Saturday, September 30

Accident, waiting to happen

Someone rolled his motor and blocked the lane this morning. The road surface is wet and greasy and covered with fallen leaves – an ice rink. The result is an unfortunate detour that pisses everyone off and encourages the dipsticks among us to drive even faster in order to make up for lost time. It’s just a question of ‘how many’ more vehicles plough through a hedge or demolish one of the countless horses that are being exercised.

Greek salad and stuffed squid for lunch; Mrs G. is baking a beef and mushroom pie for supper; and there’s an old favourite on the box. Who remembers Shiner? He’d have eaten Bill Sikes’ mutt for breakfast. Peggy Mount and Hylda Baker ... the great Shani Wallis.

Friday, September 29

The kitchen ate it

You don’t need to eat tonight’s supper, a whiff will suffice: braised veal sweetbreads, a medley of mushrooms, cream sauce, mashed spuds.

We’ve a mixed community hereabouts. I passed our local traveller camp this morning. They’re the dreadlocks/hippy/anarchist sort, rather than gypsies. A mishmash of converted-vans and caravans, mongrel dogs and grubby-faced urchins. It occurs to me the one thing I haven’t noticed since their arrival several months ago is a washing line, laundered underwear flapping in the breeze. It resonates because, yesterday, I reread Amis’s review of Richard Eyre’s film on Iris Murdoch, her domestic arrangements...

“…even the soap is filthy. Single shoes (and single socks) lie about the house as if deposited by a flash flood … Dried-out capless plastic pens crunch underfoot. An infestation of rats is found to be congenial, even stimulating. Everywhere they go, they have to hurdle great heaps of books, unwashed clothes, old newspapers, dusty wine bottles. The plates are stained, the glasses smeary. The bath, so seldom used, is now unusable; the mattress is soggy; the sheets are never changed. And we shall draw a veil over their underwear. On one occasion a large, recently purchased meat pie disappeared in the kitchen. It was never found. The kitchen ate it!”

Guess it’s why Amis earned the big bucks.

Thursday, September 28

Go figure

The homestead has slipped seamlessly into autumn, a carpet of leaves now covers the mud. In between showers of rain I dash outside and apply another layer of paint to rotting woodwork. Have replaced/renovated a fair amount this summer but it’s a Forth Bridge kind of thing. Neighbours maintain platoons of tradesmen, while sons and daughters attend universities to study meaningless nonsense that allows them to work as baristas, bookkeepers and glorified clerks. The kids demand the tradesmen pay their fees, in the interests of fairness.

Wednesday, September 27

Jeremy Corbyn channels his inner David Steel?

Go home and prepare for Government! Young, Idealist and Cosmopolitan they may be; but at least Labour’s offering the electorate a choice, instead of the usual middle-ground (boring) tweak. Of course Waco tells us where this sort of thing ends.

Tuesday, September 26

The People’s Front of Judea

Oh come on, don’t knock it. For entertainment value alone, John McDonnell’s worth the admission price.

Tom Watson performs a Michael Gove and morphs into a snivelling, obsequious jelly. Couldn’t happen to a nicer man.

Sunday, September 24

Swinging the lamp

It’s why so few organisations hire old geezers. Unless (for some perverse reason) you’re from the Lib Dems or the Labour Party, none of us wants to be harangued by Uncle Albert from nine to five. As someone who was an employer for more years than I was as an employee, hiring mature staff – despite benefitting from their oft immense experience – rarely worked. The temptation to prefix every statement with ‘In my day’ being an immediate turnoff. Gudgeon is the worst of ’em – I wouldn’t hire me.

Queen Angela

Failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining. Yet another been there done that.

“The AfD is a monster created by the liberal elites who have closed their ears to the German electorate’s concerns. In contrast, the Brexit vote gave vent to similar concerns in the UK before the far-right could get any kind of electoral hold. Nigel Farage might actually be given some credit for relieving the electoral pressure in Britain before things turned ugly.”

What a great day

Soft rain, thick fog and an accompanying silence – divorced from the world outside. Typical Sunday morning … returned the neighbour’s trespassing livestock, set a couple of mole traps (losing battle), cleaned up the fox/badger muck from the doorstep, retrieved cabbage from allotment. After two days of fish it’s back to mutton, this time with caper sauce and a superb seven-year-old Châteauneuf du Pape that’d been hidden away.

Saturday, September 23

Been there and done that

“Only 26% of voters aged 65 to 74 say Labour would be an option for them if another election was called. Crucially, this includes the 25% who voted for Corbyn’s party at the June general election, suggesting Labour has only a tiny number of potential new recruits among this age group.”   That’s because we were around in the 1970s and witnessed these pricks in action. They want to rerun the civil war we had then. Once bitten, as they say. If the Tories sell us out to Brussels, however, all bets are off. We abstain, Corbyn wins – and another generation gets to learn the hard way.

Autumn Morn

Here’s to the dawn of an autumn morn! 
     The cry of the hounds and the sound of the horn... 

The hunt is out this morning.

Thursday, September 21

Why pubs fail

An institution past its time? £4.40/pint. Tim Martin has a lot to be proud of, although part of me feels he’s losing the battle; we’re a dying breed. So-called poor people can’t afford to frequent pubs and those that can are terrified by health issues. So, it’s a middle-class thing? Not really, but it is a factor – maybe we don’t fraternise as much as we used to? In the old days my boozing companions included a broad selection of drinkers, including bus drivers and brickies, city traders and brokers, actors and writers, grocers and butchers. Surprisingly, given our diverse backgrounds, we were not much of a difference. How times change.

A divided society

Our local Kwik-E-Mart – or rather its ruling family – is in the news again. Whether or not to shoot badgers. It’s not just a rural versus town argument, as the countryside is as divided on most every subject as the wider population is about Brexit. Half my neighbours vote Conservative and want to bring back hanging; while the dipsticks, the others, are for Vince, insisting we should all adopt a refugee. I haven’t really got a dog in the badger fight, but if I do catch the brock that’s tearing up my yard looking for worms I will most certainly kick it in the nuts.

Wednesday, September 20

The equinox approaches

As days shorten and trees turn colour I find myself pleasantly reassured by the natural rhythms of life – the seasons, familiar faces departing and new neighbours arriving, everyday births and deaths. Change keeps life interesting and helps avoid those perilous ruts, the status quo. Theresa May and Donald Trump are there to remind us what happens when we go to sleep on the job.

Tuesday, September 19

My desert island dish

Hainanese chicken rice for this evening's supper.


Man who climbed mountain in underwear gets hypothermia.

Of course there are even dumber things you can do.

Empty talk

Brexit a pipe dream … just talk? Who knows? The downsides to a hard Brexit might be painful, but not as catastrophic as allowing the people from anywhere with stars lipsticked on their faces to win the argument – our staying within the EU on reduced terms. I doubt the UK’s internal divisions would ever heal.

Climate change was always a load of tosh, admit ‘experts’. Who’d have thought?

Monday, September 18

Nul points

Oh for a little style, even at the expense of substance. I’m listening to May in Canada and she appears bereft of either, is bloody awful. It wouldn’t be so bad if her obvious deficiencies were compensated for in some way. Unfortunately the girl’s an all-round dud.

Sunday, September 17

Mine's a large one

Lots of athletes out and about this morning. Though I limped across to watch the action, Gudgeon acknowledges his running days are long gone – yesterday’s jaunt a punishing realisation. So as an antidote to our fitness orientated neighbours I’ve organised an old fashioned Sunday lunchtime cocktail session for the slackers – Negronis all round. Must admit, while I don’t drink this sort of thing often, it’s a real treat. Venison on the barbecue and country music in the offing.

Friday, September 15

History is written by the victors?

“Our new national sport. Today’s blameless generation versus your guilty one. Who will atone for our fathers’ sins? Even if they weren’t sins at the time.” I didn’t reread The Spy Who Came in from the Cold before tackling A Legacy of Spies but I did watch a rerun of Richard Burton and Claire Bloom for the umpteenth time. Three or so books ago I was ready to write off le Carré in the same manner as those aging crooners that insist on taking the stage in inappropriate clothing when they should be home drinking cocoa. His latest book, however, is a quality piece of writing. Unfortunately the lad’s turned into an old woman and like many of his ilk seems intent on rewriting history to benefit the contemporary market.

Wednesday, September 13

Life’s a lottery

Captain Mark ‘Foggy’ Phillips served with distinction in the Royal Marines and SBS for 25 years. A great athlete and four times winner of the 125-mile Devizes to Westminster canoe race, Foggy contracts a disease so rare that only one in a million people is affected and subsequently dies after a short illness.

Tuesday, September 12

The morning after

Up town this morning to see a man bout a dog … before adjourning to the Ship for a pint. Advertised as an oak-beamed Tudor inn with nautical heritage, the pub’s more a throwback to the 1970s. Given today’s clientele I was going to reference Rebus, but the accents were more Glasgow than Leith. Lots of punters my age or older, and a couple of good-time girls who’d seen better days. I don’t understand the need for some lads of a certain vintage to dress like teenagers – and if you must wear cut offs, why cannibalise your pyjamas?

Speaking of good-time girls. RAMM's latest exhibition (opens today) features a selection of  modern art from their Fine Art Collection, including Patrick Heron, Barbara Hepworth, Lucien Pissarro and Brian Rice… While not my usual thing, you can’t but be taken by Isabel Codrington’s ‘Morning’ – aka working girl after a night on the batter.

Monday, September 11

Buy one get one free

Received a soaking while filling potholes in the drive…autumn has most definitely arrived. Dried off chopping wood under cover. All good stuff, fresh air and what passes for exercise – even the ponies were impressed I’d surfaced. Mrs G. has been salvaging what she can from the post-storm allotment and Gudgeon is now surrounded by jars of runner bean chutney.

Although the silly season is supposedly over I’ve yet to reengage with the political scene. It doesn’t help that, following the furore over gender pay disparity, our male commentators are increasingly replaced by the cheaper option.

Highly recommended

Sardinhas "Petingas" Picantes José Gourmet. Damn it they’re hot (spicy).

Sunday, September 10

Only a numpty would buy English wine

I wouldn‘t go so far as Marco: however, in general, it is pretty average plonk sold at inflated prices. “The French make the best wine. The English just play at it,” he says. “We make the best Cheddar, we make great pasties. But we can't make very good brie or baguettes – and the French can't make pork pies.” Each to their own. Would also grudgingly agree that “London is the No 1 food destination, full stop. It has the talent and (the people who can pay) the prices.”

Appears autumn has arrived

Gales! Driven rain is the homestead’s number one enemy, it goes with the territory – keeps me awake at night. Thankfully we don’t live in Florida. Reluctant to accept the seasonal shift we are still eating summer food: olives and Padrón peppers, veal loin steaks with quality pasta and classy tomatoes, a bottle of stuff from the far north of the Côtes de Nuits above Morey-St Denis (the last of my birthday presents).

Saturday, September 9

Should have been staked out on an ant nest

His severed genitals stuffed in his mouth. ...I’ve read too much Larry McMurtry and Elmore Leonard.

Have lived through worse

Some good matches today, but then the Premier League is a series of exciting games. Am currently listening to Motson who is stepping down – love the old stories. We are all looking a little worn these days. Everyone is down in Brighton, and while I’ve a soft spot for Chris Hughton and have fond memories of Brighton, The Grand Hotel, my money’s on the Baggies.

Having repainted ‘the wall’ I’ve hung our recent addition. The artist says the picture can be read as a metaphor for how we've entered the 21st century, with a series of international crises, ecological concerns and political instability – think John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. To me it’s just a disturbingly spooky scene.

Nightmare in Cheltenham

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival… Hillary Rodham Clinton, Judy Murray, Chris Patten, Simon Schama… Grief, why would you? Perhaps for the deadbeat dad and gobby Brummie – their partnership must be such a comfort to Suzanne Moore and Marina Hyde.

Fish Fingers were never this good

The local metropolis is holding its annual food festival. Years ago these sorts of things were an opportunity for producers to promote their wares. Unfortunately they didn’t result in sales and have now deteriorated into a collection of fast food stalls selling questionable dishes of doubtful provenance you wouldn’t dream of eating.

Friday was fish day. Hake and John Dory. It was so good, today’s a repeat.

Thursday, September 7

Reviewing Pale Ales this week

Always a fan of pale ale, White Shield remains my standard from the old days. Another six brewers were taste tested over the weekend … Samuel Smith’s remaining the one to beat.

It’s that time of year: game birds appear in the butchers’ window.

Tuesday, September 5

When men resembled men

Early finish today, am in between (nearly) completing one project and moving to the next. Gudgeon seems to spend more time washing brushes than painting. As it’s lashing down outside I’ve taken a couple of hours off. Watching Edward Dmytryk’s ‘Anzio’ for the umpteenth time. Not exactly the greatest war film ever made, but what the hell – rather Robert Mitchum and Peter Falk than Daniel Craig and Tom Cruise.

You know you’re getting old when...

You take down a box of teabags from the cupboard for your morning cuppa and try to stuff a Matzo Cracker in the mug.

Sunday, September 3

Living the simple life

While not in the same league as Houston, today’s rainfall has been trés heavy. One or two diehards are sticking it out but most have struck camp and a bedraggled convoy is heading home. With nothing else to do I spent the morning applying a coat of vinyl to the bathroom walls – four hours stumbling about in the dark, choking on paint fumes. Quit in time for the Italian Grand Prix and a well-earned pre-lunch drink. We’re on day three of Friday’s barbecue, the latest reincarnation augmented by an outstanding salsa verde, plates of roasted vegetables and a fine Lalande de Pomerol. Thanks to a cold spring the allotment has been a disappointment this year; what it has produced, however, is first class.

Saturday, September 2

College struggles for new customers

In order to navigate the uncertainties of Brexit, farming needs to attract a more diverse group of people (clever urban types from a range of ethnic backgrounds) says first female head of Britain’s oldest agricultural college. There aren’t enough toffs (non-clever men in tweed jackets with leather patches and yellow cords) to fund my eye-watering vice-chancellor’s salary and pension.

Friday, September 1

Has to be barbecue

Monday, glazed baked ham and eggs; Tuesday, calves liver with green beans; Wednesday, feta and courgette frittata; Thursday, veal burgers and Greek salad. Friday?

Life in the sticks

It’s not so much a problem with Islam hereabouts as the rise of Beowulf style paganism. Neighbours have taken to dressing up in animal skins and, sword or axe in hand, dancing round a blazing pyre. Think of it as rural multiculturalism. One of these dark nights they’ll meet the hunt sabs returning from an exercise and all hell will break loose. While disappointed not to have been invited, the thought of having sharpened bones inserted in my chest and being suspended by rawhide straps from an oak tree is much less appealing than a mug of cocoa and an early night.