Sunday, June 29

Stages of life

Ah this morning in the sunshine, among the meadow browns, the red clover and golden buttercups…in the company of fat does and svelte swallows. Sundays are when we traditionally dress up, hallowed ground and all that – church or golf club, to sup at the Dog & Duck. Years ago, when we both worked, Sundays were for shopping and vacuuming. Not that I was a philistine; back then, we were just surviving.

Saturday, June 28

Beware heavy cruisers

The storm that accompanied our guests’ departure continues to rain on the homestead. The building’s fabric, baked by weeks of sunshine, is now leaking like a sieve. On the plus side we have more football to look forward to this evening. I suspect Suárez’s absence will be the difference between Uruguay and Columbia. Following today’s reports from Montevideo, where the Liverpool star has taken refuge, I can’t but help be reminded of Lionel Murton’s performance in The Battle of the River Plate. And talking of Germans…when will Cameron realise Merkel is not our friend, that our Germanic neighbours are rivals not partners. As with our American allies, adopting a sceptical outlook whilst maintaining a tight grip on your wallet is well advised.

Friday, June 27

So what’s new?

On the day Jeremy Paxman confirms what most licence-payers have always suspected: that Newsnight is made by 13-year-olds, Lord Richards, the former chief of defence staff, warns our armed forces will soon resemble that of a banana republic. On the one hand naïve young idealists who want to change the world, on the other a pragmatic realist – seen it, done it, knows what works. Still, such is our political correctness these days, I was mildly surprised at his banana republic jibe, phrases such as ‘Play it like a white man’ and ‘Dab of the tar brush’ being less prevalent. Then again, given this post multi-cultural world of ours (along with Britain’s booming population), I suppose race and age (context) will increasingly polarise opinion and discourse.

Thursday, June 26

Sun has been where the rain is now

The dry spell ended in a deluge, yet it turned out a marvellous afternoon. A smell of wet ponies, damp earth, of wood smoke. Our guests departed on a train, in a storm, and the homestead has fallen silent – well, almost. Conversation – banter, has given way to tinkling goldfinch, a distant cockerel; the click of a song thrush, breaking snails on a stone; the commentary from Recife. I calculate there’s enough left-overs to feed us for the next two days, along with a selection of half-drunk bottles of vino that are too good to waste.

Back to work

Whilst flaring chip pans may well be the cause of most domestic fires, yesterday’s casual disregard for my barbecue came close to redressing the balance. It took two cans of beer and a bucket of water to extinguish the blaze. Amazingly – or not, given everyone was having such a good time – nobody noticed, nor commented on my soot-stained appearance. Another couple of minutes and it would have brought a whole new meaning to Flaming June. After nine days of partying, today it comes to an end – and with it the sunshine. Rain is forecast. I appear to have gone a whole week without offending or upsetting anyone; must be losing my touch.

Tuesday, June 24

Raised beds

Not exactly a threat to Riverford, but the lettuce are prospering.

Raining on our parade

After three days of roasted rib of beef and everything that accompanies it, I need some respite – perhaps a meat-free day? On Sunday we shared a table with four vegetarians, three of whom stared longingly at our plates. But then a change, as they say, is as good as a rest. I certainly need a rest after this past week – a holiday to recover from our holiday. Rain is forecast today, one hour before England kick off. A bloody shower is an apt description for the current World Cup debacle – raining on our wonderful parade. For now,  however, and thanks to performances from the likes of Mexico, the Sahara-like weather continues.

Monday, June 23

El Dorado

Ten hours kip, last night. Ten hours!? My body isn’t what it used to be; whose is? Too much food; too much of the good stuff. They tell me it’s not good for you, but at the time I feel so good. Fantastic footy. And today, more of the same. Blue skies…bodies toasting on the lawn. El Dorarado: otherwise known as doing my bit in support of our buoyant economy.

Sunday, June 22

Salad days

Always providing, that is, the caterpillars keep their distance. Following a blow-out Sunday lunch at Riverford Field Kitchen we retired to the boardwalk, where our inebriated bodies slowly dissolved into their constituent parts, savaged by a fierce afternoon sun and a plague of vindictive horse flies. Despite the attraction of my portable record player (a 60/70s soundtrack), one by one our guests have thrown in the towel, seeking sanctuary in the office and leaving me with the bottle. Yesterday the temperature inside of the homestead exceeded 40˚ and today is little better? I’m reluctant to sacrifice a moment of this oh so rare spell of sunshine. Mrs G., bless her heart – and resembling a refugee from the American Dust Bowl of the 30s – is weeding her lettuce.

Thursday, June 19

The glorious weather continues

Blue skies, blazing heat. Sit out on the yard for more than two minutes and you fry. At sun-up our guests were already swanning about the lawn in dressing gowns, effecting a louche Noel Coward look and anticipating another day of living it large. Fine wine and fine dining, glued to the action from Royal Ascot and the World Cup. I anticipate a run down to Dartmouth this morning to dangle our feet in the water and let someone else do the cooking … What with talk of assistance to foreign parts it would be difficult to ignore the strike aircraft practising low-level runs above the homestead.

Sunday, June 15

It's only a game

Having been up and out at four-thirty yesterday morning I could have done without another late night – but you have to do your duty. Whilst retaining my usual naïve optimism throughout the match, in retrospect the result was inevitable. An entertaining game you’d pay good money to watch; then we lose. And I get to follow the remaining games as the sole Englishman in a house full of Jocks. If all we have to worry about is the misfortune of our national football team then we ain’t doing too badly.

Saturday, June 14

Hope and anticipation is usually better than reality

Enthused as I am by Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell chronicles, Mrs G. dragged me up to Somerset this morning to walk around Cothay Manor. Part of BBC’s Wolf Hall adaptation was filmed in Cothay, the manor – which dates from the period – being portrayed as the home of Thomas More. What the Boss really wanted was to attend a plant fair being held in the grounds. Needless to say, her subterfuge – the smell of the beeswax and wood smoke – worked its spell. The downside for me was Saturday motorists, a different breed to weekdays. Half get under your feet whilst the rest are tailgating you. We returned home in plenty of time for the late afternoon kick-off. Three games/day is already exacting a toll. In deference to my sensibilities Mrs G. has left the Prosecco in the pantry, tonight’s supper will be accompanied by English cider and a large dose of wishful thinking.

Friday, June 13

Samba-style footy

The World Cup has finally kicked off and for once we get to watch the action in almost Brazilian-style weather, basking in glorious sunshine. The elusive yellow thing has come as welcome relief as there is lots to do outside in the yard. Our homestead may be situated in an idyllic location but the place is relatively high maintenance and something of a challenge for a congenitally lazy bugger such as myself. The upside to summer is a wealth of flora and fauna: the downsides being it needs cutting or killing on a daily basis. Everything stings, bites or burns, necessitating large infusions of quinine. The neighbour, made of hardier stock, was out until one in the morning cutting silage, rising again at four-thirty for milking. She asked me to help lift a ewe that had escaped, back over the barbed wire. After struggling for a minute with the rear end, the good lady shouldered me out of the way and hefted it across on her own. Women can be an intimidating breed, especially when haranguing you with a riding crop from the saddle of a 17 hand gelding.

Tuesday, June 10

The forgotten stuff will stay forgotten

We finally got around to unpacking several boxes that had been languishing in a shed since our 2006 move. Stuff that back then wasn’t considered germane to everyday life but deemed too important to throw away…perhaps of dubious sentimental value. In the digital age do I really need a giant atlas that weighs fifteen or more pounds? Billy Joel in vinyl? Commemorative plates celebrating the 1970s? Conversely there are a couple of old photos and caricatures that elicit a chuckle, are a fond remembrance of someone – of another life. Our modern lives are wiped clean every couple of years with the passing of each computer. In future the forgotten stuff will stay forgotten.

Sunday, June 8

Surfacing for air

It has been a busy week with neither time nor inclination for the outside world ... Although the media are cock-a-hoop at Cameron’s win in Newark, I fail to share their conviction in Ukip’s demise and suspect Dick Dastardly will continue to play a blinder all the way to the general election. In the words of that great Elton John song, expecting the fruitcakes and loons to pack up their deck chairs and bugger off home prior to the big match is just Pissing in the Wind … What with the wind – the thunder storms, there’s no barbecue this weekend. What we do have is red deer in the yard rather than the more usual roe deer. Although enchanted by their appearance, Mrs G. will be less than pleased if the beasts begin feasting on her vegetable patch … Friday was the Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey. The pendulum appears to have swung away from artisan blacksmiths and settled in Kirstie Allsopp territory – lots of pretty fluff for the ladies. Today is Open Farm Sunday, an opportunity for the neighbours to demonstrate their shearing and milking skills. And hopefully a couple of hours dry weather.

Sunday, June 1

The stuff of impressionist painters

Although we have acres of bluebells rather than fields of lavender, what with the dappled light and balmy temperature there’s a definite air of Provence about the moor. Plenty of walkers out today. I also bumped into several neighbours, which – given our quasi-metropolitan propensity to privacy – was quite an occasion. Together with restless Furze Chitters, the pesky midges are out in force. It is impossible to work outside without a liberal coating of jungle-strength insect repellent. I lit a serious bonfire to lay down smoke, little good that it did. After playing the honest labourer to Mrs G’s Charlie Dimmock, I smell like a rancid kipper. As reward I am snacking on tapenade and anchoïade, along with a bottle of something special from the region.