Thursday, July 20

The hum of city life

It’s that time of year: wrapped bales stockpiled for winter feed in the corners of neighbouring fields, Gudgeon stacking cut wood – ash and beech. Sheep, cattle and horses in every direction…the sound of tractors, quad bikes and chainsaws.

Wednesday, July 19

Black holes

This morning’s communique from our local authority gives notice of a reorganisation and a corresponding tax rise. I’m led to believe there’s an appetite for cost cutting through consolidating neighbouring councils but that everyone wants more services and is anxious to pay for it. As with Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax, I’m obviously on the wrong side of history.

Tuesday, July 18

Labour MP says pork scratchings are evil

Labour MP claims Black Country flag is ‘racist’ and should be scrapped.

Why do only fools and horses work?

“A family on £14k/year has fully 75 percent of the net income of the £70k family? Even if housing benefit is disregarded, the family on minimum wage still has 50 percent of the net income of the £70k family, despite earning only a fifth as much. The reason for the anomaly is that any increase in income results in a lower tax credit payment which is then countered by increased housing benefit. This interaction means that the increasing gross earnings from £20k to £60k only increases net income by £7k – only £130 extra per week despite trebling your gross salary. Why would a company offer their staff a pay rise when the staff themselves will see little benefit? Why would an employee seek to move to a higher-paying job? Why would an employee increase their productivity? Why is home ownership declining? There is also the matter of fairness to taxpayers. The family earning £70k will pay the same total amount through taxation as the family earning £14k receive in benefits.”

Men just don’t want to do girly things, and visa versa.

Adverts which encourage gender stereotypes like women cleaning up after their family, or men failing to do housework, face being banned under strict new watchdog rules. The Advertising Standards Authority found there was evidence to support stronger rules on the basis that harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults. Meanwhile an Audit Scotland report confirms that male students continue to snub female-dominated courses such as nursing and health care despite tough new gender quotas designed to balance up Scottish colleges. The number of women enrolling in social work courses has risen to 97 per cent while their representation in health grew to 87 per cent in defiance of Government targets to increase male allocations. Only marginal progress has been made in attracting women to engineering and transport with men accounting for 84 per cent and 92 per cent of students respectively.

Monday, July 17

In July he prepares to fly

Among the countless fledged birds in the yard we’ve a juvenile cuckoo. Don’t know in whose nest it was raised but, compared to the rest of the flock, it’s one big...

The Faux Countryside

“She (Melissa Kite) is in the green belt, and the green belt is crowded and fraught and terrified that it is about to be eaten up by London. Further, its inhabitants are increasingly the same bad-tempered, moaning, sociopathic middle-class tossers that one finds in the capital. People who have got the hell out to avoid being the victims of an acid attack, or a jihadi stabbing, or an LGBTQI workshop. But they still want quick and ready access to London. In other words, it IS London, in all but name. And that will change too – soon there will be no green belt at all, it will just be London.” (Rod Liddle)

Full of Politicians’ Promises

Today being the annual visit from the man that empties our septic tank.

The Silly Season begins

Parliament and MSM are continuing to sell the line that Brexit’s a busted flush. Apparently we’ve changed our mind, and if they say it often enough it will become so. It was never really about immigration, they say, a chastened Brussels will provide sufficient cosmetic assurances to satisfy the plebs. Then with no little irony they decry the state of play in Turkey, Erdoğan’s crackdown on dissidents, journalists and human rights activists, as part of last year’s failed coup attempt.

Sunday, July 16

How progressive Democrats hunt pigs in Texas

“Well, we do it at night, with pistols. Everybody wearing cutoffs and tennis shoes. We’ll set the dogs loose, and when they start baying we come running. Now, the dogs will go after the pig’s nuts, so the pig will back up against a tree to protect himself. So then you just take your pistol and pop him in the eye.” I appreciate it’s a long read, but remember what we used to say: what happens in America usually happens here a decade or so later.

Saturday, July 15

Blue Mink’s Melting Pot

A concept my generation once thought more likely than not, that led to Diane Abbott riding pillion on Jeremy Corbyn’s motorcycle, appears to have fallen prey to contemporary mores. According to a YouGov survey only 9.4 per cent of white people are enthusiastic about dating someone from a different racial group, with only 5.0 per cent of under-24s having actually dated outside their own racial background. Like most I’m dubious of polls – and this one seems a bit extreme. If it is an accurate assessment then we’re in more trouble than I thought.

Ouch!

Empty Buckfast bottle thrown at Celtic player during Windsor Park clash.

Friday, July 14

First Night of the Proms

The Proms returns, the world’s greatest classical music festival. Almost as exciting as the opening day of the football season?

Moving to a cashless society

Up town for supplies this morning. My first stop was the hole-in-the-wall for cash. In common with many I was a little disturbed by Matthew Taylor’s report this week, reiterating the call for a cashless society. Several years ago some smart alec at my bank, in an effort to impress and to encourage further use of their services, mailed me a report on my spending over the previous twelve months. We’re talking a breakdown of every penny disbursed from that account. I appreciate everything is on file somewhere but, having spent so many years trying to fly beneath the radar, to have my life laid out so clearly was somewhat troubling – like being tracked around town on a pub crawl. Needless to say, since then…

Jobs that keep the great and the good off the streets

Teachers working in deprived areas should be offered subsidised housing as a way to tackle geographical disparities between schools, a new report has recommended. Guess I’m missing something, inasmuch as deprived areas are presumed to have low-cost housing? But then the Social Market Foundation who produced the report is headed by former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. I listened to the lad pontificate on the subject yesterday. He listed a series of initiatives, none of which worth the paper they’re printed on. As Gaby Hinsliff notes, the Cleggs of the world are sitting pretty and should be honest enough at least to recognise it in the mirror.

One way or another, we're all doomed

Public Health England – a pain in the neck if ever there was one – says we’re becoming a nation of pox-ridden degenerate pensioners, and by implication a drain on the public purse. Because we have the temerity to live longer, the country is set to be haunted by waves of zombie-like dementia sufferers. Fortunately there’s an answer: for a mere £50, Dr Philip Nitschke will introduce us to the merits of neo-barbiturates and the SARCO Nitrogen System. As it happens, only yesterday I was reading BJ Butler’s interview with Roy Jones Jr. It concluded with an anecdote by Jones about his old barber who’d been told if he kept drinking he was gonna die. Of course he kept on drinking until he died. His final words were “I gotta die of something.”

Thursday, July 13

We’re all going to hell in a handcart

Ross Clark is singing my song, and yet it appears all the government (and opposition) want to do is piss it away like there’s no tomorrow. Not only failing to fix the roof while the sun shines, we are contemplating taking off some more tiles. Filed under Magic Money Trees.

Tennis and Racing

Up early this morning in an effort to complete my duties before Wimbledon and Newmarket kick off. With grass now cut and paddocks topped the old homestead is looking a lot neater, although a couple of guys with chainsaws wouldn’t go amiss. Someone must have been out with a gun as squirrels are thin on the ground this year. Moles have returned with a vengeance, along with two strange cats. There’s supposed to be a plague of adders but I haven’t seen them. Lots of frogs and toads … and our song thrush have fledged.

Prime Minister's Questions?

The similarities are striking. But then I suppose we are all as bad as each other.

Wednesday, July 12

Lyric

Let but a thrush begin
or colour catch my eye,
maybe a spring-woke whin
under a reeling sky

and all at once I lose
mortality’s despair,
having so much to choose
out of the teeming air.

John Hewitt

Tuesday, July 11

Dripping, rather than drip dry

Dreich, as Mrs G. would say, doesn’t quite cut it. It’s lashing down. Misty, too. Even clad in waterproofs, two and a half hours across the moor is about the limit to today’s enthusiasm. Can now settle back and watch the tennis with a clear conscience.

Yellow bellies

“Little trotty wagtail, he went in the rain, …” Each year we host nesting Pied Wagtails – bright handsome little birds – with successive broods feeding in the yard. This year we also have a family of Grey Wagtails.

A Mancunian accent doesn’t make you thick

“Nor one from Hull…” says The Times Robert Crampton. All true of course. But if the doctor treating you delivers his prognosis in an accent reminiscent of Benny Hawkins from Crossroads, or the financial adviser to whom you are entrusting your pension has a Scouse accent, you would probably seek a second opinion.

Another day in paradise

Dragging my sorry body out of bed each morning is bad enough, even before reading today’s Telegraph‘New Tory crisis,’ ‘Britain’s Warships vulnerable to emerging Russian and Chinese missile threat,’ ‘Biological annihilation – Earth undergoes sixth mass extinction as humans wipe out wildlife,’ ‘Tory rebellion over moronic decision,’ ‘The Tories are not evil,’ ‘Bringing down the Government would be madness,’ ‘Mississippi plane crash, 16 killed,’ ‘Man drowns,’ ‘Summer holiday bad for child health,’ ‘Pensioners pay too much tax,’ ‘Coping with an anxiety attack,’ ‘Problems with millennials in the workplace,’ ‘My parents divorced and my father became an alcoholic,’ ‘Poor night’s sleep triggers Alzheimer’s,’ 'the Obituaries,' … I could go on but you get the drift.

Sunday, July 9

D'oh!

It claimed the British army visits English universities and private schools in the search for future officers, while targeting poorer neighbourhoods for enlisted personnel, particularly in northern cities and in Wales. The British Army is targeting working-class youngsters from deprived backgrounds and with limited options who would be attracted to a life of adventure and excitement... what exactly am I missing here?

Manyana

Saturday morning was the usual run to Tavistock Market for inspiration. My turn to cook, so surprise, surprise, we ate barbecue. A chicken the size of a small ostrich, flavoured with garlic, rosemary and lemon. One of the Boss’s favourites: a win-win for yours truly. Today’s repast is (obviously) leftover chicken, with red rice – another favourite. My list of chores is growing… Will address them tomorrow. I promise.

Saturday, July 8

Greeks adjusting to a forever crisis

Many younger (better educated) Greeks blame the older generation for years of communal state looting. For millennials there will be no Greek dream of a pension, coffees and sun from the age of sixty, they may never even retire – just dream of leaving. The ranks of lower-middle-class pensioners, junior civil servants and small shopkeepers are disappearing, leaving a society divided between the rich and the poor. The richest Athenians have had a nice crisis, they just take care not to flash their cash like before. Ten years ago, Greece imagined it had become northern Italy, but is has since discovered it’s more like Bulgaria.

Of course many young Greeks will continue to come to Britain, joining young French, Italian and Spanish migrants … and the Prime Minister and Chancellor have yet to decide if this is a problem or the solution.

What it takes to become a hit

“On days like these when skies are blue and fields are green…” How about Quincy Jones composes the music and Don Black writes the lyrics, the recording is produced by George Martin and sung by Matt Monroe. Of course there’s also the Lamborghini Miura and Alpine highway...

Friday, July 7

It’s a thought

Even the wealthy holiday at home these days. Thankfully the temperature is minus three or four degrees on yesterday, though it hasn’t eased the continuous flow of people down from London. Car parks were full (of Porsche, Range Rover and Mercedes) a full thirty minutes earlier than usual. I loaded up the motor and got the hell out of town asap…. Now back at the homestead with a frosted glass of Samuel Smith’s (can you believe ‘Organic’) Lager, watching the tennis – Azarenka v Watson. Nabokov’s indescribable itch of rapture aside, my detachment is such I’m finding it difficult to differentiate between the two girls and a couple of racehorses.

Thursday, July 6

Frying tonight

Although the homestead is situated 1,300ft above the proverbial, today’s temperature (in the shade) boasts 31°C. Have retired to the office (six degrees cooler) to follow the action from Wimbledon.

Health and Fitness

Why sleep is more important than diet and exercise. Early start for Gudgeon this morning, out across the moor before seven. Come mid-morning it’s too hot and the only thing worth doing is to stretch out on a bench in the yard. I dropped off late afternoon yesterday on returning from Exeter and didn’t wake until half-ten, came indoors and toddled upstairs to bed. Suspect a tracking app to monitor my sleep pattern would be a waste.

Why wouldn’t you?

“More unexpected is that Labour had a 55 to 29 per cent lead among voters in their thirties.”

Two things spring to mind, the first of which is housing. Assuming you are ready to settle down and begin a family during your thirties, how exactly do you conjure up a suitable home – there are only so many. The second problem being how to pay for it. In what now seems the fantasy world of yore it wasn’t unknown for organisations to periodically reinvigorate themselves. Burgeoning pension schemes and premature death allowed for the wholesale removal of middle and senior ranks who’d grown stale, clearing the way for a more dynamic cadre with new ideas. With the demise of final salary pension schemes and more healthy lifestyles, however, silverbacks continue ad infinitum (think Margaret Beckett, Ken Clarke…Robert Mugabe). Of course what slim chance your average thirty-something has of securing the key to an executive bathroom isn’t helped by our ongoing recruitment of the world’s brightest and best. Is it so unbelievable that Labour has a lead among voters from such a stymied demographic?

Wednesday, July 5

Gudgeon the slacker

Hopes that Britain was putting the chronic problem of low productivity behind it have been dealt a blow by official figures showing that the key measure of future prosperity has fallen for the first time since 2015.

Don't ask, don't get

Tragic in every sense. Who among us wasn’t horrified by the fire and moved to proffer support for the victims. That said there must be lots of people in traditional Labour heartlands watching the aftermath unfold and wondering, who exactly are these foreign people with heavily accented English that are making such demands, and how exactly do they qualify for subsidised accommodation in fashionable Kensington and Chelsea instead of the traditional out-of-town sink estates the rest of us inhabit.

Surrealist stuff


Moonlight Muncher, © Rui Matsunaga

Doesn't bear thinking about

What do you think would change if women ruled the world?

Our memories aren’t that bad, Philip

It was the older protesters who stood out – the flinty faced, superannuated Trotskyites in their fifties or sixties still wearing jeans and denim jackets festooned with badges declaring antipathy to everything from capitalism to badger culling… a Praetorian Guard of groups such as the Socialist Workers and Communist parties.”       “No one remembers from the first time round,” says Philip Johnston. Oh yes we do, sonny, if you recall we produced sitcoms about them – still chuckle to ourselves every time Jeremy appears on stage.

Tuesday, July 4

Fledged today




One of three, all now airborne.

We have just two nests of swallows this year, the second has yet to fledge.

Monday, July 3

Another referendum?

Philip Hammond saysThe serious question to the electorate cannot be 'would you like us to tax someone who isn’t you to pay for you to consume more?', but 'would you be willing to pay more tax to consume more public services?'”

Think I can answer this: No, Non, Nee, Nein, Nie, Não, Neyn…

Someone still loves us

A new global survey across 25 countries finds that 57% of the global public think Britain’s influence on world affairs is positive. Britain comes mid-table; however our rating ranges widely from 76% in India being positive about us to only 29% in Spain. This reflects a general pattern of EU countries seeing us less positively than others - although we shouldn't overplay our image problem with our continental neighbours: still over half the population in Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Poland and France are positive about our impact on the world. Germany and Belgium are less convinced, alongside Spain. Two thirds (66%) of Britons believe we are a positive influence on world affairs, rating only Canada (87%) and Australia (84%) above ourselves. Unsurprisingly, given the Brexit vote, 48% believe the EU has a positive influence on world affairs, whilst 52% believe its influence is negative.

Unorthodox working life was once the norm

Apparently there’s at least one organisation keeping the old days alive.

He also claimed that the company’s senior management meeting was held during a boozy event every Tuesday night at the Lion Hotel in Worksop, a short drive from Sport Direct’s head office in Derbyshire. The meeting typically commenced in the bar area at around 8pm with Mr Ashley drinking alcohol at the bar while in discussions with management. Blue alleged that dinner would be served at around 10.30pm with the gathering concluding between 1am and 3am.

More pay for nurses?

Jackie Smith, the NMC’s Chief Executive and Registrar, has been plodding round television studios this morning, bemoaning the number of nurses and midwives leaving the profession. Knee-jerk reaction of most is to criticise low pay. Never backward in virtue signalling, who wouldn’t agree to more money for nurses, not least as Gudgeon’s neighbourhood is home to so many NHS employees. Listening to a nurse interviewed on Sky News, however, I was left with the impression she thought too many of the wrong sort train for the profession and then fail to measure up. The Guardian, never slow to leap onboard a public sector grievance, confirms that just 8% of the nurses who had left cited pay and benefits as the reason. Unfortunately Jackie Smith did a passible imitation of Diane Abbott on Nick Ferrari’s show and failed to shed light on the subject.

Sunday, July 2

No open windows today

Sunday morning political shows on the telly can turn the air blue – and raised voices frighten the horses. Though I’m told everyone wants to pay more taxes to fund public services, I’ve yet to meet Mr Everyone. Half the buggers in the Dog & Duck who are screaming for an increase in public sector investment don’t actually pay tax, and those that do are invariably sucking on the public teat. That said, in the interest of objectivity – to provide balance to Mrs G’s more trenchant views, I sometimes don my Comrade Corbyn cap. A dangerous gambit when there are bottles to hand.

Saturday, July 1

Beautiful Big

Beware the lean and hungry look 
Which Caesar rightly feared, 
The skinny man to stratagem 
And spitefulness is geared, 
Would Cassius at forteen stone 
Have felt the need to bitch? 
And would lado fuller-faced 
Have queered Othello’s pitch? 
It’s well observed how cheerfulness 
Is found in well-filled suits. 
As those who value sweetness know 
To seek out softer fruits. 
So let us laud the larger man 
Devoid of schemes and wiles, 
Whose munching muscles swell the cheeks 
And wreathe a face in smiles

This could of course be construed as a jibe on Jeremy Corbyn. However I include Tim Hopkin's poem in remembrance of an old business partner – the one with the cadaverous face, the long, lank, skeleton hand.

Leslie Carron’s birthday

Gigi remains the favourite. That charming old lecher, Honoré Lachaille. Can you imagine trying to produce a similar film these days: Gaston, everyone’s favourite playboy, almost certainly a Tory, seducing the 15-year-old granddaughter of a friend? “Now with 80% Less Perv.”

Saturdays…

Am reclined on a comfortable chair in the snug. Outside the sun is beating down. The homestead’s windows are open, admitting a pleasant breeze. There’s a chilled glass of Viré-Clessé at my elbow and a pre-lunch appetiser – an expensive ‘artisan’ terrine*. Marvin Gaye croons from the wireless and I’ve a mountain of reading material. All is right with the world…Charles Moore speaks to me:

 “The phrase ‘bucket list’ entered the language early this century, and you now hear it most days. It means your self-chosen list of the things you must do before you die. There is something wrong about the psychology behind this. More of us are troubled by doing too much, not too little. Life involves innumerable lists of tasks, and this makes one ill-prepared for death. The best bucket-shop list of things to do would simply say ‘Less’.” 

*A poncey version, maybe, but it’s still Spam.