Thursday, June 29

Local beggars hit the news

In reality Totnes beggars are far less nuisance than the traffic – the poxy one-way system. Can’t say I’ve witnessed any harassment, but then I usually bung them a couple of quid. Of course there’s also the Big Issue sellers, the Sally Army and the buskers; and don’t get me started on the scores of volunteers collecting for various charities such as Greenpeace, Amnesty, et al. If you’re a soft touch, a visit to Totnes can impoverish you.

Bats

The homestead … littered with the wings of moths and butterflies.

A middle class pursuit?

Raining and wet underfoot but glorious nonetheless… Employment commitments aside, I fail to understand why there aren’t more people out here walking on the moor? Gudgeon suspects I shouldn’t complain as I like it this way, and yet, damn it, it’s free – why wouldn’t you? This place is the physical manifestation of visiting your local library. Today I passed a number of youngsters from the better sort of schools ticking off their Duke of Edinburgh challenge, several well-spoken grey-haired walkers in expensive outdoor clothing, but no one from the parts of society that would really benefit. They probably wouldn’t thank you for the opportunity.

Democracy in action

A damp and misty morning, everything is still, even the birds are silent... and that’s more than you can say for the outside world, most of which appears to be in full grievance mode. Even at the best of times we’re a glass half empty sort of people. But then there’s nothing that can’t be fixed by borrowing and spending other people’s money – even the more prudent of our leaders appears cowed by the mob. Robbed of our traditional lightning rod, Brussels, we have decided Downing Street is a more than willing replacement.

Tuesday, June 27

Monday, June 26

Outside the realm of imagination

Returned home from Plymouth this afternoon and switched on the TV to catch the news. Pure coincidence the channel was set to an old Columbia Pictures film, The Professionals. Of course I couldn’t turn the damn thing off, and half-way through had convinced myself Richard Brooks’ Western was part allegory for our current domestic drama. Persuading myself Jeremy Corbyn was Jesus Raza (former revolutionary leader-turned-bandit) proved easy enough, the problem came when juxtaposing Emily Thornberry onto Marie Gomez’s character, not least when she was rolling around on the ground with Bill Dolworth (David Davis?) in a romantic embrace.

Sunday, June 25

A world of my own

Great barbecue and some excellent hooch from Côte d'Or. Not what I usually drink with seared sheep but was obliged to review a new supplier. A nice Sunday, the homestead far removed from the world at large. While easy to disparage the current state of affairs I suppose we have to do this sort of shit every few years… it’s not as if there are tanks on the street. Today’s only real blemish was that prick Chris Patten appearing on the Peston Show (a book to sell). Worse than Suez? The lad’s piles must be acting up – those red benches have a lot to answer for. Welby’s cross-party consensus is about as likely as Harry Redknapp returning the Blues to the Premier League.

Saturday, June 24

Normal service has resumed

Mist has settled on the homestead, a southwester bringing drizzle from the Atlantic. Umbrellas are returned to the shed. I haven’t given up just yet and am marinating a shoulder of our neighbour’s lamb in readiness for the barbecue.

Watching the Camden debacle on television, I keep waiting for Harvey Keitel to pop up, telling the residents everything’s being taken care of and that they will all be rehoused within eight hours.

Ascot or Glastonbury? Seriously. You have to ask?

Friday, June 23

Something you don’t hear too often

Today’s post, a notification from my favourite people: ‘You have paid too much tax! HMRC owes you £29.04.’

Royal Ascot ... grim viewing

You only really appreciate something when it’s gone. Channel 4 Racing, for instance. ITV’s vastly inferior version spends more time discussing women’s frocks than they do the horse flesh.

Thursday, June 22

City of the damned ... Rod Liddle at his best

If you’re not tired of London, you’re tired of life.

Change of programme

Body swerve via Dartmouth this morning. Lunch at the Seahorse. Grilled white asparagus, a nice Dover sole, poached white pears and a tasty Albariño. Excellent coffee.

Wednesday, June 21

Hottest June day since 1976

The kitchen is 34° and I’m not complaining (it seems warmer outside under the sun). The music’s good, wine is chilled, and the livestock – Mrs G. included – appears happy. What more could you ask?

Sauce for the goose

“They take the word ‘rage’, which is justified, and try and intimidate you away from those feelings by saying it’s going to be violent,” she said. “It’s like saying you’re not allowed to be angry or outraged. I’m an activist and I’ve been to many protests but I still felt intimidated after reading the papers today.” Political correctness is a bitch, ain't it?

Conciliatory politics?

I had to chuckle at Digby Jones’ exasperation yesterday. “Why can’t they come together in the spirit of national interest” he implored. Given the number of years Jones has spent in the House of Lords you’d think the lad would have caught on. Never the twain. Am reading an extract from something Dominic Lawson wrote in Moscow back in ’91. He was on a beano with an old war horse named Barbara Castle. “I was here in ’38,” she says, “so idealistic then – not like now.” It was obvious, however, the cause still ran in her blood. Lawson recounts Castle purchased several tins of the best beluga caviar on the black market. She negotiated a very good price and Lawson attempted to persuade her to give him one of the many tins. But “No!” said the great lady, “I won’t give one to a right-wing bastard like you!”

While Castle was a formidable beast I remember her primarily for the tachograph business, the spy in the cab. A number of men on our street were PSV/HGV drivers and were aghast that someone would attempt to snoop on them – that they would lose their right to unlimited overtime. Men like my father tended to stumble out the house at six every morning and climb into their cab, staggering home of an evening about ten. Yes there were downsides and when tired they tended to run over people, but they always paid the rent and put food on the table.

What counts

Sleeping away the afternoons on a well upholstered bench beneath a giant umbrella is my idea of bliss. I put in an appearance from time to time – a token effort during the morning. But weather like this doesn’t come along too often and it would be criminal not to take advantage.

when all is said and done 
what counts is having someone 
you can phone at five to ask 

for the immersion heater 
to be switched to ‘bath’ 
and the pizza taken from the deepfreeze       (Dennis O'Driscoll)

Tuesday, June 20

Swings and roundabouts

Pound sinks as Mark Carney stifles rate hike talk… Gudgeon’s nest egg on deposit at the Post Office appears doomed; thank god for that nice Mr Trump and the Dow Jones.

Pots and kettles

Barry Gardiner, Shadow Secretary for State for International Trade, after being slapped down by Digby Jones on today’s Daily Politics (and I paraphrase): “Digby Jones’s opinion on business matters is not worth the candle, he hasn’t been involved in business for the past twenty years.”

Nowadays Digby runs his own Company, Digby Jones LLP, and advises in a number of paid and unpaid roles. He serves as Non-Executive Chairman of Triumph Motorcycles Ltd, On Logistics Ltd, Celixir Ltd and Thatcher’s Cider Ltd. He is Non-Executive Deputy Chairman of the Unipart Expert Practices (UEP) Division and chairs the Advisory Board of Argentex LLP. He is a Non-Executive Director of URICA Ltd and Leicester Tigers plc. He is Senior Adviser to Harvey Nash plc and Babcock International Group plc. Digby is Corporate Ambassador to Aon Risk Solutions and Jaguar Cars. He is Chairman of the Board of Governors at Stratford Upon Avon College. He sits in the House of Lords as a non-aligned Crossbench Peer.

I suspect there’s a direct correlation between my respect for Digby Jones’ opinion and my disdain for Barry ‘the oily creep’ Gardiner.

Class warriors

The Times Melanie Phillips believes class warriors – left-wing agitators, are cynically fanning the flames of discontent and readying themselves for confrontation … Keen to oblige, Ascot is assembling an army of 10,000 men in morning jackets for today’s kick-off.

Millennials were born too late to contract rickets and polio says Resolution Foundation.

Monday, June 19

Reaching for the remote

Not many laughs on the box these days. An endless diet of depressing news – Manchester, Borough Market, Grenfell Tower, Finsbury Park Mosque, the Brexit divorce, deadly wildfires in Portugal, U.S. and British troops in the Baltic States – periodically interrupted by appeals from charity organisations featuring third-world waifs and knackered donkeys. None of us are without compassion, but after a while you switch off.

Public ruins a great weekend on Dartmoor

Cattle grid gateways were blocked and vehicles were parked on narrow roads blocking access for farm vehicles and emergency vehicles ... Rangers and volunteers now trying to get locations back to how they looked before the weekend onslaught - repairing burnt ground where barbecues have scorched the earth, collecting piles of rubbish and assessing damage ... visitors leaving broken glass, food waste, rubbish and excrement behind when they left.

Classic sign you’ve become an old fart: complaining about litter.

Sunday, June 18

Cranks in edible footwear

The local metropolis is regarded as A Narnia for the New Age. While Totnes has its fair share of eccentrics, there are a lot worse places to live. Every Friday morning I venture out from the homestead and drive into town to buy myself a coffee and purchase supplies from the Kwik-E-Mart, sit on my Vire Island bench and watch the Dart flow past. Two hours of Narnia is about my limit.

Theresa May

Now she knows what it is to be Arsène Wenger. Both have a two-year contract extension.

A glorious weekend

Given the numbers, you’d think half the country has decamped to Devon. Many arrived astride a motor cycle or scooter – Mods and Rockers, just like the old days. The old days allusion becomes pretty obvious once you meet the bikers: Gudgeon is a mere stripling.

Every year I order a case of Rosé wine for summer, take one mouthful and bin it. Every year I am persuaded by my wine merchant to repeat the process.

Saturday, June 17

Motors of the past...Hillman Imp

Marketed as a Scottish rival to the legendary Austin Mini, the Hillman Imp suffered a host of internal design flaws, which included an inadequate cooling system, poor steering, gearbox and clutch problems, faulty chokes and a tendency to leak water… was notorious for breaking down. That said it did me proud back in '74, had a sturdy bonnet. I acquired an Austin Mini the following year, which was a lot less reliable.

Sir Billy

Who’d have thunk it, all those years ago when we sat listening to the big lad on vinyl. Sir William Connolly, The Big Yin.

Take me home

Quick run to Cothay Manor in Somerset this morning, to pick up some plants for Mrs G. I’m not into plants, per se, but – having recently reread Wolf Hall – was interested to have another look at this small medieval manor. Cothay was one of the locations where the BBC’s televised adaptation was filmed. Roads are a nightmare; everywhere you look, other people – lots of ’em. One of the reasons I rarely leave the homestead.

No one knows anything anymore

A word of caution from John Harris. “… the current moment is also replete with tensions and challenges, which is what political commentary is often all about – something that has rather been lost in an age when journalism seems to be losing ground to the kind of partisan shouting that admits no nuances and bounces around from one cast-iron certainty to the next.”    I sense the current debacle could end in one of two ways: the demise of  Conservative Government, followed by fifteen years of Trotskyist rule; or, conversely, – as in Russia, Egypt and Turkey – Theresa May being replaced by someone with a more authoritative bent, one that carries a big stick? Nah, just joshing; but I agree with Harris’s assertion, that no one can predict anything anymore.

Do the Tories face a Zugzwang?

The media are supposed to ask questions and inform, and the BBC appeared to be making a better fist of it in North Kensington last night, up close and personal rather than Sky’s more distant from behind the barricades approach. I can’t disagree with Charles Moore, however, in that the BBC seemed to be doing a good job of inciting the mob.

Friday, June 16

Country in a state of flux

Up town for my monthly haircut. Gudgeon’s barber is one of those old school Thatcherites who toyed with UKIP. Most of the country’s current ills he blames on the offspring of 40-55 year old parents who did a god awful job of raising what he believes to be the devil’s spawn. Such is his aversion to Theresa, however, the lad voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the general election. Listening to his take on life it’s obvious people are opting for a pick and mix of demands, none of which favour either party. I’ve no idea how this shakes out, other than to guarantee that if they fudge Brexit and attempt to remain within the European Union there will be a lot of very miffed people on the streets.

Sunset segregation

Trevor Phillips, on the reality of living in our cosmopolitan capital.   “The people who died in Grenfell Tower would have rubbed shoulders every day with the – predominantly white – people for whom they worked. But when they came home to the Tower they passed into a twilight zone out of the gaze of the Londoners who could have made a difference – the politicians, the business leaders, the opinion writers, the doctors, lawyers, bankers and other professionals. They think that they live in a cosmopolitan city; but working at the next desk or sharing the lift with someone of a different background isn’t integration.”    ...And having lived in our glorious multicultural capital for over twenty-five years, I can confirm that hell will freeze over before attitudes change.

The Spur

You think it horrible that lust and rage
Should dance attention upon my old age;
They were not such a plague when I was young;
What else have I to spur me into song?
W.B. Yeats

Thursday, June 15

What goes around…

“Many didn’t like David Cameron’s policy of pre-emptive surrender on every social issue he could find, including me, but what choice did he have? Those of us still clinging to conservatism are like Julian the Apostate, the late Roman emperor who tried to turn the tide of Christianisation long after it had become unstoppable. As he might have put it, thou hast conquered, oh leftie.”

The future belongs to the left? I’m worried my generation might leave the world as we found it, a basket case. However, despite our best efforts, you can only lead a horse to water…

Anita Pallenberg

She was the sort of thing my Mother warned me about when I left home as a young lad and ventured out into the world.

Wednesday, June 14

Stop chuckling at the back

Tim Farron admits he’s had more than enough of those heathen bastards in the Lib Dems, especially that poofter ex-rozzer. I doubt too many will miss the self-righteous little nerk, but unfortunately it leaves the way open for that dreadful old bore Vince or the mouthy wench from East Dunbartonshire.

Win a few, lose a few

A chick has fallen from its nest and is crying out for intervention. As there are two cats patrolling the grounds I don’t fancy the mite’s chances. Pity, as it is a Song Thrush, an integral part of our dawn/evening chorus and none-too-shabby when assisting with the homestead’s snail problem. Some Devon people refer to them as the Grey Bird or Thirstle, in my old stomping ground of East Anglia it’s a Mavis (see Chaucer). Unfortunately the number of Song Thrushes is declining seriously, making it a Red List species (globally threatened).

Footy

Last night’s game again exposed England’s frailties, not least in the midfield. Still, onwards and upwards – we’re heading in the right direction. France’s young team are an exciting prospect, as are England’s Under-20s. My note of caution with regards to England’s future is that five of our World Cup winning team may elect to play for Nigeria rather than England when they step up to the senior level – that Nigeria could prove a more exciting option.

There’s always something will do for you

It’s probably a truism that in this neck of the woods I am far more likely to be trampled to death by a herd of cows than at the hands of a jihadi nutjob.

Tuesday, June 13

Just like confetti

After listening to a multitude of sage voices warning about the consequences of our credit binge, both personal and public, we have decided to ignore the red ink and jettison austerity, not just to keep on spending but to spend like a sailor on shore leave. Collective madness or Let the Good Times Roll?

Brother of mine reminds me that thanks to the DUP we are to retain our winter fuel allowance and tripple lock... Bring on the pipe band. 

Following the past week’s brouhaha it’s back to my bench on the yard, quietly toasting myself in the sun. Gudgeon’s current reading material – great sports writing is a thing of beauty – a reminder that for many people life really is brutal affair.

Sunday, June 11

England win World Cup

Well done, lads. A lot more exciting than the Hampden match.

On reflection

They – the youth vote – have played us at our own game. My lot were told if we voted for Brexit the world would end … so we gave them the finger and voted for Armageddon. Endorsing Corbyn is merely their way of calling our bluff.

Saturday, June 10

Matter of priorities

A day of nostalgia in the offing, as England meet Scotland at Hampden Park. An opportunity for everyone to suspend political/inter-generational rivalry in favour of a more ancient grudge, and one that actually means something: a World Cup qualifier.

Friday, June 9

The Battle For Britain

Michael Heath in The Spectator

What a to-do!

Shades of Ted Heath, inviting voters to decide who governs the country? At least we did our duty in the South West – although I’ve taken in it the ear from Mrs G. “You promised me a 50+ majority!”

Thursday, June 8

Engerland, Engerland, Engerland!

Our first World Cup Final since 1966.

Summer on Dartmoor

Mist, blustery winds and non-stop rain. Lanes are flooded and littered with fallen debris. Water the colour of barley sugar thunders past the homestead, foxgloves – and much of everything else – beaten flat to the ground. After running errands and voting, chopping wood and climbing ladders to unblock gutters, checking the livestock and neighbouring properties, I’ve called it a day – retiring to my blazing log stove and a glass of Gironde’s finest. It’s going to be a long day, the traditional all-night results party? I believe mutton curry is on the menu.

Thank god it’s over

The campaign, that is. Never has so much shite been spoken by so few. Still, you take your entertainment where you find it. Corbyn appears the big winner in that he looks to have consolidated his position at the head of Labour; and the return of two-party politics is good for both. Let’s face it, we thrive on adversarial politics – life wouldn’t be worth living if we couldn’t blame our inadequacies on someone else. May needs a majority of fifty-plus to make the past several weeks worthwhile (my bet). Eighty would go some way to salvaging her reputation. If the Conservative majority is thirty or less she’ll be savaged by her own and her reign will be a miserable affair.

Wednesday, June 7

British Soap Awards

Speaking of South London Mansions... Night & Day was filmed on the street, the cast photographed here outside SLM. Although cult viewing for young adults, even with Kylie singing the theme tune, the series was never going to threaten Enders or Corrie.

Don’t take it too seriously

Final day of campaigning. If you haven’t yet made up your mind – like the Walsall focus group on yesterday’s BBC Newsnight – there is something seriously wrong with you. The Maidenhead Matron has proved a disappointment; but Corbyn, seriously? Lad’s got the intellect of a runner bean. People deserve better, you say. Maybe we get what we deserve. Either way will be fun.

Tuesday, June 6

Seems Jeremy's given up on me

“It was a shocking insight into how reliant Labour has become on the young. The party of the working-class is now the party of students and twentysomething urbanites whose only experience of labour is that time they invited their friends round to help them assemble an Ikea shelf.” Spectator's Brendan O'Neill

Archive material

Eleven years since we bailed out of South London Mansions and I’m still opening boxes of books. Who remembers Tom Peters? He was all the rage during the 1980s and 90s and Gudgeon appears to have been a fan. There are also books on triple-expansion mill engines and charcoal blast furnaces? Spectator annuals stretching back to Jeffrey Bernard – am reading a book review by arch name-dropper Roy Jenkins that begins “I once had a long audience with the late Emperor of Japan”. An article by Auberon Waugh titled “Time to get the stinker Murdoch out of here” suggests not everything has moved on.

Weekly whinge

Out on the moor today. Two and a half hours to walk five miles – heavy ground, wind gusting to gale force with heavy rain showers. I need new knees. Knees shit, new legs wouldn’t go amiss. Neighbours have been busy moving stock. If the number of lambs are a guide they’ve done very well this year.

Product recall

Damn! Tuned into Woman’s Hour this morning to listen to Diane Abbott. Seems she’s been taken ill, again.

Skirting issues

The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley writes in response to Westminster/ Manchester/Borough Market, wondering if we are too nice. Like most everyone else he details his frustration with the Muslim problem. While answers are above Gudgeon’s pay grade, the fatuous nature of our election debate does no one a service. Increased police resources and more state intrusion are a given. However, as we are already taxed to the hilt, additional security means less spent on health and education – and to confirm this is electoral suicide.

I remarked elsewhere that by the time we reach a certain age we will have accumulated friends, colleagues and family members of just about every hue and stripe – and as none of us are in the business of upsetting or offending friends, et al., we choose our language carefully, learn to be circumspect. Some may think tagging the problem as Islamist Extremism instead of Muslim, weasel words, but as I’ve found to my cost, calling a spade a spade has its downsides. I’d gladly take back half of what was said in the past in exchange for the restoration of several old relationships.

Monday, June 5

Number 32

Reasons why everyone loves cyclists.

Gin consumption buys more doctors and nurses

Tax revenues from sales of spirits have overtaken those from beer for the first time amid record sales of gin, according to HMRC. British drinkers downed 12% more gin last year – 40m bottles, while beer revenue has fallen flat. The Treasury still pockets more from wine than either beer or spirits.

Sunday, June 4

The Paris Accord

Events have a way of transforming yesterday’s news into tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper. Climate change: a minority interest?

Enough is enough, says PM

A declaration of war on Islamist ideology by Theresa May – relaunch of her Iron Lady strategy or more bluster? It’s a shame BBC cancelled both The Andrew Marr Show and Sunday Politics, substituting the chance of some intelligent comment with a Kumbaya-like Pentecostal singalong.

Same old same old

Seems barely five minutes ago I sat rat-arsed with friends in a Borough Market restaurant – braised sweetbreads if memory serves. We are all familiar with the area. There’s not a lot I can say about last night’s attack that hasn’t been said a zillion or more times in the past.

Friday, June 2

The British would never elect a German?

There’s an unforeseen benefit... Mrs Stuart emerged from the negotiations a Eurosceptic, having broadly been in favour of the European project until then. Subscribers to the butterfly wing theory – which holds that tiny acts can result in fateful and potentially global consequences - will be tickled by the notion that Mr Blair’s misguided assumptions about his German MP’s attitude towards the EU may have led directly to British withdrawal two decades later. As a direct result of her time in Brussels negotiating the failed constitution, Mrs Stuart became a key leader of the Leave campaign, encouraging many Labour voters to back quitting the Union.

Where have I heard this before?

But within minutes of the president’s announcement, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy slammed the door shut on that, stating their belief that the agreement ‘cannot be renegotiated’.

Thursday, June 1

Keep your cow and sell your hay

The cuckoo like a hawk in flight
With narrow pointed wings
Heaves o’er our heads soon out of sight
And as she flies she sings…

Out of sight but not of hearing. We’ve a cuckoo in the yard and the blackbirds don’t like it. They say if you count the number of ‘cuckoos’ the bird utters, you may discover the number of years before you die.

A long way right enough, 1974 - 2001


Felicitations to Moyhill. Sixteen years! Time passes so quickly.
I wonder what happened to the third Musketeer?