Tuesday, June 28


Who says good food costs the earth. This morning at the fishmongers: whole lemon soles, direct from the boat at £1.20/each. As the weather was too pleasant to work and in an effort to escape the neighbour’s swarming bees I packed my flip flops and flask of coffee and took the newspapers to the beach. It’s a hard life here in the sticks. The prevailing breeze soon put paid to the dailies, though I suspect there was little in the news worth losing sleep over. Always excepting the wonderful plagiarism furore directed against the Independent’s resident tosser, Johann Hari. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke.

Sunday, June 26

Hardly breaking sweat

Yesterday’s forecast came up short and I had to turn on the heating. So much for summer and the advent of global warming; but then June if often a dire month. Thankfully, this morning, the sun has arrived. The ground may dry enough for me to attack the backlog of outside chores, do something useful. Whilst not the slingshot dead-eye of primary school, it’s reassuring to know I can still pick a squirrel off the bird feeder from 25 yards. Out back resembles the concourse of Charring Cross Station at rush hour. I’ve tried counting Farmer Charles’s sheep but always loose myself somewhere in the seventies. Despite my entreaties and the open gate they have declined to tackle the yard – looks like it’s the brush cutter and a jerrycan of four-stroke. On the plus side: today is definitely a barbeque opportunity.

Wednesday, June 22

Panic over

What a difference two weeks make, after all that palaver over drought. The yard is knee-deep in toadstools and the reservoirs have been replenished. Or soon will be at the rate things were flowing this morning; traversing the brook was certainly more interesting. Given the storm clouds and intermittent drizzle there’s little of anyone or anything about on the moor...that’s always excluding the lads in full battle order moving amongst the bracken. Call me skittish but nothing gets me over a stone wall quicker than a thunderflash in the left ear. Despite the black skies you’d be hard pushed to find a more pleasant environment. Not that some stacationers would agree. They try it for a couple of days, then strike the tent and bugger off back to Spain.

Tuesday, June 21

Unintended consequences

Rand Europe believes it isn’t so much the question of immigration but Child Tax Credits that propels our baby boom. Who’d have thought paying women to have babies would result in more babies? Rand suggests, however, that direct financial incentives are less successful than reducing the opportunity cost of having children, deducing that unintended consequences (in our case the introduction of CTC) often achieves better results than central planning. A vindication of my ‘Don’t bother your arse: it’ll all work out in the end’ approach. Of course we’re assuming our burgeoning population is a positive thing. The European Commission believed so: it made a clear commitment back in 2005 to the ‘demographic renewal’ of Member States with low fertility rates. And that’s my problem: there was no domestic debate, just a bunch of superannuated shits sitting in Brussels pulling levers. One of their drivers, unbelievably, was to counter the growing political influence of older people.

Saturday, June 18

It’s really important

...to have an idea of where we come from, says Bradley Hemming, Festival Director. I had almost forgotten what it was that brought us here: He (Dickens) describes the unruly mass migration across London by every mode of transport – “Cabs, hackney-coaches, ‘shay’ carts, coal-waggons, stages, omnibuses, sociables, gigs, donkey-chaises”. And then he pitches us into the fray, conjuring the hawkers and sharps who haunted the park and its surrounding area by day (...) barely respectable daytime pleasures gave way in the evening to the full licentious, thrill-seeking glory of the fair itself. “Imagine yourself”, he continues, “in an extremely dense crowd, which swings you to and fro, and in and out, and every way but the right one; add to this the screams of women, the shouts of boys, the clanging of gongs, the firing of pistols, the ringing of bells, the bellowings of speaking-trumpets, the squeaking of penny dittos, the noise of a dozen bands, with three drums in each, all playing different tunes at the same time, the hallooing of showmen, and an occasional roar from the wild-beast shows; and you are in the very centre and heart of the fair.” If only this was a once-a-year jamboree, instead of an everyday observation of contemporary Greenwich.

Such is life

The United States are involved in peace talks with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has confirmed. Whether it’s Afghanistan, the Cold War or Ulster, in the fullness of time protagonists settle. We reflect on the cost, the tragedy of it all...before moving on to find someone else to fight with.

Friday, June 17

Cost of living alert

‘They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil,’ or so the Bob Hillard song goes. But it has become eye-wateringly expensive. I order online with the casual disregard you reserve for those essential requirements of life, such as electricity and tins of foot powder. This time around, however, the cost per kilo of organic Columbian beans actually registered in my addled brain...And whilst I haven’t a handle on the wholesale price of cocaine, the MedellĂ­n boys can’t be that far adrift. If the price of coffee continues its upwards trajectory it’ll be back to bottles of Camp and sterilised milk. I can’t recall seeing any on the Quik-E-Mart’s shelves in recent years, though I dare say it remains in production at some remote facility north of the border. We doubtless exchange it for cases of Buckfast. Must track down a bottle and see if it tastes is as grim as I remember.

Wednesday, June 15

Get yourself noticed

Two Mancunians down here on an away day have been arrested on suspicion they were up to no good. A local farmer said: “Anyone driving slowly around these small lanes would stand out but two black men in a car would stand out even more because you don't see many black men in the sticks out here.” Maybe if they’d been driving a tractor...

Monday, June 13

Better now than in a month’s time

I bet Pannu was a little more than pissed on receiving McLeish’s email. Still, whilst you can argue more power to Martinez’s elbow for staying loyal to Wigan, the lad enjoyed the unwavering support of Dave Whelan. When your employers seemingly begrudge their support, tell you you’re on borrowed time and target you as a means of deflecting supporters’ criticism, it’s a slightly different matter. That said, McLeish won’t be flavour of the month in either camp...assuming it is Villa he’s jumped ship for. Of course it begs the question who next...Dave Jones, Billy Davis Alan Curbishley, Chris Hughton...Paul Ince? As long as it’s not Strachan.

Sunday, June 12

Degrees of pestilence

Whilst there’s been a modest fightback against the drought this last couple of days I’m told it would need to continue raining for a month to make an appreciable difference. Inside of the barn we are overrun by spiders – not that there’s any connection. The Boss, always looking on the bright side, reckons our eight-legged companions are defence against the plague of moths, though I had assumed that’s what the bats were for...I’m wittering because I haven’t much to say or the inclination to speak to other people. Life proceeds at an agreeably leisurely pace (albeit remorselessly); our larder is full; the sparrows and tits have fledged and appear to be prospering. Scores of birds visit the yard each day, along with a vixen and her cub. They have designs on the neighbour’s rooster, an exceptionally large bird the children have named Godzilla. I know who my money’s on, and fondly imagine the cockerel eating the children.

Sunday, June 5

Soddin’ thing

Along with the Internet, I consider the electric toothbrush the greatest evolutionary development of my age. Stick it in your mouth and press the switch and it does the business with the minimum of effort. On occasion, however, it has a disturbing habit of slipping from my fingers and going walkabout. You know they say you should never attempt to catch a knife: well an electric toothbrush is just as dangerous. It’s like trying to grab a rabid squirrel. By the time you’ve stopped juggling the damn thing and have it trapped underfoot on the bathroom floor, five-bob’s worth of Colgate has managed to paint itself across the length and breadth of your shirt and jeans.

That time of year

So much for the parasol: our area of high pressure has moved on and taken the sun with it. It was never going to work anyway; despite my lashing the pole to a bench, as soon as I stepped inside for a refill, the parasol, bench and metal base took off across the yard like an Arab dhow in full sail. A hat and bottle of sun block would have saved on the grief.

Whilst the boss was busy bartering loaves for the neighbour’s vegetables (she does a nice line in bauernbrot for their Bavarian guests), I was swapping notes on the barbeque front. We were both roasting venison, albeit his was a little more ambitious (think it still had the hoof attached). Truth to tell I wasn’t that enthusiastic. Sometimes, like yesterday, it comes too gamey, too rank for my taste. Fortunately I grilled a chicken, just in case (and if the cockerel wakes me again at five-thirty, he’s next).

Although Farmer Charles’s muck-spreading operations appear to be over, it’s impossible to avoid the carpet of sheep droppings that have been baking in the sun. One of the unfortunates stumbled, and was unable to right itself before magpies pecked out its eyes. Needless to say our genial shepherd was not amused. I’m busy scaring off crows that are raiding nests in the yard. Whilst we’re overrun by fledged woodpeckers and nuthatches, the blue tits nesting under the soffit (three yards from a family of jackdaws) have yet to appear. Talk about living dangerously.

Friday, June 3

It makes the world go ’round

Was that love, money or laughter? I hardly need V.S. Naipaul or Esquire Magazine to tell me that women are...different. The dissimilarity between genders was no more apparent than when watching Tuesday night’s return of Lead Balloon. Whilst Rick Spleen had me rolling in the aisles, Mrs G. hid behind a cushion: she finds this type of farce excruciatingly embarrassing. After so many years of living with yours truly you’d think the lady would have developed a thicker skin.

White Van Man arrived alongside this morning, delivering a giant parasol for the yard...Following assembly of replacement brolly I decided the old base didn’t suit, and set off on a tour of the county’s garden centres. Returning hours later with £40’s worth of scrap metal and minus £85 for a tank of diesel I discover the parasol has fallen over and its wooden struts are broken. That’s a cue for Chapter Two – detailing to my exploits with a tube of super glue and bottle of nail polish remover. The saga went downhill thereafter, and included a hacksaw and a rather inventive jury rig. It says much for my equanimity these days that no one suffered in the making of this drama.


A friend and long time colleague emailed this week to remind me it’s been 10 years since we last worked a job together, illustrating with a photograph how much we’ve changed in that time. I guess it’s the nature of life: continually reinventing ourselves in order to stay relevant. Over the years the two of us have acquired more hats than Bates’ in Jermyn Street...albeit I continue to buy CDs and books, and he’s now completely digital. I guess there’s always the one constant: Friday lunchtime at the Dog & Duck.