Saturday, December 31

Each day as it comes

As 2016 draws to a close everyone appears busy moving livestock or shooting game, eating stale mince pies and consuming bin ends. Gudgeon is running errands for the infirm…acting as caretaker for absent neighbours. Although our Christmas tree is looking a little sad there are (apparently) rules about when it comes down; and needless to say (as I’m married to a Scot), the homestead has to be scrubbed clean for Hogmanay. Provisions for this weekend are centred round a giant roast rib of beef, a four-day tour de force. Simpson’s eat your heart out. I can’t be arsed looking back across the past year…and will think about 2017 tomorrow.

Thursday, December 29

Wednesday, December 28

Seasonal Sales…and the health police

They go on, don’t they? Seems our ‘modern lives’ – the lack of physical activity, an excess of booze, and eating too many pork pies – is doing for us. This latest nudge is intent on catching a guilty post-Christmas public contemplating New Year resolutions. To set an example I donned my walking boots and took off across the moor this morning, beneath a glorious blue sky and rising temperatures – passing lots of neighbours on foot or horseback with the same idea. Returned home to find our post had arrived, with entreaties from Berry Bros, Yapp and Majestic Wines, offering up to 40% off everything from staples to Grand Cru Burgundy and Classed Growth Claret. Lets hear it for our modern lives!

Tuesday, December 27

Definitely not a turkey

Despite my faux-protestation, Tuesday is day three of ‘the goose’. The best bird I’ve tasted in several years; and, given the cost, four days of dining is the least two people should expect from one of these suckers (tomorrow is the traditional ‘big soup’ day). An excellent right-bank claret from Denis Durantou served up in support. Tempting though it may be, goose remains a once-a-year treat. The arteries couldn’t take much more.

Monday, December 26

Never gonna dance again

Everybody knows George Michael’s songs and can sing them whether they want to or not.” Err, no. Though I do recollect a number of the gang I worked with in the ’80s, and who are ten years younger than Gudgeon, were big fans. Pop music for the current batch of fifty-somethings.

Sunday, December 25

Hi-tech gifts

Following our over-the-top Christmas Eve knees-up, two glasses of Pol Roger and a half-bottle of Meursault was about the limit to today’s festivities. Gudgeon has eaten more than enough goose, and if I never see another dish of bread sauce or sage and onion stuffing… Ditto the Christmas pudding. On the plus side: Santa delivered enough books to restock a small provincial library, yet more socks, and an electric razor. I tried one 45 years ago and didn’t warm to the contraption.

Saturday, December 24

Rockin’ all over the world

2016 has to go down as one of those ‘fuck you, arsehole’ kind of years. What with Brexit and the like, and despite our everyday wars and strife, life continues to be one long party – more fun than most of us boomers aspired to or dreamed of.

Friday, December 23


On cue and out of the blue: an invite in today’s post from the old Selhurst Park crew, to a long-overdue reunion. Those still living, obviously.

Clapshot and cabbage

Although there aren’t any manger scenes on this year’s Christmas cards, four out of five received from neighbours (unsurprisingly) feature sheep. However it is venison rather than lamb that has been on the menu this week, with large amounts of mashed root vegetables and winter cabbage. There’s an outstanding range of quality green leaf vegetables available just now, no doubt harvested with Eastern European labour. Back to the market this morning before Storm Barbara sweeps in.

Bedlam in town. Lots of men dispatched on the inevitable quest for turkey and chipolatas. Cheery souls happy to have escaped the house for a couple of hours, obviously terrified of returning home with alcohol on their breath as the Dog & Duck was bereft of customers. The one thing I miss about cities are the bars: rural pubs can be desperate places during daylight hours.

The Stones new album ‘Blue & Lonesome’ has attracted almost universal positive reviews, and yet to Gudgeon’s ear it’s still a bunch of old geezers jamming in the back room of their local.

Thursday, December 22

Theresa May and Alan Pardew alike

You live and die by results. Having spent a number of years on the terraces cosseted within one of Selhurst Park’s corporate boxes I’ve a passing interest in Pardew's demise, and while Malcolm Allison and Terry Venables (to say nothing of Dario Gradi, Steve Kember, Alan Mullery and Steve Coppell) are a distant memory, there are lots of friends still flying the flag. Perhaps another chapter in Big Sam’s career?

Wednesday, December 21

Surely there’s only so much you can eat and drink over the course of one weekend?

Not my best start to Christmas: contracting the winter puke bug, then an adverse reaction to a vaccination, before falling prey to a virus of some kind. This is what happens when obliged to mix with the rank and file – or rather their offspring. Large quantities of red wine and paracetamol seems to dull the pain… Despite a yuletide exodus of neighbours and friends to warmer climes the lanes are busy with visitors heading in this direction. Shoppers are double-parked outside the Kwik-E-Mart, stockpiling for the weekend. Gudgeon is desperately searching for presents for his nearest and dearest.

Have just written a cheque, the last in this particular book. The first was dated June 2014. A thing of the past, maybe, but for some situations a cheque remains the only practical form of settlement.

Sunday, December 18

It may be cold but we won’t starve

Zero-degrees this morning … freezing fog and a heavy frost. Watching the lads lower their kayaks into a swirling mist on the River Dart did nothing to encourage my participation. Returned via the Good Food Sunday market with our usual supplies, including woodcock, wild venison, wild boar, veal sweetbreads and a loin roast.

What’s yours is mine

Or rather, the government's, says Phillip Inman. It seems the quarter of one-percent interest that the Post Office is paying me on my savings account is still too much for the Guardian.

Friday, December 16

Cheese on toast

There are huge demands on my stomach at this time of year. Although everyone believes they can cook, in reality most women and even fewer men can scramble an egg. That said of course the point of communal dining is the company and conversation rather than the food. I don’t frequent the Dog & Duck for their cuisine – pubs lost the plot when they elected to upgrade from Scotch eggs and pork pies. Ok I’m snobby about food but Gudgeon is a creature of his age. Our mothers boiled everything to within an inch of its life, then reheated leftovers for supper. School dinners were slop and gristle (Army food by contrast was haute cuisine). And yet despite fond memories of various Mayfair/Soho eateries, the years of exotic foreign nosh, I doubt I’ve ever eaten as well as I do now.


“You arrive at the party alone, hoping there’ll be people you know…No one even looks your way.” It’s what happens when you brag about not being clubbable, profess to be pragmatic and blunt, make a virtue of not socialising and scheming in Westminster bars.

Wednesday, December 14

Work’s Christmas Lunch

Fish and chips in Dartmouth. Excellent fish (Brill), half-decent chips and good service.

Drink responsibly

Bucky, our most famous export, enjoys boom in sales.
Conversely (outside of the Buckfast triangle) just one in six children below the age of 15 has ever had an alcoholic drink - a record low, according to new national data. Findings from the annual Health Survey of England suggest that today’s youngsters are the most “clean cut” generation on record, and the least likely to have touched alcohol or tried a cigarette before they turned sixteen... Not sure which side I feel sorry for.

Tuesday, December 13

Yuletide spirit kept in check

An article I read yesterday implied that at 65 if I’m lucky I can expect 10-11 years of continuing good health followed by several years of poor health, before expiring in a pool of dribble. A sobering assessment of my remaining time... Walter Swinburn joins AA Gill on the list of recent obituaries, and at 55 and 63 respectively are a reminder I shouldn’t count my chickens. While living each day as your last isn’t necessarily a bad outlook on life, I find partying like a Russian can be prematurely wearing.

Monday, December 12

BBC Music Awards

Am watching tonight’s show on the box… like the FA but (marginally) younger.

Saturday, December 10

There’s no hearth…

Window vents are screaming like banshees and the yard is waterlogged. Fireside (following the action from Cheltenham) seemed my best bet, snacking on the remains of yesterday’s hake and an indifferent Chablis.

As The Times continues to retreat ever further up its sanctimonious arse let’s hear it for The Spectator. I once had hopes for Sky News too, now little more than a mirror image of the BBC's metropolitan media consensus. Fingers crossed for Murdoch’s Fox takeover and a potential change of editorial direction.

Friday, December 9

Lacking seasonal spirit

The tree is up: 7ft of pine deodorizer. Flashing lights and zillions of baubles – a garish Santa, scented candles wreaking of frankincense and myrrh… and yet I can’t get into the Christmas spirit. Brexit appears to have put a damper on our traditional joie de vivre? Lots of cards this year, including a photocall from the wider family. Think Rock Hudson and Giant, when Bick Benedict casts a doleful eye over his grandchildren.

Wednesday, December 7

The price of nostalgia

Up town this morning to retrieve my wristwatch. It had been returned to the watchmaker for repair. The cost of repairs and periodic servicing over the past thirty-plus years dwarfs its original purchase price.

Tuesday, December 6

Winners and losers

A mild, almost tropical feel this morning. Relative I guess. I prefer the cleansing, restorative feel of a heavy frost.

These are interesting times we live in. The 70s and 80s had a similar divisive feel – and maybe you do need to shake things up occasionally. If the events of 30-40 years ago taught us one thing, however, it’s the inevitability there will be winners and losers. Which side you are on may well determine the complexion of your future life. Sour, chippy and resentful doesn’t cut it in the happiness stakes.

The ongoing revelations of historic sex abuse in football provides a career opening for sporty girls. I suspect we will now have to kiss goodbye to 20-30% of our youth coaches, given a significant number will follow the lead of male school teachers and scout masters by staying well away from children.

Friday, December 2


I don’t hold it against the voters of Richmond Park – it was their choice. Unfortunately the rest of us are now obliged to suffer that snivelling shite Farron mincing in and out of television studios the length and breadth of the country.