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 Chev√®nement 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.