattle; when are you going to shear those things; assume you’ve heard the latest; that Jeremy Corbyn, eh?” Ok so the last is an improbable statement, politicians and politics in general being a minority sport in this part of the world. Not so food I’m pleased to say. Yesterday’s barbecued pork ribs were excellent; however today’s lamb steaks, Merguez sausages and Padrón peppers promise much.

Thursday, July 21

M&S no place for Rock Chicks

A much fresher feel to the homestead. No bad thing, given the thirty-plus degrees heat we’ve been experiencing this week. The grass is straw-like underfoot. Lots of visitors – walkers, and yet surprisingly quiet. Up town for supplies this morning… Brexit fallout has not gone unnoticed, with a five pence mark-up on a £15 bottle of olive oil. “Where will it end?” you say... Exeter sans students remains a (relative) ghost town in the sense life resembles what would once have been considered normal. Visited the country’s favourite clothing store for replacement socks and was struck by the customer demographic. If I feel out of place amongst the eighty-something grannies shopping in M&S it’s not surprising young women give the store a wide berth – and choose to buy their gear at Primark.