Tuesday, January 31

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Ed Miliband stands up in Parliament and refuses to back an American-led intervention in Syria – the Government loses the vote. Deserted by one of his key allies, Obama pulls the plug on confronting Bashar al-Assad. Emboldened by a wet response from the West, Putin piles in big time. Refugees become a major problem, and Angela Merkel with an eye on the main chance (young, educated workforce) issues an invitation. Large parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia spot an open door and strike tents. Aghast at the invading hordes flooding into Europe, Britain votes for Brexit and leaves the European Union. Similarly alarmed, America elects Donald Trump and begins building walls. Under pressure from Russia and the immigrant population, undermined by a significant decline in world trade, Western Europe continues to fracture – right-of-centre leaders are elected to power and begin to rearm... Having destroyed the Labour Party and brought down the European Union, Ed Miliband flies to America to join his brother – both being citizens of the world. He is detained on arrival and spirited away to Guantanamo Bay before he can inflict further damage.

Monday, January 30

Trump petition

Appears the usual suspects are behind it.

Your life flashes before your eyes

Given my past antics, am not sure this is something I look forward to.

Early start this morning. People complain about access to their local surgery, but I can usually book an appointment for the same week – albeit at 07:30hrs. Today was the annual nag over a high cholesterol reading … and if this is all I have to deal with then Gudgeon is getting off lightly. I’m in no particular rush to cash in on my many years of contributions to the bottomless pit that is our NHS.

As it happens our local MP is a member of the medical profession. A habitual self-promoter, she was quoted again in this morning’s Times: “British politicians are falling over themselves to get on the bandwagon. The Tory MP Sarah Wollaston said Trump was ‘a sickening piece of work’ who should not be invited to address parliament on his forthcoming state visit.” This is par for the course. Word on the street is that Cameron offered the girl accelerated promotion if she switched sides during the Brexit debate, and Wollaston duly obliged. Unfortunately for her they lost and the first thing Prime Minister May did on entering office was to kick Cameron’s groupies into touch, a consequence of which has been Wollaston, Soubry, Nicky Morgan, etc. forever sniping from the back benches. Women scorned and all that.

Snowflakes foaming at the mouth

Over the years I’ve enjoyed the company of certain friends and acquaintances whose behaviour has been questionable, that crossed a number of lines. And inevitably, when you choose to step outside your bubble, some of the shit will stick to you. We generally accept this as the price we pay for broadening our circle, and is usually more than compensated by what we take from the relationship. Aligning ourselves with a controversial American President is not without challenges, but you can say that about many of our international partners. What was it Theresa May said about not trying to remake the world in our image?

Sunday, January 29

Makes you fat and it keeps you well

The yard is a lake, and the path to the moor a torrent. Am drying off beside the fire – there’s not a lot you can achieve outside in this weather. Chop wood and clear drainage holes. Fortunately we have lots of footy to watch … a cauldron of beef and carrots bubbling away on the stove.

Sunday papers

So many angry people … though the 70s and 80s were much worse. Challenging our so-called liberal consensus has made apostates of half the population on both sides of the Atlantic and divided communities across the land. For ‘consensus’ read rut – we brought this on ourselves, sleepwalked into it. It being our salvation or a fool’s errand, and we won’t know which for some years. That each side despises the other – and that’s part of the fun – bodes ill for either an amicable or early resolution.

Trump’s ban on Muslims would never happen here: we are an open inclusive society – London Mayor, etc. Maybe. If Britain held a referendum on a similar scheme I wouldn’t bet my beer money on the outcome. That said, Gudgeon suspects our political masters have learnt their lesson on the subject of referendums.

Long distance mumble

After several days on the phone to India I have thrown in the towel on my two new computers. They were to be replacement models for older units, but have proved a waste of space. It took me much of yesterday to remove (and overwrite) every part of myself from the hard disks, to return them to showroom condition and their respective boxes. A courier calls tomorrow to spirit the packages away. In defence of Indian techies…the crackling long distance phone lines are a problem, as is my hearing, however with the odd exception they were pretty good. I imagine an accomplished techie has spent much of his life locked in a bedroom learning his trade, rather than meeting people and acquiring verbal skills.

Thursday, January 26

I mean that most sincerely, folks!

News wise, Donald Trump appears the only game in town. Whatever your opinion of the man, he’s no shrinking violet. His views on torture could have been lifted from a Larry McMurtry story. Am sitting here watching the President address leading Republicans in Philadelphia…close your eyes and I swear, in tone and delivery, you could be listening to Hughie Green.

Wednesday, January 25

Scary women

Among the books I’m currently reading is Joy Williams’s The Visiting Privilege – a collection of short stories. Williams is an American novelist, short story writer and essayist. I mention her as a warning to any lads out there who are contemplating some form of future engagement with the opposite sex. Read Williams first. All of her female characters are nut jobs, and their children (usually from prior marriages) evil. The stories will scare you shitless – start running now and don’t look back.

Price of a pint

£3.92 for a pint of beer. And they wonder why so many pubs are failing. Yes, yes, I know: changing social habits, smoking ban, etc.

Tuesday, January 24

This will run and run

While not a Jane Austen fan I appreciate a turn of phrase as much as the next man. Mr Bennet, for instance: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” I feel much the same way about the Brexit saga, destined to provide everyone with years and years of amusement and mischief. It doesn’t take much to set off the folks at the Dog & Duck, especially the self-righteous brigade. The LibDem supporters take it so personally – messianic, almost. Though easy to pull their chain, I find it’s best to stand outside spittle range.

Monday, January 23

Skiving

Following the neighbourhood shoot on Friday, and Saturday’s visit from the hunt, we were granted a silent, sunny Sunday with hardly a breath of wind. Ideal conditions for walking. With so much fresh air and exercise I slept for nine hours. Looks like more of the same today, sans the silence: next door's cattle have decided to hold a bellowing contest and the crows have a cob on. Any number of things around the homestead require my attention, but I can't resist the call of the Untersberg.

Saturday, January 21

Winter rib-sticker for supper

And you need one today…bloody cold. Lancashire hotpot. Lamb shanks and chops from a Whiteface Dartmoor; Mrs G’s pickled red cabbage.

Anything but more of the same

Yesterday’s inauguration was quite a show. Good or bad – at the very least – the future is unlikely to be more of the same. Having skimmed the papers this morning, Obama’s recent remarks came to mind: his belief that everyone was retreating further and further into their own respective bubbles of experience and opinion. Matthew Parris’s column in this morning’s Times, for instance. After reading several lines I gave up and moved to the next article. He’s not seeking to persuade; merely advertising his prejudice and virtue signalling.

By design or otherwise, today’s FT includes a Books Essay on compassion fatigue written by philosopher Julian Baggini. Reviewing Peter Bazalgette’s book, The Empathy Instinct: How to Create a More Civil Society, Baggini notes with no little irony “It’s clearly time for a backlash.” ...There’s little in the way of quality photography in our papers these days: however, the striking image featured at the head of the essay (Peter van Agtmael, Magnum) of a Christian militiaman attempting to persuade a resident of Tel Skuf to leave her home and seek safety elsewhere is exceptional on so many levels.

Thursday, January 19

Merkel responds to Theresa May's speech

London hit by toxic smog from Germany.

Seasonal foods

Today’s lunch included monkfish liver on toast (foie gras of the sea). They tell me it’s listed as number 32 on World’s 50 most delicious foods. Gudgeon highly recommends the stuff, and, given its fat content (40%), suggests the delicacy would benefit from being partnered by a bottle of sake. As with haggis, monkfish liver is best consumed at any time other than during dry January.

A favourite for our supper this evening: Morcilla de Burgos (Spanish black pudding) and butternut squash, sans the traditional glass of Tinta de Toro.

Wednesday, January 18

Don’t mention the war, Pike

Boris is obviously feeling confident enough in the role of Foreign Secretary to resurrect his Jeremy Clarkson persona, with talks of punishment beatings in the manner of a World War Two film. Let’s face it, by the time negotiations have finished and Britain is out of the European Union, a great many things will have been said, not least about Germans. I suspect it will take a lot longer than the proposed transitional period for the enmity to subside.

Bloody computers

My ninety-minute jog across the moor this afternoon was as nothing compared to the pulverising two-hour session on the phone with a tech consultant in Mumbai, updating software, changing settings and rewriting code. Downloading reams of crap at 1.2 Mbps is a pain. I have no idea what it is I’ve done but everything now appears to be working – Gudgeon has four laptops running simultaneously. Losing our electricity supply could have been a problem, however the power company has supplied a generator the size of an SUV to tide us over during scheduled maintenance. Tonight is feet up in front of the fire, listening to the action from Home Park.

Tuesday, January 17

Entertainment value

I would have voted for Brexit just for the fun of it, its entertainment value – to watch the collective tizzy. While appreciating the reality of our withdrawing from the EEC has yet to materialise, and taking Donald Trump’s best wishes with a large pinch of salt (the US are good friends; they are also ruthless bastards who will rob you blind), life had become a tad stale. And of course if politicians of every stripe are going to be fully engaged battling it out over Brexit, they are unlikely to be poking their collective nose elsewhere.

Monday, January 16

Fresh air and exercise, and lots of food

One of those clear-you-head days…neighbour is muck spreading and it’s eye-watering stuff. The air is a lot cleaner on top of the moor, which is where I’ve spent the afternoon. A desolate place at this time of year, but guaranteed to lift the spirits during dry January. To compensate for the lack of vino I’m eating my way through Mrs G’s entire repertoire, and wondering why those pounds I acquired during the festive season are still with me. Tonight is a salade ni├žoise, sans the pastis livener.

Blue Monday

This time last year a bear market had been declared and all was doom and gloom – Britain was going to hell in a handcart. Given we now have Donald Trump in the White House, there is Brexit to contend with, along with a bunch of surly European neighbours, I’m surprisingly optimistic about the future.

Sunday, January 15

London’s finest fish suppers

A bill of £100 a head is not uncommon. I’ve eaten at Scott’s a handful of times, usually when a particular client (“We have nothing like this in the US”) insisted on being feted. Here in the sticks we’re fortunate to have Mitch Tonks’ place in Dartmouth. More importantly, however, access to the freshest of fish – fresher than London. That and Mrs G’s kitchen which is more reasonably priced than Scott’s. Can’t reminisce about fish restaurants without a reminder of those zillion suppers we enjoyed at The Seafood Restaurant in Great Yarmouth, always a favourite with the racing crowd.

Free at the point of delivery?

If I’ve learnt one thing from life, it’s that nothing is ‘free’. In Saturday’s papers, Janan Ganesh speculated on whether our fight or flight evolutionary wiring – programmed for a short, joyless life – can adapt to the relatively comfortable lives we lead in the 21st Century. Or, whether we are destined to be driven mad! His article touches on the current infatuation with mental illness (and the travails of the NHS). I must admit it was dispiriting, listening to BBC’s Question Time audience howl in support of yet more money for the NHS. Andrew Neil’s This Week, with the exception of Portillo, was little better. A significant proportion of the population naively believes the health service (and presumably our lives) could be transformed by adding tuppence to National Insurance contributions or by increasing Corporation Tax. Everyone appreciates health care costs; it is how we pay for it that exercises tax payers and non-tax payers alike. What should be on offer via the public purse, and to what extent we should be taking care of things ourselves. Because we have far more information about lifestyle choices, my generation is in much better shape than colleagues who preceded us, and, hopefully, the current spike in demand from our ageing (post-75) sector of the population will decline. What happens when the Mr Blobby generation comes of age is something else.

Saturday, January 14

Thursday, January 12

Brightly shone the moon that night…

The planet Venus is still glittering above, almost a permanent fixture. A clear’ish sky and the first full moon of 2017. Even when fortified by oxtail soup and mince & tatties, crossing the yard for firewood from the barn becomes something a chore these nights, not least when I’m settled in a comfortable chair by the stove. There’s been a lot of rain today, some snow, sleet and hail…all soon to be frozen over. Tomorrow morning’s run to the market should be fun; I put the motor through a hedge on last week’s ice.

Matthew 'Tosser' Parris punches the air

Jaywick to be evacuated over flood fears.

And talking of plonkers… If you watched ‘Professor’ Joshua Silver on today’s Daily Politics and listened to the lad defend himself, you will understand why so many voters have given up on so-called experts.

Wednesday, January 11

At least he’s not Tony Blair.

Barack Obama, or Sheriff Bart as I irreverently dubbed him eight years ago, came to office with all the goodwill (most of) the world could muster. Much was expected. Unfortunately, despite the lad’s top-notch oratory, Obama failed to be the inspirational leader we had hoped. Not so much hope and change as all mouth and trousers. But then at least...

Japanese prints

I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to see Katsushika Hokusai’s show at the British Museum, though we did have an original print of The Wave exhibited in Plymouth last year. Dropped in at the Royal Albert in Exeter yesterday to look at their selection of 21 Japanese woodblock prints from Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road, a series that made Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) another of the better known Japanese artists.

Second class

Given the petty cover and dire comment that masquerades as our media I can only assume we are going through one of those not infrequent silly seasons. Surely they can produce something better than this superficial tat. In defence of the reptiles, they’ve a lot to contend with – or should I say, not a lot to play with. Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron…we’re our own worst enemy. And it’s not as if there’s anything better waiting in the wings. If we are too scared to have a proper conversation about the future of the NHS (if it was a racehorse we’d have it put down) the country is doomed.

Sunday, January 8

FA Cup

Yes...! Well done the Green Army.

Still game

A new year and a new computer; forking out for the same old software; transferring files, cleaning house. Let’s hope this one lasts a little longer than its predecessor. On the plus side, the new all-singing/dancing machine retails at less than 40% of what my original steam-driven laptops cost.

Out walking on the moor four days this past week, attempting to atone for my festive splurge. Given days like today – fantastic weather, why wouldn’t you. There are still plenty of visitors in the area, but I suspect everyone will be returning home or trudging back to work tomorrow.