Saturday, June 27

Dartmouth/Dudley cuisine

With the departure of our guests from The Hawthorns I am reduced to finishing off dregs from various bottles and snacking on leftovers - bubble and squeak. Given our diet these past couple of days, the fried fish (outstanding) and chips and mushy peas, barbecued black puddin's and chorizo, steak pasties and carrot cake...I'm looking forward to a return of the green stuff. Although the Southwest has its overly quiet moments, like Glastonbury, these past couple of days have been enjoyably loud. A successful weekend-type break, albeit a plumbing malfunction led to everyone queueing for the shower. Given what's happened in Tunisia - another wonderful destination - I suspect we will witness more of the staycation syndrome this summer. England's affection for Europe and by implication our taking an enhanced share of the wrong sort of immigration is probably not what Cameron banked on. If someone is intent on murdering you it seems foolish to open the front door and wave them in.

Sunday, June 21

When cute and fluffy crosses the line

I go the extra mile, rescuing spiders and repatriating creepy-crawly things outside the homestead, am indulgent with flies, wasps, hornets…mice, voles, bats. I acknowledge an obligation to share the yard with families of moles, turn a blind eye to the damage inflicted by badgers – accept the stink of fox piss and neighbours’ feral cats. Occasionally, however, critters cross the line, and a cull is necessary. Unfortunately as I don’t care for the taste and can’t be arsed skinning the little suckers, a growing cairn of squirrels is going to waste.

Friday, June 19

Day at the races

The yard is filled with a zillion yellow-striped insects, and broad-bodied chasers in sky blue. Even with the irritating cuckoo and that marauding band of jackdaws, it doesn’t get much better. A neighbour dropped by this morning, having returned from a holiday in California. It was his first visit to the States and the lad was effusive in his praise: the friendliness of the natives, the cleanliness and efficiency, high standard of service… I couldn’t argue with his assessment, but then directed him to what lies under his nose – and that we’re much less likely to be murdered in our beds.

I’ve erected a large umbrella as there’s nothing worse than drinking beneath the full glare of a noonday sun. An al fresco lunch seemed appropriate for the fourth day of Royal Ascot. What with the plethora of magenta and violet-coloured flowers, the yard almost resembles yesterday’s Ladies Day. Is it about horse racing or women’s frocks I wonder? Can we balance the televison coverage of interviews with narcissistic ladies, with lads at the bar or the bookies; and is there anything on television that doesn’t feature Clare Balding?

A chimichurri sauce and bottle of Malbec sits readying itself, with a 3 kgs slab of asado de entrecote waiting for on fire to settle down. Let’s hope my contest with the turf accountant is an improvement on yesterday’s performance.

Thursday, June 18

A boisterous lot

A gang of daws in the yard continues to attract new members. Last night I estimated their number at around forty – a boisterous lot that root amongst the red clover for seeds and insects. We also host two nests of swallows this year, a family of wrens, competing robin families – our new national bird, wagtails, tree creepers, sparrows, and countless blackbirds. A green woodpecker calls by regularly for ants; yellowhammers and a pair of bullfinches provide additional colour. Up above in the furze, stonechats hold sway. This week, for no particular reason, we have seagulls?

Tuesday, June 16

Variety is the spice of life?

Life is much more complicated, nuanced, than it used to. We are obliged to accommodate a myriad of diverse sorts, of contradictory demands – and it is impossible to please everyone all of the time. At different moments of the day, depending on the direction of the wind, I find I can identify with most everyone and almost no one.

Thursday, June 11

They’re falling like ninepins

Twice a day in the 1940s Marguerite Patten taught housewives how to craft mock duck from cooking apples and sausage meat. Duck Man Dan had something more authentic for our supper this evening. A succession of themed dishes that kicked off with an excellent duck liver parfait on brioche; smoked duck breast with wild garlic ‘capers’; a salad of duck hearts, livers and gizzards; crispy duck leg on steamed buns, with pickled chill, miso kewpie and kimchi; fresh vegetable cooked in duck fat; and slow-cooked braised neck of duck with white cabbage and caraway. Afterwards what else but duck egg custard tart. It was a big ask but someone has to eat this sort of thing – and I'm sure Ms Patten would have approved.

Tuesday, June 9

Read the manual before you begin

A month ago when it opened I went along to the Benedict Rubbra exhibition and was totally underwhelmed. I returned this morning and – thanks entirely to the rejigged lighting – it is transformed. A creature of habit I subsequently wandered along the street for a beer and prawn curry, before taking delivery of my new specs, purchasing supplies and heading back home. I’m hardly a misanthrope but the less time I spend in company of the rank and file the better my general disposition. Now the election is over there seems little reason to read the papers, whilst the BBC appear to have given over its entire news coverage to a propaganda campaign in support of our assimilating ten billion migrant Africans – the Dog & Duck is still recovering from the recent appearance of a Bob Marley tribute band. I spent this afternoon fitting a new fuel line to what is fancifully referred to as the tractor (my ride-on mower): I should probably have emptied the fuel tank prior to removing it.

Saturday, June 6

Jake Jnr

What else on Derby Day but barbecue. Not just burnt meat but rolled sirloin burnt meat, dressed with chimichurri sauce and a mountain of salad leaves – the allotment already pulling its weight in produce. I’m wearing a top hat for effect, though my look is more The Comancheros than My Fair Lady.

Friday, June 5

Let’s hear it for the talented

To Bovey Tracey this morning, escorting Mrs G. to The Contemporary Craft Festival. Lots of young women exhibiting shiny pretty things of interest to bohemian spinsters and gays. Lunch at a local cafĂ©, the sort of food you presume people buy from Iceland. At least this afternoon’s Oaks lived up to expectations. Fifty to one: there’s hope for us all.

Tuesday, June 2

It ain't summer yet

It’s still blowing a gale this morning, and although the yard is strewn with the usual debris, pooling of rainwater – after a cursory inspection – we appear to have survived intact. Thought I’d lost the ponies but they were just hunkered down. …Sad news on Charles Kennedy front – I guess we all have our demons.