Wednesday, March 29

Hey man, what’s up?

New front brakes and tyres after 28,000 miles? Doesn’t seem an excessive amount of mileage, though it probably says more about my driving than the motor. While the grease monkeys did the necessary I walked cross-country and along the canal into the city centre. Ate breakfast at the usual place. It’s staffed by young white hipsters who talk like they’re Huggy Bear’s younger brother. Can’t quite bring myself to perform that high five shit.

Donald Tusk’s response

Who’d have thought – from Brussels’ point of view – that when it comes down to the basics it’s all about the money? Sheds light on the failure of Cameron’s pathetic attempt to broker compromise, in that Europe’s sole interest in the United Kingdom is the size of our chequebook. No wonder they refer to us as Treasure Island.

Everyone has a dog in this particular fight, but it doesn’t mean all voices are equally valid. Natalie Bennett’s primary objection to Brexit appears to be the effect it will have on our beaches? And Paddy pants-down – the guy’s a prick. At least Sinn Fein do the decent thing and stay home; the SNP are a one trick pony, a Shetland pony at that.

Immigration will remain high, probably

If there was one single reason for the swing to Brexit it was democracy, to take back control. Immigration appeared our principal concern, the dilution of national identity/culture. In the past whenever protests were raised against mass immigration, government would raise its hands and say they were powerless to intervene – it was what we were signed up to, blame Brussels. …Now it may well transpire the level of immigration post-Brexit will remain high, if not from Europe then from India, China and wherever else we do business. We will continue be told the country needs these outside skills and talents to keep the show on the road. However I would like to think that in the future Westminster is required to make an effort to sell us this proposition, to detail the steps they are taking to fill labour shortfalls with our own young people – our old people come to that, the sick, lame and lazy. I’m not so sold on ‘the world’s brightest and the best’, as jobs for me and mine. If the government fails to satisfy the electorate then, unlike Jean-Claude and the boys, we can vote them out for someone else. At least that’s the attraction.

Let the party begin

An exciting and historic event – triggering Article 50. Some wag suggested there hasn’t been a day like this since Dirty Den served Angie with divorce papers. Last night the Bremoaners held a vigil at our local market, keen to photograph their opposition, as evidence, when it all goes wrong, they were on the right side of history. Like as not we’ll have to put up with these moaning minnies for the duration. If only we could spirit them away to Mosul, then they’d really have something to grumble about. Whether it’s inter-family/generational strife, the continuing rows at the Dog & Duck, our 52 v your 48, Holyrood, Stormont or Brussels, we can be sure life won’t be dull.

Sunday, March 26

Mothering Sunday

I can’t imagine returning to the old parish church to celebrate. Will settle for reminiscing over a plate of local roast lamb, and a bottle of Sangiovese from the slopes of Montalcino. I may be an Anywhere but you can never completely rid yourself of the Somewhere.

Saturday, March 25

Making an effort

The sun has encouraged everyone out of their holes, mini-buses began arriving at breakfast time. Having recently spent too much time in town – Dartmouth, Exeter and Plymouth – I thought it about time I got off my backside and joined the walkers. Everyone and his granny, it seemed. Treated myself to a new pair of bins and this was the first opportunity to try them out. Today was mainly moor tits (pipits), with their thin, tinkling song. Back home for Newbury and Kelso – two winners from the initial four races.

Wednesday, March 22

Drama queen

Whether blog post or throw-away tweet, we all self-censor. Though passions are occasionally aroused most everyone knows better (and allowing friends to leave comments on your blog is a no-no). For Matthew Parris, however, I’m always tempted. What is it with ageing queens and their intolerance? The boy’s become a right royal arsehole.

Enduring the elements

For whatever reason I ended up in Teignmouth yesterday: sunshine and an azure sea. The Homestead, on return, was the polar opposite: torrential rain, hail and sleet. Overnight thunderstorms and more sleet. It’s what make life interesting – who wants all that sunshine and roses crap.

Monday, March 20

Monday-night supper

Braised calf’s sweetbread and several varieties of mushroom, served with tagliatelle and a cream sauce.

Sunday, March 19

Engaging the public

When I was a kid, Sunday mornings were an ecumenical matter: we gave it up as a bad job. Nowadays everyone is treated to Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil and MOTD 2. I’m not sure the participants are any more inspiring that the vicar and his entourage, however the standards of our political representatives, people in public life, still leave a lot to be desired. Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers (Sunday Politics) – an articulate advocate for his side – resembles Jocky Wilson on one of his bad days. What is it with razors, soap and water? Likewise our local news … if they want us to take them seriously, why feature Jabba the Hutt on a mobility scooter?

Friday, March 17

Car crash

The Trump/Merkel press conference makes you realise just how wonderful our England/Scotland relations actually are – relative to others. Trump couldn’t have made his position much clearer: that he’d rather have rather been anywhere other than with ‘the Germans’. Merkel, bless her heart, was on a different planet. To my ears the girl’s approach sounded suspiciously like ‘We are here to teach your dumb workforce how to build cars, and, Marshall Plan aside, to milk America for whatever we can’. I’ve never seen two people so uncomfortable with each other. And the press … have they any idea of the damage they do? Humiliating your leader while simultaneously antagonising your allies.

Familiar faces

Congrats to the neighbourhood girl, riding a Cheltenham winner this afternoon.

Qualified or talented?

Andrew Neil et al appeared most put out on today’s Daily Politics by George Osborne’s accession to the helm of the Evening Standard. ‘What the fk does he know about journalism?’ seemed to be the general response, ‘the lad hasn’t even got a union card’. Americans in particular believe people are incapable of writing without a Masters in Journalism. Conversely, The Spectator recently advertised for an intern, specifying their preference for an individual that wasn’t going through the system – was guided by talent rather than process. For me, Herald of Free Enterprise was the game changer – the advent of corporate responsibility. Raw talent was sacrificed for jobsworths with diplomas, to assure everyone – in the event of trouble – you’d hired ‘qualified’ personnel.

Pints of Guinness all round

A shortage of haddock, Mrs G’s fish of choice, will lead to more substitutions. As it happens we were in Dartmouth yesterday for a heavy duty session that included a mixed plate of fried fish (and chips). No haddock, just monkfish, john dory and red mullet. Today’s treat is lemon soles.

A further sign of spring is the appearance of caravans on our roads. Caravans, and Porsches double-parked outside the Kwik-E-Mart. …Called in at the barber shop for my monthly trim. The wags’conversation veered between politics and today’s Gold Cup, and what can stop the Irish cleaning up.

Many years ago I recall debating with colleagues as to which of our near neighbours proved the better friends, Irish or Scots. All of us have friends, relatives and colleagues from both communities, though none from Wales (the Welsh don’t travel). The general rule of thumb back then was while the Irish were better company, the dour, chippy Scots proved more reliable friends – had your back when trouble arose. If the Nats are to be believed, that particular USP is a distant memory.

Wednesday, March 15

Bread and circuses

It’s spring and the homestead’s birds are pairing up and in full flirt mode, with wrens and robins especially active. The sparrows have returned to take up their usual abode, wagtails and nuthatch too. The incessant chirping is on par with the crap currently emanating from Westminster, Brussels and Bute House – seems Brexit is destined to be the only game in town, providing plenty of scope for division and strife. The Dog & Duck’s libdem contingent remain in open revolt – petitions, public meetings and nonstop lobbying. Thankfully there’s lots of footy and racing to distract, not least the Cheltenham Festival.

Monday, March 13

Second independence vote on the cards

A somewhat extreme reaction to Saturday’s game at Twickenham.

Saturday, March 11

Each to their own

A spring Saturday, improving weather and increased activity. Venturing out the backdoor this morning and finding myself surrounded by impeccably dressed riders astride giant hunters, a steady stream of walkers, the Lycra brigade on racing bikes, and kayaks destined for the Dart. I disappeared across the moor in order to ease my conscience, so that I can spend the day watching sport on the box.

Wednesday, March 8

Different circles

Throwaway remark from Heseltine this morning in the wake of his sacking from government. Implied he’s never met Theresa May? The noble lord didn’t add the obvious, that May is a grammar-school girl and moves in different circles – but the inference was taken.

Tuesday, March 7

More fun than it sounds

A wet and windy morning, tied to the top of a ladder: solving problems with the barn roof. An afternoon trudging through the mire – out walking, heavy on the mist and rain. Actually more fun than it sounds. Beats sitting on my backside behind a desk, or in stationary traffic on the M25.

Saturday, March 4

A blast from the past

One of those Saturday afternoons (grim weather). Following BBC’s Final Score – toasting the results (well done Palace) with a martini. I’d forgotten the ceremony involved: chilling the pitcher and glasses, the reverence with which you mix the ingredients… Last time I drank the king of cocktails was during an infamous lunchtime session at Brennan’s in the company of several old-school heavyweights from the set of Mad Men. The flight home is still a mystery.

Tonight’s supper features calves liver. A luxury treat, sold hereabouts at the derisory price of £10/kilo. And yes, I intend to eat it with a glass of nice Chianti.

Thursday, March 2

The minutiae of Washington politics?

Tonight’s BBC Radio 4 PM programme led on the US Attorney General controversy, giving major airtime to a correspondent from the New York Times. As if the average BBC licence-payer gives a rat’s fart. I’ve no idea about the rights and wrongs of who drank vodka with whom during their election campaign, but would suggest if we devoted as much air time to Brussels as we do to the USA, the United Kingdom would not now be leaving Europe. America, for better or for worse, will always be our cousins across the pond – while the continent remains a disparate group of foreigners that occasionally war on us.

Seasonal observation

Damn cold morning … noticeably lighter. Despite the daffs and primrose it doesn’t feel like spring, albeit the dawn chorus grows appreciably. The homestead continues to rattle and shudder, and I’m still eating porridge for breakfast.