Tuesday, September 27

Early days

It’s a good job the motor has recently been serviced as we’ve already clocked up a fair number of miles, running between the two locations. I’m beat and we haven’t really started. Our new place is reassuringly familiar: the overpowering whiff of muck-spreading ops and some seriously muddy roads. I’d forgotten how off the beaten track it is. Our predecessors have bequeathed us three ponies to help keep the grass down.

Monday, September 26


Best place to raise a family, apparently. Winkleigh attracts plaudits the very week we move out.

Saturday, September 24

Tinker Tailor Soldier...

As I’d read le CarrĂ©’s book and watched the ’79 series, this was a film I didn’t want to miss – determined, perhaps, to find fault. Whilst I’ve an inbuilt bias towards the former production, the BBC had several episodes to develop the characters and flesh out a story. This two-hour version is still worth the effort, however, even to the extent of suffering those arseholes that sit munching on hot dogs and popcorn, burping fizzy pop. Alfredson’s film has a good cast and makes a decent stab at the 1970s. Flashbacks to the Circus office parties raised instant smiles of recognition, as did the period decor. It reminded me that whilst our Scandinavian furniture must have looked real cool when we purchased it back in the ’70s, next week’s change of address is the perfect opportunity for its retirement.

Derided by many as a drab decade, an alternative flavour of the times (to Alberto Iglesias’s score) was later broadcast on BBC Four. Old Grey Whistle Test footage, featuring Elton John with his original hair, David Bowie, Curtis Mayfield, Steppenwolf, Vinegar Joe, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Captain Beefheart, Dr Feelgood, Patti Smith, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Talking Heads, the Jam, Blondie, Iggy Pop and the Specials. Not a lot that George Smiley could tap his feet to, but it would have spiced up the soundtrack.

Friday, September 23

A day off

And why not; need to visit the city to take care of some paperwork, treat the Boss to a decent lunch and catch a film. We are still waiting on keys for the bothy – our new residence. If it goes according to plan we should be in on Monday. I have hired a van to move the basics, along with the more difficult/dangerous/ fragile goods, the odds and sods. However, as we have a little remedial work to take care of, our removals men won’t follow for another week. Truth to tell I’d much rather be where we were supposed to be this weekend: County Clare, drinking large quantities of whiskey.

No magic wand or silver bullet

The economic crisis lurches on. I listened to Zoellick and Lagarde yesterday afternoon, and their frustration was obvious. None of our political masters appears to have the answers, or at least any that are palatable to the electorate. Perhaps no one has the balls to spell it out. Bankers and politicians distrust one another, and the public is inclined to a plague on both their houses. Prior to the last election I sensed a consensus amongst voters for a dose of Vince Cable’s sackcloth and ashes. However, this willingness to accept a little pain, a lifestyle adjustment, now looks to have waned. I guess it was always predicated on the misguided assumption we were in this together; that if only the government would increase taxes on bankers and other rich people, bear down on the undeserving poor, life could return to its comfortable rhythm, the natural order. If only life was so simple. Democracy can be a frustrating inconvenience.

Friday, September 16

The long goodbye

It wouldn’t be Friday if I didn’t disappear late morning with the intention of dropping in for a swift one. You can only take so many packing cases. Truth to tell, half of my time is spent sorting through junk, chuckling at stuff I’d long forgotten existed. In the end I gave the Dog & Duck a body swerve and took to the hills, on what may well be my final solitary walk hereabouts. Next week looks to be a busy one. Whilst I’ll miss the well trodden tracks, we are moving inside the National Park boundary. No more driving in order to walk, just straight out the door and along a bridle path to the open moor. The broadband speed may be prehistoric, but I have my shed.

Tuesday, September 13


As we enter our final 2-3 weeks here, the barn resembles a busy warehouse. Even with the best will in the world I can’t see our combined belongings fitting into the new abode. I regret having junked so many things when we departed South London Mansions, but this promises a similar order of disposal. That said, most of our earlier life remains unpacked from the last move – and it’s not that I’ve missed anything, more that I can’t recall what’s actually in the boxes.

Monday, September 12

New slimline model

Am pleased I managed to get out on the hills yesterday: bleak and wet as it was, the gales had yet to arrive. Looking outside just now, I think I’ve had my ration of fresh air for a while. In recognition of the imminent demise of my sedentary, slothful lifestyle – and I have to admit, a certain subconscious motivation brought about by the recent birthday – I have been falling out of bed each morning and working my way through a modest number of press/sit ups. Having duly lost another two inches from the waistline, I am also about to break the 150lbs barrier – wearing clothing that hasn’t seen the light of day for several years. Fortunately, fashionable attire and the Dog & Duck are not synonymous.

Saturday, September 10

Foodie watch

Crossed over to the other side of Dartmoor this morning (fog lights and windscreen wipers) for the inaugural Ashburton Food & Drink Festival. Not a bad first attempt. Though there wasn’t a lot of produce on show there were a number of fast food stalls to augment the town’s cafes and restaurants. We should probably have avoided the Chinese food; should have known better. Plenty of people in spite of the dubious weather, and an efficient Park & Ride. Returned home with a chicken that will keep us fed for most of next week, along with a sack of freshly roasted coffee beans.

Friday, September 9

Lighten up

After my week-long absence, what’s changed? Very little, it seems. The rain is still falling and is forecast to continue for some time. If you were of a negative disposition it would be too easy to be ground down by the unrelenting tide of gripe that is our national press, the media. In the same way an old photo of Tommy Cooper always conjures a smile, Huw Edwards nightly appearance acts as a harbinger of gloom. David Amess might be offended by botoxed presenters, but if it brings a smile to their face then so much the better.

Thursday, September 1

Kirsty and Phil

A national obsession returns to our screens. The new series coincides with blanket press proclamations of ‘Home ownership to slump’. Whilst there’s little appetite for the Government to finance another round of sub-prime mortgages, if you are a young adult, home ownership remains a big ask. The current brouhaha has being stoked by the Nation Housing Federation’s laudable quest to build more social housing. However, as far as I can determine, houses – their cost and availability – aren’t the problem. It’s more a lack of credit, albeit this appears to be easing. As someone who hasn’t been an owner-occupier in recent years, renting has much to recommend it – not least in the stress-free environment that comes from the property being someone else’s responsibility.

Sweet tomatoes

It is an almost daily ritual this time of year to stop at one or more of the many roadside fruit and vegetable stalls for a punnet of vitamins...50p for a bag of apples, 80p a sack of tomatoes, £1.50 for raspberries that taste superior to anything the Quik-E-Mart can offer. Like most of our neighbours we should probably grow our own, but the allotment remains an elusive aspiration. Truth to tell I’m hardly Monty Don, one of the horny-handed sons of toil. Yet how difficult can it be to plant a seed in the ground and dose it with water? And gardening comes with a shed – somewhere to hide, to muse away my leisure hours. I suspect that’s the principal attraction.