Sunday, September 28

Satorial faux pas

What a great Sunday – AND we retained the Ryder Cup. I was up across the moor at seven this morning. Not just pre-sunrise but abroad in an impenetrable and literally visionless world. It wasn’t so much the dense mist and eerie silence, as the cloak of comfort that comes from complete seclusion. Fortunately I am familiar with the path. Welsh Blacks and ghostly corvids appeared and disappeared with the fluctuating density of saturated air. Neighbours in Land Rovers towing trailers passed by, ferrying daughters and ponies to the weekend gymkhana. It’s tempting to say all is right with the world, but only until you open the Sunday papers. I had to chuckle at Andrew Marr interviewing Nick Cave on the box. I guess denim jeans and trainers are what Marr classes as casual hip? You’re not Jeremy Clarkson, you plonker. Cave wore a nice blue pin-stripe suit and a pair of smart-looking shoes.

Saturday, September 27

It keeps you relevant

I appreciate autumn has its moments – Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, etc. – but this morning was a drab start to the weekend. Grey and bleak. Not to be downhearted, however, I hit town for milk and papers at the back of eight (no one about), was up a ladder and painting by nine, vacuuming come the stroke of eleven, and barbecuing – beer in hand – by two…footy on the wireless. They could well be my final kebabs of the year and as such deserved a decent send-off. If only City could have contrived to win their game. Sunday looks even busier; what happened to those lazy weekends of old?

Thursday, September 25

Painting the Forth Bridge

It was only after I’d completed painting the homestead’s woodwork – stood back to admire my effort, that I realised the supposedly high gloss black, so liberally dispensed, was more the shade of canal sludge. A foul grey rather than BLACK. I now have to repeat the exercise, yet another coat – maybe two, only this time with BLACK paint. Gudgeon is not a happy bunny. It’s not as if this operation comes risk-free, given an aggressive south westerly has the habit of sweeping my ladder from the wall. Hitting the ground in a roll and without spilling your paint kettle is an art in itself.

Wednesday, September 24

Kippers and a glass of wine

The mere suggestion of a jaunt to Iraq and our fly boys appear above the homestead, practising their moves – additions to the Cyprus fleet will doubtless be called for. Given how much fuel my motor burns, I wonder at the mpg of these machines? At least the sky is clear. We began today chill, wet and windy, and end in glorious sunshine. The temperature inside the homestead is twenty-five degrees, but as soon as the sun goes down fires are lit. We have kippers for tea, and what’s left of the Chablis. Actually it’s an oaky concoction from the new world but that doesn’t rhyme.

Tuesday, September 23

Don’t do today…

My annual maintenance programme – painting the homestead’s exterior woodwork – has still to get going. I drove to Plymouth this morning and picked up paint and brushes, before returning home to wash down and prepare several window frames and a couple of doors. I might actually get around to painting something during the next 48hrs, although tomorrow I am booked elsewhere. If I try hard I bet I can think up several excuses for delaying further, at least until the rain arrives.

I have set another couple of mouse traps in the loft. I’ll get the bugger yet. Ditto the mole that’s resurrected Tom (or is it Dick or Harry?) at the bottom of the yard.

I bet Labour wish they could exchange Miliband for Alex Salmond. You don’t mind a rogue as long as he’s an accomplished rogue.

Even during autumn the grass grows

If he’d have lived, the old boy would be celebrating his 100th birthday today. When he was born the world was at war. Much like today, you say – albeit our battles are now being fought by others. Despite these chilly autumn mornings I burnt my face yesterday, working outside in the sunshine. Summer pleasures they are (not quite) gone.

Sunday, September 21

Changing diet, and demeanour

Despite today’s blazing sunshine, autumn means game. Earlier this week partridge; today it is grouse. Grilled peppers and aubergines give way to roasted squash and bread sauce. Hair shirts instead of polo shirts.

Friday, September 19

Thank god for the referendum result

Bacon rolls and champagne for breakfast. I knew Aberdeen wouldn’t let us down. Repatriating bank accounts and investments would have been a pain in the backside. Unfortunately the promises made to Scotland has opened a can of worms elsewhere in the country. Wales could doubtless benefit from a bung. But if you give the Welsh Assembly increased power (and money), what do you do for Greater Manchester, for instance, whose economy dwarfs that of Wales? And would Wales want it, given the inadequacy of their administration? What we can agree on is the lack of appetite for an English Parliament or more regional devolution in England. The last thing we need is another costly layer of bureaucracy – a bunch of second-rate troughers intent on spending our money and fucking with our lives. Although we despise Westminster (I don’t: it’s just rhetoric), most of our MPs can read and write.

Thursday, September 18

A momentous day for the union

Or not, as the case may be. Thanks in part to financial independence, women now escape unhappy marriages. Damn! I promised myself today would be metaphor-free. I guess it’s difficult for Westminster to promote self-determination around the world, then deny it at home. The No camp has made a poor show of it, and the Yes campaign has made the most of a favourable position. No sour grapes, however, ‘You make your bed…’ as the old girl would say. Mrs G. has planned a curry night referendum special but I won’t be drinking Tennent’s.

Wednesday, September 17

The only game in town

Even here in the sticks, reporting on the Scottish independence referendum has reached blanket proportions. While I’d prefer the result was No, it seems a growing number south of the border won’t be greatly upset by the alternative. The infamous Sunday Times poll that put the Yes camp ahead was a real shocker, realising the Scots don’t want to be part of our gang anymore. Thereafter hearts hardened – have hardened further as politicians of every stripe line up to debase themselves and offer further inducements. Signing off on these ambiguous assurances – which may well fall short of what Scotland thinks it has been promised – will be problematic in itself, let alone a divorce which would take years and involve internecine strife throughout the land. I blame Roy Hodgson: it happed on his watch. The Scotland v England game at Celtic Park this November should be a right doozy.

Sunday, September 14

How did Harold Macmillan pull it off?

Sunday morning was enlivened by the appearance of George Galloway and Tommy Sheridan on BBC’s Daily Politics show. Every word the two speak is pure bollocks, but both are hugely entertaining. Sheridan always looks as though he’s about to smack whichever unfortunate is at the other end of the microphone. Eat your heart out, Miliband, you boring arse. Not that Cameron comes across as the sort of guy you’d choose to share a pint with. Let’s face it, our elected leader – whoever that may be – is never going to be Lemmy Kilmister meets Dave Allen.

Saturday, September 13

Squirrel pie

A richly-coloured flock of goldfinches are foraging in the yard. They’ve been here for a couple of days. Whilst their group lacks the grandeur of a murmuration exaltation, the birds in flight are an impressive sight – a wanton freak, as Keats would say. And a dramatic backdrop to today’s racing from Doncaster – the St Leger, Britain’s oldest classic. Having visited the Ashburton Food & Drink Festival this morning, we returned, prior to kick-off, to lunch on our regular game dealer’s squirrel pie and a fine claret. It’s what Saturdays are made for.

Friday, September 12


Have you any idea of the damage a couple of the neighbour’s steers can do, practising their Appalachian step dancing on your lawn – particularly on ground that’s been undermined by voles.
…I thought the swallows had pushed off but there’s still a pair in the barn. Seems not everyone’s enthusiastic about leaving.
…What with the low temperature and grey mist of a morning you wouldn’t think I’d been barbecuing this week. At some stage our extended summer holiday has to end; paintbrushes are waiting in the shed.
…I’m taking a couple of hours off this morning to visit a medieval farmhouse.

Our guide to this morning’s visit painted a colourful picture of life in the 1350s when the house was originally constructed, and did his best to shock with hoary tales of rudimentary medieval domesticity. Given the downturn in various residents’ fortunes over the years, living standards at Uppacott appear to have barely improved by the early 20th Century. As late as the 1950s the house still had no running water or a WC. In truth I suspect the gap between post-war Britain and 2014 is as large as that between the 14th and early 20th Centuries. It’s fashionable to say that little changes over the years, but you have to admit life has become far more comfortable.

Thursday, September 11

Deeply divided means opportunities for some

Grief, what a circus, in Exeter. The Tour of Britain turned up today. Lots of lads in Lycra. In addition to the party atmosphere – bands and buskers, there were convoys of neat-looking team coaches, countless continental accents (together with roadies chomping on meat pies and pasties), and too many closed roads. Fortunately for me – given most others had striven to avoid the potential disruption – access routes were clear. …That’s unlike the streets of Glasgow where it appears Labour have mobilised the entire party in support of Corporal Miliband. Let’s face it, if the Sweaties do vote for independence, Labour will shoulder much of the blame. Whilst I’m reassured my bank is registering in England, foreign ownership hasn’t harmed the local job prospects for those employed by Jaguar and Land Rover. If Scotland does vote Yes, however, I imagine the backlash will insist on a transfer of employment opportunities. Who amongst us doesn’t believe that England will pour everything it has into developing the north of England as a competitive bulwark to Scotland. There’ll be opportunities for some but we will all be losers. Scrapping amongst ourselves while others take advantage.

Wednesday, September 10

Let’s hope the mythical silent majority in Scotland uses its vote

At today’s lunchtime session in the Dog & Duck I experienced a taste of what many suspect is behind much of the Scottish Yes vote: a hatred of Cameron and his class. Local sabs, as they like to style themselves, were discussing resumption of the badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset. I say discussing but it was essentially spit and bile, directed less at neighbourhood farmers whose cattle are contracting TB, than towards local landowners that hunt. Protesters, unbelievably, view the cull as some sort of sneaky payback, thought up by the hated Tories following Labour’s anti-hunt legislation. We toffs can’t kill our fluffy animals anymore, so we’ll kill yours instead? I don’t imagine you can debate with these characters. As in Scotland – from what people tell me, discussion merely invites confrontation.

Tuesday, September 9

That was better

More like the promise England displayed in the opening World Cup game against Italy, only this time with a result in our favour. England are not just passing the ball but also completing their passes, something I suspect we can attribute to the new breed of Premier League coaches. Pace, too, thanks to the team’s average age of <24. Confidence is key and this match will certainly have helped. One up for Roy. If only Team GB could exhibit a similar sort of verve. Imagine! The clock is ticking down, five minutes to go and the score remains 0–0. What’s this I see? A stirring on the substitute’s bench…and on comes Gordon fuckin’ Brown. God but I miss him. Everyone needs an Aunt Sally.

Monday, September 8

What am I missing?

Following the shock of the YouGov poll (What! They don’t like us?), and now we’ve had a day or so to mull it over, do we really believe – as George Osborne implied this morning, that we need to improve the offer? If we assume Scotland is fiscally neutral, that – given the rate of immigration and England’s current baby boom – we can replace their number over the next ten years, why are we not wishing our cousins well and helping them on their way. What am I missing? As Scotland’s departure would alleviate the need to worry about Miliband and his merry men, what – other than a few month’s argy-bargy with the markets, and having to reposition our banks and submarines – is the downside?

Sunday, September 7

I wasn't even fucking trying

“It's a think-tank situation, 95% of it is scientists. Me and Cormac [McCarthy] are the only two writers. Everybody else is a nuclear physicist. Which is cool, you know.” I know it sounds precious, but he’s always had a good line in laconic one-liners.

The Nora Batty effect

Men by contrast take a more “silent approach”. Duh! Learning to keep your head down ain’t exactly rocket science.


Thanks in part to health scare stories, unless you’re either a lard-arse or an epicurean, cheese has fallen out of fashion in recent years. When was the last time you were invited to the once ubiquitous Cheese & Wine Party? Today’s lunch was a selection from Whalesborough – the sort of cheese that bears little relationship to the crap that graces the average burger. This Sancerre Rouge ain’t bad either.

You miss ’em when they’re gone

Rats! Chattering swallows are marshalled all along the telephone lines. It must be that time of year. The sky above the homestead is blue and the forecast set fair. Why go? you ask. Yet in spite of the dangers they face on the journey, the birds still want away. Ah it looks good now, they say, but in a couple of month’s times you’ll be freezing your balls off and we will be sunning ourselves in South Africa. It’s a good point

Goodnight Vienna, or maybe Edinburgh

It is squeaky-bum time, as the latest poll threatens an end to the Union. Cue panic in the ranks, promises of more beads and shiny mirrors, recrimination and bloodletting across the realm...In the meantime, Farage breaks bread with Murdock, and the City remains on war footing, fearing a repeat of 2008. It seems our differences outweigh the similarities - Ukraine and Iraq without the guns.

Saturday, September 6

Saturday sans football

Thankfully there’s a local festival to fill the gap: a Nourishing day out in Bovey. It was fairly quiet when we arrived at the back of ten, however, the place soon warmed up. Plenty of local craft beers, tasty bites, and musical entertainment. Though I recently decided to take a break from dairy products, sucker that I am, I returned home with eight cheeses (and a chocolate cake). It was fun, full of local people, the sort that Matthew Parris so obviously despises – little queen that he is. For whatever reason The Times appears intent on offending its subscribers.

Friday, September 5

Warm bodies

Sathnam Sanghera confirms the adage ‘Crap in, Crap out.’ And while we’re discussing verbal diarrhoea, who are those two ghastly women discussing Iraq and Ukraine on the Daily Politics?

Fish and feta

The silence early morning is wonderful. Before the chatter starts, the whining and threats, the atrocities, the lies – 24hr news has a lot to answer for. In that pristine stillness after the clock tower chimes six you can just about catch the sound of a distant cockerel and the burn as it exits the moor and snakes down through the yellow gorse. Although the bats have returned to their lair, the swallows have yet to appear – it is more a half-hearted twitter than a dawn chorus. …The homestead seems a lot emptier since the ponies left us. It’s said the grass is always greener and in their case it was, having stripped the yard clean. Never mind, today is a Friday. Fridays are always Greek Salad and Fish.

Thursday, September 4

Those were the days

I switched off last night’s match half way through. Life’s too short. They’re a desperate bunch, and like most I was ready to write ’em off before kick-off. It’s not just England’s abject performance in Brazil. Let’s face it, who amongst us wouldn’t rather watch or listen to a league programme. Who’d have thought – given Gudgeon was a teenager back in ’66 – that it would come to this. I was going to add that at least I’m not a German, given their result against Argentina, but then Germany has a World Cup in the cupboard – they’re allowed an off night. For England it’s been all downhill since the day Mary Hopkin broke into song.

Wednesday, September 3

The challenge of idleness

Keynes worried that it might be ‘a fearful problem for the ordinary person, with no special talents, to occupy himself’ when there is no drudgery at hand.

 And this is why god invented the internet.

All downhill from here

In this morning’s Times, Finkelstein reminds us that turkeys never vote for Xmas, and that – despite the current engagement of the Scottish electorate – politics of the future (carefully assembled coalitions, pragmatism, concessions, taking one step backwards to take two steps forward) will become increasingly frustrating and far less fun.

Tuesday, September 2

Heads you win, tails I lose

Given YouGov’s latest poll it seems the separatists are winning the argument. And after listening to this morning’s debate on the box, the argument appears to be about realising the dream of a socialist nirvana. Given Mrs G’s ethnicity, I’m always minded to listen to her opinion – even though she doesn’t get a vote. It’s been interesting to watch the lady morph from her original No position, to tentatively supporting the Yes camp. I still think the electorate will give it the old pollice verso…but you never know. Imagine that the Scots go their own way, and in the 2015 General Election, Ukip splits the Tories – with the left-leaning conservative vote deserting to the LibDems (stranger things have happened). And Miliband still wins! Argh.

Two for joy? I don’t think so

Magpies can be irritating buggers – there’s two outside my window just now. In Somerset they’re called chatternags, and for good reason. Never marry a woman named Meg. Eating a mixture of ground-up magpie used to be thought to cure epilepsy, on the basis that consuming a chatterer could neutralize the chattering disease. … The female cones on our Chilean pine continue to explode, scattering shrapnel across the yard. I’ll leave its tasty seeds to the indigenous people of Arauco. They play havoc with the mower (the seeds not the indigenous people of Arauco). … Mince has been kicked into touch in favour of our every growing surplus of eggs, beetroot and courgettes. There’s also a frightening amount of celery and marrows waiting in the wings.

Monday, September 1

Autumn optimism

Although early hopes for an Indian summer were raised by the forecasters, it has yet to arrive at the homestead. Visibility out on the moor this afternoon was 30yds at best, and I returned soaked to the skin. The first day of autumn and on cue leaves rain down from the trees. No complaints from Gudgeon, however: given this past four months it would be churlish. And wasn’t it Fitzgerald who wrote ‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.’