Thursday, June 30

What goes around…

I thought our weather was supposed to improve – it’s blowing a hoolie and piddling down. A bunch of DoE participants camped nearby have just knocked on the door with empty jerry cans. I trust they won’t expect breakfast. Four days and three nights on the moor … rather them than me. Oh to be sixteen again? Not really, though I guess it was fun at the time. I recall Harold Wilson announcing that the UK had decided to apply for EEC membership.

The shapely one

The Blue Morpho Butterfly is one of the largest butterflies in the world. It lives in the tropical forests of Latin America, from Mexico to Columbia … and now apparently in Totnes, given one touched down in front of me this morning. I assume it is an escapee from Buckfast.

Identity issues and the referendum

Despite traditional manual and routine jobs making up just a quarter of Britain’s economy and in the face of massive economic and social change over the last three decades, many people (60%), even those in professional and managerial jobs, choose to identify themselves as working class – a similar figure to when Margaret Thatcher won her landslide second election victory. Those who say they are working class are believed to be socially conservative and far more likely to be opposed to immigration, one of the defining issues of the EU Referendum. The Guardian says that in order to counteract any natural inclination, Britain needs to pay less attention to flag, nation, anthem and culture.

Good luck with that, is my initial thought, especially in Scotland. I’ve no idea how we square so many circles, other than to muddle through in the same conciliatory manner we usually do. …After checking the rack behind the back door it would appear I own five flat caps. Regretfully there are no pigeons or whippets in the yard. Let’s face it, the rush by Stephen Crabb and Sadiq Khan et al. to consecrate themselves as working class is almost as boorish as the Eton tag.

Wednesday, June 29

I’m with Jeremy

It has become a truism that the political class have more in common with each other than their electorate. Witness the bile directed at Jeremy Corbyn by fellow opposition MPs in comparison with the Labour leader’s popularity amongst party members. Likewise the hissing and booing of Douglas Carswell at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Carswell enjoys a decent mandate from Clacton’s voters, to say nothing of the 3.8m votes Ukip won at the General Election (12.6% of the vote – equivalent to the LibDems and SNP combined). Labour members elected Corbyn because they were fed up with the status quo. Yet after our having voted to leave the EU the status quo still has nothing new to say to voters. While Corbyn could well be leading Labour to oblivion, sometimes it’s better to depart in a blaze of glory rather than as a wet fart.

Life goes on

In bed at half-nine; slept through to eight this morning. In need of a kip, a return to routine. Tumultuous days, fires stoked by a frenzied media and the need to feed our 24hr news. Optimism, not begging, is the way forward. How we behave in times of crisis will dictate the way we are judged when it’s over.

Not sure about King Boris. Is there anything inside that giant dome of his? In this morning’s Times Finkelstein reminds us that Tory favourites usually fall at the first fence. But then like many commentators, so far at least, Finkelstein has been on the wrong side of the argument.

Watching the European Parliament in action yesterday confirmed my prejudices. A shower of jobsworths. Although they remain an important component in resolving this situation – tidying up the paperwork, I suspect the real deals will be done between heads of nation states in smoke filled rooms well away from Brussels. What do I know. Having poked my blunt stick where it shouldn’t be poked, I can only sit back and watch.

Monday, June 27


Thank god I’m not Roy Hodgson. What a disappointing shower. Well done Iceland.

Sunday, June 26

Sunshine, sangria and football

The homestead is entertaining stalwarts of the banking industry this weekend, individuals from Swedish and Spanish institutions. Brexiteers. It seems everyone is imbued with the spirit of the times, a mixture of insurrection and optimism. Am enjoying the party while it lasts.

Friday, June 24

Mark Carney speech

A strange set piece. The Dog & Duck landlord serving someone at the Off Licence door.


I’ve just woken. Retired to my pit at half-six this morning after staying up to follow the referendum roller coaster. On a scale of one to ten this is up there with the apprehension I felt at the outset of the Falklands conflict. I don’t mean to make a war analogy, I mean with regards to the stakes involved. This time, however, we are all on the front line.

Thursday, June 23

Where do we go from here?

John Harris writes in this morning’s Guardian. “But what is now happening elsewhere in the UK (south of the border) underlines a tangle of other stuff – to do with culture, belonging and community – that is going to require a completely different level of response.” Another commentator reminds us that “People need mythologies, people need nationalisms and people need religions. How people get identities that provide emotional enrichment, without ending up with dangerous forms of extremism, is quite problematic.” Addressing English nationalism – Englishness – continues to challenge for our opinion formers. It makes them uncomfortable and conflicts with their competitive need to display a heightened level of virtue signalling. Rather than address Harris’s point, commentators demonize those such as Farage and by implication the very people driven to vote for him. These voters are not going to plump for a Corbyn or Yvette Cooper-led party. They might well vote for a David Davis-led party or even one fronted by Boris. But then the Conservatives don’t want them either. They’re not the future.

Wednesday, June 22

Decision time

This has become as much a civil war as the Thatcher years, and hostilities will continue long after Friday. When the referendum date was announced back in February I thought it would be a walkover for Remain. Yet somehow, unbelievably, Cameron and Osborne have buggered it up. Piss ups and breweries ain’t in it. As someone who spent the bulk of his career residing in the heart of multi-cultural London, working in Europe, my head and heart (to say nothing of my wallet) was for Remain. Such has been the hectoring and bullying, however, the deification of some and demonization of others, I have been dragged kicking and screaming to the other side of the room. I vote for leave.


Truck takes out telegraph pole this morning (driving too fast). Telephone line dangling above lane, waiting to wrap itself around the first tractor that appears. I ring Openreach to report fault and conduct a tedious ten minute conversation with someone in India.

Monday, June 20

You wouldn’t buy a used car from any of them

Driving back from Exeter this morning I heard the LibDem pipsqueak Farron quoting a much used statistic, that European immigrants had made a net contribution of £20bn to the UK economy over the past decade. I suspect this figure comes from a piece of research undertaken by University College London. However once the cost of public services has been deducted, the overall impact is, at best, thought to be neutral (Guardian). As with all statistics bandied about during the referendum campaign, each is used selectively. Lies, damned lies, and statistics, as Disraeli may or may not have said. The BBC runs a Reality Check programme to inform the voting public, but that too is best taken with a large pinch of salt. Despite much pious rhetoric in the wake of Jo Cox, the excrement continues to flow.

Sunday, June 19

Have stopped listening

A disappointing absence of campaigners at Totnes Good Food Market this morning, certainly nothing in the way of Nazi propaganda. Good to see Osborne moderating his invective. I guess we should be thankful we’re not on the other side of the pond. In terms of hate speech America has us licked, with Clinton reportedly proposing to fund $27m worth of television adverts branding Trump divisive, cruel and ready to incite violence. Stocked up on the usual goods and purchased veal steaks for lunch. My current ‘obligatory’ health kick is heavy on such delights as Mrs G’s home-grown green stuff and stewed fruit with goat milk yogurt. I’m eating more apples and oranges than a cage full on chimps. Even when the nag factor is taken into account, for most men, the correlation between marriage and a longer life span – having someone to regulate your diet – is a big plus. It has rained all day and for most of it I’ve remain slumped within four feet of a blazing stove. Am currently listening to Sunday Night Brass on the local radio station (Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) until the Switzerland v France game kicks off. Trust me, it’s a lot more entertaining than being lied to by Führer Cameron who is appearing on BBC’s Question Time special.

Reasons to quit are always qualified

Adair Turner (former head of the FSA) in the FT: “Whereas the Eurozone (unlike Japan) really does worry me because it is a society of large and imperfectly integrated ethnic, religious and cultural minorities, large and to a degree uncontrolled migration flows, still-too-high unemployment and huge internal imbalances…If immigration were the only issue I could be a Brexiter.”

Many of the commentators I’ve read this weekend use the weasel ‘if’qualification, and the result next Thursday seems to depend on the number of people who believe Brexit won’t affect their pocket. Unfortunately for Remain I suspect a fair number of voters think that although Brexit could result in short term shocks to the UK economy it will not affect them personally because they don’t believe the Cameron/Osborne threats to cut public services or to raise taxes.

This morning's papers and television talk shows reflect a resumption in hostilities, however such is the public distrust of politicians and the media, some pollsters believe the outcome of the referendum will be determined by conversations taking place around the dinner table, in the works canteen, and at the bar of the Dog & Duck. It could be the cartoon in yesterday's Times (Saloon Bar Politics) will come back to bite them.

Saturday, June 18

Whatever works for you

Jamie Vardy's gym workout revealed: lifting a can of Red Bull and sucking tobacco.

Deathly quiet this morning

Fledged swallows are hoovering insects from a foot or two above the ground; the barn is an aviary. Our rabbits have disappeared but we appear to have gained a hare and a couple of neighbourhood dogs in pursuit. Having eaten most of what we have, the sheep have been moved to new pasture. In their place we have two ponies to look after. They tell me the going is good to soft and drying for the final day at Ascot, which means I need to be outside cutting grass. Never, ever, treat your grass with EverGreen Complete.

Friday, June 17

Dinner tonight

Mousehole bouillabaisse. The monkfish and prawns are augmented with scallops and clams. Although there’s a bottle waving to me from the fridge, in between visitors, Gudgeon is taking a couple of weeks off. Have already dropped four pounds.

Retire to the trenches

Hostilities are suspended as the country goes into full Princess Diana-style lockdown. A tragic death…chance to take a deep breath. It seems the United Kingdom is a divided country, as is much of Europe and the United States – the World. Here in the sticks the situation is little different. One side of the hedge is decidedly ‘Vote to leave’. In a nearby field there are teams of Eastern Europeans picking cabbages. For every redneck farmer or country squire there is a green voting, Greenpeace supporting, hunt sab lesbian. At election time we usually reach a compromise; but referendums, as Scotland has discovered, don’t work like that – they polarise and entrench. As the front page of today’s Big Issue says: ‘The Winner Takes It All.’ I’ve just read Martin Sandbu’s article in Prospect magazine – throughout the debate I have tried to follow the pros and cons, understand the issues. Yet I remain on the fence. The talking heads consensus says there’s a lot of shit coming down the pipeline and we can best sort it by working together. The consensus on the street is ‘What part of NO do you, our elected representatives, not understand?’ Two of our prominent local MPs, Sarah Wollaston and Johnny Mercer, were each given strong mandates, yet both have responded to the challenge with a finger to their electorate. Frustrating for those of us who are asked to trust to democracy and to believe in our representatives. I doubt I will make up my mind until standing in the booth with pencil in hand. Right now I am retiring to my trench to watch Italy v Sweden.

Thursday, June 16

Too close for comfort

I began to panic around the eighty-ninth minute. Thrilling stuff.

Wednesday, June 15

The Spectator for Brexit

Who'd have thunk it. Big Issue and War Cry and it will be a slam dunk.

Tuesday, June 14

Salad and solitude

Our visitors have departed and we are back to ourselves. Following the colossal amount of food and drink consumed this past couple of weeks I am restricted to a diet of carrot juice and lettuce, despatched across the moor for exercise. I should also be hard at work, but what with all day football and Royal Ascot, the chores will have to wait. According to Robin Oakley, Royal Ascot accounts for 7,000 Cornish crabs, 2,900 lobsters and 51,000 bottles of champagne. I wish…

It’s how you interpret the message

Overheard in the Kwik-E-Mart queue: “I see that Muslim mayor in London is already telling women to cover up in public.”

I’ve seen the future, says Ganesh

Misguided though he frequently is, Janan Ganesh remains one of my favourite columnists. Unfortunately I can’t say I share his dream of a post referendum re-alliance of politics and a resurgence of Blairite sympathies in the Tory Party. Something that could link Ganesh, Matthew Parris and other Conservative wets, with Ed Balls and Chucka Umanna...maybe Nick Clegg. Perhaps a returning messiah to lead them? That really would be a wind up. We’ve tried the third way, Janan, it didn’t work – concentrated too much power in the hands of the meritocracy. The plebs voters don’t like it.

Monday, June 13

Failed before, he will fail again.

European Council president Donald Tusk believes Brexit could destroy the European Union and threaten Western political civilisation. When global catastrophe threatened in the old days they would send for someone of the stature of Henry Kissinger. In the modern austerity-lite era we’re assigned a mincing Frankie Howerd tribute act from Kirkcaldy. I would have thought Brown is roundly disliked by the very people he’s been brought down to appeal to, Northern working-class Labour voters sniffing around Ukip. The target audience know McPlonker despises them, considers everyone a bigot – he’s hardly likely to quell their fears about immigration. Who dreams up these wheezes, and are Remain really so desperate? Polly Toynbee certainly thinks so.

Sunday, June 12

Cavalleria rusticana

Fat drunks wearing wife beaters and swigging wine from the bottle. And no it’s not English supporters in France, but Pappano's double bill at the Royal Opera House. Brilliant!

You put one foot in, one foot out…

This morning’s television featured a succession of hectoring voices, prosecuting both sides of the referendum argument. I wonder what percentage of viewers/voters are still listening – what the turnout on the 23rd will be. Cameron resembles the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. His credibility – the public’s trust – diminishes with each threat he makes. “My promise on triple lock pensions…it ain’t worth shit.” The kindest thing you can say about the lad is that he’s a slimeball.

Although sensible money is still on Remain, the Brexit gang are starting to believe – have the initiative. Unlike the Scots, do we English have the balls for independence? And if so, will the SNP then be forced to put up or shut up, will our kilted cousins grow a pair or remain wedded to the English teat. Where do our collective loyalties sit in the 21st Century? In the end I suspect we are all human and our decision will be a selfish calculation. The head will win. David Cameron certainly hopes so.

Saturday, June 11

Pomp and Pageantry

Trooping the Colour: what’s not to like. And thanks to the BBC there’s a channel that allows you to mute the Welsh fuckwhit’s commentary. Pray that old bore Dimbleby lasts long enough to forestall Edwards’ inevitable accession. …Bet I’m feeling a lot better this morning than our recent guests, not having endured a painful twelve-hour drive from the homestead to Edinburgh. What use motorways if the weight of traffic limits everyone to 40mph. On the plus side, maybe for once we are ahead to the Germans. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Germany morphed into 1950s England. ...An afternoon and evening of footy. About the only thing left on television that doesn’t require the ubiquitous presence of Clare Balding.

Friday, June 10

Ongoing bunfight

Andrew Neil’s Farage interview this evening was an extension of the week’s swing towards Brexit. Nigel may be a Marmite politician, yet outside of my old stomping ground, his message – encouraged by the overt contempt of ‘Dodgy Dave’ and his ilk, the so-called Westminster bubble – resonates with a fair proportion of the electorate. In truth this referendum debate is less an economic argument than a tribal redoubt. I’ve no doubt in due course the barricades will fail, but not before there is one last stand. Although I can pick faults in most every argument I hear, from both sides, we choose to hear what we want to hear, and will vote in much the same way. Back in the real world … I suspect the opening match, France v Romania, does more to unite us than all those entreaties from the so-called talking heads.

Things I have learnt

It takes a minimum of six adults (parents, grandparents and additional assorted relatives) to cater for the needs of a single three-year-old child. Not so much helicopter parenting as Apocalypse Now and Ride of the Valkyries.

There are limits to my optimism

Like many of the things in life we take for granted, the end of the footy season always comes as a disappointment. Thankfully, always providing your country has qualified, every two years there’s a fillip in the shape of international competition. In common with British summers, however, and speaking purely as an English supporter, European Championships and World Cups are destined to disappoint.

Thursday, June 9

Italian restaurants

Our week on the Rural Riviera is coming to an end, with falling temperatures and the forecast of heavy rain. For the past several days the homestead has accommodated a revolving crew of Australian/Irish and Scots visitors. A significant amount of vino and charred meat has been consumed. There have been many late nights; and although Gudgeon’s spirit is willing… Then again some of us go way back, to before the Brenda and Eddie days.