Thursday, August 31

Panic this morning

Fortunately a courier arrived in the nick of time with two-kilos of coffee beans. I don’t mind crawling around inside confined spaces with wrench in hand but life’s about incentives. ...Even with outside help I feel like I’m losing the battle. So much to do, and Gudgeon’s a lazy bugger at the best of times. Not that I’ve a great deal to complain about – rather me than David Davis. Our man looks to be making a decent fist of it, dealing with those slimeballs in Brussels must be frustrating. Everyone knows it will come down to a hard Brexit so why not cut to the chase?

Wednesday, August 30

Surrounded by pre-midlife crisis

A little rain this morning to dampen the enthusiasm of our new age hippie neighbours, ensconced as they are in their yurts and camper vans. Tuareg camp fires litter the horizon. Just one of them starts singing Kum ba yah and I’m letting the dogs out.

Sunday, August 27

Grumpy old man

I certainly achieved my ten-minutes/month exercise requirement this morning. Given the miles walked, the terrain, I could sit on my backside until next year and still be ahead of the game. Idyllic bank holiday weather … and so quiet? No argument from yours truly: the less I see of people the better. As soon as the rest of the human race fucks off to Mars the happier I’ll be.

I say quiet. And yet the birds, the chirruping swallows – aerial spiders, the shrill green woodpecker…buzz of insects, scurrying rodents. The forlorn cattle and whinnying ponies; subdued mumble around the smoking campfire, the idling quad bikes...

Saturday, August 26

Hurricane Harvey comes ashore in Rockport

A one-time favourite hangout of Mrs G’s – fishing, can you believe. Vaguely recall being holed up in a shack on the beach, dining on soft shell crabs and steaks (from a shark she’d caught), drinking beer, listening to Kim Carnes and Rosanne Cash. Think someone shot Pope John Paul II? It was a long time ago.

And a chilled bottle of something or other

If yesterday’s roads were busy, today seems as though the entire country has decamped to Devon. I grabbed a loaf, milk and papers, and hotfooted it back to the homestead. ...And not just the roads. Other than the odd military aircraft you rarely see anything in the sky. This morning’s vapour trails resemble the downtown map of a large metropolitan city.

The yard is a sea of yellow flowers, alive with butterflies and bees. Given the sunshine we’re lunching all’aperto (al fresco to you and me) on mozzarella and sweet tomatoes (lots of basil leaves), roasted Mediterranean vegetables (morelli artichokes, borretane onions, and red peppers) with bruschetta.

Friday, August 25

Up town for supplies

Everyone must already be on holiday as the streets are relatively deserted (calm before the bank holiday storm?). I note another impressive new block of student accommodation is taking shape – it’s a pity they can’t build similar affordable city centre homes for young marrieds and singles that work for a living (pay taxes and rates). Trustees of foreign pension funds and buy-to-let rentiers should be castrated.

Downing my morning coffee I was surprised to see a large group of visitors (Britons-in-waiting) from what was once referred to as Soviet Central Asia, all dressed in colourful Muslim garb and trailing a dozen or so children wearing Man Utd branded clothing. Gudgeon suspects it is he rather than they who is part of a dying breed.

Returned home to find several ponies had been delivered to the yard. The more the merrier, I guess.

Bachelor pads

Millennials can’t afford to buy a bachelor pad! bleats the papers. Men now require a partner’s income in order to buy a place to live. As if anybody could have acquired a flat of their own in the old days. It has always taken two salaries to ‘buy’ a home: that’s why people married. That and the sex. So-called bachelor pads (rented basement room beneath the bookies, communal toilet on the stairs) were a right-of-passage. While great fun at the time (all-night card games, the non-stop boozing), marriage came as a relief.

Thursday, August 24

Driving with care

This morning to the builders’ merchant to stock up on filler and sandpaper, rollers and brushes. Next to the Kwik-E-Mart and Ike Godsey’s, my favourite store. Roads are especially tricky this time of year, teeming with novice drivers heading to/from their holiday destination, lots of German/Dutch/French plates. Nut job jihadis aside, there are a lot of dangerous people out there.

Puzzling over the nature of time

The Times Jenni Russell writes “I am at the Edinburgh Festival … whisky, dinners, wine, late nights, fish and chips eaten in the queues. I couldn’t confuse it with a health farm. … enjoyable at the time but has left so little trace in my mind that it’s as if the days scarcely happened at all.” Russell’s perception mirrors Gudgeon’s foggy years in Scotland. The clue lies in the whisky and wine, the late nights.

Wednesday, August 23

I guess it’s back to Sunday lunchtimes at the Dog & Duck

MOTD and Sunday Politics. I don’t ask for much. Now even that’s gone, the big lad replaced by one of John Smith’s spawn. An all too rare right-of-centre heavyweight replaced by another ubiquitous left-of-centre BBC clone who will no doubt bring “an exciting and fresh perspective” to the programme.

Swallows populate the barn but it’s buzzards and tawny owls that are prominent in the yard. Summer is drawing to a close and, lazy sod I am, have begun to panic. I’ve failed to deliver on a number of projects – the list of outstanding maintenance work is as lengthy as it was in the spring.

Tuesday, August 22

Gourmet poultry

The Silkie (sometimes spelled Silky) is a breed of chicken named for its atypically fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk, and satin. The breed has several other unusual qualities, such as black skin and bones, and greyish-black meat. In addition to their distinctive physical characteristics, Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament. It is among the most docile of poultry.

This one is definitely docile: it’s sat on a plate, smothered in tarragon and butter, waiting for the oven to heat up.

Monday, August 21

Mondays

There’s nothing about the homestead to suggest Marseille other than the glorious evening sunshine, but it’s enough for me to break out the deckchairs and pastis. Mrs G. is roasting a half-dozen quail. Bliss.

Sunday, August 20

Crystal balls and careers advice

The Guardian’s Larry Elliott writes that Dhaval Joshi, an economist at BCA research, believes Moravec’s paradox will have a big impact on the labour market. Moravec considers two scenarios for a stylised economy with three jobs: a high-income innovator, a middle-income manufacturer and a low-income animal tender... It makes you wonder, listening to neighbours’ kids reviewing exam results and considering options. None appear keen to follow their parents occupations, believing farming and skilled trades in the building industry a mugs game – hard work, with too many hours and little financial reward (even though said parents have managed to clothe, house and feed them, pay for their education). Everyone wants to be a doctor, architect or leader writer. I’ve refused to proffer advice and wouldn’t know where to begin – haven’t a crystal ball, other than to remind them plumbers, carpenters and sparkies will never go hungry, and everyone needs to eat. Yesterday I read a column by an Indian girl named Snigdha Poonam. Looking at the prospects for kids on her side of the pond, she notes automation is costing the software industry in India 200,000 jobs every year, that redundant software engineers are returning to their rural villages and becoming farmers. As she says, “That’s a disruption no one saw coming.” Youngsters hereabouts considering their future would do well to note Poonam, who reminds us that every month another million Indians enter the job market.

Smoked trout for breakfast

We’ve been taste testing smoked salmon this past couple of weeks and are obliged to accept there’s a lot of crap out there. Smoked/cured fish is little different to craft beers, in that every spotty-faced arsehole on the planet thinks he can brew beer and produce decent grub. The tragedy is many of the best go under because there aren’t sufficient customers with deep enough pockets. Everyone wants old-style BA service at budget prices. My favourite smoked fish producer – a class act – went out of business a month or two ago. Although the jury’s out, am struggling to find better than H. Forman and Son (have tried several of their products), not least the bog standard Gravadlax.

Veal steaks and pasta (wild fennel sauce) for lunch, along with a decent Barolo.

Saturday, August 19

How the other half lives

In this morning’s papers I read about what worries the wealthy. Capital preservation appears high on their list, keeping all that filthy lucre in the family. However with eight times as many quietly confident of this as are pessimistic, Clan Corbyn must seem an irrelevance. Likewise with Brexit. Although 75pct of British 18-24 year olds opposed Brexit, only 35pct of young millionaires consider it a worry. Evidently, a poor person’s problem.

August is the month of class anxiety, says Robert Armstrong, as he lies on his Long Island beach, gazing enviously at the vulgar display of wealth while fretting over the cost of potato salad at the deli. A self-confessed snob, his resentments deepening with his tan. ...Despite this being the holiday season, the homestead’s neighbours are out in force. Seemingly everyone but Gudgeon on top of a horse. They say money doesn’t buy class, but you can’t ignore the accents and manners that betray expensive schools and a certain aesthetic.

Friday, August 18

Sir Bruce Forsyth – ironically, a feel-good story?

Muslim terrorists and Donald Trump wiped from the news! If you are one of the many that found Bruce an irritating old fart, best you switch off this evening. The lad deserves a degree of ignominy if only for his rendition of Mr Bojangles.

Adverse climate

Losing battle … exterior painting.

Thursday, August 17

Failure is never an option

A neighbour’s kid has been awarded straight Bs instead of A*s and believes his dream is over. Fortunately as one door closes…

Morale booster

After an extremely fraught day (rain stopped play), a feelgood supper of Devonshire Haggis, aka Hog’s Pudding (Groaty Pudding to you and me), with large portions of Hodmedod’s Baked Beans. Soul Food par excellence.

Wednesday, August 16

Six-hour slog

The motor was booked for its annual service, and after delivering it to the garage I walked cross country and along the canal into town. Towpaths and muddy tracks are easy, it’s the concrete pavements and cobbled streets that aggravate my joints – stokes the grumpy-old-man syndrome. Took me two hours of traipsing round shops before finding a decent pair of jeans, ones that fit. Locating new trainers became a lost cause. I hate shopping but you can’t get everything from Amazon. Sat people-watching for as long as it took to drink two coffees and a bottle of water, then limped weary miles back to the garage. Some days are more exciting than others.

Thought for the Day

“America’s great gift as a country is its size and relative emptiness, its elbow room. That space allows for difference and is often mistaken for tolerance.” (Paul Theroux)

Tuesday, August 15

One satisfied customer

Apart from the occasional broken limb I’m not a regular customer of our sainted NHS. A once-a-year blood test to monitor my cholesterol level and that’s about it. So I was surprised – given the horror stories regarding staff shortages – to be offered a non-urgent GP appointment within 24hrs. Said GP duly referred me to a physio at the local hospital, who was happy to book me in for a consultation the following morning. Super clean/smart establishment, only four other clients in the comfortable waiting room – in and out inside forty minutes.

On the face of it, one satisfied customer. But that would be to ignore the fucked up flu jab that’s left me in eye-watering pain whenever I move my arm in the wrong direction. The condition is referred to as a shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). The NHS keeps quiet on the subject in case it frightens the punters and they refuse to have their seasonal jabs. Unfortunately on this occasion it was my turn to draw the short straw.

Sunday, August 13

Let’s hear it for our public services

A View from the Foothills is on its 13th reprint. Pure coincidence I’ve recently consigned his diary to the local charity shop in order to free up shelf space. Chris Mullin who failed the 11-plus – one of those rare beasts that appears more boring than you do. “I am fortunate to have a good pension, based on my 23 years in parliament (including four as a minister) and four at the BBC.”

Pork Scratchings

Out on the moor with Mrs G. this morning, half expecting to meet with hordes of tourists soaking up the wilderness. Just a single neighbour, checking his stock. Can’t believe we dodge the bullet so effectively in this neck of the woods. Lunching today on roast pork (Saddleback), enhanced with the Boss’s patented fennel/garlic/rosemary/pepper rub – an exceptional green-tinted Cote de Beaune, a birthday gift.

Saturday, August 12

Pressure valve

Saturday morning: to Tavistock Market for supplies. Traffic wise, have never seen the moor so busy; they tell me it’s bumper-to-bumper from Bristol to Exeter. You think: Suckers! But that’s to ignore their need to escape civilisation.

Success or Failure?

Team GB has done well, achieved a few fourth places – it’s a good World Championships? Just as well we’ve learnt how to pedal bikes, ride horses, sail boats … have Justin Rose and Andy Murray … access to performance-enhancing substances.

Friday, August 11

Well that was fun


Believe I’ll stay on the reservation today. Nothing clears the head
faster than pushing a wheelbarrow back and forwards
through the mire for an hour or so, especially when it’s raining…
and blowing a gale…and I’m freezing my nuts off.

Thursday, August 10

Culturally appropriate?

Included among my birthday presents was a DVD of Vincente Minnelle’s musical-romance, Gigi. While selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant", these days, just owning a copy is likely to have a man arrested. Even expressing a sneaking admiration for Honoré Lachaille – his infatuation with ‘little girls’, rates ten years in the pokey. “I’m not glad I’m not younger anymore.”

For some unfathomable reason all of my birthdays cards – many thanks to everyone – feature a bottle of wine and/or beer?  Stop sniggering, Mrs G.

Clickety Click

Pastries and Pol Roger (2008 Blanc De Blancs) for breakfast.  

For ever year of life we light 
a candle on your cake 
to mark the simple sort of progress 
anyone can make, 
and then, to test your nerve or give 
a proper view of death, 
you’re asked to blow each light, each year, 
out with your own breath.    (James Simmons) 

Wednesday, August 9

Tradition alive and kicking

Westfield's chief marketing officer Myf Ryan said: "The way we eat, cook, dine out and shop is changing at speed, and it’s clear that the millennial generation is making big changes to our relationship with food, from recipe delivery boxes to pop-up avocado bars to apps that let you order without queuing." Interestingly, millennials in Britain are eschewing 'traditional' foreign cuisines and prefer to eat different modern imports. Those in their 30s opt for Greek, Turkish and Vietnamese, while the under-30s prefer Italian, American or Mexican.

Jesus H. C., every bloody generation grows up eating a pastiche of Italian, American and Mexican (Guacamole) cuisine, ditto their graduation to Greek and Tukish...etc. This is traditional and not something new. Every frigging generation thinks it’s inventing the wheel. Elizabeth David anyone?

Out around Exeter yesterday…

Decided on lunch. Found place selling burgers and beer. Sat down at table to consume said meal and was informed that, though they had sold me a beer, the establishment didn’t have a licence and I couldn’t drink it on the premises. Ate burger – before transferring next door and downing a ‘licenced’ pint. Eventually returned home late afternoon, très weary, to be met by Mrs G. who insisted I accompany her on a jog across the moor for an hour or two. I still have it, thinks Gudgeon – while clutching his knees/back and swallowing a handful of paracetamol tablets.

A long way from either Kansas and Texas

I once read that our taste in popular music is determined around the age of seventeen, which could explain a certain nostalgia associated with Wichita Lineman and Galveston. An integral part of the soundtrack to eighteen months of youthful exuberance on the mountains and hills of North Wales.

Tuesday, August 8

Need to try harder

Despite our eleven years residence in Devon, today was my first visit to Darts Farm – awarded UK’s Best Farm Shop 2016. “Like finding Selfridges food hall dumped in the middle of a field, except with affordable prices and all the produce originating from a 30 mile radius.” (The Guardian, February 2005.)   Imagine one of those large, commercial garden centres but with jam and chutney instead of wilting flowers and privet hedging. It wasn’t so much the questionable produce or the dust-covered jars, so much as the mothers who allow their cherubs to play with the food on display. As a long-term customer of Selfridges food hall I have to differ with the Guardian’s assessment, and remain grateful for how well we’re served in our immediate vicinity.

Scientific research used to display more rigour

A bunch of lads from the University of Manchester ‘analysed’ ONS figures and determined people in northern England are 20 per cent more likely to die before the age of 75 than those down south. For the purpose of their study, they assumed north means anything above Watford, and southerners included the inhabitants of Great Yarmouth (who barely make it to retirement age). The study didn’t look at the causes of death, so could not identify what was causing the rise in the premature northern deaths. However they were confident that economic and social factors underpinned the disparity, and it was nought that couldn’t be put right by a large injection of cash from those namby-pamby taxpayers down south.

Sunday, August 6

A bonus

Enjoyable morning on the hills. Don’t get me wrong – am now back home watching the marathon (World Athletics Championships) on the box, the familiar streets with so many memories – it’s just that Dartmoor is a bonus I never envisaged, a world of Green Woodpeckers and Badgers, Ponies and Hunters.

Saturday, August 5

Late lunch or early dinner?

Barbecued rib eye steaks (rib intact). An attractive, energised, silky, spicy Côte-Rôtie from one of the greatest winemakers in the Northern Rhône – Jean-Michel Gerin. How the other half live? Never entered my mind.

Watching IAAF World Championships on the box

Am finding it difficult to get excited – athletics is something you follow in your youth (when you can still run yourself). While cleaning out filing cabinets yesterday I came across the programme for a IAC/Coca-Cola Meeting of August 29th 1975. Billed as an ‘all-star gala’, it included world record holder John Walker in the mile; Brendan Foster taking on a world-class field in his first 10,000 metres; Alan Pascoe, David Jenkins and Geoff Capes. The days I’d drive all the way to Crystal Palace for an evening (floodlit) athletics meeting are long gone.

Why is Gabby Logan dressed for a Country and Western revival?

Friday, August 4

Community spirit is dying

The main piece of evidence that neighbourliness is dying, is “most of us never borrow or lend anything with our neighbours anymore ... because the folks next door are more than likely to be Filthy Repulsive Cheating Repugnant Lying Fiddling Scum”. ...Gave me a chuckle.

Unexpected treat

While the Proms has already featured lots of good stuff, tonight’s Mauceri-led show – the Ella and Dizzy Revival – is one of the best. Most enjoyable.

Objects of beauty

Two of my neighbours drive classic cars, trophies of successful careers. And why not. Someone has to maintain our heritage – you can’t consign everything to museums and Qataris. Unfortunately it requires yours truly having to give way and reverse to a passing place whenever we meet. Small price…

We’ve barely moved since David Frost's day

Kevin Myers was right about the BBC, says Anita Rani – it’s as much to do with race and class as gender. But then we’d need to discount Anita’s independent school education.

Thursday, August 3

Heineken’s attempt at the holy grail

“This is a fantastic tasting beer. Our master brewer is so confident in Heineken 0.0 that he has given it his seal of approval. Drinkers love it too – initial feedback from both consumers and customers has been overwhelmingly positive, with a strong preference shown towards Heineken 0.0 versus other alcohol free beers. We really can say it’s the best tasting no alcohol lager.”

I finally got around to trying it today. Given the miles Gudgeon drives, I have spent thirty years searching for a passable non-alcoholic beer. Unfortunately the Heineken version is as execrable as the rest.

Do I not like Canadians

The Bank of England holds rates at 0.25%. Bastards. How the fluck are we prudent savers expected to keep the faith. On the plus side – if I understood him correctly – Carney believes Brexit negotiations will be a walk in the park and everything is going to work out fine. There’s nothing to fear but fear itself, he implied, much of which is stoked by hard-core remainers and the MSM. Hey, he was pointing the finger, not me.

Wednesday, August 2

Best laid plans

Rain stopped play. Nothing to do but hunker down with Glorious Goodwood on the box. Even there, the bar staff appear busier than the jockeys.

Tuesday, August 1

Set to challenge

It was going so well, all the way to the point he severed the gas pipe. One of those days… My best is cutting the electricity cable when everyone in the street was cooking dinner prior to a televised world cup qualifier. The street never forgave me. Our current project has been a fuck up from day one. In the old days I would rage; now I’m content to laugh it off.

The allotment needed a soak

Even by Dartmoor standards, this morning’s rain is something. Torrential seems an inadequate description, gutters and drains can’t cope and the stuff is lapping over the doorstep. August…holidays…children off school. Guess the weather shouldn’t be a surprise. Have already cancelled the two lads who were due to begin work in the yard as it would be a mud-bath. Unfortunately, I have things to do out there.