Sunday, November 19

No way to win an argument

Watching BBC’s Sunday Politics this morning … Gisela Stuart debating with Alastair Campbell. It seems that no matter how reasonable the opposition, Campbell always behaves to type – a belligerent drunk. Whatever the merits of the argument, the public will always take against an arsehole.

Saturday, November 18

There’s no fireside like your own

You couldn’t fault our accommodation in Bath: large suite of rooms in a stunning historic home, the perfect location and sublime cuisine... And yet it’s nice to be back home – feet up in front of a roaring fire, bottle of Château Thénac, racing and footy on the box. Am good for another year.

Friday, November 17

More rabbit than Sainsbury’s

Apart from their natural attributes – the sticky-out bits – there are a number of things separating the sexes. For instance, women fall out of bed every morning with a compulsion to talk – non-stop, all the time, incessantly. We ate breakfast this morning in the company of an Irish couple from Worcester: and there was little you could do, charming as she was, to shut her up. I’m not at my best in the morning. Life looked a lot better after a pint in the Dog & Duck, though there too... Then at lunch – The Ivy Bath Brasserie – with women from Chelsea and Tottenham. Fortunately by this time I was up to speed, into the swing of things so to speak. Can’t say I miss the corporate roundabout, the mass social gatherings, especially at this time of year – but today I enjoyed myself.

Believe the local Ivy has been open barely a month and is bedding in. There’s nothing wrong with the food – but that’s not why you patronise this sort of place. Great buzz, good service, decent booze…highly recommended.

Thursday, November 16

Onwards and upwards

After Wednesday night’s hijinks, today’s lunchtime session featured one of Mrs G’s favourite venues and included an outstanding dish of fresh mussels followed by a half-decent steak chocolate tart and parsnip ice cream (a passable champagne and a non-too-shabby Beaujolais). Managed to swing by Howard Hodgkin’s Indian-themed exhibition at the Victoria, before yet more shopping and a bracing (lengthy) hike back to the hotel for a costume change. Though wedding anniversary numero forty-four has several hours still to run, Gudgeon is beginning to flag.

Stranger things have happened

On the face of it US$450 million for a work of questionable provenance seems a bit rich. But then everything’s relative, especially if you have billions in the bank. Would be nice to think the successful bidder is a philanthropist who will donate Leonardo's masterpiece to his local provincial public gallery.

Wednesday, November 15

Thankfully we've a decent billet

The bogs and mires of Dartmoor are a breeze, it’s the city streets that do for me – my knees that is (an old refrain). Gudgeon has been consigned to bag-carrying duties, press ganged into one of Mrs G’s shopping expeditions. I must have tramped every street in the city of Bath today, adjourning to an occasional hostelry was scant reward.

Tuesday, November 14

Social mobility isn’t necessarily a one way bet.

Generation guilt attracts older voters to Labour. I hate these generalised diatribes by the FT. This morning’s the usual shit about working class lad made good (from slag heap to school teacher), who now laments his kids are stuck in a rut and unable to continue to climb the greasy pole. “The opportunities open to my generation are not open to my children” says ex-grammar school boy Stan. If this is such a ‘generational’ thing, Stan, exactly how many working-class kids from families with four or more children made it into grammar schools back in 1965? As Mrs Webster confirms, “I was (we were) privileged…(the privileged few)” Given the four Webster sprogs’ careers have stalled or are non-existent, what did they study at university, and why – if we are so desperate for teachers – didn’t they follow in their parents’ footsteps? I’m not unsympathetic. But rather than a sub to middle-class slackers (Corbyn voters) who should have been given better career advice, I’d much rather our money went to the hard-up Wigan pensioners and their Millennial grandchildren that never made it out of Dickens Place. Nostalgia for the Welfare State? We lost the argument a long time ago and it ain’t coming back.

Armistice Day is over

Though Monday’s not my favourite day of the week, yesterday turned out pleasant enough. Arctic air brought snow to parts of England and thankfully the homestead was not one of them. While chill in the yard, accounts and correspondence allowed me to remain warm and snug inside – I have a busy week ahead.

Given the open animosity between rival factions of the Brexit debate, I’ve been steering clear of the Dog & Duck. The arguments have been exhaustively aired and combatants ceased listening to each other long ago. Everyone has adjourned to their respective trenches to glare at the enemy and wait for the whistle to sound. 

Sunday, November 12

Loose talk

Michael Gove says  attractive Iranian woman with photogenic child who managed to get her sweaty mitts on a British passport may well have been up to no good – but it would be unwise to speculate, still less to elaborate.

Saturday, November 11

Local runners and riders

Big win for neighbourhood rider Bryony Frost at Wincanton this afternoon, on the Paul Nicholls-trained Present Man.

Reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated

Woke early this morning to find the sky blackened by a flight of starlings. As if rain clouds aren’t enough. …To Tavistock Farmers’ Market to order the Christmas goose and pick up supplies. Our weather may be bleak but the drive is always a pleasure. Returned with a joint of suitably-aged (native breed) beef to see us through the weekend. Am making the most of things before they ban my diesel-powered work horse and forbid everyone from eating naturally-reared meat. Speaking of Land Rovers … the local dealer recently offered to buy back my neighbour’s Defender for more than it cost when new, three years ago. Maybe we’re not done yet.

Letting bygones be bygones is not in his nature

While I’ll read most anything, Gordon Brown’s life and times is unlikely to make it onto my beside table. Tribal affiliations aside, the lad’s never struck me as someone you’d want to team up with for a pint on the way home from work. That said of course, Philip Hammond is unlikely to lighten your working day and have you rolling in the aisles. Wonder what the plonker has tucked up his sleeve for budget day? I see the usual beggars are already on the street demanding more cash, Barnier and his cronies at the head of the queue.

The girl in front of me in the queue at the Kwik-E-Mart yesterday morning addressed me as ‘Young Man’. Made my day.

Thursday, November 9

The Last Picture Show

Saturday morning minor’s matinees, admission 6D. Gudgeon was a regular, albeit a couple of years after this particular photo was taken. Many thanks to Andy for the Bugle Annual.

Is it me, or…

Disappointed, maybe; but surprised, surely not?

Devon's rural past

Our old neighbours from The Barn days.

Frosty feldefares

… flocking fieldfares, speckled like the thrush, Picking the red haw from the sweeing bush That come and go on winters chilling wing And seem to share no sympathy with Spring. (Clare)

I wondered how long it would be before they appeared – the frosty feldefares (Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules) that is, also known hereabouts as the blue bird. A sizeable flock descended on the hawthorn this morning – at just about the time the neighbour’s guns opened up, though in their case it’s pheasants on the receiving end. A pleasant couple of hours across the hills … returned trés wet.

Wednesday, November 8

Life has its restrictions these days

After Tuesday’s deluge, today we adjourned to Dartmouth. A grilled brill (with chips) for Gudgeon and fried mixed seafood for the Boss. As with cooked breakfasts and pasta, I probably eat chips a dozen times over the course of a year – it seems everything is now an occasional guilty pleasure instead of one time daily fare. Just as soon as I square the booze and gambling, the clergy beckons.

Suppers of old

One of my pride and joys at this time of year – a giant holly bush laden with berries – lives on borrowed time. A softly twittering flock of Wind Thrushes – Redwings, has been congregating in the surrounding woods and making tentative raids on the yard. Any time now there’ll be a mass attack, and the berries – my remaining dab of colour – will be gone.

According to Berwick the birds are delicate eating. Romans held Redwings in such esteem they kept them in giant aviaries, fattening the birds on a paste of bruised figs and flour to improve their flavour. Local delis sold em for three denarii a pop.

Tuesday, November 7

English happier since Brexit vote

Another ‘Despite Brexit’. Average ratings for quality of life in England now stand at the highest since the ONS began measuring personal well-being in 2011. Apparently more than a third of us rate our happiness 9 or 10 out of 10. In spite of evidence to the contrary, however, the ONS believes it will end in tears.

Thought for the day

“Of all the testimonies I hear from people in management, one is consistent across industries: the gap between their best workers and their next best is orders of magnitude. Getting more from the merely good, through inducements, cajolery and measurable targets, is excruciating work.” (Janan Ganesh, FT)

Sunday, November 5

Disreputable smears

It comes to something when you have to choose between politicians and the plod. Am forced to give Green the benefit of the doubt.

It beats the gym

Bracing probably best describes this morning’s walk. The strength of the northerly headwind when coupled with that slope is a perfect workout for the heart, and a sure fire way of firing up your appetite. A flock of golden plovers, rising and dipping above the pony herd … neighbours on quad bikes checking stock, much of which will be coming down past the homestead the next couple of days.

Behold virtue-applauding

‘This audience is very bougie’, Mangu-Ward said at one point, and I’m sure I felt the entire room shift as 900 people defensively clutched the arms of their seats in fleeting, painful recognition of just what a posh pursuit anti-capitalism has become ... anti-capitalism has become a fatalistic pursuit, a comforting exercise in complaint, a self-aggrandising knowingness about the lameness of life, the pastime, almost exclusively, of the time-rich and well-off, of the kind of people who have gentrified Williamsburg and annoyed their parents by becoming cultural-studies lecturers rather than corporate lawyers.

A cold snap arrives


Embrace the cold, you say. Not likely. In the deeper recesses of the yard my log pile continues to grow. Worth its weight in gold. Order of today is comfort food: beef short ribs, braised over several hours in red wine and stock...lots of root vegetables. Truly, truly, unctuous … and with very elegant fruit on the nose, dark raspberries on the palate and beautifully integrated tannins, the accompanying Burgundy ain’t bad either.

Saturday, November 4

Seasonal food

Anchovies on toast, roast partridge with rainbow chard, Cropwell Bishop – a bottle of Syrah from the Languedoc. My only problem with wine from a region bordering the Mediterranean is its 14.5% ABV rating. In a year or two we’ll be drinking something more akin to sherry than quaffable vino.

Friday, November 3

Mediocre books … derivative me-tooism

Like panning for gold in the middle of rapids … Then there is the brute fact that shelf space is limited. Every new book evicts an old, probably better one. Pity that writer. Here’s a figure to chill the blood: every literary-fiction title written in English sold an average of 263 copies in 2015. There are more virgins in parliament than that.

Wednesday, November 1

Back in the saddle


Hurrah! November has arrived and gosoberforoctober is history. A bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Gudgeon is ready to face the festive season (6.0lbs lighter). The loss of October’s beer money to charity was prudently laid off on a wager with Mrs G., and a case of Gevrey-Chambertin from a highly-rated domaine is now parked beneath my desk. A large part of the fun is planning suitable meals to match the different vintages.

I know it’s fashionable to blame the boomers for everything, but maybe we really are a privileged generation. Let’s face it, we had a far better time in the old days than the current crop of candy-arsed ‘You touched my knee’ tosspots have now.

Local democracy in action

News release from local overlords…

Last night, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council voted on the proposal to create one new council. The results are as follows: 

• In South Hams 19 councillors voted to submit a proposal to the secretary of state, 8 voted against and 3 councillors abstained 
• In West Devon 13 councillors voted to submit a proposal to the secretary of state and 18 voted against the proposal 

This means that the proposal to create one new council for South Hams and West Devon will not be submitted to the Secretary of State. Councillors from both authorities now need some time to regroup and talk to their members before making any further statements about what this outcome means. 

Chortle, chortle, chortle… South Hams consulted the ratepayers on said proposal and then disregarded our 90% negative response, only to be thwarted by the bride.

Tuesday, October 31

Is the bar set so low?

That fifteen years ago the Defence Secretary’s hand should have come to rest on Hartley-Brewer’s knee is headline news must be proof enough the country’s lost its collective sense. Our adversaries must be wetting themselves, and not out of fear. I appreciate it’s only the reptiles manufacturing clickbait, but that the once great Telegraph is reduced to this sort of thing is a sad reflection of our times – John Profumo must be shaking his ghostly head. Robert Peston isn’t the only one who feels he’s not living in the same Britain as the rest of the country.

Monday, October 30

Peace reigns

Frost on the ground this morning. Glorious day, however, an opportunity to tidy the yard – fire up a bonfire and break out the brushcutter…put the allotment to bed. Two days short of November and I’m still mowing the grass. Aside from an argument between a jay and green woodpecker the place is eerily quiet – and I’m not complaining.

Wednesday, October 25

We are all on a journey now

It seems that at some stage in the near future everyone will be obliged – perhaps in the manner of Anthony Burgess’s Alex – to embark on one of Owen’s journeys to atone for the impure thoughts we once held. So much rending of garments. The world’s gone fuckin’ crazy.

Calm being the operative word

You don’t get many of these to the pound. A perfect morning, that is. Vaughan Williams playing on the wireless, barely a blemish in the sky – just THE SUN. Plenty of autumn colour to marvel at – a yard littered with the reminder of recent storms, sprouting fungi and extremely vocal robins. What was Einstein’s theory of happiness again?

Tuesday, October 24

With friends like Michael Bloomberg…

Stupidest thing any country has done besides Trump. … Britain doesn’t have an immigration problem and they didn’t need control of their borders. (We didn’t?) They have the English Channel – that gave them control of their borders. (Oh, OK) … Problems with immigration? Britain didn’t take anyone from northern Africa or the Middle East. (Yeah, right!) … But what Britain are doing is not good and there is no easy way to get out of the EU because if they don’t pay a penalty, (irony alert) everyone else would drop out. … Would I have built two big expensive buildings in London if I knew they were going to drop out? I’ve had some thoughts that maybe I wouldn’t have, but we are there, we are going to be very happy (says through gritted teeth). … I can’t be bothered to critique the article properly and only posted this as an example of the total disconnect between the Bloombergs of the world and us mortals – why we voted for Brexit.

Wet and windy

Out on the moor for a couple of hours this afternoon, albeit the weather remains grim. The fog hasn’t lifted, wind is gusting from the south west, and the drizzle ain’t going away anytime soon (I need new waterproofs). If you waited for more congenial weather you’d never leave the homestead, and even idlers like Gudgeon are susceptible cabin fever. Back home to coddled eggs and hog’s pudding.

Leading horses to water

Individuals with the highest risk of suffering heart attack and strokes are not being prescribed statins despite a major NHS drive to put more people on the drug, a major study reveals. The story suggests that when appraised of the side effects most chose not to take the pills – are talked out of it by their GP. I suspect in reality those that do take statins are the conscientious types already on top of their diet and exercise who are unlikely to suffer a heart attack, and the slobs amongst us most likely to succumb are just lazy buggers that can’t be arsed.

Monday, October 23

Pay doesn’t appear to be the problem

An anonymous teacher, 41, from West Yorkshire, wrote: “I’m desperate to get out of teaching. It’s exhausting, stressful and is ruining my life. I’m not a senior leader so can’t go on to be a consultant or inspector. I’ve been teaching for over a decade and most of the jobs I’ve seen that suit my skills and experience could mean taking over a 50% pay cut.” ...So, given were already paying teachers double the going rate, it seems pay isn't the problem we thought?

The language of tolerance

I recall listening to an old crooner years ago as he recounted how, after years of struggle, the Tamla Motown artists thought they’d cracked the mainstream market – had arrived. Unfortunately the very moment he reached what he thought was the pinnacle, in walked The Beatles, The Rolling Stones – white rock music … and blew everyone away. It felt as if Detroit et al were back to square one. There must be a similar feeling these days amongst women: a century spent battling for equality, and just as the prize is within their grasp, ‘womanhood’ is erased from public life.

Sunday, October 22

The cultural backlash is not easily dissuaded

There is a tendency amongst the political opposition and sections of MSM to prefix every Brexit comment with “People didn’t vote to become poorer”. The economic elite and jobs-focused Remain camp do this to justify their wish to renege on the referendum result by staying in the single market and customs union. These naysayers appear to have forgotten that during the referendum, project fear actually concentrated on the dire economic consequences of voting leave – it was their principal threat. Unfortunately for Cameron and Osborne, although the message got through and there was a tacit understanding we could be poorer, voters determined it was a price worth paying. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a sense of cultural rather than economic threat had by far the largest impact – and it seems we were not alone.

Food your gran would have cooked

As with painting and decorating, cooking has a lot to do with preparation. Have just watched Mrs G. dissect a 4½lb slab of beef (cheek) for the pot: 2lbs 6oz of usable meat; 1lb 14oz excess fat and membrane. The significant waste is one of the reasons these cuts are (were) relatively inexpensive. The relative bit acknowledges that, when celebrity chefs popularise such dishes, demand increases price. Throw in the cost of fuel, not least with long and slow cooking, and what was once considered poor people’s food becomes middle-class extravagance – one of the reasons mothers feed their kids processed crap (instead of encouraging them to keep retesting beetroot and parsnip, cabbage and dark chocolate).

In common with universal credit

“…an advance of £5,000 on your next novel.’ How are they meant to live on that?” The predicament could explain why so many less than successful literary types (90%?) identify with the left. Making a living from writing must be comparable to panhandling for precious stones in the desert, and yet universities continue to milk generations of gullible students with their creative writing courses. As with all dreams, as Boyd says, ‘luck’ and ‘fortune’ play a significant part. A number of old colleagues have published, a mixture of dry text books and Desmond Bagley-style adventure stories. I doubt sales stretched beyond friends and family.

Pots and kettles

Jose Mourinho: players should explain themselves after poor performance. Their manager speculating on his future life with PSG maybe?

Saturday, October 21

Hunkering down

Given the weather our proposed visit to Dartmouth Food Festival was cancelled. Walking 120yds across the yard to the barn is tough enough and I don’t imagine conditions quayside are any better. It’s a pity as we’ve enjoyed some great sessions in the past. Today is a day for sitting beside the stove, following the footy and racing on the box. Our compensation supper is veal bavette steaks with several types of mushroom in a cream sauce and roasted butternut squash. Would like to tell you the meal will be washed down with a nice Cote de Nuits Villages Blanc, but am determined to win the bet.

Making mountains out of molehills

A touch grim outside, having to remove tree limbs from the drive before I could head off for milk and papers, remnants of a rock wall that had collapsed into the road. Conversely… while the girls exercising their steeds look a little fraught, in reality it’s just a typical autumn storm; naming them merely elevates the norm into something seemingly catastrophic, needlessly putting the wind up Joe Public.

Approved and non-approved accents

“I can’t ever remember using words that my parents used: bairn for child, bide for stay, blate for shy, breeks for trousers, brig for bridge (to name a few of the Bs).” The lad’s 72 years of age and has never used these words? “It was like looking at some piece of folk art in a museum, encouraging the notion that the dialect was ill suited to modernity.” Gudgeon is considerably younger than Jack and such words were commonplace when I lived north of the border. I guess, like most Guardianistas, he exists in a more rarefied atmosphere (oh yes, Jack resides in Islington). The article, which could have been an interesting piece of social commentary, descends, inevitably, into petty spite.

Friday, October 20

Merluza en salsa verde

I seem to have spent most of this week dashing around the streets of Plymouth and Exeter. Though the two cities are equidistant from the homestead, there the similarity ends. The former has seen better days and struggles to attract investment, while the latter is a prosperous magnet for white flight from Londonistan. You hear plenty of complaints in the Dog & Duck about the unwelcome expansion of new housing in the area, but I doubt they appreciate just how many will be heading in this direction once Brexit is out of the way and a degree of certainty returns to the economy.

The other notable event this week is how often I’ve been rained on from a great height – literally rather than metaphorically. The yard has returned to its natural state, namely a sea of mud. This morning was the calm before Storm Brian arrives and, as I discovered, you can fill an entire day taking care of mickey mouse jobs: chopping wood, repairing a fence, servicing machinery and clearing soakaways, battening down in advance of Brian, to say nothing of installing new bathroom-fittings, repairing a catch on the stove and programming a new phone. I was able to collapse into my chair this evening with a clear conscience – a roaring fire and Ken Bruce on the wireless, another attempt to make inroads into my ever expanding stack of reading material ... dine on hake and clams in green sauce.

Thursday, October 19

Glad I'm not just starting out

Half of students starting university are now first in their family to do so, new figures reveal. Impressive, you’d think? But that would be to discount the probability too many of these students are attending mediocre establishments and studying bullshit subjects that are unlikely to help improve their chances of social mobility. There are similar articles in the papers almost every week, all of which confirm such students are also unlikely to pay off their loans to we long suffering taxpayers. Aside from helping to fund this Ponzi scheme I don’t really have a dog in the fight. I do, however, make the following observation. Thirty years ago the organisation I worked for was recruiting non-graduates as trainees. In many cases you knew the trainees parents, and on the basis an apple never falls far from the tree, it was qualification enough. In due course a lot more people went to university, so much so there was an assumption (rightly or wrongly) of a direct correlation between increased numbers and declining academic standards. Ergo if someone hadn’t been to university it probably meant they couldn’t read or write and were innumerate: and as these disciplines were basic requirements, a graduate qualification – though not really necessary – became standard. Since that time, such is the qualifications arms race, this has been elevated to include the necessity for a post-graduate qualification. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for this sort of thing – the lad next door needs his PhD to perform as required, and in an earlier life my other neighbour was a Physicist. But a university education to gain employment as a postal clerk, seriously?

Wednesday, October 18

Public shaming is now mainstream

It’s difficult to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television without being confronted by Harvey Weinstein’s chubby mush; to hear one-time starlets accuse the old perv of groping them, or worse; listen to industry grandees profess how surprised and shocked they are. And don’t get me started on Me too. There was a time, not long ago, when people pretended sex scandals weren’t suitable entertainment for polite society. I was going through the shelves last weekend and came across an article by Vicki Woods from thirty years ago when she was writing for the Spectator (Yes, I know: must have a clear out). I reference it as a reminder that newspapers once employed talent such as Woods – you really need to read the whole thing rather than this opening extract, as she goes on to lambast voyeuristic editors.

“How many times a night one likes to have sexual intercourse is not a permissible topic at dinner; nor is it a fit subject for a columnist on the Times or the Independent. Sex talk – Doing It, Loving It and Bragging About It – is for the lower classes, isn’t it? and the grimy papers they read. Sex and violence and smut and sleaze: it brightens up their dull lives and keeps them going between Giro cheques. The lower classes bonk away in an uncontrolled manner in their underprivileged housing – ‘I Had Sex at 13 and I’ve Never Stopped’ and grubby men in raincoats write about it for the grubby papers – ‘Are there orgies down your street? Tell us any day 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on 071 782 4498 (News of the World).’ The shoe-wearing classes are assumed to keep this sort of thing well tucked in, like a shirt-tail, and undiscussed, except sotto voce with a close friend …” 

It isn’t so much that men (such as Weinstein) fear being discovered to have bonked, Woods wrote, as the fear of being forever tarred by those shudder-making lower-class headlines and pictures of Karen or Debbie (as it might be) who looked like one’s cleaning-woman or her daughter. No man in public life, no merchant banker, no Harley Street doctor (or film producer), wanted to see his own haunted photograph slammed up alongside that of Ms. A. and Ms. B. posing and smiling in their favourite undies. …Given the Weinstein coverage it seems that nowadays everyone is more comfortable in demanding the salacious details of what was once called ‘mucky things’, and one would like to believe for the right reasons, rather than, as Woods implied, a means of keeping Kevin and Sharon in a permanent state of arousal.

Monday, October 16

Ophelia arrives

Out cold till half-eight this morning. Must have needed a kip. Weird light, the sky remains ominously dark – like looking through coloured cellophane. Breezy too, as forecast, swirling columns of autumn leaves and a constant roar. Fingers crossed the power cables hold as I’ve things to do. Fortunately I haven’t time to read the papers, those harbingers of doom and gloom with their increasingly dystopian look on life. If you were incubating inside someone’s womb you’d refuse to leave. Who needs Russians and their fake news when we’ve our own fifth column promulgating dissent and fostering resentment.

Saturday, October 14

Football and curry

This morning’s drive to Tavistock necessitated fog lights fore and aft. Town seems to have doubled its population (half term?), and the traffic – much of which was probably passing through en route to Plymouth (Christmas shopping already?) – nose to tail. Secured a pheasant for tomorrow’s lunch, my primary goal, and stocked up on pork chops. Two-quid for an hour’s parking is a bit rich, not least as there’s nothing in town worth hanging about for – little to buy or see. Returned home in time to catch Football Focus and the start of the racing, before donning boots and setting off again into the mist. Decent walk ... it cleared once we were up on the moor. You can’t waste these afternoons. Returned home in time for the results (way to go, Palace) and a mutton curry.

Friday, October 13

The modern-day Samuel Johnsons and James Boswells

Another coffee shop has opened in town, while elsewhere a pub closes. Changing demographics/ lifestyle … it’s back to the 18th Century and the Age of Enlightenment. Yeah, right! I took my Americano to the river bank and watched as they craned a line of moored vessels across the road to the boat yard and into winter storage. Gudgeon can while away an entire morning watching other folks work. Picked up supplies and came back the long way, calling in at Bovey – then through the mist past Haytor, Widecombe, Ponsworthy, Leusdon, Poundsgate… The 21mpg route. Dartmoor’s looking pretty spectacular just now, albeit a tad breezy. A fair number of visitors about.

Return of the dementia tax

“Buying rather than renting is rooted in our psyche.” Social housing’s principal attribute is to light a fire under its residents, to reinforce the message: that if you’ve any sense of aspiration, you don’t want to be here. “A vital sense of ambition can make the difference,” says Philip Collins. “Too many young people are limited not so much by the range of their talents but by the narrowness of their horizons.” That the sum of your striving should then be summarily confiscated is no way to foster ambition.

Same old, same old...

Autumn has barely begun and the papers are already predicting catastrophe at the NHS: “The NHS is more scared than we have ever been…” They fear the annual flu jab is a waste of time. “An evaluation of last year’s programme, seen by The Daily Telegraph, shows pensioners who had the jab fared no better than those who did not. Protection rates were far higher among children, with 66 per cent protection, the figures show. This year’s vaccine is similar to last year’s, which failed to effectively counter strains like those which have recently proved virulent in Australia.” …I’ve always signed up to annual vaccinations as I assume our local GPs get paid in part on meeting box-ticking targets – to help them out. However my local lad has proved singularly lacking in the service he provides. More of a gatekeeper to someone who knows what he’s talking about that the solid family practitioner of old. The fabled NHS itself is long past its sell-by date and chucking more money at the thing will solve nothing.

Thursday, October 12

Mundane stuff

Up town for supplies and a visit to the dentist, optician and barber, a tank of diesel, to collect a case of wine on special offer – 25% off. I may not be drinking but you have to plan ahead: Christmas is coming. Sales and promotions appear less plentiful these days, probably because everyone’s already operating on low margins. We had a new floor laid this week and the lad required money up front for materials. Cash flow: the bane of every small businessman. …Out on the moor after lunch (jambon persillé – brawn to you and me). Some days I can almost fly through the bogs and mires; some days it’s a real challenge and I return home well and truly fucked. …With the hunt season beginning next month, neighbours are exercising hounds – quad bikes, hunting horns and baying mutts. …The neighbourhood has become younger, the production of infants is on the rise. Young mothers dressed like Sherpas carry the mites in metal-framed packs on their shoulders. Let’s hope the kids are afforded the opportunity to enjoy this place as much as I do before it’s concreted over.

Wednesday, October 11

Voters may balk at the higher taxes required

You think? ...Free housing, food, transport and access to the internet should be given to British citizens in a massive expansion of the welfare state … Former senior government official Jonathan Portes and academics from University College London make the call for a raft of new “universal basic services” using the same principles as the NHS. They estimate it would cost about £42bn, which could be funded by changes to the tax system. The recommendations include doubling Britain’s existing social housing stock with funding to build 1.5m new homes, which would be offered for free to those in most need. A food service would provide one third of meals for 2.2m households deemed to experience food insecurity each year, while free bus passes would be made available to everyone, rather than just the over-60s. The proposals also include access to basic phone services, the internet, and the cost of the BBC licence fee being paid for by the state. 

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said the recommendations would “help inform Labour’s thinking”. ...Britain is in debt to the tune of £2tn and all I hear is spend, spend, spent. Give it a week and Theresa May will be spouting something similar to McDonnell. New Tories: like Old Labour, but with expensive suits.

Tuesday, October 10

Long shots, conjecture and ancient rivalries

Two goals up at half-time (I’m watching Holland v Sweden). Can’t see the cloggies pulling it off – but where there’s hope, as they say. Have also dusted off my Ecuador scarf in anticipation of a win later this evening for Los Amarillos.

Britain is fucked, says the IMF. …It’s a wolf, a wolf I tell you.

Dropped in on the BP Portrait Award at the Royal Albert this morning. As someone who never got beyond drawing stick figures in art class, am always blown away by portrait painting. I can understand why the judges selected the winners, although Jorge Abbad-Jaime de Aragón’s portrait of Antonio López García is a bit tasty. …I know it’s wrong of me, but charging £5 entry fee (£3 for the kiddies) appears to have reduced the gallery footfall by (I reckon) 75%. Absolute bliss for the remaining 25% of us.

Our dystopian capital city

“Otherwise known as the world of Blade Runner – a lonely place without home or humanity.” Tim Stanley, sticking it to the capital. “Personally, I hate London. Despise it. How could you ever love a city where the poor pay astronomical rents to live four to a damp-filled room, a stone’s throw from the glass palaces of the rich? They have torn down the old capital and rebuilt it in the image of Dubai, a place where no matter what the purpose of a building – library, school, florist – it looks like an airport lounge.” ...Oh for the good old days. When we paid astronomical rents to live two to a damp-filled room.

Monday, October 9

Genetics

“A good big ’un will always beat a good little ’un,” says Gordon Strachan. I suspect Scotland’s chance of breeding an exception to the rule – a Messi, Xavi or Iniesta – is on a par with England’s – and once you’ve conquered technique, exhausted the limits of tactical advantage, strength and height is all.

Sunday, October 8

Autumn fare

Flushed a snipe this morning, the first I’ve seen this autumn. As a taster for the changing season (and to clear space in the freezer) Mrs G. has cut up a number of veal tails and cheeks, and lit a fire under the cauldron. Melt in the mouth stuff that should see us through the next couple of days. Goes well with a nice Rhone, or would do if I hadn’t been conned into joining the Sober for October bandwagon.

And why not

A wonderful Sunday morning with hardly a breath of wind. Wispy pink clouds and what’s left of the harvest moon. If you ignore running water from a distant brook and those pesky crows, silence reigns. Autumn is writ large amongst the trees as for once we’ve retained some colour, the moor glows like antique-gold. Mrs G. insists we put don our boots and head off into the wilderness.

Saturday, October 7

We live in hope

This morning’s FT leads with a story about Germany rejecting May’s transition hopes. Seems that while Barnier isn’t averse, Merkel (and Macron) will block any attempt to fast-track trade talks. This could be the Prime Minister’s salvation, Germany and France affording May her ‘Falklands’ opportunity: the country rallying behind what would be viewed as an attack on the UK. A couple of Churchillian ‘Fight them on the beaches’ from Boris, and everyone will be on the streets waving pitchforks – Thatcher-style landslide for the Conservatives. The girl’s luck has to change some time.

Friday, October 6

Today's visitors

There are still plenty of insects in the yard, which is just as well as the trees are full of Long-tailed Tits. Skulking beneath them in the hedge, tiny Goldcrests. A Green Woodpecker is on the deck feasting on ants.

Gudgeon's supper: pork belly and black pudding, with eight types of mushrooms.

Thursday, October 5

Cavemen and Cowboys

You don’t need to read Roland Barthes to understand why tough-man getup appeals. It’s timeless. Whether it’s cavemen, cowboys or Crimean war Hussars, leather and militaristic attire has always come with a massive dollop of machismo and who doesn’t like that? Well, lots of men, it turns out. Indeed, modern masculinity spans feminist lads to “ultra-dads” and recent YouGov research found only two per cent of 18-24-year-olds describe themselves as “completely masculine”. 

Probably best not to comment ... But a bright pink parka! Seriously?

You learn to love moss

Wet and windy this morning; just as well I got off my backside yesterday. Please tell me that was the last time I have to mow the lawn till spring 2018 (at which time I will definitely shell out for a new ride-on). The place is looking half-decent, though I have to concede the moss has won. A score draw on the mole front, and two dead badgers along the lane. The traffic’s increased this past couple of years and motor vehicles rather than culling appears the brocks’ biggest threat. Ditto with livestock on the moor.

Wednesday, October 4

This isn’t exactly a rallying cry

For god’s sake put the girl out of her misery.

Leaky footwear

It’s darker and chillier these mornings, the birds remain quiet till half-six. Buzzards and crows lead the chorus. We need a couple of dry days … I was out walking on the moor yesterday (no shortage of frogs). The livestock have left their mark – as though bogs and mires aren’t enough. I need new boots.

Tuesday, October 3

Existential fears

Not quite two sides of the same coin.

My latest read seems prescient?

An extract from the introduction. Unbelievably, it’s a novel.

The mid-seventies saw the culmination of an apparent spiritual awakening in Europe and America … a shift away from the dominant patriarchal-reductive-consumerist model … to a real engagement with principles such as mercy, compassion and right action. It was, looking back a far more hopeful time than might be imagined, and as we entered the Regan/Thatcher years, hope seemed more essential than ever to the fabric of decent life … (to) combat the existence of that soul sickness which lies, almost necessarily, at the heart of a competitive, poisoned, overcrowded society … the public realm, the political and social, corrupted beyond redemption.

Doesn’t sound as though it’s going to be a page-turner, nor an era to which, as Corbyn urges, we should return. ‘A far more hopeful time’ my arse. A plague of boils more like.

Monday, October 2

Another critter bites the dust

OK, so it’s not exactly big-game hunting – and I do cut them slack; but when my carrots are threatened, the mole gets it.

The 21st Century and we’re reinventing the wheel

Yes, I know – juvenile crap and I shouldn’t give it house room. However… “We could also start thinking seriously about redistributive measures: from a cap on wages, a high inheritance tax, to a more progressive taxation system.”    While I’m sure big Len and the lads at Unite would warm to the bit about capping wages, in ‘fairness’ to The Guardian, it isn’t easy to fill all those column inches each and every day; and it also serves as a reminder to the Conservatives about the need to repeat simple truths. I guess the government could reinvigorate the Sure Start scheme with a view to indoctrinating the mites and their mothers from the outset. Unfortunately Labour got there first.

Saturday, September 30

Accident, waiting to happen

Someone rolled his motor and blocked the lane this morning. The road surface is wet and greasy and covered with fallen leaves – an ice rink. The result is an unfortunate detour that pisses everyone off and encourages the dipsticks among us to drive even faster in order to make up for lost time. It’s just a question of ‘how many’ more vehicles plough through a hedge or demolish one of the countless horses that are being exercised.

Greek salad and stuffed squid for lunch; Mrs G. is baking a beef and mushroom pie for supper; and there’s an old favourite on the box. Who remembers Shiner? He’d have eaten Bill Sikes’ mutt for breakfast. Peggy Mount and Hylda Baker ... the great Shani Wallis.

Friday, September 29

The kitchen ate it

You don’t need to eat tonight’s supper, a whiff will suffice: braised veal sweetbreads, a medley of mushrooms, cream sauce, mashed spuds.

We’ve a mixed community hereabouts. I passed our local traveller camp this morning. They’re the dreadlocks/hippy/anarchist sort, rather than gypsies. A mishmash of converted-vans and caravans, mongrel dogs and grubby-faced urchins. It occurs to me the one thing I haven’t noticed since their arrival several months ago is a washing line, laundered underwear flapping in the breeze. It resonates because, yesterday, I reread Amis’s review of Richard Eyre’s film on Iris Murdoch, her domestic arrangements...

“…even the soap is filthy. Single shoes (and single socks) lie about the house as if deposited by a flash flood … Dried-out capless plastic pens crunch underfoot. An infestation of rats is found to be congenial, even stimulating. Everywhere they go, they have to hurdle great heaps of books, unwashed clothes, old newspapers, dusty wine bottles. The plates are stained, the glasses smeary. The bath, so seldom used, is now unusable; the mattress is soggy; the sheets are never changed. And we shall draw a veil over their underwear. On one occasion a large, recently purchased meat pie disappeared in the kitchen. It was never found. The kitchen ate it!”

Guess it’s why Amis earned the big bucks.

Thursday, September 28

Go figure

The homestead has slipped seamlessly into autumn, a carpet of leaves now covers the mud. In between showers of rain I dash outside and apply another layer of paint to rotting woodwork. Have replaced/renovated a fair amount this summer but it’s a Forth Bridge kind of thing. Neighbours maintain platoons of tradesmen, while sons and daughters attend universities to study meaningless nonsense that allows them to work as baristas, bookkeepers and glorified clerks. The kids demand the tradesmen pay their fees, in the interests of fairness.

Wednesday, September 27

Jeremy Corbyn channels his inner David Steel?

Go home and prepare for Government! Young, Idealist and Cosmopolitan they may be; but at least Labour’s offering the electorate a choice, instead of the usual middle-ground (boring) tweak. Of course Waco tells us where this sort of thing ends.

Tuesday, September 26

The People’s Front of Judea

Oh come on, don’t knock it. For entertainment value alone, John McDonnell’s worth the admission price.

Tom Watson performs a Michael Gove and morphs into a snivelling, obsequious jelly. Couldn’t happen to a nicer man.

Sunday, September 24

Swinging the lamp

It’s why so few organisations hire old geezers. Unless (for some perverse reason) you’re from the Lib Dems or the Labour Party, none of us wants to be harangued by Uncle Albert from nine to five. As someone who was an employer for more years than I was as an employee, hiring mature staff – despite benefitting from their oft immense experience – rarely worked. The temptation to prefix every statement with ‘In my day’ being an immediate turnoff. Gudgeon is the worst of ’em – I wouldn’t hire me.

Queen Angela

Failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining. Yet another been there done that.

“The AfD is a monster created by the liberal elites who have closed their ears to the German electorate’s concerns. In contrast, the Brexit vote gave vent to similar concerns in the UK before the far-right could get any kind of electoral hold. Nigel Farage might actually be given some credit for relieving the electoral pressure in Britain before things turned ugly.”

What a great day

Soft rain, thick fog and an accompanying silence – divorced from the world outside. Typical Sunday morning … returned the neighbour’s trespassing livestock, set a couple of mole traps (losing battle), cleaned up the fox/badger muck from the doorstep, retrieved cabbage from allotment. After two days of fish it’s back to mutton, this time with caper sauce and a superb seven-year-old Châteauneuf du Pape that’d been hidden away.

Saturday, September 23

Been there and done that

“Only 26% of voters aged 65 to 74 say Labour would be an option for them if another election was called. Crucially, this includes the 25% who voted for Corbyn’s party at the June general election, suggesting Labour has only a tiny number of potential new recruits among this age group.”   That’s because we were around in the 1970s and witnessed these pricks in action. They want to rerun the civil war we had then. Once bitten, as they say. If the Tories sell us out to Brussels, however, all bets are off. We abstain, Corbyn wins – and another generation gets to learn the hard way.

Autumn Morn

Here’s to the dawn of an autumn morn! 
     The cry of the hounds and the sound of the horn... 

The hunt is out this morning.

Thursday, September 21

Why pubs fail

An institution past its time? £4.40/pint. Tim Martin has a lot to be proud of, although part of me feels he’s losing the battle; we’re a dying breed. So-called poor people can’t afford to frequent pubs and those that can are terrified by health issues. So, it’s a middle-class thing? Not really, but it is a factor – maybe we don’t fraternise as much as we used to? In the old days my boozing companions included a broad selection of drinkers, including bus drivers and brickies, city traders and brokers, actors and writers, grocers and butchers. Surprisingly, given our diverse backgrounds, we were not much of a difference. How times change.

A divided society

Our local Kwik-E-Mart – or rather its ruling family – is in the news again. Whether or not to shoot badgers. It’s not just a rural versus town argument, as the countryside is as divided on most every subject as the wider population is about Brexit. Half my neighbours vote Conservative and want to bring back hanging; while the dipsticks, the others, are for Vince, insisting we should all adopt a refugee. I haven’t really got a dog in the badger fight, but if I do catch the brock that’s tearing up my yard looking for worms I will most certainly kick it in the nuts.

Wednesday, September 20

The equinox approaches

As days shorten and trees turn colour I find myself pleasantly reassured by the natural rhythms of life – the seasons, familiar faces departing and new neighbours arriving, everyday births and deaths. Change keeps life interesting and helps avoid those perilous ruts, the status quo. Theresa May and Donald Trump are there to remind us what happens when we go to sleep on the job.

Tuesday, September 19

My desert island dish

Hainanese chicken rice for this evening's supper.

D’oh!

Man who climbed mountain in underwear gets hypothermia.

Of course there are even dumber things you can do.

Empty talk

Brexit a pipe dream … just talk? Who knows? The downsides to a hard Brexit might be painful, but not as catastrophic as allowing the people from anywhere with stars lipsticked on their faces to win the argument – our staying within the EU on reduced terms. I doubt the UK’s internal divisions would ever heal.

Climate change was always a load of tosh, admit ‘experts’. Who’d have thought?

Monday, September 18

Nul points

Oh for a little style, even at the expense of substance. I’m listening to May in Canada and she appears bereft of either, is bloody awful. It wouldn’t be so bad if her obvious deficiencies were compensated for in some way. Unfortunately the girl’s an all-round dud.

Sunday, September 17

Mine's a large one

Lots of athletes out and about this morning. Though I limped across to watch the action, Gudgeon acknowledges his running days are long gone – yesterday’s jaunt a punishing realisation. So as an antidote to our fitness orientated neighbours I’ve organised an old fashioned Sunday lunchtime cocktail session for the slackers – Negronis all round. Must admit, while I don’t drink this sort of thing often, it’s a real treat. Venison on the barbecue and country music in the offing.

Friday, September 15

History is written by the victors?

“Our new national sport. Today’s blameless generation versus your guilty one. Who will atone for our fathers’ sins? Even if they weren’t sins at the time.” I didn’t reread The Spy Who Came in from the Cold before tackling A Legacy of Spies but I did watch a rerun of Richard Burton and Claire Bloom for the umpteenth time. Three or so books ago I was ready to write off le Carré in the same manner as those aging crooners that insist on taking the stage in inappropriate clothing when they should be home drinking cocoa. His latest book, however, is a quality piece of writing. Unfortunately the lad’s turned into an old woman and like many of his ilk seems intent on rewriting history to benefit the contemporary market.

Wednesday, September 13

Life’s a lottery

Captain Mark ‘Foggy’ Phillips served with distinction in the Royal Marines and SBS for 25 years. A great athlete and four times winner of the 125-mile Devizes to Westminster canoe race, Foggy contracts a disease so rare that only one in a million people is affected and subsequently dies after a short illness.

Tuesday, September 12

The morning after

Up town this morning to see a man bout a dog … before adjourning to the Ship for a pint. Advertised as an oak-beamed Tudor inn with nautical heritage, the pub’s more a throwback to the 1970s. Given today’s clientele I was going to reference Rebus, but the accents were more Glasgow than Leith. Lots of punters my age or older, and a couple of good-time girls who’d seen better days. I don’t understand the need for some lads of a certain vintage to dress like teenagers – and if you must wear cut offs, why cannibalise your pyjamas?


Speaking of good-time girls. RAMM's latest exhibition (opens today) features a selection of  modern art from their Fine Art Collection, including Patrick Heron, Barbara Hepworth, Lucien Pissarro and Brian Rice… While not my usual thing, you can’t but be taken by Isabel Codrington’s ‘Morning’ – aka working girl after a night on the batter.

Monday, September 11

Buy one get one free

Received a soaking while filling potholes in the drive…autumn has most definitely arrived. Dried off chopping wood under cover. All good stuff, fresh air and what passes for exercise – even the ponies were impressed I’d surfaced. Mrs G. has been salvaging what she can from the post-storm allotment and Gudgeon is now surrounded by jars of runner bean chutney.

Although the silly season is supposedly over I’ve yet to reengage with the political scene. It doesn’t help that, following the furore over gender pay disparity, our male commentators are increasingly replaced by the cheaper option.

Highly recommended



Sardinhas "Petingas" Picantes José Gourmet. Damn it they’re hot (spicy).

Sunday, September 10

Only a numpty would buy English wine

I wouldn‘t go so far as Marco: however, in general, it is pretty average plonk sold at inflated prices. “The French make the best wine. The English just play at it,” he says. “We make the best Cheddar, we make great pasties. But we can't make very good brie or baguettes – and the French can't make pork pies.” Each to their own. Would also grudgingly agree that “London is the No 1 food destination, full stop. It has the talent and (the people who can pay) the prices.”

Appears autumn has arrived

Gales! Driven rain is the homestead’s number one enemy, it goes with the territory – keeps me awake at night. Thankfully we don’t live in Florida. Reluctant to accept the seasonal shift we are still eating summer food: olives and Padrón peppers, veal loin steaks with quality pasta and classy tomatoes, a bottle of stuff from the far north of the Côtes de Nuits above Morey-St Denis (the last of my birthday presents).

Saturday, September 9

Should have been staked out on an ant nest

His severed genitals stuffed in his mouth. ...I’ve read too much Larry McMurtry and Elmore Leonard.

Have lived through worse

Some good matches today, but then the Premier League is a series of exciting games. Am currently listening to Motson who is stepping down – love the old stories. We are all looking a little worn these days. Everyone is down in Brighton, and while I’ve a soft spot for Chris Hughton and have fond memories of Brighton, The Grand Hotel, my money’s on the Baggies.

Having repainted ‘the wall’ I’ve hung our recent addition. The artist says the picture can be read as a metaphor for how we've entered the 21st century, with a series of international crises, ecological concerns and political instability – think John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. To me it’s just a disturbingly spooky scene.

Nightmare in Cheltenham

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival… Hillary Rodham Clinton, Judy Murray, Chris Patten, Simon Schama… Grief, why would you? Perhaps for the deadbeat dad and gobby Brummie – their partnership must be such a comfort to Suzanne Moore and Marina Hyde.

Fish Fingers were never this good

The local metropolis is holding its annual food festival. Years ago these sorts of things were an opportunity for producers to promote their wares. Unfortunately they didn’t result in sales and have now deteriorated into a collection of fast food stalls selling questionable dishes of doubtful provenance you wouldn’t dream of eating.

Friday was fish day. Hake and John Dory. It was so good, today’s a repeat.

Thursday, September 7

Reviewing Pale Ales this week

Always a fan of pale ale, White Shield remains my standard from the old days. Another six brewers were taste tested over the weekend … Samuel Smith’s remaining the one to beat.

It’s that time of year: game birds appear in the butchers’ window.

Tuesday, September 5

When men resembled men

Early finish today, am in between (nearly) completing one project and moving to the next. Gudgeon seems to spend more time washing brushes than painting. As it’s lashing down outside I’ve taken a couple of hours off. Watching Edward Dmytryk’s ‘Anzio’ for the umpteenth time. Not exactly the greatest war film ever made, but what the hell – rather Robert Mitchum and Peter Falk than Daniel Craig and Tom Cruise.

You know you’re getting old when...

You take down a box of teabags from the cupboard for your morning cuppa and try to stuff a Matzo Cracker in the mug.

Sunday, September 3

Living the simple life

While not in the same league as Houston, today’s rainfall has been trés heavy. One or two diehards are sticking it out but most have struck camp and a bedraggled convoy is heading home. With nothing else to do I spent the morning applying a coat of vinyl to the bathroom walls – four hours stumbling about in the dark, choking on paint fumes. Quit in time for the Italian Grand Prix and a well-earned pre-lunch drink. We’re on day three of Friday’s barbecue, the latest reincarnation augmented by an outstanding salsa verde, plates of roasted vegetables and a fine Lalande de Pomerol. Thanks to a cold spring the allotment has been a disappointment this year; what it has produced, however, is first class.

Saturday, September 2

College struggles for new customers

In order to navigate the uncertainties of Brexit, farming needs to attract a more diverse group of people (clever urban types from a range of ethnic backgrounds) says first female head of Britain’s oldest agricultural college. There aren’t enough toffs (non-clever men in tweed jackets with leather patches and yellow cords) to fund my eye-watering vice-chancellor’s salary and pension.

Friday, September 1

Has to be barbecue

Monday, glazed baked ham and eggs; Tuesday, calves liver with green beans; Wednesday, feta and courgette frittata; Thursday, veal burgers and Greek salad. Friday?

Life in the sticks

It’s not so much a problem with Islam hereabouts as the rise of Beowulf style paganism. Neighbours have taken to dressing up in animal skins and, sword or axe in hand, dancing round a blazing pyre. Think of it as rural multiculturalism. One of these dark nights they’ll meet the hunt sabs returning from an exercise and all hell will break loose. While disappointed not to have been invited, the thought of having sharpened bones inserted in my chest and being suspended by rawhide straps from an oak tree is much less appealing than a mug of cocoa and an early night.

Thursday, August 31

Panic this morning

Fortunately a courier arrived in the nick of time with two-kilos of coffee beans. I don’t mind crawling around inside confined spaces with wrench in hand but life’s about incentives. ...Even with outside help I feel like I’m losing the battle. So much to do, and Gudgeon’s a lazy bugger at the best of times. Not that I’ve a great deal to complain about – rather me than David Davis. Our man looks to be making a decent fist of it, dealing with those slimeballs in Brussels must be frustrating. Everyone knows it will come down to a hard Brexit so why not cut to the chase?

Wednesday, August 30

Surrounded by pre-midlife crisis

A little rain this morning to dampen the enthusiasm of our new age hippie neighbours, ensconced as they are in their yurts and camper vans. Tuareg camp fires litter the horizon. Just one of them starts singing Kum ba yah and I’m letting the dogs out.

Sunday, August 27

Grumpy old man

I certainly achieved my ten-minutes/month exercise requirement this morning. Given the miles walked, the terrain, I could sit on my backside until next year and still be ahead of the game. Idyllic bank holiday weather … and so quiet? No argument from yours truly: the less I see of people the better. As soon as the rest of the human race fucks off to Mars the happier I’ll be.

I say quiet. And yet the birds, the chirruping swallows – aerial spiders, the shrill green woodpecker…buzz of insects, scurrying rodents. The forlorn cattle and whinnying ponies; subdued mumble around the smoking campfire, the idling quad bikes...

Saturday, August 26

Hurricane Harvey comes ashore in Rockport

A one-time favourite hangout of Mrs G’s – fishing, can you believe. Vaguely recall being holed up in a shack on the beach, dining on soft shell crabs and steaks (from a shark she’d caught), drinking beer, listening to Kim Carnes and Rosanne Cash. Think someone shot Pope John Paul II? It was a long time ago.

And a chilled bottle of something or other

If yesterday’s roads were busy, today seems as though the entire country has decamped to Devon. I grabbed a loaf, milk and papers, and hotfooted it back to the homestead. ...And not just the roads. Other than the odd military aircraft you rarely see anything in the sky. This morning’s vapour trails resemble the downtown map of a large metropolitan city.

The yard is a sea of yellow flowers, alive with butterflies and bees. Given the sunshine we’re lunching all’aperto (al fresco to you and me) on mozzarella and sweet tomatoes (lots of basil leaves), roasted Mediterranean vegetables (morelli artichokes, borretane onions, and red peppers) with bruschetta.

Friday, August 25

Up town for supplies

Everyone must already be on holiday as the streets are relatively deserted (calm before the bank holiday storm?). I note another impressive new block of student accommodation is taking shape – it’s a pity they can’t build similar affordable city centre homes for young marrieds and singles that work for a living (pay taxes and rates). Trustees of foreign pension funds and buy-to-let rentiers should be castrated.

Downing my morning coffee I was surprised to see a large group of visitors (Britons-in-waiting) from what was once referred to as Soviet Central Asia, all dressed in colourful Muslim garb and trailing a dozen or so children wearing Man Utd branded clothing. Gudgeon suspects it is he rather than they who is part of a dying breed.

Returned home to find several ponies had been delivered to the yard. The more the merrier, I guess.

Bachelor pads

Millennials can’t afford to buy a bachelor pad! bleats the papers. Men now require a partner’s income in order to buy a place to live. As if anybody could have acquired a flat of their own in the old days. It has always taken two salaries to ‘buy’ a home: that’s why people married. That and the sex. So-called bachelor pads (rented basement room beneath the bookies, communal toilet on the stairs) were a right-of-passage. While great fun at the time (all-night card games, the non-stop boozing), marriage came as a relief.

Thursday, August 24

Driving with care

This morning to the builders’ merchant to stock up on filler and sandpaper, rollers and brushes. Next to the Kwik-E-Mart and Ike Godsey’s, my favourite store. Roads are especially tricky this time of year, teeming with novice drivers heading to/from their holiday destination, lots of German/Dutch/French plates. Nut job jihadis aside, there are a lot of dangerous people out there.

Puzzling over the nature of time

The Times Jenni Russell writes “I am at the Edinburgh Festival … whisky, dinners, wine, late nights, fish and chips eaten in the queues. I couldn’t confuse it with a health farm. … enjoyable at the time but has left so little trace in my mind that it’s as if the days scarcely happened at all.” Russell’s perception mirrors Gudgeon’s foggy years in Scotland. The clue lies in the whisky and wine, the late nights.

Wednesday, August 23

I guess it’s back to Sunday lunchtimes at the Dog & Duck

MOTD and Sunday Politics. I don’t ask for much. Now even that’s gone, the big lad replaced by one of John Smith’s spawn. An all too rare right-of-centre heavyweight replaced by another ubiquitous left-of-centre BBC clone who will no doubt bring “an exciting and fresh perspective” to the programme.

Swallows populate the barn but it’s buzzards and tawny owls that are prominent in the yard. Summer is drawing to a close and, lazy sod I am, have begun to panic. I’ve failed to deliver on a number of projects – the list of outstanding maintenance work is as lengthy as it was in the spring.

Tuesday, August 22

Gourmet poultry

The Silkie (sometimes spelled Silky) is a breed of chicken named for its atypically fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk, and satin. The breed has several other unusual qualities, such as black skin and bones, and greyish-black meat. In addition to their distinctive physical characteristics, Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament. It is among the most docile of poultry.

This one is definitely docile: it’s sat on a plate, smothered in tarragon and butter, waiting for the oven to heat up.

Monday, August 21

Mondays

There’s nothing about the homestead to suggest Marseille other than the glorious evening sunshine, but it’s enough for me to break out the deckchairs and pastis. Mrs G. is roasting a half-dozen quail. Bliss.

Sunday, August 20

Crystal balls and careers advice

The Guardian’s Larry Elliott writes that Dhaval Joshi, an economist at BCA research, believes Moravec’s paradox will have a big impact on the labour market. Moravec considers two scenarios for a stylised economy with three jobs: a high-income innovator, a middle-income manufacturer and a low-income animal tender... It makes you wonder, listening to neighbours’ kids reviewing exam results and considering options. None appear keen to follow their parents occupations, believing farming and skilled trades in the building industry a mugs game – hard work, with too many hours and little financial reward (even though said parents have managed to clothe, house and feed them, pay for their education). Everyone wants to be a doctor, architect or leader writer. I’ve refused to proffer advice and wouldn’t know where to begin – haven’t a crystal ball, other than to remind them plumbers, carpenters and sparkies will never go hungry, and everyone needs to eat. Yesterday I read a column by an Indian girl named Snigdha Poonam. Looking at the prospects for kids on her side of the pond, she notes automation is costing the software industry in India 200,000 jobs every year, that redundant software engineers are returning to their rural villages and becoming farmers. As she says, “That’s a disruption no one saw coming.” Youngsters hereabouts considering their future would do well to note Poonam, who reminds us that every month another million Indians enter the job market.

Smoked trout for breakfast

We’ve been taste testing smoked salmon this past couple of weeks and are obliged to accept there’s a lot of crap out there. Smoked/cured fish is little different to craft beers, in that every spotty-faced arsehole on the planet thinks he can brew beer and produce decent grub. The tragedy is many of the best go under because there aren’t sufficient customers with deep enough pockets. Everyone wants old-style BA service at budget prices. My favourite smoked fish producer – a class act – went out of business a month or two ago. Although the jury’s out, am struggling to find better than H. Forman and Son (have tried several of their products), not least the bog standard Gravadlax.

Veal steaks and pasta (wild fennel sauce) for lunch, along with a decent Barolo.

Saturday, August 19

How the other half lives

In this morning’s papers I read about what worries the wealthy. Capital preservation appears high on their list, keeping all that filthy lucre in the family. However with eight times as many quietly confident of this as are pessimistic, Clan Corbyn must seem an irrelevance. Likewise with Brexit. Although 75pct of British 18-24 year olds opposed Brexit, only 35pct of young millionaires consider it a worry. Evidently, a poor person’s problem.

August is the month of class anxiety, says Robert Armstrong, as he lies on his Long Island beach, gazing enviously at the vulgar display of wealth while fretting over the cost of potato salad at the deli. A self-confessed snob, his resentments deepening with his tan. ...Despite this being the holiday season, the homestead’s neighbours are out in force. Seemingly everyone but Gudgeon on top of a horse. They say money doesn’t buy class, but you can’t ignore the accents and manners that betray expensive schools and a certain aesthetic.

Friday, August 18

Sir Bruce Forsyth – ironically, a feel-good story?

Muslim terrorists and Donald Trump wiped from the news! If you are one of the many that found Bruce an irritating old fart, best you switch off this evening. The lad deserves a degree of ignominy if only for his rendition of Mr Bojangles.

Adverse climate

Losing battle … exterior painting.

Thursday, August 17

Failure is never an option

A neighbour’s kid has been awarded straight Bs instead of A*s and believes his dream is over. Fortunately as one door closes…

Morale booster

After an extremely fraught day (rain stopped play), a feelgood supper of Devonshire Haggis, aka Hog’s Pudding (Groaty Pudding to you and me), with large portions of Hodmedod’s Baked Beans. Soul Food par excellence.

Wednesday, August 16

Six-hour slog

The motor was booked for its annual service, and after delivering it to the garage I walked cross country and along the canal into town. Towpaths and muddy tracks are easy, it’s the concrete pavements and cobbled streets that aggravate my joints – stokes the grumpy-old-man syndrome. Took me two hours of traipsing round shops before finding a decent pair of jeans, ones that fit. Locating new trainers became a lost cause. I hate shopping but you can’t get everything from Amazon. Sat people-watching for as long as it took to drink two coffees and a bottle of water, then limped weary miles back to the garage. Some days are more exciting than others.

Thought for the Day

“America’s great gift as a country is its size and relative emptiness, its elbow room. That space allows for difference and is often mistaken for tolerance.” (Paul Theroux)

Tuesday, August 15

One satisfied customer

Apart from the occasional broken limb I’m not a regular customer of our sainted NHS. A once-a-year blood test to monitor my cholesterol level and that’s about it. So I was surprised – given the horror stories regarding staff shortages – to be offered a non-urgent GP appointment within 24hrs. Said GP duly referred me to a physio at the local hospital, who was happy to book me in for a consultation the following morning. Super clean/smart establishment, only four other clients in the comfortable waiting room – in and out inside forty minutes.

On the face of it, one satisfied customer. But that would be to ignore the fucked up flu jab that’s left me in eye-watering pain whenever I move my arm in the wrong direction. The condition is referred to as a shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). The NHS keeps quiet on the subject in case it frightens the punters and they refuse to have their seasonal jabs. Unfortunately on this occasion it was my turn to draw the short straw.

Sunday, August 13

Let’s hear it for our public services

A View from the Foothills is on its 13th reprint. Pure coincidence I’ve recently consigned his diary to the local charity shop in order to free up shelf space. Chris Mullin who failed the 11-plus – one of those rare beasts that appears more boring than you do. “I am fortunate to have a good pension, based on my 23 years in parliament (including four as a minister) and four at the BBC.”

Pork Scratchings

Out on the moor with Mrs G. this morning, half expecting to meet with hordes of tourists soaking up the wilderness. Just a single neighbour, checking his stock. Can’t believe we dodge the bullet so effectively in this neck of the woods. Lunching today on roast pork (Saddleback), enhanced with the Boss’s patented fennel/garlic/rosemary/pepper rub – an exceptional green-tinted Cote de Beaune, a birthday gift.

Saturday, August 12

Pressure valve

Saturday morning: to Tavistock Market for supplies. Traffic wise, have never seen the moor so busy; they tell me it’s bumper-to-bumper from Bristol to Exeter. You think: Suckers! But that’s to ignore their need to escape civilisation.

Success or Failure?

Team GB has done well, achieved a few fourth places – it’s a good World Championships? Just as well we’ve learnt how to pedal bikes, ride horses, sail boats … have Justin Rose and Andy Murray … access to performance-enhancing substances.

Friday, August 11

Well that was fun


Believe I’ll stay on the reservation today. Nothing clears the head
faster than pushing a wheelbarrow back and forwards
through the mire for an hour or so, especially when it’s raining…
and blowing a gale…and I’m freezing my nuts off.

Thursday, August 10

Culturally appropriate?

Included among my birthday presents was a DVD of Vincente Minnelle’s musical-romance, Gigi. While selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant", these days, just owning a copy is likely to have a man arrested. Even expressing a sneaking admiration for Honoré Lachaille – his infatuation with ‘little girls’, rates ten years in the pokey. “I’m not glad I’m not younger anymore.”

For some unfathomable reason all of my birthdays cards – many thanks to everyone – feature a bottle of wine and/or beer?  Stop sniggering, Mrs G.

Clickety Click

Pastries and Pol Roger (2008 Blanc De Blancs) for breakfast.  

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) 

Wednesday, August 9

Tradition alive and kicking

Westfield's chief marketing officer Myf Ryan said: "The way we eat, cook, dine out and shop is changing at speed, and it’s clear that the millennial generation is making big changes to our relationship with food, from recipe delivery boxes to pop-up avocado bars to apps that let you order without queuing." Interestingly, millennials in Britain are eschewing 'traditional' foreign cuisines and prefer to eat different modern imports. Those in their 30s opt for Greek, Turkish and Vietnamese, while the under-30s prefer Italian, American or Mexican.

Jesus H. C., every bloody generation grows up eating a pastiche of Italian, American and Mexican (Guacamole) cuisine, ditto their graduation to Greek and Tukish...etc. This is traditional and not something new. Every frigging generation thinks it’s inventing the wheel. Elizabeth David anyone?

Out around Exeter yesterday…

Decided on lunch. Found place selling burgers and beer. Sat down at table to consume said meal and was informed that, though they had sold me a beer, the establishment didn’t have a licence and I couldn’t drink it on the premises. Ate burger – before transferring next door and downing a ‘licenced’ pint. Eventually returned home late afternoon, très weary, to be met by Mrs G. who insisted I accompany her on a jog across the moor for an hour or two. I still have it, thinks Gudgeon – while clutching his knees/back and swallowing a handful of paracetamol tablets.

A long way from either Kansas and Texas

I once read that our taste in popular music is determined around the age of seventeen, which could explain a certain nostalgia associated with Wichita Lineman and Galveston. An integral part of the soundtrack to eighteen months of youthful exuberance on the mountains and hills of North Wales.

Tuesday, August 8

Need to try harder

Despite our eleven years residence in Devon, today was my first visit to Darts Farm – awarded UK’s Best Farm Shop 2016. “Like finding Selfridges food hall dumped in the middle of a field, except with affordable prices and all the produce originating from a 30 mile radius.” (The Guardian, February 2005.)   Imagine one of those large, commercial garden centres but with jam and chutney instead of wilting flowers and privet hedging. It wasn’t so much the questionable produce or the dust-covered jars, so much as the mothers who allow their cherubs to play with the food on display. As a long-term customer of Selfridges food hall I have to differ with the Guardian’s assessment, and remain grateful for how well we’re served in our immediate vicinity.

Scientific research used to display more rigour

A bunch of lads from the University of Manchester ‘analysed’ ONS figures and determined people in northern England are 20 per cent more likely to die before the age of 75 than those down south. For the purpose of their study, they assumed north means anything above Watford, and southerners included the inhabitants of Great Yarmouth (who barely make it to retirement age). The study didn’t look at the causes of death, so could not identify what was causing the rise in the premature northern deaths. However they were confident that economic and social factors underpinned the disparity, and it was nought that couldn’t be put right by a large injection of cash from those namby-pamby taxpayers down south.

Sunday, August 6

A bonus

Enjoyable morning on the hills. Don’t get me wrong – am now back home watching the marathon (World Athletics Championships) on the box, the familiar streets with so many memories – it’s just that Dartmoor is a bonus I never envisaged, a world of Green Woodpeckers and Badgers, Ponies and Hunters.

Saturday, August 5

Late lunch or early dinner?

Barbecued rib eye steaks (rib intact). An attractive, energised, silky, spicy Côte-Rôtie from one of the greatest winemakers in the Northern Rhône – Jean-Michel Gerin. How the other half live? Never entered my mind.

Watching IAAF World Championships on the box

Am finding it difficult to get excited – athletics is something you follow in your youth (when you can still run yourself). While cleaning out filing cabinets yesterday I came across the programme for a IAC/Coca-Cola Meeting of August 29th 1975. Billed as an ‘all-star gala’, it included world record holder John Walker in the mile; Brendan Foster taking on a world-class field in his first 10,000 metres; Alan Pascoe, David Jenkins and Geoff Capes. The days I’d drive all the way to Crystal Palace for an evening (floodlit) athletics meeting are long gone.

Why is Gabby Logan dressed for a Country and Western revival?

Friday, August 4

Community spirit is dying

The main piece of evidence that neighbourliness is dying, is “most of us never borrow or lend anything with our neighbours anymore ... because the folks next door are more than likely to be Filthy Repulsive Cheating Repugnant Lying Fiddling Scum”. ...Gave me a chuckle.

Unexpected treat

While the Proms has already featured lots of good stuff, tonight’s Mauceri-led show – the Ella and Dizzy Revival – is one of the best. Most enjoyable.

Objects of beauty

Two of my neighbours drive classic cars, trophies of successful careers. And why not. Someone has to maintain our heritage – you can’t consign everything to museums and Qataris. Unfortunately it requires yours truly having to give way and reverse to a passing place whenever we meet. Small price…

We’ve barely moved since David Frost's day

Kevin Myers was right about the BBC, says Anita Rani – it’s as much to do with race and class as gender. But then we’d need to discount Anita’s independent school education.

Thursday, August 3

Heineken’s attempt at the holy grail

“This is a fantastic tasting beer. Our master brewer is so confident in Heineken 0.0 that he has given it his seal of approval. Drinkers love it too – initial feedback from both consumers and customers has been overwhelmingly positive, with a strong preference shown towards Heineken 0.0 versus other alcohol free beers. We really can say it’s the best tasting no alcohol lager.”

I finally got around to trying it today. Given the miles Gudgeon drives, I have spent thirty years searching for a passable non-alcoholic beer. Unfortunately the Heineken version is as execrable as the rest.

Do I not like Canadians

The Bank of England holds rates at 0.25%. Bastards. How the fluck are we prudent savers expected to keep the faith. On the plus side – if I understood him correctly – Carney believes Brexit negotiations will be a walk in the park and everything is going to work out fine. There’s nothing to fear but fear itself, he implied, much of which is stoked by hard-core remainers and the MSM. Hey, he was pointing the finger, not me.

Wednesday, August 2

Best laid plans

Rain stopped play. Nothing to do but hunker down with Glorious Goodwood on the box. Even there, the bar staff appear busier than the jockeys.

Tuesday, August 1

Set to challenge

It was going so well, all the way to the point he severed the gas pipe. One of those days… My best is cutting the electricity cable when everyone in the street was cooking dinner prior to a televised world cup qualifier. The street never forgave me. Our current project has been a fuck up from day one. In the old days I would rage; now I’m content to laugh it off.

The allotment needed a soak

Even by Dartmoor standards, this morning’s rain is something. Torrential seems an inadequate description, gutters and drains can’t cope and the stuff is lapping over the doorstep. August…holidays…children off school. Guess the weather shouldn’t be a surprise. Have already cancelled the two lads who were due to begin work in the yard as it would be a mud-bath. Unfortunately, I have things to do out there.

Monday, July 31

La femme fatale est mort

“I’m very proud of being half English and I think as time passes my best English qualities are more and more visible,” remarked Moreau. “I’m pleased I can be outrageous as only the English can be.” If being outrageous meant being her own woman, expressing her opinions unreservedly and having a number of well-publicised affairs, then she lived up to the epithet. ...Pure coincidence I’ve just sat through two old favourites, The Train and Monte Walsh.

The Buckie made me do it!

With a combined age of 1,075 years, the Donnelly family have revealed the secret behind their longevity – porridge oats. “We've always followed Daddy's habit of that nice warm bite before sleep,” said Joe Donnelly, the 72-year-old youngster of the clan. “Porridge at around 10pm, then again for breakfast at 7am. Cooked oats, milk, a spot of apple jam on top.” Of course, tucking into a bowl of porridge twice a day is just part of their wholesome diet, which also sees them enjoy a wealth of fruits, vegetables and meats produced on their 100-acre farm. The clan steer clear of alcohol and experts have questioned whether that has played a role in their incredible longevity. The only exception to this teetotal rule came from their mother who drank an entire bottle of Buckfast after the birth of each of her 16 children “to build her up again.”

Well done the Lionesses

England 1 - 0 France. I’m not sure you’d pay good money to watch this sort of thing, but well done the ladies. One in the eye for Macron.

Renowned former BBC presenter Sue MacGregor has said there will never be equal pay for men and women at the broadcaster “until men have babies”. Given Justine Greening’s harebrained scheme for self-select gender assignment this may be sooner than we think.

Dodging the bullets

The Battle of Passchendaele… The memory of my Grandfathers remain with me, as does the significance to both of WWI. Despite the books, the stories and poetry, I have no more sense of the actual reality than I do my Mother’s brothers’ experiences at Dunkirk, Mrs G’s Father’s years as an Allied prisoner of war in Auschwitz, and those that more recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shit job; someone has to do it; glad it wasn’t me.

Sunday, July 30

Facts you wish weren't true

There are around three times as many reptiles reporters as there are employees in the steel industry.

The Irish Dimension (John Hewitt)

With these folk gone, next door was tenanted 
by a mild man, an Army Officer, 
two girls, a boy, left in his quiet care, 
his wife, their mother, being some years dead. 
We shortly found that they were Catholics, 
the very first I ever came to know. 
To other friends they might be Teagues or Micks; 
the lad I quickly found no sort of foe. 

Just my own age. His Christian Brothers’ School 
to me seemed cruel. As an altar boy 
he served with dread. His magazines were full 
of faces, places, named, unknown to me. 
Benburb, Wolfe Tone, Cuchullain, Fontenoy. 
I still am grateful, Willie Morrissey. 

When I was a kid, the lad I played with lived across the road several doors down. His house featured derelict stables out back, a relic from the horse and cart era, and for two little boys something of an adventure playground. He always wore a cap, it never left his head. Because they were a Catholic family I always assumed it was to hide the tiny horns that grew from the top of his forehead. How such notions enter the head of a four-year-old remains a mystery.

Women’s European Championship

Quarter-Final: German 1-2 Denmark… Well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Dispiriting stuff

Despite their infatuation with the European union and barely disguised campaign to overturn Brexit, British mainstream media remains obsessed with America and the Donald Trump presidency. Given our supposed aversion to chlorinated chicken, newshounds head off across the Atlantic on the slightest of pretexts and consume buckets of the stuff. I suppose for the next couple of weeks we’ll also be treated to blanket coverage of Princess Diana’s demise. Fried chicken and an insatiable need to fetishize death. Geesh! It’s enough to drive you to drink.

Worried I’m going to seed, for the past three weeks I’ve body-swerved the Dog & Duck, paid more attention to my diet and upped the exercise stakes. My sole reward is to have lost one pound in weight. Part of me thinks it ain’t worth the effort, another bit assures me the exercise will benefit my heart. Am also conscious that cycling and gym work did James Hunt little good.

Saturday, July 29

How about > 0.8Mb/s!

The worst parliamentary constituencies with download speeds of less than 10Mb/s.

University tuition fees to double

Looks like tuition fees will increase sometime soon.

Wishful thinking

Today’s papers are full of pensions guff, the usual dire warnings of old age penury. When I qualified for my state pension last year I automatically assumed there’d be another twenty years of hijinks to pay for, then goodnight Vienna. To reassure myself I used one of those online longevity calculators which confirmed Gudgeon will expire at 87. I can live with that. Am told current 20-year-olds will probably work until they are 80 and live long enough to receive a birthday card from the monarch. That’s too long. It’s not the longevity per se but the years of ill health in the final stretch, sitting in a care home, dribbling down my bib. Needless to say, I was out on the moor during this morning’s downpour ticking off the miles. If I fail to fulfil expectations it won’t be for the want of trying.

Friday, July 28

What makes you happy…

I suspect there’s more than enough evidence in the public domain as regards what we should or shouldn’t be doing in moderation, and while decision making will always be trade-off between the competing demands of our physical and mental wellbeing, at the end of the day an individual’s health is his own responsibility. Ergo the new menace, writes Simon Jenkins, is self-diagnosis. Doctors claim that a majority of patients investigate their symptoms online, arriving at the surgery demanding not diagnosis, but prescriptions. Burgeoning health columns in the media have a similar effect. Although this must be frustrating for GPs, it follows the zeitgeist for scepticism of anything passed down from above (although given my limited experience of GPs, healthy scepticism appears a wise approach). The wisest approach, Jenkins believes, remains the old alliance of sceptic and epicurean. What makes you happy cannot be all bad, whatever the nanny state tells you.

Queer politics

Although Jeanette Winterson describes the advance of LGBTQIA rights as progress founded on disgust and pity, she chooses to celebrate how far she’s come. Owen Jones prefers to view all opposition in terms of hatred, and believes society is diseased. There’s a sense of 1930s Berlin in Owen’s spittle-flecked push towards a ‘final triumph’ – anger and searing fury should be the proper response, he says. I wonder which of the two sleeps best at night?

Thursday, July 27

Neighbours

Lots of folks live up lanes 
With fires in a bucket, 
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines – 
They seem to like it.

Wednesday, July 26

Popular culture


Ah bless! Vladimir Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl is no more and Banksy’s Balloon Girl has become the nation’s favourite artwork. There’s nothing I can add to this announcement that would reflect well on me.

Tuesday, July 25

Hang them all

There is overwhelming consensus amongst both Britons and Americans that Fred Goodwin should be swinging from a gibbet.

Cheers – mine’s a large one

Everyone’s favourite freelance journalist and political activist says booze is a joy – so stop criticising women for drinking. Must admit I have fallen foul of this recently when seated between two women at a dinner party, both strangers to me. For the last umpteen years I’ve been conscious of the opprobrium heaped on men who ply women with booze in order to get their leg over. So much so, and to make sure there’s no misunderstanding, I’ve gotten into the habit of commandeering the bottle as it’s passed around the table and rationing the amount the ladies receive. The two girls went along with this for about ninety minutes before totally losing it and informing me in no uncertain terms what would happen to my nuts if I continued to short-change them. Life’s a minefield these days.

Not dead yet

I put it down to reading these action man biographies. Having spent the morning running around town I limped home for an hour or two of log stacking; then feeling the call of the Untersberg, donned my walking boots and set out across the moor. Needless to say I am now cream-crackered. Gudgeon remembers struggling in a cross-country race aged 26 and realising I wasn’t 18 anymore. Forty years on things are not much better. On the plus side: today’s weather is glorious and there was not other soul out there. Just a rather large Chinook.