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.

Tuesday, July 19

‘Grilled’ lobster salad


Dartmouth was glorious, the sunshine attracting a large number of visitors. If you have access to a boat, the water is the place to be. I had planned lunch. However after spotting lobsters on Mark Lobb’s fish counter we instigated Plan B… leading to our prompt return to the homestead and (a much later) lunch on the backyard. The creatures aren’t so much lobsters as the sort of beasts featured in those ’50s Japanese monster films, crustaceans that clambered from the sea to devour Tokyo... The bad/good news is today’s temperature is up on Monday.

Day off

I had thought of celebrating August with an old fashioned Grand Tour, but now read Italy is expecting to be swamped by tourists as travellers avoid destinations such as Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt. With Italians also opting for staycations rather than risk being butchered by an Islamist nut or a Baton Rouge policeman, Venice probably isn’t the place to be. Today (before the kids break up) we are visiting one of our favourite local venues, to dine on fish and chips, dip my feet in the river and eat lots of ice cream.

Monday, July 18

Bring it on

Up early to stack logs and walk the moor before things heat up. Outside on the yard (in shade) it is currently 33˚. Not that impressive a temperature for most people, however at this location it’s verging on the tropical. A neighbour works in the forestry business and kicks off at four a.m. to avoid the heat. Not that either of us is complaining… We get more than our fair share of bad stuff. Mrs G. has resurrected outfits she acquired a zillion years ago to cope with California sunshine.

Sunday, July 17

Changing the guard?

Because of nesting birds the hedges can’t be cut. So overgrown and narrow are our lanes that both sides of the motor are swept of dust and paint. Blackbirds and Robins predominate. Blackbirds, robins and tractors: even on Sunday the teams are turning and baling… Up to Totnes this morning for Good Food Sunday. Veal steaks and potato salad for lunch… Returning home the once ubiquitous church parade has given way to blanket televised political analysis, with Andrew Marr, Robert Peston and Andrew Neil. Usual faces, same old blether – sanctimonious sermons. Having listened to this morning’s guests, Labour appears to have a serious talent deficit. Syphilitic turd and Owen Smith sounds about right. Given the country balked at electing Neil Kinnock, the chance of our voting for his underpants seems highly unlikely. As Dominic Lawson says in today’s Times, the public school chumocracy has given way to a grammar school chumocracy, a rival Oxford sect –  as divorced from blue-collar conservatives and the concept of social mobility as their predecessors were.

We’ve inherited another two mares. They have settled in well… and why wouldn’t you. It is eight o’clock and I am walking around the paddock bathed in evening sunshine, wearing slippers, sipping a beer.

Saturday, July 16

A throat like a low-powered masonry drill

Reading Leo Lewis’s interview with Eddie Jones you can’t but be enthused by the England rugby team’s prospects as regards the 2019 World Cup. Not difficult to understand why Jones is on the Goldman Sachs advisory board, nor why it could be beneficial for Prime Minister May to invite him round to No. 10. There are a number of people in government would benefit from a size twelve boot up their backside.

Lunch: octopus and shrimp with an avocado salad. A dressing to die for. I’d drive a long way for this sort of food.

Theresa May is Britain’s Angela Merkel

I sincerely hope not! ‘Germany’s deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has written to bosses of leading companies demanding they hire more refugees… a survey found that of the estimated 1m migrants arriving in the country last year only 54 had been taken on.’ Although I believe the true figure is considerably higher, it seems most of the Syrian medics and engineers we saw crossing the Mediterranean turned out to be Uber drivers. If this is an example of what Daimler’s chief exec Dieter Zetsche cited as the foundation of Germany’s next economic miracle, we best hope Theresa May doesn’t live up to her billing as Britain’s Angela Merkel.

Friday, July 15

Oysters aside I prefer the critters boiled or grilled

A crow and a buzzard have spent this past week contesting a fence post in the yard. There are a hundred or more posts to choose from but that’s not the point.

Seemingly without thinking, today I poured myself a Pastis as a pre-lunch livener. Been a while… We stayed in a modern hotel at the far end of the Promenade des Anglais and walked into town every evening for drinks and dinner. The shellfish was so fresh it actually crawled from the plate and across the starched white tablecloth while I was finishing my anise-flavoured aperitif. Wimp that I am I sent the food back to the kitchen and ordered a steak.

Thursday, July 14

In the real world

Three days ago it was wellingtons and waterproofs: today, T-shirt and shorts. Log stacking has given way to cutting grass and harvesting vegetables... the neighbourhood tractors are out in force. Our resident mare is expecting and we appear to have gained a stray ram – it is surprisingly difficult to move a lone sheep.

Boris Johnson, Foreign Minister

Theresa May unleashes Boris on Johnny Foreigner.

Wednesday, July 13

The jury is out on tick box PM

Our media has glammed it up today, perhaps over the top – at their fawning (over The Establishment) best. A glib speech by the girl on her return to No.10. If I’d wanted to elect someone spouting Lib Dem platitudes, ticking the usual boxes and intent on virtue signaling, I wouldn’t have put my cross against the Conservative Party. Most definitely on probation ... I’m not sure they get it even now.

I’ve read this one before

A self-righteous son of the manse – sour-faced control freak who inherited the crown sans an election. Then again she’s not an Eagle or a Hillary, still less a McPlonker. ...Back in ’75 I was incredulous when the Conservatives elected Thatcher party leader – no man would surely vote for a woman? I subsequently voted for the Iron Lady in the next three general elections.

Labour remains in denial over Corbyn. They believe the party will never return to power while he remains leader. Blairites delude themselves. Labour’s days of majority rule are over. Finito! What they can do is mobilise left-wing support behind Corbyn for an alternative government, and rule in coalition with other so-called progressive parties such as the SNP, Lib Dems and the Greens. At least voters will have a choice, rather than two shades of grey.

You know times are changing – when Yasmin Alibaba-Brown appears on Sky’s late night newspaper review, lavishly praising David Cameron.

A busy day today, stacking logs for the winter. So much for summer.

Monday, July 11

I’m voting for the lad from Dudley

It was très wet on the moor this morning, torrential rain and lots of cagoule-clad teenagers pursuing their DoE medal. No sign of the missing lynx. Returned home for lunch and to catch up on the fast-moving political scene. I imagine this is a great time to be a hack; it’s certainly an exciting time to be a Brit. Grand Prix and Wimbledon success … Wales aside, if only we could play footy. Let’s hear it for Big Sam as the next England Manager. Anyone but Arsène Wenger or Glen Hoddle.

Saturday, July 9

This old heart of mine

Fortified by a couple of bottles of Saddlers Worcester Sorcerer, a roast chicken and an Isley Brothers’ album, the world looks a different place. Such bitterness, engendered by the referendum, not least from the so-called establishment – Times’ correspondents are apoplectic. So many bad losers. As the pinko FT’s David Tang says, “Such pessimism is not worthy of the history of Britain. It’s OK to be an island of little Englanders, who mostly voted Brexit against the snooty white collars and arrogant grandees”. Let’s hear it for Andrea.

For the benefit of clarity, Heads of State and Governments participating in the North Atlantic Council are meeting in Warsaw not Walsall

Friday, July 8

Giant soles and brown shrimp

Provincial cities are a delight when university students disappear on leave. If Tony Blair wants to escape the tide of disapprobation, Exeter is the place to be. Totnes, in contrast, is a tourist nightmare. Regretfully I promised Dover Soles for supper and so needs must. Not so much soles as whales. And talking of footy: didn’t the Frogs do well.

Thursday, July 7

Fantasy Island

Seven hours sleep is one of life’s luxuries. The birdsong eventually does for you. I can’t complain, given South London Mansion’s dawn chorus of slamming doors, the early morning trains, planes and delivery vans…that git next door cranking his Ducati. After a decade on Fantasy Island you take certain things for granted and forget what it’s like in the real world.

Wednesday, July 6

Democracy’s a bugger

Considering the condemnation heaped on Cameron for allowing the Referendum – that you can’t trust ‘the people’ to make these sort of decisions (it’s what we elect our leaders to do), how do we now square our reluctance to accept Blair’s decision to go to war with Iraq (given we gave him the power to decide)? Dodgy dossier, you say, he lied to us (like Brexit’s £350m/week to NHS?); and anyway, Blair should have been operating on the basis of government by cabinet – these sort of catastrophes wouldn’t happen if we ran everything by committee. Nah, that doesn’t sound clever either, especially when the cabinet included the likes of Prescott, Beckett and Morris. Maybe tick box government would work (we did it by the book, don’t blame us), or subjecting decisions to Brussels-like bureaucracy (obfuscation and fudge)? Even then we’d want someone to blame, to sacrifice at the stake. I have enough trouble deciding what to eat for dinner every evening.

Wake up and smell the coffee

Today’s is a mix of beans from Ethiopia, Congo, Mexico and Tanzania. …The sun confounded us yesterday by making an unscheduled appearance. Following that grey start, the homestead spent all day bathed in Costa-like weather. Mowers and wheelbarrows were order of the day, and Wednesday looks to be a continuation with plenty of long-deferred chores to keep me busy. I doubt we’ve had a single run of fine weather this summer to allow us to get on top of things. Probably better off outside today, given all thoughts of leadership elections and plunging currencies will be eclipsed by the Chilcot Inquiry. I suspect my barbecue will also play its part. Whatever Chilcot says I doubt it will be enough to assuage the vocal minority that want to see Tony Blair swinging from a gibbet alongside Oscar Pistorius.

Tuesday, July 5

Life goes on

‘We had some laughs’ is a common enough epitaph. We’ve all used it, most usually when toasting someone’s passing and looking through old snaps. Dan Waddell’s biography sets you thinking, reminiscing. You have to guard against mawkishness on these chill grey mornings.

Sunday, July 3

Battle of Britain Memorial Day

Songs of Praise ... Watching/listening to the initial number from Folkestone’s Holy Trinity Church you almost expect to see Greer Garson and Walter Pigeon in the congregation.

Saturday, July 2

The bar has been raised

And talking of vino … My thanks to young nephew for his gift of New World hooch, not least the bottle of Cullen Wine’s Margaret River. Mrs G’s roast lamb was a perfect accompaniment. Whilst I appreciate such fine wine could handle more years in the cellar, I haven’t the patience. It’s an example of what wine used to taste like (when corporate expense accounts ran riot). My consolation lies in knowing you appreciate the stuff as much as I do.

Flying the flag

Those DoE kids must have had a fun night bivouacked on the moor. Such was the deluge it seemed the homestead itself was in danger of being washed away. The height of summer and I’m burning logs like there’s no tomorrow. No tomorrow … spirit of the times, according to the post-referendum gloom and doom merchants. So much food and wine and so little time. If your spirits are down then read this weekend’s Spectator magazine, a paean to Brexit optimism. Or watch a rerun of the Wales (fellow Brexiteers) v Belgium game. The referendum anti-climax is palpable as life returns to normal. Whilst the establishment close ranks and the Telegraph is obliged to pull a critical article of Theresa May, our local primary school’s summer fair is excuse enough to deck the town in Union Jack bunting.

Friday, July 1

Get out of jail card

George Osborne punches the air.

Traditional Friday

Samphire, scallops, streaky bacon and black pudding, washed down with a commendable Saint-Péray tranquille.

Am watching the old favourite True Grit on the box, thinking it's time England grew a pair. As Lynton Crosby might have said: “Can’t do a thing for you, Boris, your partner’s killed you.”

Centenary remembrance

Powerful scenes from Westminster Abbey and France this morning. WW1 coloured my grandparent’s lives as much as the succeeding conflict did my parent’s generation. The collective experience of those two generations is part of what shaped the identity of those of us who came of age during the cold war. Identity rather than immigration per se is what’s driven the Brexit vote.

Much is made of Theresa May’s ability to have kept her head down during the recent conflict, as though an ability to hide from the fray and avoid getting your hands dirty is a positive attribute.