Tuesday, February 28

Back to the future – I hope not

Sun in the sky and snow on the hills; ankle-deep mud and a sizeable flock of sheep in the yard. I recognise the mark – am sure someone will be along to claim them in due course. Which is more than I can say for my China package which has yet to appear. I’ve followed its progress over the past week … dogged by poor management, bad luck and a laissez-faire approach to customer service. A rare reminder of life during the 1970s.

Saturday, February 25

Large ones all round

The Welsh contingent called in at the homestead a couple of days ago. They were at the game – are still bemoaning Davies’ inability to hoof it into the stands. Just as well they aren’t here this afternoon, with Mrs G. in full cry.

Storm Doris had its moments but today is worse. One of those days you’re better off slumped in a chair next to the stove.

Friday, February 24

Life has its share of disappointments

The Tories must be cock-a-hoop … there’s no one left to hold their feet to the fire. So much for Labour’s weaponized ‘Protect our NHS’ campaign.

GP rang this morning to check I’m swallowing the obligatory aspirin along with my statins. She was checking because they’re not listed on my chart … “Should be taking them, not least because you’re over 60 and everything’s free”. No, you plonker, nothing’s free: some poor schmuck is picking up the tab. Why would I stick the tax payer with an £8.40 prescription when I can buy aspirins from Boots for £1.29? Little wonder the NHS is a bottomless pit.

Returned home during the afternoon to take delivery of a package from a man in China. Been waiting a week. Unfortunately it was another no show: “Driver timed out”. Two or more years ago our delivery drivers were almost always Eastern European and super keen. Alas the Latvians and Lithuanians have progressed to better things.

Thursday, February 23

Tough at the top

Claudio Ranieri sacked. Would that the Labour Party was so decisive. Oh yeah, Blair. If Leicester follow Labour, it has to be Roy Hodgson.

Unrealistic expectations

Ten portions of fruit and vegetables each day? Perhaps we should throw in the towel and become vegetarians. For at least five days each week I eat an apple, a small orange and portion of soft fruit, maybe two plus vegetables ... and while it’s true I regularly consume double this level, that I’m fortunate in being able to afford it, there are limits to the quantity of food a man can stuff down his gullet. …Truth to tell, the primary reason for Gudgeon’s semi-righteous diet is I’m married to someone who gives a shit about this sort of thing – ditto recycling, climate change, refugees, world peace, blah, blah, blah.

Wednesday, February 22

Ireland's champagne moment

“The price of a bottle of champagne and fees paid to stockbrokers are to be included in the basket of items used to calculate the rate of inflation in Ireland — proof, should it be needed, that the country’s near decade-long economic crisis is over. Guinness, of course, retains its place in the basket but is joined by craft beers, avocados, melons and e-cigarettes … Cue trade union demands.” (Today’s Times) ...Must be living it large at Moyhill?

Sunday, February 19

Stomach and soul

A sunshiny day with skylarks on high singing it large, meadow pipits flitting about the furze. The ground’s wet, obviously, but glorious nonetheless. Up to town early for the Sunday food market … kitchen now redolent of the Mediterranean: a mix of garlic and rosemary (rib of veal on the bone), and the overpowering scent of hyacinth. Persian clichés aside we also have Fulham v Tottenham on the box – what more could you ask.

Although we’re buried in the sticks, thanks to individuals such as Mercanto Italiano hawking their wares throughout the land, even the most reclusive of enthusiasts are afforded an opportunity to sample quality produce from distant lands.

Friday, February 17

Nostalgia

I spent a pleasant half-hour this morning browsing in the record shop. Unbelievably they still sell records – a handful of CDs, but primarily vinyl, including 45s. A lot of the stuff on sale I acquired first time 'round. The kids stood next to me appeared to love retro music as much as the old boys who were lining the track on my way home, photographing steam locomotives. Friday being Friday we are dining on oysters, clams and Dover Soles ... memories of Wheeler’s, the home of soles. And then there's Blair. Still alive and kicking, apparently. Worth his weight in gold.

Thursday, February 16

BBC can sod off too

You’re no better than CNN … Donald Trump responding to Jon Sopel from the BBC. “The press – the dishonesty, is out of control.” Like him or not, the lad’s great entertainment.

Posh Food

“Move aside Hawaiian poké, kombucha, and turmeric shots. The must-have health food of 2017 is a bag of pork scratchings ... The crack cocaine of bar snacks, eaten only by men in pubs with dogs on a string, has come of age as a superfood — and a posh one at that.” (in Today’s Times.) Grief, the mind boggles. Tom Kerridge is to blame, apparently. His latest cookbook – how to lose 11 stones on a low-carbohydrate, no-alcohol diet. I thought the whole point of pork scratchings was the alcohol beer?

More ethnic (English) food for supper this evening: braised hogget hearts, stuffed with prunes and walnuts (Constance Spry Cookery Book, 1972 Edition). AND BEER.

Also in today’s papers... Britons spend more on food and leisure, less on booze, smoking and drugs. “Weekly spending on booze, fags and narcotics fell below £12 for the first time since comparable records began in 2001-02.” Err... a pint and a packet of B&H leaves exactly how much for the line of coke?

Wednesday, February 15

Fun times … I think

City workers at Lloyd’s of London banned from daytime drinking. Long overdue, many would say … responsible employer, healthy working environment. However I’m sure Gudgeon isn’t alone in suspecting our careers would have been bleaker affairs without the obligatory bottle. “I'm an occasional drinker, the kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard.” Ah the old ones are the best. If only I could recall a fraction of the adventures now attributed to the generation I worked alongside.

Tuesday, February 14

Valentine’s Day


Naff kitsch or a romantic statement? Maybe one of the same. My enthusiasm has fluctuated over the years, the older I get the more grateful for the opportunity. £60 for flowers, £80 for Champagne and £10 for a slice of chocolate cake … Pennies, really, in terms of return on investment.

More fruitcake from the loonies

Labour is now third most popular party amongst working-class voters, poll finds. And with advocates like Paul Mason are we surprised? Labour ceased to be a party that represented Scots some time ago, and has now given up on the English – become the woman you wouldn’t rush to kiss. Didn’t they learn anything from Cameron’s fruitcakes and loonies jibe?

Monday, February 13

Aargh!

Chatting to the neighbour this morning, swopping notes on our respective weekends. Seems his trip to Worcester was a little more eventful than my Saturday evening at the homestead.

Sunday, February 12

Tastes better than a doormat

Moles and badgers are making a mess of the yard – everywhere stinks of fox. I hadn’t noticed before but the cats have also disappeared, and something is eating the door mat?... Can’t see the temperature edging much above zero today, though the cold snap hasn’t deterred walkers or riders – horses need exercising... After yesterday’s obligatory trip across the moor to Tavistock market I returned home and parked myself in front of the box, followed the action from Cardiff. Am sandwiched between partisan enthusiasts who would consider me a poor neighbour if I was unable to engage in what passes for knowledgeable banter. Enthralling game; great entertainment... Comfort food to the fore today: beef brisket from a favourite Beaworthy producer. At £5/kilo it’s a steal, and, I imagine, a lot tastier than cats and doormats. Am a fan of what were once termed ‘budget joints’, big on taste and popular with our grandmothers. What the chichi magazine articles don’t account for is the add-on costs, not least the five hours of electricity it takes to cook the damn stuff and the £25 bottle of wine to wash it down. I might add the wine was £25 when purchased some years ago, but now verges on the exotic.

Saturday, February 11

It’s not what I see in the mirror

An erstwhile colleague from Guntramsdorf emails (Schiffskapitän mit pegleg und dead parrot), attaching photo of recent reunion. Everyone looks so bloody old. Shit, their kids look old. Self-delusion is a great comfort to Gudgeon.

Thursday, February 9

What diversity?

I’m watching Parliament debate the governance of the Football Association. The organisation is accused of being dominated by old white men who are incapable of challenging the power of the Premier League (OWM being a derogatory epithet). From what I can determine, and with no sense of irony, the debate consists of ten old white men and two women on the government benches, and seven old white men and one woman on opposition benches. None of the women look spring chickens.

Apologies to all, I missed Keith Slimeball Vaz hiding out on a back bench.

Now we’ve been joined by Gavin Newlands, SNP Paisley and Renfrewshire North, to lecture us on how much better ordered things are in Scotland.

Err, no

“The UK’s tax burden will rise to its highest level for over 30 years – despite further cuts to public service spending – according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The Government plans to increase tax revenues by £17bn by 2019-20, pushing revenues above 37pct of national income for the first time since 1986-87, when Margaret Thatcher was in office...”                And yet people scream for more: hypothecated taxes for the NHS, for ‘the children’, to care for old folks…those poor refugees. Feck off! Just feck off!

Wednesday, February 8

I guess everything has to end at some stage

Decommissioning plans for the Brent oilfield have been lodged with the UK government. Not bad for something given a life expectancy of 25 years. In ’76 when Brent came on stream I was a regular visitor to the Torry base and the marine operations staff in Altens. Work then was more hands-on and lots of fun. Shell personnel were the instigators behind our infamous Tree Tops years, the same faces front and centre at my final Aberdeen session in ’78. I still have the bill from the Argo Lounge. As with Brent, suspect most of us thought we wouldn’t last this long. I wonder how many people appreciate how desperate things were in the ’70s and the crucial role Brent (North Sea Oil & Gas) played in the survival and resurgence of UK Plc. There may be no sovereign wealth fund to boast about, but Britain is still alive and kicking.

Hunkering down

Am not sure if it is down to fresh air and the winter chill, but I certainly sleep. Seven hours is classed as a disappointment. If you get enough kip life is a breeze. Out on the moor yesterday … très damp. From the postcards received it appears a number of acquaintances have been escaping winter by sunning themselves in Australia, Africa and Borneo... It’s a thought.

Today’s lunch… Forget Maman Blanc, Mrs G’s twice-baked comté cheese soufflés are a thing of beauty.

Saturday, February 4

We’ll miss him when he’s gone

Clive James, that is. Reviewing Gérard Depardieu’s performance as the mayor of Marseille in a new Netflix series: “A pillar of integrity shaped like a dirigible hangar…his nose, as always, looks like two lorries parked side by side, but now the lorries are the size of trains…when he sings and dances – I wouldn’t call him light on his feet, but he moves smoothly, like a cargo of gravel being delivered from a camion…the women on screen follow him around like a school of dolphins trailing a battleship. It’s the vitality they’re after. What it must feel like still to have some of that.”

Friday, February 3

Usual winter conditions

The lane out is submerged…fast-running water. Just as well the motor has four wheel drive; an amphibious vehicle would suit better. A sea of snowdrops decorate the yard but it could just as well be blanket bog. Though wind has been a feature of recent days (scattered tree limbs) we appear to have dodged the latest front. Mild, too…ladybirds emerging from window frames, a rogue wasp in the bedroom.


Err, I suspect the mild spell has ended.

Thursday, February 2

Shortage of homes?

“A boom in student accommodation is to blame for the shortage of homes and rising prices in Scotland’s biggest cities, according to a new report from Savills … privately owned student accommodation has grown into a thriving sector thanks to rising demand from wealthy overseas students looking for luxury homes during four years of higher education and foreign investors providing the funds for projects.” (The Times, today.) For Scotland read England. Exeter appears to be morphing into one vast student dormitory. It doesn’t help the city’s finances that properties housing full-time students are exempt council tax; but then I guess it keeps the coffee shops and shops in general happy, given many of the students appear to be relatively well-heeled individuals with money to spend.

Wednesday, February 1

Ready meals

To Exeter for supplies. As it is a busy day I purchased a ready meal (£6 steak & ale pie) from Waitrose. It was awful, the smell reminiscent of Chappie dog food; do people really eat this shite? Pearl would have been aghast.