Saturday, April 30

Shooting fish in a barrel

Celtic boss Ronny Deila says five-in-a-row title victory is an "unbelievable achievement".

Swings and roundabouts

Relative values … it’s a swings and roundabouts thing. I acquired a whole calves liver from a neighbour for five quid. It’s up there in terms of taste and texture with the bonito I ate earlier, at a fraction of the price. The meal was washed down with a silky Châteauneuf from Gigonda. No giveaway but worth every penny. If you ignore the licence fee, Erik Satie’s composition was ex gratia.

Mi casa, su casa

As long as you don’t want to share my lunch. Yesterday’s shell on prawns were the best: and yet today’s tuna belly, the stuffed baby squid and razor shell clams… I watched Rick Stein’s Icelandic weekend last night and draw the line at Kæstur hákarl, putrid shark. We are continually castigated for our indifference to food – relative to the Spanish and Portuguese (the Italians...) for instance – but you can take these things too far.

Sauce for the goose

How can I regret stating the truth? says Ken. Because, you arsehole, the rest of us are continually hauled over the coals for 'stating the truth'. Why should you be any different? Mr Hate, leave our state. Racists are not welcome here. Like as not, Livingston and Trump are sides of the same coin.

Wednesday, April 27

Hindsight-bias and important truths

David Aaronovitch pens the first ‘let’s take a deep breath and think back’ moment I’ve read since yesterday’s judgement by the Hillsborough jury. Even the wrinklies among us sometimes forget what the state of play was in the 1980s. Many of the commentators I have listened to today were still in primary school. We tend to look back and see what we want to see, our recollections coloured by the benefit of experience and hindsight-bias, context and prejudices long forgotten.

Our first cuckoo of the season,

Wordsworth’s wandering voice. During the last two years there have been over 2,000 recorded sightings of cuckoos across Devon, with 90% of them on Dartmoor. I have no idea as to the incidence of duplication. A couple of years ago several were tagged by the BTO, their movement tracked by satellite. I believe six crashed and burned in short order, reflecting the ongoing decline in their numbers – the RSPB designating cuckoos a Red List species.

Tuesday, April 26

Surf and turf

Tonight’s supper: jellied eels and sirloin steak. Probably one of those things that fits into the category of ‘an acquired taste’.

I’m listening to commentary from the Etihad on the wireless, and it occurs to me the only time I actually watched City in a live European match was also a semi-final: the European Cup Winners’ Cup against Shalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen – Lee, Summerbee, Bell and Bowyer et al. I can’t remember much of the game, but I recall we drank lots of beer and dined on Bratwurst and Pommes Frites.

A T-bone elephant steak anyone?

“You can feed 50 campers with an elephant’s foot. If you fed refugees 500 grams of elephant a day, you could feed around half a million people year round with the elephant currently going to waste.”

Places to go, things to do

Up at half-six this morning. Stood in the yard admiring the sunshine and roses; then out of the blue sky a sudden squall of sleet, followed by snow. Ne’er cast a clout, as Mrs G. would say.

The familiar seasonal establishment is in place with both the mistle thrush and the song thrush prominent members. Sparrows, too, not as common as you’d think hereabouts. A pair of tinkling goldfinch are also nesting. Thankfully little of the vegetation has begun growing in earnest. Perversely, though there are more daylight hours, the time available at this time of the year seems to shrink and life speeds up.

Would that life could be simplified by a mathematical equation, says Gary Lineker. Unfortunately life is rarely that simple.

Sunday, April 24

Man Utd v Palace

Guaranteed to be fun in the Gudgeon homestead (given next week's visitors).

Cheap, supposedly healthy and crap

I’ve learnt not to criticise other’s lifestyle choices. Despite or because of my chequered past and a conservative mindset I am happy to live and let live. So-called ‘value chicken’, however, is a real wind up. Chicken was a once or twice a year luxury food when I was a kid, but is now reckoned to be cheaper, pound for pound, than bread. I can’t recall the last time I paid less than ten quid for a chicken, despite the Kwik-E-Mart knocking them out for little more than two pounds. Whilst being first in line to label George Monbiot a nob, if you had been inside a chicken factory you too would be reluctant to sanction this sort of crap.

Yet more fish

Another sunny day at the homestead. I have been spoilt again with a lunch of fried, crumbed hake and a dish of fennel baked in cream – more of that stuff from Marseilles. Spent the morning repairing my ride-on mower, only to return to the internet for additional spares. ...The sparrows have set up home in the barn and appear resigned to Sundays on Radio 5 live. ...Am struggling to engage with the current political climate, not least thanks to that smooth-talking tosser from across the pond. I understand the arguments well enough, but I don’t have to celebrate the inevitable. As to the inevitable … let’s hear it for Sunderland. As with many I remain conflicted as regards Leicester and Tottenham.

Saturday, April 23

Saturday is fish day

A stew of monk fish, hake, scallops and prawn, whatever was available at the market. Maybe a bottle or two of something from Cassis, a taste of the Mediterranean. St George’s Day today AND Shakespeare’s birthday. A cup semi-final from Wembley. Sunshine. Life struggles to disappoint, unless, of course, your name is Mark Hughes.

Lucien Freud's inheritance tax

I doubt that grainy black and white photograph of yours truly slumped across a table in the Dog & Duck would swing it with HMRC.

Friday, April 22

Running out of steam

After a decade of support I suspect it is time to pull the plug on Exeter’s Food Festival. Chefs such as Michael Caines have tried hard to promote the foodie potential of the Southwest. Unfortunately there appears too few people, customers, that prioritise quality produce and who are willing to put their hand in their pocket. It isn’t worth the time and effort (and expense) of advertising your wares to an audience that regards an M&S chill cabinet as haute cuisine. Ok I’m being unkind, but every year the festival shrinks a little more – is in danger of becoming a venue for jam, fudge and cupcakes. Thanks to Mary Berry everyone has come to believe they are capable of baking cakes for the Queen’s birthday, when in truth it is best left to the professionals. So far this week I’ve eaten pastries and sticky buns from Ella’s in Ashburton and Exeter’s Exploding Bakery, and there is no comparison. I acknowledge the festival has live music of an evening (hopefully better than the Weatherspoon’s rejects performing this morning) and there is an impressive selection of beers on sale. But eight quid to get through the door?

Thursday, April 21

Goodbye Victoria, hello Prince

Such is our fleeting attention. Let’s face it, they’re dropping like flies. Toning down the extent to which we fetishize celebrity death may be worth a thought. The successive obits and wakes and public rending of garments is verging on the pathological.

The grim state of popular music

The Who, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney … and Adele. The last time we found ourselves in this position punk was born. What now?

Wishful thinking

In the spirit of solidarity I’ve been into the bookies at Totnes and put money on Albion to beat Arsenal this evening.

Everyone’s favourite granny turns 90

I would hardly describe myself as a Royalist, but the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. President Blair, Hillary Clinton or a superannuated Jean-Claude Juncker-type? Worse, still, the popular vote of a Britain’s got talent competition; maybe one of our national treasures, preferably a live one. I suspect Hartlepool got it right when electing their mayor.

Wednesday, April 20

Middle-life tipplers living it large

So this is what it’s come to, what is classed as binge drinking. Middle-life tippers (40-somethings), accused of ‘glugging down Rag Week amounts of grog’: “You go for Sunday lunch and then have a beer in the garden afterwards.”

It is even worse for the succeeding generation: “It kind of makes my leg hair follicles feel like they’re standing out,” says Isham, a 33-year-old audio visual technician whose grey hoodie is decorated with a Bernie Sanders sticker and button.

Tuesday, April 19

One day everything will be gone

Inspired by my neighbour’s tales, following his recent Asian jaunt, I have been contemplating a couple of trips myself. Enthusiasm ebbs and flows. Travel writer Sean Thomas writes from the glorious sunlit chilli fields of Bhutan’s subtropical Punakha valley, bemoaning the future for tourism. He paints a woeful picture of glorious sights submerged beneath a sea of Germans, Americans, Japanese and Brits, of a future engulfed by the recently ennobled Chinese middle class. I can’t fault his logic in foreseeing a time when the best foreign travel will be reserved for the lucky, the wealthy and Prince William. Even in my native Cornwall, Thomas observes, it can take 90 minutes to drive nine miles into St Ives.

Maybe I should just stay home, where I trust there will be many such mornings as today’s. Glorious sunshine and a pair of circling swallows … primrose, bluebells and hawthorn blossom … frolicking lambs fresh from the oven  ... wave after wave of pesky bank voles. The yard is a vista of nest building and territorial skirmishes. I am engaged in ongoing spring maintenance, and the homestead has become a metaphor for my body. I’m reluctant to poke too deep for fear of discovering what lies beneath.

Sunday, April 17

Post Brexit leadership

It is unlikely David Cameron would play a part in European renegotiation (in the event of a Brexit vote), as his reputation would likely be up there with Blair's.

F’ckn referees, and commentators

Twenty minutes gone and Leicester had already won the title. Or so they said. One up for the romantics. But then twenty minutes to go things looked a lot different. The lad from Cannock doesn’t attract my enmity as much as that of Mrs G’s, a wife beater and all that. Even so … arseholes-r-us, as they say.

Thursday, April 14

Swallows under evening skies

We have a blackbird on almost every twig in the yard. Goldfinches and robins, thrushes and woodpeckers … and then this afternoon our first swallow arrived. There’s little better than these early days of spring – a supper of gravlax and Mrs G’s blinis pure gravy. I recall a restaurant in the centre of Oslo that serves a passable version.

Tuesday, April 12

Protein intake

Lunch these past few days has included a pair of ginormous Cornish lobsters, some of the finest grilled lamb chops I have eaten, and a barbecued chicken. Methinks a spell of lentil cutlets is due.

Sunday, April 10

The ultimate stereotype

From what I read in the papers Ukip’s train seems to have left the tracks … hit the buffers. However such is the lad’s drawing power, this week’s ‘Lunch with the FT’ column features you-know-who. Farage the man plays to type; it’s both his strength and his weakness. Marmite Man. The Lamb was my local in the Bevis Marks’ days, Simpson’s Tavern a lunchtime favourite. Nigel is as familiar, and something of a comfort blanket. Unfortunately the world around us has moved on … as Janan Ganesh alludes, it inherited the fruit of our effort but affords us little credit in return. Thankfully we still have the vote, along with our triple lock pension.

Breaking News: Self-righteous politicians with no pot to piss in demonstrate their moral superiority.

Each to their own

I don't ask for much from life ... look forward to. So why does the BBC insist on ruining my Sunday lunch by having that girl host MOTD2 Extra? How can you relate to someone who is surrounded by lads that are old enough to be her dad, or in Mark Lawrenson's case her granddad.

Friday night’s dinner with aficionados from the rugby club was hugely enjoyable but almost certainly detrimental to my health. I was comatose through to seven Saturday morning. Gudgeon remains a rarity in this neck of the woods, given my neighbours are all rugger (or racing) people. I try to show interest, today listening to Leicester’s match against Stade Français on the wireless. In the end I sneaked away to follow the action from The Stadium of Light. I want the Foxes to win the Premier Division but am also a Big Sam fan.

Friday, April 8

David Cameron is guilty of bad spin

And nothing more! I think we all appreciate Nelson's point. However it’s gratifying to see the smug bastard getting slapped around the ear ... Whatever is bad for David Cameron is good for Brexit.

Thursday, April 7

Money talks

This is what happens when you start waving your dick about. Sponsors and customers matter: you can’t afford to offend people and still expect them to give you money. Conversely, if McEwan had grown a set of balls...

Truth is, once you have been on the go for a number of years, chances are you will have acquired an extended family and a collection of friends and acquaintances that touch just about every conceivable base. And assuming you have no desire to rubbish or offend your friends (or, more likely, the sons and daughters of your friends), you learn to keep your mouth shut.

Drifting into disrepute

Are we killing off our A&E doctors at a young age, asks Ross Clark in the Spectator. Criticising medics – merely failing to offer knee-jerk support – can land a person in trouble; after all, the NHS is our national obsession (Gudgeon has to be careful, given family association). Let’s face it, criticising the NHS is akin to rubbishing god. Sure as shit, the following day will find you either languishing in hospital or queueing outside the pearly gates. Best hedge your bets. It’s true that medicine can be detrimental to your health: two of my GPs bailed out early thanks to a fondness for drink and drugs; and having accumulated a number of friends and acquaintances from the Stephen Maturin ranks, I’m not totally ignorant of the pressures involved (not least in managing their farming interests and the property development business). As far as the current dispute is concerned, however, it is difficult to see this as anything other than a group of seemingly privileged middle-class girls determined to have it all at the expense of the public purse – to be milking the system. Drawing chalk outlines on pavements (yesterday’s protests) is the stuff of high-school students and not the action of people you would choose to entrust with your health.

Still game

Out on the moor yesterday afternoon; sunshine and sleet in equal measure. Sat watching a team of students navigate a fast-moving stream. The traditional boulder-hopping technique didn’t quite work and they finished in the drink. I had thought to tell them about the clapper bridge some 200yds upstream, but having enjoyed similar challenges myself as a teenager, decided not to spoil their fun. Our local Search & Rescue team retrieved a group from the same location when Storm Katie passed through a week or two ago. Lots of walkers just now … I have been accosted by more visitors this past week than during the last couple of months.

Wednesday, April 6

Superior verbal ability

Although men learn to cock a deaf ‘un, the fair sex never stop talking; and yet they still can’t drive.

Congrats to Rangers

Bane of the Scottish Establishment, promoted with a month to spare.

Tuesday, April 5

It wus Thatcher’s fault

I can’t believe there is still an audience for this sort of juvenile crap. But then each to their own; who could have predicted Jeremy Corbyn would one day headline at Glastonbury. Would it be wrong of me to suggest that the sort of working class community Mason mythologises – that listens to Wagner, and debates philosophical constructs in the works canteen – isn’t there any more because, like Mason, it got out and got on, became middle class.

Sunday, April 3

Sundays, sans the tourists

Dreich…caliginous…the mire. Or as we’ve come to know it: Dartmoor. This morning’s walk was typical: ‘Its tenacious grip plucked at our heels as we walked, and when we sank into it it was as if some malignant hand was tugging us down into those obscene depths, so grim and purposeful was the clutch in which it held us.’ Needless to say that, following two day’s sunshine, the wilderness is back to normal. I love those clear-day views stretching out to Torbay, but am obliged to accept that murk can be just as enjoyable. It’s an essential part of the moor’s charm, solitude being one of the principal attractions.

Saturday, April 2


Saturday mornings … James Martin is a hard act to follow; arguably the most popular lad in the kitchen since Floyd. Always good to quit while you’re ahead, rather than face down in a plate of congealed gloop.

Change can be good, we all need to reinvent ourselves from time to time. However the new format for both The Times and The Telegraph is shite.

Friday, April 1

Friday kitchen duty

Usual Friday morning visit to the fishmongers … A late breakfast of freshly-shucked oysters, and then seafood risotto for lunch. As I ate, Will Hutton was being interviewed on the box: discussing the concatenation of circumstances in relation to Port Talbot. Given the smells and stains, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between my dictionary and Mitch Tonks’ bible.