Friday, July 29

Rural reveille

Fennel crusted roast saddleback, accompanied by sauerkraut and freshly steamed beetroot from the neighbour’s garden. Whatever else we’re deprived of, living in the sticks, decent food isn’t a problem – and if that cockerel wakes me at five just one more time he’s joining the menu. I’m mobile again so it’s off to the city for a haircut and much needed supplies. Four new shocks on the motor should make the journey a little more comfortable; a combination of heavy loads, unmade tracks and unrepaired roads.

Wednesday, July 27

In direct contrast (to Friday’s prognosis)

Idyllic days such as these serve to remind why we came here. They are even more valuable for their relative rarity – sunny ones are parcelled out sparingly, in grudging recompense for those southwesterlies. Cycling back from the garage this morning (car in dock) was as good as it gets; winding country lanes, all bees and butterflies, swallows and siskins...stopping to watch the fish rise. A distant tractor, but little else intrudes. If only you could bottle it for the grim days. Tonight’s bonus: boiled bacon and parsley sauce; live Audi Cup action, Barcelona v Bayern Munich.

Sunday, July 24

Fed a gloomy diet

I wonder what it would be like to wake one morning and turn on the wireless and hear nothing but positive news. It’s as though the government’s happiness index has been strangled at birth. What the fuck happened to humour? Where are our comedians, the jokers, jesters? Fun ain’t what it used to be. A daily chuckle would do a lot for morale but it’s as though humour has joined the ever expanding list of what’s bad for you, along with cigarettes, alcohol and fried breakfasts. There has to be more to people’s lives than drink, cynicism and religion, or is this the way it’s always been and I’m merely a victim of a selective nostalgia? Thank god for the Proms, and Motörhead.

Friday, July 22

Traditional holidays

The local schools break up today and on cue the heavens have opened. I’ve just returned from a stroll to the Quik-E-Mart: drowned rats ain’t in it. Yesterday’s Times confirmed the grim news for staycationers: it is forecast to rain for a month. Starting later today an estimated 14 million cars are expected to take to the roads for the holiday getaway, and the most helpful suggestion is to forget your Speedos and pack a cagoule. I might add that a couple of heavyweight sweaters will also come in handy. Hardly seems worth the effort, driving those hundreds of miles to get here...but then they say a change is as good as a rest.

Thursday, July 21

Empty vessels

In a hard-to-beat contrast, yesterday afternoon, an American F-15 roared over the yard. It was closely followed by what appeared to be a lumbering Avro Lancaster. The mirage disappeared through the trees before I’d chance to clock the markings, but I can’t think of anything else that supports such distinctive tail fins. Swallows, swifts and martins predominate overhead, whilst a striking jay pie has taken to feeding in the yard. It more usually hides amongst the branches of the oaks where it screeches like an impotent parliamentarian.

Tuesday, July 19

Better out than in

However wet and windy it is out there, no matter how comfortable the office, stepping outside always feels like a release from captivity. That said it’s not easy reading the newspaper in a 20 knot breeze, still less during a downpour. I say reading...the sports pages are about my limit at present. Like most of the general public I gave up on phone hacking long ago, and the economic news isn’t worth the bother. All I know is my savings are earning next to zilch. An asteroid on collision course with Earth: now that would grab my attention. I had hoped to go to last night’s match – QPR were playing the local pub team. Something came up, however, and I missed Warnock’s men knocking in 13 goals.

Friday, July 15

Watching in comfort

Thank god we’ve the Open to distract us. I have been darting in and out all day in an attempt to keep up with the television coverage. I made it to Royal St George’s last time the championship was held there: in 2003, when Thomas Bjørn threw it away. Given the drive involved I’m more than happy to settle for the sofa.

Tuesday, July 12

Life in general

Dartmoor is all newborn ponies and calves, and German tourists taking photos. Everyone and everything appears to be having fun. Lots of driving on my part: places to go, things to do. For various reasons we are obliged to visit three markets this week. In a sign of the times our local livestock market is to be closed and, in all probability, developed for housing. Demand is substantial and unremitting. The tragedy lies in the lack of imagination shown by both builders and their customers – necessity, along with Mr and Mrs Average (and their spaghetti Bolognese) are in the driving seat.

Sunday, July 10

Life outside the hacking scandal

In what must be a first: it remained dry for the village fun day. I hadn’t quite appreciated how many people live hidden away amongst the twists and turns. There were lots of kids and their parents (both), grandparents – along with their mothers and fathers. Four generations, family resemblance clearly discernable. All of the usual activities in evidence, including welly wanging, skittles, duck and ferret racing, sack racing and three-legged sprints...spirited tug-of-war engagements. Copious amounts of sausages, homemade cake, cream teas, local cider and ale. Given the continual diet of garbage our media feeds us, even a reclusive sourpuss like me finds something hugely reassuring in watching traditional families at play, everyone smiling and playing their part.

Saturday, July 9

Wet, inside and out

I’ve been out across the moor three times this week and on each occasion the heavens have rained down large portions of the Atlantic Ocean. Words to the wise: don’t (as I frequently do) forget the waterproofs. Cascading waterfalls aside, I can’t recall seeing so many cattle out grazing. We must be eating plenty of burgers. The pubs are full of visitors, drinking and eating, and what the food lacks in quality it more than makes up in quantity – clearing your plate takes a bigger man than Gudgeon. Another local pub is on the market. I do my best but the licensed trade is a tough old business at the best of times.

Thursday, July 7

Grasping the opportunity

Whoever proves responsible for NOW’s so-called hacking scandal has a lot to answer for – if I see that fat fucker from Hull on my screen just one more time, the box is going out the window. Everyone appears to be wanting in on the act. Hugh Grant’s expression of public outrage must rank alongside Hugh Lawrie singing the blues. And as for Jacqui Smith at last night’s Sky Press Preview: condemnation from the girl who slept on her sister’s sofa at taxpayers’ expense. If the government is half as shrewd as their predecessors they’ll be conducting shedloads of under-the-counter business while everyone’s distracted. I fear I’m becoming increasingly cynical as the years go by.

Wednesday, July 6


The hue and cry over News International has left me perplexed. News of the Screws is what it is: a salacious rag peddling scandal to people with a shortened life expectancy. As with Social Services it fulfils a need. That one of their operatives crossed some sort of line in order to meet the insatiable desire for gossip and titillation is hardly an earth shattering revelation. Whilst you wouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush, journalists, in general – like bankers, politicians and estate agents – are the characters most people would rather not be seen sharing a pint with. At least that’s what we profess in so many surveys of public opinion. So why such faux outrage when our expectations are fulfilled?

Sunday, July 3

Haye v Klitschko

“A good big ’un will always beat a good little ’un,” or so they say. Whilst Haye should be congratulated on a financially lucrative career, when the subject of boxing arises it’s more about wistful memories than anticipation. I guess if you are a talented athlete there are many more opportunities nowadays – ones that don’t involve you taking a beating.

Friday, July 1

Same old, same old

“Minister who dares to speak the truth,” proclaims the Daily Mail, of Duncan Smith. With the approach of a landmark birthday I’ve been reading the historian David Kynaston’s book, Family Britain 1951-57. Kynaston states that David Maxwell Fyfe, the Home Secretary in 1953 – when acknowledging the disquiet over the fact that the non-white population of Britain had soared from 7,000 to 40,000 – is quoted as saying: “The coloured populations are resented in Liverpool, Paddington and other areas – by those who come into contact with them. But those who don’t are apt to take a liberal view (...) We should offend liberals, also sentimentalists.” I guess the lad wasn’t Duncan Smith or he didn’t shout loud enough. In his defence, courage and truth are rarely the natural bedfellows of our political masters. Yesterday’s confirmation of Britain’s population explosion – the biggest in 50 years – gave licence to a vociferous debate in the Dog & Duck – emphasis placed on the net migration figures, and births to foreign-born and ethnic-minority women. Whilst our usual suspects trotted out the familiar line about Britain, historically, being a nation of immigrants, it had to be pointed out that the assimilation of Celts, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, etc. had taken place over the course of centuries. The current transformation has developed in front of our eyes in little more than a generation, mostly within the last 10-15 years ... Of course it goes without saying that it’s only because I speak from the vantage point of rural Devon that I can admit to my changing taste in humour over these same years: from that of Norman Wisdom to Reggie Hunter.