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.