Tuesday, May 31

Frightening thought

With our German cousins falling like ninepins there was much suspicious probing and sniffing of Mrs G’s tzatziki at tonight’s dinner table. I haven’t come this far to be undone by a rogue Iberian gourd. Given the threatened doubling of food prices over the next 20 years, with many likely reduced to subsisting on toast and Marmite and vin de pays, contracting E coli from exotic vegetables could well become a mark of affluence.

Friday, May 27

Perish the thought

It occurred to me that with all the negative publicity about declining standards of care in NHS hospitals it might be wise to vary the diet and include an occasional vegetarian day. I suspect washing down my lentils with a half-bottle of Burgundy’s finest kind of defeats the object but at least it’s a step. You don’t wonder at our cynicism with regards to public health programmes when doctors probably head of the queue for liver transplants and nurses waddle along hospital corridors as though they’re being nurtured for a nice line in foie gras. As with our political masters it’s a case of don’t do as I do, do as I say. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I guess. If our world was controlled by virtuous citizens it would be a very sad place.

Thursday, May 26

Day off

Barbeque to the fore this week, with pictures of the Duke of Edinburgh cooking at home, sizzling steaks on a grill. And then yesterday, Cameron and Obama frying sausages for visiting Service families. Unfortunately the gales and rain have returned to the barn and I’m unable to follow suit. Yesterday morning at eight I was sitting outside on the yard, finishing a book; today it’s difficult to stand up. Guess I could use a day off to do the paperwork – Monday in the city, Tuesday on the moor, yesterday the coast, and a busy weekend on the horizon. Whilst I’ve yet to get up to speed on the walking stakes, I at least managed to eat my first ice cream of the year. It followed an enjoyable lunch of lemon soles and non-alcoholic lager at the Olive Garden in Bude. Over the years I must have consumed every pretendy lager on the market, none of which I care to recommend.

Last night’s television featured the final dose of Carluccio and Contaldo in their Alpha Romeo, eating for Italy. I know it’s just a couple of sad sorts peddling the usual guff, but it works for me. Though we’ve managed to get our hands on some nice grub recently, including quality bread, olives and salami, I miss London’s Italian delis. At least I’ve still got my Marmite...Can you believe the Danes? Have you tasted Gammel Dansk, their medicine of choice?

Monday, May 23

Back to the old neighbourhood

Say what you like about the Premier League, it has become far more than a story about the top four. Leagues within a league – the race for the bottom as compelling as anything on offer at Emirates Stadium. Yesterday saw Mrs G’s lads take the title, whilst yours truly was relegated. Congratulations to McCarthy and Martinez and Kean. I have the feeling that life in the Champions League will be just as exciting.

Saturday, May 21

Real food

At least I know what we’re eating over the weekend: motivated by a half-hour of sunshine I’ve barbequed one of the ribs we acquired at the show. These suckers are inches thick and weigh in at three-kilos/piece. Fifteen minutes on each side cooks them to perfection. They last for days and still leave enough for a couple of bowls of chilli.

Update (Monday): After a much publicised WCRF report regarding the dangers of excessive red meat consumption I’m almost feeling guilty about the barbequed rib. I say ‘almost’... This single slab of beef has provided four delicious dinners for the two of us, along with a couple of beef-sandwich lunches. The final remnants were consumed in the form of a cottage pie rather than chilli con carne. Excellent value at £2.50/pound, albeit well adrift of the 500g/week guideline.


Listening to Miliband is like watching a car crash. Kinnock might have been a windbag but he was never this limp-wristed. Having seen Alex Salmond clean up in Scotland, our lad decides optimism is the spirit of the age, asserting the need for a positive, patriotic mission for ‘our’ country. The Guardian colludes in his ineptness by juxtaposing Miliband’s inane, geeky grin with an attractive photo of Cameron in Norway, suggesting something of the Audi Quattro/Gene Hunt debacle at the general election. Superficial it may be, but you know what they say about what a picture is worth...

Friday, May 20

la differénce

While America remains aghast at the alleged antics of Strauss-Kahn, we suspect many in France are merely bemused; and as Fred Goodwin and the Terminator attract condemnation for playing away, Germany reveals what it takes to power a great economy.

Thursday, May 19

The Devon Show

Though it comes around too quickly for my liking, the annual county jamboree remains great fun. Dare I say a little less crowded this year – we actually managed to find seats at one of the food concessions, and, for the very first time, a table in the beer tent. When we weren’t eating or drinking, our time was divided between the livestock competitions and people watching. There were the usual cooking demonstrations, live music and horses, the tractors and traction engines...though I suspect the principal reason we attend is to load up on beef ribs and jugs of cider.

Tuesday, May 17

Changing times or revisiting

I wouldn’t dream of criticizing the market cafe: it is what it is and expectations are always satisfied. The Formica-topped tables were faded and scuffed well before ’64, and the wooden bench-seats belong to an even earlier era. Girls in pinnies dispense capstan-strength tea from tarnished aluminium teapots, and whilst only ten-o-clock and yours truly is ordering breakfast, for the old guys, the gummy octogenarians, c’est l’heure du déjeuner – they’re already supping bowls of oxtail soup. After breakfast I bought dinner from the produce stalls, including a small rye for £3. I actually waited in line to pay three quid for a loaf! When exactly did we reintroduce the corn laws?

Same old...

Another month: another haircut, yesterday. Literally, a haircut – the statutory trim...though it has to be said the return from my savings account remains dire. My periodic visit to the barber can best be described as lucky dip, choosing as I do to visit a different establishment on each occasion; it appears talent, even with a pair of scissors, remains a rare commodity. The ensuing lunch at a riverside restaurant was also disappointing fare. You can say what you like about the transformation of British cuisine these past thirty-odd years, in my experience the renaissance has been confined to the premier end of the trade. The old days gave the impression of being knee-deep in enthusiastically-run eateries that owed their existence to a well-thumbed copy of Elizabeth David and a loan from a mate. Most went belly-up inside a couple of years but were great fun while they lasted and a major improvement on the Wimpy Bar’s circular frankfurter. Derivatives of the latter now appear the only game in town.

Monday, May 16

Somewhat inevitable

It doesn’t look good for the Blues. A win against Tottenham next weekend would be on par with the Arsenal final. You can’t knock McLeish: he’s done better than Bruce with an inferior squad. Criticism about the style of play – a lack of entertainment/the realities of staying in the top flight – is not dissimilar to what my old Charlton comrades used to level against Curbishley, and I doubt they’re any happier these days. How to approach the game at White Hart Lane: go for broke (joke), or shut up shop and trust the other two to lose by more than we do? As long as they don’t just lie down and die. Guess next season provides me with an excuse to catch up with the Palace crowd.

Saturday, May 14

The Torygraph moves on

Mrs G. buys the Times because the Telegraph’s crossword is crap. And whilst I find many of the Times’ columnists irritating, its sympathies not entirely what I would call English, a little suspect, subversive, the newspaper is eminently readable. The Telegraph often seems parked in a cul-de-sac that is/was typified by Simon Heffer. A number of my acquaintances and friends are of a similar persuasion to the lad, and whilst I sympathise, their trotting out the same anachronistic line day after day becomes something of a pain. There’s plenty of protest but little in the way of credible answers – even if the Three Line Whip is one of the better media blogs. I wish Heffer well, pedantic tit that he is. However, I suspect the Telegraph will be better for his departure.

A welcome arrival

Above the thatch, cavorting swallows; in about the village chimneys, house martins; and finally, this morning, a full house: the sickle-winged swifts. Black sky-racers – devil birds, referred to hereabouts as devil screechers, their arrival typified in Ted Hughes’s poem: ‘They’ve made it again,/Which means the globe’s still working, the/Creations/Still waking refreshed, our summer’s/Still to come – ...’

Thursday, May 12

Managing future expectations

Mervyn King certainly knows how to cheer a man up. Slow growth and rising prices...Adjusting to a world of differing expectations. So what’s new – aren’t life and change synonymous? I guess because this time the direction in which people’s standard of living is travelling is at odds with what we’ve become accustomed to: ever increasing prosperity as a matter of right. I’m sure the reason the Tories vote held up so well is that voters acknowledge the need for adjustment. If Cameron and Clegg have a problem it’s that they seem to have forgotten the lessons of Blair’s early years (should have gone further, faster; and don’t spend so much time listening to the media). At least university leavers appear to be facing up to reality by taking non-graduate jobs. Little wonder studying humanities is a thing of the past when an estimated 55% of future graduates face a career in low-skill work or unemployment. I passed a column of 60 fresh-faced geology students on the moor yesterday, rock pick and notebooks in hand...let’s hope the economy has turned around by the time they graduate.

Monday, May 9

Football, crime, food and exercise

It was a mutton curry, reggae and football weekend – certainly plenty of the latter, and not all of it was disappointing: the Blues are hanging in there, just; and whilst Plymouth are toast, Walsall look safe; Rangers appear to have the Scottish Premiership, Black Yellows the Bundesliga, and Mrs G’s United triumphed at Old Trafford. A win over Barcelona would be the icing.

French crime drama, Spiral reached its conclusion. It was not as compelling (for me) as The Killing, though I’d much rather a neurotic Captain Berthaud than Inspector Stanhope. And what to say about last night’s Icelandic thriller Jar City. It’s less the plot line (How many twists to the crime drama genre can there be?) than the locations and cinematography, the differences of other worlds. Cancelling Zen was disappointing in that, despite being second-rate drama, the series featured attractive locations and women that don’t look like Caroline Quentin.

Out battling the gales on the common this morning...forced into one of those rare sprints along the highway in pursuit of runaway lambs. Retrieved and returned: my good deed for the day.

Friday, May 6

English politics appears even more polarised

The Conservatives have won seven seats to gain control of our local council. Who’d have thunk it; right now the Tories look to have upped their national vote. Cameron even has the bonus of a triumphant Salmond north of the border. Of course we’re assuming a No vote secures the AV Referendum. I appreciate this voting malarkey pales when compared to the important things in life (the price of baked beans, The Blues maintaining Premiership status ... ), however, elections are always excuse for a wager.

And whilst I rarely comment on perfunctory media bias, you’d suspect the BBC’s Maitlis prone to multiple orgasms – such is her enthusiasm for Labour gains.

Thursday, May 5

The Alternative Vote

Yesterday I heard my first cuckoo of the year...the simple bird that thinks two notes a song. And today I get to vote. Of course it has to be a resounding NO. I’m nothing if not tribal, and one of our most enduring pleasures is that of shouting “Ya boo sucks” from the sidelines. The old refrain that, “At least I never voted for ’em”, ends with the sudden realisation that ‘they’ were your 4th preference. How can anyone in all conscience tick a box for one of the good guys, and then follow it up with an endorsement for something plucked from a barrel of dog turds? OK, I admit they’re all suspect, as bad as each other...but at least he’s my cheating, lying bastard, not yours.

Tuesday, May 3

Throwaway society

My wristwatch is kaput, and I’ve been advised it has to be returned to the maker for a ‘service’. Not only will this exercise cost in excess of £250, it appears the queue for faulty timepieces is 4-5 months. Seems horologists, like panel beaters, are a dying breed. Could it have something to do with my replacement watch: a ‘classic’ Casio, purchased for £18.

Sunday, May 1

Life is on the move

The trees are filling out at long last, bluebells and blue damselflies providing contrast and colour to the white and orange-tip butterflies; in amongst the burrows and last winter’s debris, primroses and sprouting fern. Impressive chestnut and yellow hornets are colonising a rotting oak stump in the yard. I’d be worried if it wasn’t for the zillion or so wasps and bees that are already nesting in the barn’s thatch and stone crevices. A week or so ago a huge swarm appeared in the apple blossom outside our bedroom window; they have since decamped to a neighbour’s hive. Dare say there’ll be a fair amount of gold and black stripes at St Andrews today. Big game; let’s hope there’s no sting in the tail.