Sunday, April 30

For services rendered

My holiday weekend has been enlivened by the gift of a haunch of venison from a neighbour and a bottle of malt from another. What must I owe, I wonder, for the countless services rendered to me? …This should in no way be regarded as an indication to the tosspots currently engaged in drafting election manifestos that I would willingly pay more tax.

Saturday, April 29

The supporting bout

I’m beginning to feel sorry for Paul Nuttall. Landed with a job he never wanted, just as his party’s fortunes head south. At least the lad can console himself he’s not Jeremy Corbyn.

Friday, April 28

A time to every purpose

Gazing out across the yard at the ponies, the thirty-odd ewes and their gangsta lambs, I can’t help but contrast this pastoral idyll with life at SLM. And yet to everything there is a season … you wouldn’t swap a minute of the old days. Half our current neighbours want to sell up and venture out into the world; the other half have seen the world and are happy to slam the door.

Thursday, April 27

Changeable weather

Tuesday it snowed. Then yesterday, under a blazing sun, I mowed the lawn – only to be ambushed by a hail storm. This morning is glorious, albeit a hard frost. The nematodes are probably buggered.

DIY (Plan B). When all else fails (square peg/round hole), reach for the mallet. Brute force has its place.

I’m reading Bill Deedes’ old stuff. Some of the articles you could cut and paste to today’s papers. Not so much history repeating itself as repeatedly banging our heads against a brick wall.

Wednesday, April 26

Horses and stable doors, or Gloria Gaynor?

Would that Labour displayed a fraction of the determination currently exhibited by Hull and Swansea in their fight for Premier League survival. Polly Toynbee bleats on in this morning’s Guardian about her team’s demise, but she has only herself to blame. It wasn’t five minutes ago the sage of Tuscany was waxing lyrically over Labour’s golden generation – Miliband, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Purnell, et al – in much the same way Alex Ferguson used to bang on about Scholes and Beckham. Unfortunately the posh Metropolitans, as she calls them, had nothing to say to the very people they were there to support (not least good old Polly herself). Given Labour’s inevitable slide it would have been remiss of Jeremy Corbyn not to have commandeered the party’s brand and assets and put them to better use.

Tuesday, April 25

Spring has definitely sprung

Never mind the spring-cleaning, am too busy fielding visitors: two sets of water engineers; the plumber, too, pricing up new bathroom; a bathroom showroom manager selling his wares; builders pricing maintenance work; a glazier, to replace blown double-glazing; decorators quoting on the quinquennial paint job; heating engineer, to service boiler; chimney sweep; and, inevitably, the perennial BT broadband engineer.

Sunday, April 23

Swallows, Cuckoos … and Bats

Swallows spend each day hoovering up the yard’s insects; at night it’s the bats’ turn – and they’re back with a vengeance.

Charles Moore and the Spanish Inquisition

“I have remarked elsewhere that, at some point in a public career nowadays, one must expect to be made to apologise to Liverpool. It is not clear why this should be so, but it is. A newer hoop to jump through is that one will be asked if homosexuality is a sin.”

Saturday, April 22

Saving for retirement

On average, retired couples spend £18,000 a year on life’s essentials – food, heating, transport etc. – and £26,000 a year once the extras are included, such as holidays. For the better-off, spending on long-haul holidays, golf club membership and a new car every five years, the “luxury retirement” figure comes in at £39,000 a year.

What’s that old saying: “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself” … to which you can add “and saved more, instead of frittering it away on wine, women and song”. But then winter must be cold for those with no memories… Argh, I’m referencing Cary Grant movies!

Fair to middling

Giles Coren writes in this morning’s Times about lunching with readers and the constraints on reviewing restaurants outside London. For old times’ sake he tackles one in Leamington Spa, rating it fair to middling. A useful asset if you’re a local but you wouldn’t put yourself out by getting on a train. Food in Britain has come a long way since the 70s, from total shite to fair and middling, and while you’ll hear a lot from politicians in election mode these coming weeks regarding ‘world class’ aspirations, whether restaurants, schools or medical care, for most people outside the capital, standard fare is about as good as it gets.

Friday, April 21

Bitch fight

Zoe Williams being kicked in the nuts by Laura Perrins on today’s Daily Politics. I like to watch spirited opponents fighting their corner, even when the arguments are lame.

Progressive alliance crap

Let’s once and for all kill off talk about a ‘progressive alliance’ to defeat the Conservatives – not least from young foreign johnnies that haven’t the faintest idea what makes Britain tick. The sole reason Cameron won a majority in the 2015 election was the suggestion that Miliband would favour an SNP alliance. It immediately dissuaded Conservative voters toying with UKIP to return to the fold. Continuing to waffle about Sturgeon’s tail wagging the English dog will likely double Theresa May’s vote rather than hinder it.

Down but not out … maybe

To many people the politics of envy (Rich at £70k) is a throwback to ’70s Labour. But whoever wins the election, says Gaby Hinsliff, we will probably pay more tax. I’m sure the girl’s right; and just as sure most of us will resent it – more so younger generations than mine. A month ago, mind-numbingly bored, I downloaded a twenty-page report from the British Journal of Political Science, “Thatcher’s Children, Blair’s Babies, Political Socialization and Trickle-down Value Change: An Age, Period and Cohort Analysis.” I did tell you I was bored? To cut a long story short, my reading of their deliberations was that, counter intuitively, the post-war social democratic settlement as we know it ended with the boomer generation. Subsequent cohorts who came of age during the Thatcher and Blair years being far more reluctant to part with their hard-earned cash, not least when it’s targeted at what they view as the undeserving – the benefits class. The report’s reasoning ties into the end of left/right politics and voter realignment argument, and thereby the end of the Labour Party’s hopes of ever forming a government in the future. I’m not so sure Jeremy and the boys are down and out just yet, however, writing’s on the wall. You can’t have open borders and a generous welfare policy.

Darling of the Spring, or cukoo in the nest?

This week I heard my first cuckoo of the season; roughly same place, same time, each year. Wordsworth bid welcome to darling of the Spring ... unfortunately the city of Paris and a cheap metaphor springs to mind.

Thursday, April 20

Early days

While I believe talk of a Conservative landslide is fanciful, premature, I’ve been taken back by the number of lifelong Labour voters who say they will be voting for Theresa May. It’s early days, however, and sages always caution a week in politics is a long time. We have seven. Truth is elections develop a life of their own and none of us can anticipate events. Until the eighth of June we will be required to listen to nonstop guff about ‘our NHS’ and the wider public sector economy, and the need for a strong leader who will stand up to Brussels.

Sunday, April 16

Cliché of clichés

Today’s al fresco brunch: foie gras and goats' cheese, Morcilla de Burgos mit fried eggs, all washed down with an ’88 Ch. Rieussec and bottle of bubbly. Cliché it may be (Sauternes/foie gras), but a tour de force nonetheless.

Saturday, April 15

Rebalancing the economy

A nice day. More visitors/walkers than I’ve seen so far this year. In the dog house after becoming distracted and singeing everyone’s kebabs. The Langoa Barton was gratuitous overkill by way of an apology, but as we’re all going to hell in a handcart I might as well enjoy life while I can.

Arsenal just a bunch of pretty boys

“My own team Arsenal win titles when the squad brimmed with what are known in the London area as wrong ’uns. Big, pugnacious egos who won at all costs. The club is now as civilised as it is stagnant. (The case for oafs and egotists)”

FT’s paywall unfortunately. Ganesh remains one of the reasons I still shell out for the weekend edition. It’s also good for lining the floor of the chicken coop.

Engineering a path to happiness

When your glass is as full as anyone could reasonably expect it to be, chances are you’re happy. Mo Gawdat, Google’s chief business officer, believes the formula for a good life can be expressed as follows: happiness is equal to or greater than the events of your life, minus your expectations of how life should be.

I’ve always thought the baby boomer generation blessed, in that we never expected too much from life. Expectations were low growing up during the 1950-60s – relative to our parents’ generation, so long as we weren’t being bombed by Germans or invaded by the Soviets, everything was cushtie. Of course the day is still young.

Friday, April 14

Good Friday fish

Label on the bottle informs me I am drinking a rare, high-quality example of mature, partially oak-fermented wine, with subtle nut, brioche and caramelised pear aromas that mingle with Muscadet's typical citrus and mineral backbone. Best suited, it says, to a fish pie – which is just as well, given that’s what we’re eating.

Our local train service has an English Electric Type 3 tractor on duty today. Old workhorse and hardly a thing of beauty, it elicits the same sort of charm as those bullnose Bedford lorries of yesteryear. Diesel engines, they’ll be the death of us … always assuming a thermonuclear war doesn’t get there first.

Thursday, April 13

Maundy Thursday

The holiday begins. And following two weeks (OK, ten days) of alcohol-free, healthy eating – the gallons of carrot juice and the moderately-enhanced exercise regime, I believe I’ve earned a decent supper. Hopefully it won’t be my last.

After reading Trevelyan’s tales of the Alhambra, and given lamb is something of an Easter tradition, thought we’d kick off with a taste of La Mancha, Spain’s largest plain (where the rain stays, mainly). “Slow-roasted leg of lamb with fennel seeds, pimentón and potatoes.” Have been required to venture north to Logroño for the wine, albeit it’s a sublime 2001 Gran Reserva from one of the oldest bodegas in town.

Wednesday, April 12

More kebabs in the making

To Exeter yesterday for supplies; this morning Totnes, to pick up more essentials (out of beer). It’s about as much exposure to civilisation the outside world I can take just now as all the roads are congested with visitors arriving for their Easter break.

At the homestead there’s a chill in the wind – and fortunately for yours truly it’s coming from the north west, putting us on the right side of our neighbour’s muck spreading operations. This side of the hedge is all coconut-perfumed gorse and musk-scented blackthorn blossom. The first lambs of the year have been released outside, while on the moor every rain-filled puddle is alive with squirming tadpoles. Snakes have eaten ours.

We’ve a rare live football match on the box this evening, from the Westfalenstadion. Although I spent barely three years in Dortmund, and it was many years ago (think Horst Witzler), I still follow their progress. 

Tuesday, April 11

Age catching up or new specs required?

Couldn’t believe it. A familiar face, striding towards the door in that unmistakeable jaunty manner – an old and once close friend from South London Mansions who I hadn’t seen in more than ten years. Rushed outside to greet him, exclaiming my surprise – nay, shock – at his unexpected appearance, blathering on like an idiot and shouting for Mrs G. to come see. Idiot indeed. The lad assured me we had never met, that he was merely a lone walker seeking directions. If I ever take to wearing salmon pink trousers, or you see me driving a Toyota, please shoot me.

Some things will never change

Raiding my collection for donations to the Easter charity book sale I came across several of those we all use to decorate our shelves but never read. From an inscription on the flyleaf it seems I acquired Under Milk Wood sometime in the ’70s but had never been sufficiently enthused to get past its cover. However, after reading Dylan Thomas’s drama during the weekend, the characters proved compelling enough for the book to remain a keeper. Bad luck on the charity drive. Lucy Norton’s The Sun King and His Loves (Louis XIV) had sat ignored since’82 (still wrapped in tissue paper), and though worth the read, will probably prove more fun to others. I am currently racing through Shades of the Alhambra (’84), written by Raleigh Trevelyan. Given Tim Stanley’s article in today’s Telegraph, it is a poignant reminder that Christians and Muslims have been slaughtering each other for two-thousand years.

Sunday, April 9

Never put off the fun bits

Ditched the usual Sunday morning MOTD repeat and set off across the moor before eight. Why wouldn’t you, it’s such a glorious day. Apart from one lad fly fishing I had the place to myself.

There are now two swallows circling the homestead, reason enough to wheel out the barbecue. Yesterday was pork ribs, today chicken. Let’s face it, Easter weekend (much like my Aintree investment) will probably be a washout, so rather than plan ahead best do this sort of thing when the opportunity presents itself.

Friday, April 7

Doesn't make it summer, but...

A lone swallow arrived at the homestead this morning.

Thursday, April 6

Kebabs are back

No way would you would choose to work inside today, not once the homestead’s temperature exceeded 35°C. The yard was a pleasant 14°C, though under the sun it seemed much warmer. First time this year I’ve felt the need to mow the grass moss and light a bonfire (to venture out in T-shirt and shorts). Attempting to crank up my body after winter hibernation is proving a struggle (I need to acquire a new ride-on). Still, the fire was fun: who needs to recycle when you can burn stuff. It’s still smouldering now after eleven hours (the surrounding trees range between 40-70ft and shed a fair amount of debris during winter). Retrieved my barbecue from the barn and spend two hours with a wire brush and bucket of soapy water. That’s the worst thing about winter: no kebabs.

Wednesday, April 5

Peace is priceless

A taste of the summer this past couple of days. At least I'd like to think so. All around the flowers are blooming; a Goldcrest – Europe’s smallest bird – is harvesting spiders’ webs from above the window. Though the schools are off it’s deathly quiet. Unfortunately work beckons: places to go and things to do.

Tuesday, April 4

Get a life for feck’s sake

Moyes should be charged with bringing the game into disrepute or with discrimination and is fortunate not to be sacked? I’m still not sure what’s worse here: the reptile’s (Jason Burt) pious garbage, that the Telegraph’s has to produce this sort of crap in pursuit of internet traffic, or Gary Lineker’s pathetic virtue signalling. All three need a slap. In refreshing contrast there’s a Toby Young article in this week’s Spectator eulogizing his attachment to QRP. I was particularly impressed by the four-year-old son’s disparaging refrain to the Swansea crowd.

Sunday, April 2


Left home this morning after listening to the newspapers being reviewed on the Marr show by that sour-faced Spanish bird married to Clegg. Returned two hours later to discover we’d declared war on her homeland. The next couple of years are going to be lots of fun. Europe has to appreciate that while their natural inclination is for compromise and consensus, Britain prospers on confrontation – adversarial politics, and reruns of Second World War movies.

Life returns

Great morning up on the moor (sunshine). In a week we’ve seen our first Grey Heron of the year, have also been treated to squadrons of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats, Wagtails and Willow Warblers. There are Crows, Wood Pigeons, Sparrows and Song Thrushes nesting around the yard. As the Tawny Owls have decimated our Vole population there is an abundance of Spring Flowers (and Bees) – Oil Beetles are thick on the ground.

Saturday, April 1

British fishing grounds for British fishermen

Yesterday’s lunch featured giant Dover Soles that had seen better days. It’s not often our local fishmonger disappoints. The old girl in front of me complained about the cost of fish (two lemon sole for £15), but if we aren’t prepared to pay, the Italians and Spanish undoubtedly will. Too many Brits view food as a utility cost rather than a pleasure. I wonder how many people aged 16 to 24 actually eat fish – whether fish has a future or will be signed away?

The first of this season’s boarders: two mares, one in foal. It’s non-stop rain at the homestead but pleasant enough – hardly Cyclone Debbie.