Tuesday, March 30

The match

Mrs G. will be glued to the wireless this evening, listening to the action from the Allianz Arena, as Bayern seek revenge for the 1999 final. Doubtless United have a suitably large statue of Solskjaer on display somewhere to remind them that chance is everything. I was on a job in Tel Aviv for that game, watched it on television with an open telephone line to the Boss in order to get her take on the action. Am sure I won some money off a couple of locals (Chelsea/Liverpool supporters) but by the end I’d drunk too many Goldstars to care. Let’s hope tonight goes according to plan as it’s costing a fortune in digital receivers: every time Alan Green opens his mouth a meat cleaver wings its way across the kitchen.

Monday, March 29

I don’t like mandolins

I acquired the new Laura Marling album after reading a review. I’m not a folksy type, and whilst a local group, The Fisherman’s Friends, has recently secured a £1 million contract from Universal and will be appearing at Glastonbury this year, the sight of two Andean-hatted buskers at the weekend’s market served to remind why we don’t carry guns. Have been disappointed by some of the music I’ve bought this last year, if only because so little has, understandably, much originality. Most things have been done to death and new artists are always compared in a negative light to accepted recording canons. As for the banal ... I recently listened to Diana Krall alongside an old Dusty Springfield album: painful. Anyway, although Marling is an undoubted talent, the net effect of I Speak... was to reach for Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

Sunday, March 28

Breaking in a new walking stick

Mrs G. allowed me to escape to the moor as reward for denying Arsenal two points. The overriding flavour at present is coconut, the scent of gorse flower. I guess there’s a lamb recipe which invokes this vision of Dartmoor but suspect it involves lots of curry powder. A pity there’s no market in frogspawn because in amongst the patinaed granite, the rock tripe and map lichen, there are buckets of the stuff. Today is Sunday so there are lots of visitors, snaking lines of them, with brightly coloured cagoules and huge backpacks, doubtless engaged on some Alan Bennett-like adventure. I’ve conditioned myself to survive with a bottle of Irn-Bru and packet of wine gums as it’s easier on the spine. Skylarks are everywhere, lost in low cloud or buried amongst the straw-coloured ground cover. You can keep your God particle and Large Hadron Collider, if there’s any meaning to it all, it dwells out there on the Tors.

Thursday, March 25

The phoney war continues

Though I’m not sold on the FT (too pink for my taste) this morning’s Martin Wolf column and the editorial are better than some. Wolf believes the electorate is deluded. Whilst true most everyone in the Dog & Duck appreciates the flavour of the situation, in common with our politicians, it’s the scope and depth they’re reluctant to address. People poke greasy fingers in cloth ears and chant la la la la... The line ‘we’re all going to crash and burn but if you vote for me it won’t hurt so much’ is an implausible but seductive message. Darling nods atop a brass neck and tells us that, fingers crossed, we can get through this with just a couple of scuffed knees. Surely this won’t wash? Too many punters appear indifferent to the Tories and will refuse to vote. They’d rather stand in line and do what the nice men in field grey tell them. God help us.

Wednesday, March 24

Singin' in the rain

Bugger the rain, I can’t sit inside. Thanks to a deluge the reservoir is more than topped up; the animals and yours truly, happy bedraggled specimens. We were joined by a truck-load of exceptionally polite students from Brighton University, clad in high visibility safety jackets and brightly coloured helmets. Ocular vandalism or Health & Safety gone mad? Motor cyclists, certainly; push bikes, probably advisable; but construction grade headwear for mincing about on the moors? Limped home, dripping wet, to be greeted by a medicinal whisky and large portions of roast chicken. Man flu may be a recognised affliction but I want none of it.

Tuesday, March 23

Hands in the till

Byers, you plonker. What an embarrassment – getting caught that is. I almost feel sorry for the poor schmuck, the lad was only trying to earn a crust. It’s not as if he’s in the same league as Blair, or has access to Mandelson’s community of oligarchs. I can’t get over the double standards ... Kinnock and the wife were given superannuated positions in Brussels and the Lords so they could line their pockets. I suppose Byers hadn’t been promised a similar payoff; like Hewitt, has to resort to grubbing around in the commercial world. The end result of this latest faux pas will be even less people voting on polling day.

Much rending of feminist garments as Ted Hughes is afforded a place in Poets’ Corner.

Sunday, March 21

Out and about

As the Cheltenham Festival ended a new front arrived, carrying rain and a flight of honking Canada geese. The yard’s long-standing cock pheasant seems to have fallen victim to the guns, his territory and two hens already annexed by a new beak on the block. If this isn’t spring then it can’t be far away, the ladybirds hibernating in my window frames are starting to emerge. A couple of barn owls are poking about upstairs, maybe they’ll stay around and nest this year? The moor is relatively quiet, and whilst visitor numbers are visibly growing it’s not enough to get in anyone’s way – selfish bastard that I am.

Food is great; been chomping my way through dishes of hard-boiled quail’s eggs, dressed in hollandaise sauce or celery salt; also spending an inordinate amount of time reviewing different producer’s chickens, and a wide range of smoked fish. Whilst the former can provide a significant improvement on taste (over the bog-standard supermarket variety) for a reasonable price, the latter is too often either of poor quality or a blatant rip-off. Barbeque has given way to North African cuisine.

Tuesday, March 16

Fuel price

Have you topped up with diesel recently? It’s £5.30 a gallon – has just cost me seventy five quid to fill the motor. Good job I don’t commute to town every day.

Monday, March 15

Sunshine, lollipops...

And you can keep the rainbows. A change in the air ... daffodils have replaced the snowdrops, and malignant vegetation burns my skin. Before you know it the swallows and bluebells will have returned. Today it was time to prise open the shed door and set about servicing my garden machinery – oil changes, spark plugs, filters... There was a time I would have been exercised by spark plugs – gaps, that is; spent valuable drinking time faffing about with feeler gauges, strips of emery cloth and oily rags. Nowadays you just replace the damn things. I wonder how many of the old ways will return in a post election world? I digress, however, for now we continue to take our pleasures outside in the fresh air – sunshine remains the dominant feature. Mrs G’s barbeque marinades and rubs become ever more inventive. Between you and me everything looks good when accompanied by a glass of the local cider and an anti-histamine.

Friday, March 12

Science fiction

Comfort read? Have just finished Dick’s book Do Androids dream... Blade Runner in print. If only someone had warned me Harrison Ford’s craggy features were merely a jumping off point for Darko Suvin’s cognitive estrangement and excuse for an exploration of Marxist/postmodernist allegory in a context of the settled values of American society during the cold war era. I suspect science fiction is a taste I’ve yet to acquire..

Interesting reflection on the writer’s life in the LA Times

Thursday, March 11

Fish and chips, long since eclipsed

I’ll be back to the garage for another couple of tyres if my current high mileage persists. Down on the south coast near Teignmouth this morning, swung back through Newton Abbot. Nice enough place although very much a Lydl and Asda landscape: Wimpy burgers and cigarette smoke, Casino Slots and charity shops, William Hill’s and Wetherspoon karaoke. There was once a steady fish trade between the town and St John’s, back in the years when Newfoundland actually had cod. Nowadays there’s Jackson’s wet fish shop in Queen Street. Returned home with two large lemon soles and a bag of samphire, the poor man’s asparagus. Haven’t eaten samphire in an age, not since the Yarmouth days.

Update: the samphire was superb, but the soles had been ’round the block a couple of times. And best give their taramasalata a wide berth.

Sunday, March 7

Party time returns

Life moves on, greenfinches and bullfinches have returned to the yard; the neighbour’s mower makes an early appearance (timed to perfection – kick off, FA Cup quarter final from Portsmouth). It may only be early March but I couldn’t resist yesterday’s spell of sunshine and the call of nature: our first barbeque of the year. After cleaning off 2009’s grease we were back in business, with pork ribs and a shoulder of lamb, chilli-salsa and iced beer.

Saturday, March 6


Much chatter around the Dog & Duck’s tables at lunchtime yesterday, most of it centred on David Willett’s appearance on BBC’s Newsnight. If you’re not familiar with Willetts, he’s the guy with the face of a pollock that’s being being shafted by an octopus. His book, The Pinch, makes some interesting points regarding the growing polarisation of society and the trade off between gender equality and social mobility; however, it’s the intergenerational argument – that baby boomers have prospered at the expense of the succeeding generation(s) – which seemed to have everyone exercised. That 20-30 year olds will be too impoverished paying off student loans and contributing taxes for boomer pensions to ever see themselves in a position where they can buy their own home or save for a pension. I tried to explain, as politely as possible, that whilst the boomers are likely to see some of the taxes their nephews and nieces are paying – taxes which the boomers themselves have been paying for oh so many years – the real bugbear is the establishment’s infatuation with families. That the reason our offspring are being bled dry by the exchequer has less to do with bus passes and heating allowances, as the ongoing trend to subsidize production of children for the seeming sole purpose of producing a new worker class capable of paying even more taxes in order to replicate this pointless Ponzi scheme. The rationale is as dubious as Ishiguro-inspired parents who manufacture children for the express purpose of providing body parts for ailing siblings. Matthew Parris bangs the pots and pans so much better than I; cap in hand subservience that encourages tribal fidelity.

Thursday, March 4


Yet another lunchtime attempt at the ultimate bacon sandwich: fried rashers of rare breed saddle-back, smoked, on toasted ciabatta bread, rocket and spinach, tomato and mayonnaise. OK it’s a BLT, but who’s counting. Better still, the accompanying beer-of-the-week: Innis & Gunn rum-cask finish. Beats anything you can buy on the outside, as our recent exploits can testify. We’ve had some criminal meals, including the world’s worst curry, courtesy a forgettable bunch of Bangladeshis, and an even worse Milanese Di Polo from Carluccio’s in Exeter. At least the latter tore up the bill and were suitably apologetic. Best two meals of the week have both been surprises: The Whitchurch Inn, Tavistock; and The Olive Tree, alongside the canal at Bude. The former (great pint of Otter) does a decent steak at a reasonable price; the latter reasonable fishcakes and well dressed salad. Think we’re back in Steinsville next week.

Wednesday, March 3

Political debates

Political leaders may care about television debates but does the public? When Sky first announced the debates at five-o-clock yesterday I must admit to being excited by the prospect. Come eleven I was sick of the subject and wanted them cancelled. Picture it: three of the most unattractive arseholes in public life spouting fatuous promises we know they can’t keep. I’m with Berlusconi and the late Home Secretary’s husband when it comes to politics: if we do have to listen to this sort of garbage the least they can do is get their tits out. BBC Question Time’s audience averages something like 2.8 million viewers, all doubtless draw from the usual ranks of political anoraks with entrenched tribal affiliations. Another round of ya-boo-sucks is unlikely to persuade or dissuade these sorts of people, and nobody else wants to know. Given how much the debates will be hyped in coming weeks (and how much we will not want to watch them when they do arrive) I suspect a rival channel could broadcast a rerun of the 1960 Fairs Cup Final and still attract embarrassingly high viewing figures.

Tuesday, March 2

Sloping off, again

This time of year can be a real drudge, though today’s weather is glorious – early morning frost, blue sky, moderate temperatures. Long may it last, eh? Despite the work stacking up (and sloping off to trek along the North Cornish coast) I am just about on top of my reading material; goodbye Ginsberg and O’Hara and the New York School, hullo Heaney and Beckett. I would love to meet the twisted soul who sets these compulsory texts; am re-reading Philip Dick for light relief, as a way of avoiding the heavyweight tomes that sit menacingly on the office shelf. Each tutorial produces additional obscure titles to sap my resolve. Was I not happy in my ignorance, in the company of the Sacketts, pursuing those adventures onboard HMS Surprise?