Monday, December 31

Should auld acquaintances...

While usually so reliable, yesterday’s boiled gigot of mutton was a tad chewy – think wind-dried alligator. Tonight we reheated the remains and served it with large portions of haggis. Even accompanied by a 21 year old Balvenie the ageing woolly remained dire. Obliged to do auld lang syne thing this evening I try to get into character, albeit my enthusiasm’s not what it used to be.

Saturday, December 29

Pretty certain I wasn’t as generous

Howling wind this morning…hills and valleys fogbound. Though requiring a degree of effort we completed our four days of Christmas: goose with traditional roast veg, goose accompanied by red cabbage, goose with red rice (heavy on the garlic and sage), and the inevitable goose soup. Waste not…as they say. Neighbours have begun drifting back from wherever they spent the festive period, presumably with distant family (like goose: an annual requirement/necessity treat). Have made a start on the many books I received from Santa; am also working on the wine, some of which is new to me.

I know I witter on about food but, as with so many people, it remains an integral part of life. By integral I mean up there with sex and drugs and rock and roll. Though currently wilting under the weight of our annual festive bingeathron, today’s veal and spaghetti (such tomato sauce, damn it!) resonates big time. Is there any other national cuisine that catalogues life so completely, the zillion family restaurants, the multitude of faces. First mouthful and you’re back in Louis’ in the Bronx.

Tuesday, December 25

Christmas cheer

Christmas morning: what’s not to like. Can almost smell the bread sauce. Unbelievably quiet, an occasional body checking in at the stables is all. My own duties are limited to chilling champagne and decanting Barolo. That the off-licence encased our festive wine in straw-filled boxes was no surprise, that the wooden cases came with brass hinges and clasps was perhaps over-egging it.

Monday, December 24

Festive fare

Carols from King’s, Alistair Sim’s Ebenezer Scrooge and Kelly’s Heroes are the annual staple, along with fresh crab for lunch and Salad Nicoise for Christmas Eve supper. Mrs G. is precooking a goose the size of an ostrich in readiness for tomorrow’s festivities. Bring me flesh and bring me wine. Bring me pine logs hither.

Sunday, December 23

Christmas armistice

The Kwik-E-Mart was queued out the door. So much effort for a plate of sprouts. Wives shopped while husbands circled outside looking for somewhere to park. Everyone on their best behaviour: “After you; no, after you. Merry Christmas!”

Saturday, December 22

To Tavistock Farmers’ Market,

Foodie highlight of the year (our Christmas goose). Of course it was hard to leave without a sizable slab of Saddleback, a chicken and Guinea fowl, one or two hog’s puddings… If Brexit is to become a crash and burn exercise the homestead won’t starve. Just a personal observation but, while the High Street continues to stumble and restaurants of all shape and size close, plenty of people appear to be splashing out on decent produce to cook at home. Dame Sally Davies, the country’s top doctor and self-described chief nanny, says more taxes on unhealthy food is the way to combat obesity and ill-health. I fail to believe making food more expensive will solve the problem: subsidising fruit and vegetables is a waste of time if people can’t be arsed peeling potatoes or are unable to afford the green taxes that come with cooking them. Kids growing up in the 50s and 60s were fed an unrelenting diet of muck and stodge and still looked like whippets. Ergo there must be another component to the conundrum. That said of course, we shared a single bottle of Corona pop as a once a week treat.

Friday, December 21

Festive nosh

Today’s festive culinary adventure features rogan josh. Not sure how Christmas curry became tradition but it has. …To the Kwik-E-Mart this morning for bread and milk. Geese are retailing at £85 a pop, turkeys £95. Not for the faint-hearted. Am reminded that back in the good old days food banks were called Luncheon Vouchers.

Thursday, December 20

Nearly there

I think (hope) we’re ahead of the game. Festive cards have been mailed, there’s more than enough food (and booze) in store, a good supply of firewood and full tank of diesel in the motor, post man and other regulars handed their Christmas box. Two more days of buggering about then feet up. My feet at least. As is common in most households Mrs G. faces days and days of roasting and baking, while I pour drinks and keep the fires blazing – police the wireless for prohibited recordings (by the Pogues & Kirsty MacColl). While I’m grudgingly allowed tonight’s Bob Harris Country Christmas Special, anything that smacks of Noddy Holder leads to trouble.

Wednesday, December 19

Celebrated haunts

The celebrated Seafood restaurant on the quay, favoured by Sir Henry Cecil and leading lights of the turf. Enjoyed many memorable meals over past decades – lobster, scallops, Dover sole, turbot, moules, you name it. A quality restaurant of the old school.

Cocking a deaf ’un

Out early morning to Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbott and Totnes (necessary supplies). We’ve enough in the cupboards and freezers to withstand a nuclear winter let along the worst case Brexit scenario. Lots of nice food emanating from the kitchen, the ham and brisket having given way to soups and seafood, a vast array of cheese and charcuterie. Am in danger of running out of steam before Christmas arrives. The homestead resounds to music, wireless and TV being banned for fear of spoiling our festive season (whining Parliamentarians). Although I usually enjoy watching the great and good get their knickers in a twist, enough is enough. Come back January when everyone is in more of a mood to listen.

Tuesday, December 18

Losers' Vote

"If we are forced to do this thing we shouldn’t have to do, then let’s embrace it as an opportunity to rebalance politics in the people’s favour; in favour of those who refuse to defer rather than those who expect deference. The first vote for Brexit was a devastating blow to an establishment that had forgotten about vast swathes of the public; a second vote could be the fatal blow. Let’s create a situation where they will bitterly regret asking us to vote again."  ...Street Fighting Man or Sympathy For The Devil? One of those rare occasions you wish you were young again, looking for a cobbled street to dig up.

Saturday, December 15

Normal service resumed

Weather’s atrocious, I count it an achievement to have made it back home this morning. The neighbours who are out there on horseback are crazy. On the plus side it’s a Saturday and there are no cyclists on the road. Don’t envy Team Sky’s search for new sponsors, given the tainted nature of both its brand and the sport in general. At least cyclists know the score.

How can you take storms seriously when named after the Corrie woman with giant bins. That said, conditions have worsened since this morning – you really don’t want to be out there. Spent most of the afternoon hunkered down, watching the racing and footy. A large joint of brisket has been poaching on the stove. Ingredients are all, not least the free-ranging beef fed only on grass and decent feed from local crops. The difference between our uniformly excellent neighbourhood beef and the Beaworthy lad is that he matures his stuff in the chiller for a minimum of 28 days before being cut up. The refrigerated maturation process results in a hugely improved flavour and tenderness. I know I’ve banged on about this guy before but, aside from a girl that farms in North Devon, during the last ten years I haven’t found anyone who comes close. To wash everything down I’ve opened a bottle of peppery hooch from a top parcel of Syrah vines northwest of Béziers, on the hills of Hérault.

Friday, December 14

To Totnes for supplies

I bagged the last slot in a rear overspill of the overspill car park. Even then it took some deft manoeuvring and having to climb over another vehicle. If you turned up after ten you’d missed the boat. A decade from now, given the pace of new build housing, everything we buy will be purchased on line. Visits to town centres, like church services, will be an annual affair. Back home to a twice-baked souffle and glass of Toscana’s finest.

Thursday, December 13

Rock and hard place

“Hardly anybody is saying what they believe to be true. Almost all of the people who professed fidelity and devotion to Theresa May yesterday think that she is hopeless as a leader, a negotiator and a Prime Minister … They may have a degree of human sympathy for her but they really believe that she is utterly out of her depth. Unfortunately they hate the candidates who would be most likely to replace her even more.”

A little part of me is coming round to the idea of a second referendum as the only way forward. Unfortunately a far larger part of me believes all a ‘people’s vote’ will achieve is to afford the necessary time for everyone to climb out of our trenches and to begin building concrete bunkers. I suspect it would be impossible to assemble a deputation of elders that could agree on the revised referendum questions. Our local MP, Sarah Wollaston, has been pushing for a people’s vote on the understanding the franchise should now include primary-school children, all of the international ‘Anywhere’ diaspora currently resident in Britain, and any ageing soaks long since retired to Peter Mayle’s Provence or Bongo Bongo Land.

No one voted to make themselves poorer… Harvard Business Review recently published the results of a large survey of American workers that found not only that “nine out of ten people were willing to earn less money to do more-meaningful work”, but that they would, on average, be willing to forgo “23 per cent of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful”.   ... Just a thought.

Wednesday, December 12

Let's have some perspective

What with the black sky, grey mist and absence of electricity, the homestead has been plunged into darkness. There is so much Parliamentary drama today, and yet the electricity company has decided to carry out essential maintenance – no wireless or television, telephone or broadband. Mrs G. is at her writing desk completing Christmas cards, surrounded by candles. Even our ponies are deserting the sinking ship, rounded up and driven to lower ground for winter. With a (cold) ham salad in prospect I know how they feel.

Call me a cynical sod but, knowing this leadership challenge was in the offing, yesterday’s trip to Europe looks suspiciously like a photo opportunity to promote herself as the proven statesman rather than a serious attempt to secure further concessions. Never thought to see a worse Prime Minister than Gordon Brown.


 “A quarter of those who voted Remain think Brexit is at least as serious as the Cuban missile crisis, which could have resulted in the obliteration of life on earth.”

People, please, get a grip. Talk about Project Fear. Brexit is just a game – think of it as entertainment, like binge-watching a box set. This is not the Cuban missile crisis!

Tuesday, December 11

Christmas treats

Thanks to our recent inclement weather, today was my first jaunt across the moor in a while. Bit on the wet side as you can imagine, though worthwhile if only to work up an appetite. December features a series of culinary themes, and this week’s is Christmas roast ham – a traditional honey and mustard glaze, heavy on the studded cloves.

Restores your faith in humanity

Two nuns admit embezzling $500,000 for Las Vegas gambling trips. I was beginning to despair this newfound Victorian-values age of ours was gaining traction.

Not a lot of people know that

Tres mild this morning, enveloped in fog. A respite from the wind and rain. Neighbours heading to the office drift past on the dot at half-six; the more fortunate light our fires and brew tea, commune with the resident tawny owls – “Then nightly sings the staring owl…a merry note.” People in Shropshire call them Jenny Hooters, in Somerset Hollering Owls.

Sunday, December 9

Well out of it

Our front doorstep for more than two decades, literally – the photographer is almost standing on it. Writing was on the wall long before we departed, about the time it switched from being a South London village to a South London town. Although we’re not immune to a bit of agro in this neck of the woods, for most men (as with this incident), violence remains a feature of your teenage years.

Taking pleasures where you find them

You fret about declining powers, your sense of smell, of taste, not least when when it comes to food and wine. Back when I had access to some of the finest, Gudgeon was a heavy smoker and much of it went over my head. Though shadow of my former self I now better appreciate this side of life – differentiating, for instance, between yesterday’s 1er Cru Chassagne Montrachet and today’s Grand Cru Riesling. My days of drinking £5/bottle wine are long behind me.

It was Science Fiction

The NHS have been told to ditch ‘absurd’ fax machines. People aged under 50 have no idea how revolutionary facsimile machines were in the 1970s. Instead of jumping into your motor, driving across town and hand-delivering a sheet of paper several times/day, you just inserted the document into a magic machine on you desk. A decade later the fax was joined by an Amstrad computer. 

More resignations...the closing down sale

Half of all voters think British politics is “broken” and only one in seven thinks the Tories and Labour represent the views of the public...the Brexit crisis has fractured public trust in the political class, with 44% of voters saying the response of MPs has damaged their view of politicians.  

If Parliament was a business on the High Street it would have to close.

Saturday, December 8

Hunkered down

Given the weather and the Brexit debacle, comfort food remains the mainstay of our diet. Yesterday’s beef and mushroom stew is one of my more reliable efforts. For today’s deferred Works Do, however, I’ve been forced to up the ante with a salmon coulibiac, bought in from those reliable lads in London’s East End. If project fear is to be believed it’ll be hardtack and small beer till climate change finally does for us.

With Brexit to the fore I’ve been rereading Jeremy Black’s pithy take on English Nationalism. We’re told we voted for Brexit across a range of issues, not least those related to culture. Unfortunately the Establishment/MSM seem prepared to talk about any subject other than the ‘English’ question. I thought we’d cracked the multicultural thing years ago, but then ‘identity politics’ reared its Hydra-like heads and multiple derivatives of ‘the other’ emerged to throw stones at us. Aside from the appearance of some sort of messiah or demagogue to capture the imagination I see no way out of our predicament. I suppose there’s always the great British art of compromise.

Friday, December 7

Death of the high street – bring it on

Wednesday was a tad fraught – top of a ladder, torrential rain, flooded yard, etc. – and yet daily life at the homestead is a breeze compared to runs into town. Please god yesterday was the last of our trips to Exeter till next year. I don’t believe I could face another street full of Christmas shoppers.

Thursday, December 6

Fear rarely works, be it climate change or Brexit

"Gore urged Rosling to use his statistical models to show a worst-case global-warming scenario, ‘to create fear’. But Rosling refused, saying that spreading fear tends to generate reactionary and ill-considered responses, and erodes trust in those who spread such fear."

Wednesday, December 5

Piss-ups and breweries

I still think myself youngish – late-middle aged? Yet can recall when £1 was equivalent to three US dollars, when threepence bought me a substantial slice of bread pudding, a bottle of pop AND a packet of Beechnut Gum. Accordingly I struggle to believe that it costs £1 billion to build a short stretch of tarmac!

Today looks somewhat bleak

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary; 
It rains, and the wind is never weary; 
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall, 
But at every gust the dead leaves fall, 
And the day is dark and dreary...

Tuesday, December 4

Playing catch up

On the plus side there’s no wind today, even the rain stopped for a couple of hours. A backlog of fallen tree-limbs and windblown debris to clear. While relatively quiet, the hunt made an appearance. I’m told hunting has become more egalitarian, but our local contingent appear very much old school, impeccable dress and manners. Not so much officer class as Blues and Royals. Classy hounds too.

Monday, December 3

Custom and practise

To Haldon Forest Park this morning, so that Mrs G. could select her principal Christmas tree – now marinating in a water-filled tub prior to installation. Festivities commence as soon as the pointy bit gets stuck up the fairy’s jacksie. This week’s high points include Friday’s pretendy Works’ Christmas Lunch, where we get to reminisce over the highs and lows of obligatory work-related parties we attended during the course of our respective careers. Far simpler times, maybe?

Sunday, December 2

Jack Frost nipping at your nose

Poached brisket and seasonal vegetables, parsnips and carrots, turnip and swede, what more could you ask of Sunday lunch? Christmas spirit is beginning to surface, can almost smell the pine and oranges. Knowing Mrs G. I suspect the homestead is only days away from its traditional festive makeover, not one but two decorated trees, frosty the bloody snowman on continuous loop.

Saturday, December 1

A fun Saturday in prospect

White-van man arrived at 7:30hrs this morning, with several flat-pack storage cupboards that need assembling.

Vicarious travel

A while back I loaned a book to the lad that sits on an adjacent bar stool in the Dog & Duck, a military historian who is perpetually on the move. He returned the well-thumbed tome several days ago. In the four weeks it took him to finish the book our intrepid traveller flew approximately forty-thousand miles, attested in part by the collection of (first class) boarding passes used to annotate the text. This weekend he can be found somewhere in the Himalayas.

Thursday, November 29

Mop and bucket time

Storm Diana’s a noisy bugger; waste of time trying to sleep – suspect everyone is up early this morning. Neighbour’s home flooded. It never rains…as they say.

Wednesday, November 28

Autumn

Despite the febrile Brexit atmosphere and life’s daily ups and downs, the world remains relatively predictable – at this time of year that means gales and heavy rain, fallen trees and missing roof slates, boiler on the blink. Soups and stews are augmented by the grill, veal steaks and black puddings, potatoes of every shape and size; greens, greens, and more greens. A Mediterranean diet is for the birds – who are everywhere. Vast flocks of crows, wood pigeons, chaffinch and long tailed tits. A squad of blackbirds spend each day turning over leaves in the yard in search of food. Game birds are skulking in bushes hiding from the guns.

Tuesday, November 27

School dinners are crap

“Fruit and vegetables given to children under a government scheme are largely imported, often of poor quality and have higher levels of pesticide residues than supermarket equivalents…and is failing in its mission to encourage young people to eat more fresh produce.” ...School dinners are crap! Who’d have thunk?

Sunday, November 25

Making the most of it

And yet here I am, walking on the moor…a beautiful autumn day. Flocks of birds in flight, countless critters scurrying through the undergrowth. One of those ‘glad to be alive’ mornings. You meet neighbours, of course, necessitating the need to stop and talk (just when the Grand Prix is about to kick off).

Saturday, November 24

Foggy and wet

Grim best describes the yard this morning, it has been bucketing down all night. Roads and rail line flooded. Thankfully we finished outside before the rain arrived. Not a day, a weekend, for walking on the moor.

Friday, November 23

Friday nights…

Tony Blackburn followed by Friday Night is Music Night, a bottle of something vaguely alcoholic, and my weekly edition of The Spectator. I began subscribing to the Speccie during the early ’80s, drawn to the exploits of Jeffrey Bernard and the exotic rich boy Taki. Although sceptical of our young lad from Nairn I have to admit the magazine has prospered under his leadership. While there are a limited number of people that can read and write, The Spectator has more than its fair share of decent columnists.

Obituaries of note...John Large, a challenging man

Large collapsed in front of Jenny with a drink in his hand; she said it was the first time he had left a pint unfinished.

Thursday, November 22

Typical faux pas

If you decide to book a team of tree surgeons for the day, probably best it doesn’t coincide with Mrs G’s birthday, not least when you’d promised a celebratory lunch at a fashionable hostelry, and instead the good lady ends up brewing urns of tea for the workforce and cooking dinner at home. Duelling chainsaws ain’t in it. Thankfully Gudgeon had gift-wrapped a Liberty Beauty Advent Calendar, earning automatic admonishment.

More than one way to skin a cat

Media and arts courses at colleges ‘offer false hope’ of glamorous careers by offering too many media studies and arts courses, the education watchdog has said. And yet the last time I made a similar remark, a couple of old friends reminded me their daughters have each succeeded in their chosen field, in fashion, publishing and behind the camera, and that all three own their own home in London. A former classmate also chided me that as an arts college graduate she remains the only individual among our sorry bunch to have made it into Who’s Who.

Tuesday, November 20

Levelling the playing field for boys?

Labour’s Angela Rayner promises to end the hegemony of middle-class girls who do well at school.

Log stoves and Dimplex heaters

It’s back home to the simple life, raking leaves and chopping wood. Simple and cold. After sub-tropical Bath, this morning the yard is minus-four (wind chill). Thank god for log stoves and mugs of hot tea. Between badgers foraging for grubs and our tunnelling moles the paddocks are a mess. ...As long as there’s feed and you chat to them occasionally the ponies appear indifferent to most everything. ...Chatting to neighbour across the hedge: exchanging gossip is human currency wherever you find yourself.

Saturday, November 17

Onwards and upwards, as they say

Three days in Bath (or any city) can be injurious to health. Too much temptation. Even with my aches and pains, partying like there’s no tomorrow remains fun, and in this miserabilist Brexit environment of ours a welcome release. On the downside, the weekend confirms my belief that while restaurant food is on the whole well executed, the quality of produce leaves a lot to be desired. Merely good doesn’t cut it these days – perhaps why so many restaurant chains are going out of business. Today by contrast we found a great backstreet bistro, presided over by a French lad straight out the Raymond Blanc playbook, oily Gallic charm personified and worth every penny of his 20% gratuity. One last evening to go…

Thursday, November 15

A Jack Reacher-style lunch

An old fashioned three-hour session at the Ivy Brasserie – burger and fries, apple pie and ice cream. Not sure Reacher is a Rose Champagne and Sauternes man, but Mrs G. was calling the shots. The city of Bath seems a long way to travel for a telephone and broadband service.

If I didn’t get back to you…reasons

Best laid plans, as they say... Last thing I was looking for on Monday was a lightning strike to take out the transformer and our electricity supply. Took eight hours to fix, before failing again two hours later – a whole day more or less wasted. The strike fried our mainline telephone and broadband, and tossers they are, BT estimate sometime next week before restoring service.

Sunday, November 11

Let's hear it for Wall Street

Hold your nose and count your cash. Since a certain divisive figure was elected on November 8, 2016, the Dow Jones index of American shares has soared by 45%. Even the Standard & Poor’s 500, a broader benchmark of US stocks, is up 33%. By contrast, over the same period, the poor old FTSE 100 index of Britain’s blue-chip shares has edged forward by a meagre 6%.    ...And yet most of my drinking companions at the Dog & Duck continue to put their trust in the Westminster Government and a Post Office savings account? 

Saturday, November 10

Maybe Hobson’s choice is the best we can hope for?

Whether it’s Jo Johnson decrying the mess she’s made of Brexit, or Cressida Dick bemoaning what a piss-poor Home Secretary Theresa May was, the sad fact remains we have no obvious replacement. Whichever way this plays out the backlash will not be pretty. Not that any other country or institution appears exactly spoiled for choice.

Friday, November 9

House-trained guests

Mrs G. has always been tolerant of the characters I bring home from the Dog & Duck. Some lads, however, are not particularly women friendly. In London it used to be Millwall supporters, the ones that find it difficult to string together a sentence without including at least two profanities. Here it’s the lads who wear rings on their thumbs and in their ears, extinguish spliffs in the good lady’s tea cups, and rest their feet on the kitchen table.

Each to their own

A former colleague from Generation X calls, mirroring an all too familiar complaint about the contemporary workplace. Seems our swashbuckling red in tooth and claw commercial life has given way to a bureaucratic regulatory regime – tick box culture, taking a lot of the fun from life. Cavaliers have given way to ranks of Dickensian clerks. I guess Brexit was doomed to failure from the start, the current generation more intent on pursuing a four-day week than conquering markets and slaying the opposition. And yet young people expect similar rewards?

Thursday, November 8

What passes for entertainment

Have worked my way through a veritable stack of books this past couple of months. They beat what’s on offer from the small screen – you can’t best your own imagination/interpretation. My favourite, among a decent field, has to be ‘Only to Sleep’, a Lawrence Osborne tribute to Phillip Marlowe. I’ll read anything from Osborne – a class act; and Raymond Chandler is a god. I used to feel the same about film in general, but over this past decade or more movies have been made for a less demanding audience. I remain a sucker for old shit like this afternoon’s ‘Barefoot Contessa’. The film is baloney, of course, laid on with a trowel. Classy baloney of the highest order.

Wednesday, November 7

Dialling it back and having fun?

Dream on. Have worked harder during the first week of November than at any time last month. To the quarry this morning for aggregate to fill pot holes (rain devastated track); returned to stand on top of ladder clearing gutters and replacing slates, rain lashing down (Gudgeon is waterproofed). Cleared room prior to arrival of carpet man (removing seven bookcases), installed ceiling lights, rehung artwork, replaced a couple of window locks, and fitted new fire bricks. Whatever satisfaction I feel from my efforts is tempered by the knowledge that Mrs G. puts in double the hours I do.

Tuesday, November 6

A demarcation of civilisation

Or a prison wall? Senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot agreed that Mrs Hajiyeva could be released on bail - if she pays £500,000 as a guarantee, stays at her home in Knightsbridge, “does not travel outside the M25” and reports to police every day... I recently ordered an item of furniture from the Conran Shop, who appeared aghast that I lived beyond the confines of the M25. Their delivery charge was eye-watering. Apparently they need two operatives in the van – one, presumably, to hold the shotgun.

A free afternoon

Battening down hatches in advance of approaching storm. Shame we have to lose this wonderful autumn scenery...

Storm arrives! You have to picture it: I’m surrounded by windows (and livestock) – have a panoramic view, tucked up beside the log stove. Homestead enveloped in mist, small trees bent to the wind – the 60 footers barely twitching, horizontal rain. It’s great stuff. A million miles from what passed as the inner city of my early teenage years.

Sunday, November 4

Wet ain’t in it

Driving through the rain to Plymouth for supplies was particularly testing – and yet could man survive without ScrewFix and Sunday opening? Rewarded with a roast pork (Saddleback) lunch mit all the trimmings. ...Caught Arron Banks on Marr. The lad could be trafficking kidnapped babies and you’d forgive him, if only for his ability to piss off the usual suspects.

Saturday, November 3

Back to the jumps

Saturday mornings include an early call to the bakers before they sell out. Ciabatta, brioche and those sticky cardamom buns that Mrs G. favours. Today is sheep fest – neighbour is hosting an open house, complete with catering truck. Everyone gets to see shepherds and dogs in action on the moor, is lectured on the various breeds of sheep and all things pertaining to woolly animals. Another local, Bryony Frost, is back on top of Black Corton at Wetherby.

Friday, November 2

A bar on every train!

Easy to pooh-pooh grown men’s infatuation with trains, and you had to be careful of the enthusiasts (cameras/tripods at the ready) when driving across the narrow railway bridge this morning. In an era when diesel is so maligned, however, it’s refreshing to see people celebrating the real thing.

Thursday, November 1

Poppy refuseniks

Not around here, matey. The local metropolis has gone overboard this year, decorating lampposts and grass verges with poignant displays. “Why should we wear poppies for wars we weren’t even alive for,” they ask. For most of us it’s an annual reminder of our parents and grandparent’s generation – to say nothing of the friends and neighbours we sent to the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al. – and the ultimate sacrifice. At the going down of the sun and in the morning...

Sticks to your ribs

Gudgeon celebrates the end of Stoptober (there’s a reason married men live longer and enjoy better health). On the plus side, and in spite of the sautéed potatoes, pasta and iced fingers, I start November a couple of pounds lighter (circa 137.0lbs). My weight has been pretty well static for several years. Today’s repast includes a Rhône favourite, obviously, together with large portions of comfort food – braised shin of beef, greens and sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, October 31

All work and no play makes...

This has been one long month, albeit we’ve completed most everything we had set out to achieve. Not quite there, but the remainder is more about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Can give some thought to having a bit of fun.

Tuesday, October 30

A cunning plan?

On the face of it Hammond’s budget didn’t sound half-bad; in fact it was relatively optimistic. A budget for ‘strivers and grafters’. I wonder what happens when the current economic cycle turns? This is a crisis of confidence for a Conservative Party that has lost its way. In the same manner Blair moved to the right to reassure Tories, May has parked her bus on the social democratic left. Hardly the buccaneering adventurer we’d hoped for. But then there’s a serious election in the offing; not a whimsy like Brexit, but one that may determine Britain’s path over the next couple of decades – arguably the remainder of my life. I was born into a bombed out and broke 1950s Britain, and could be handing it back in much the same condition.

Monday, October 29

That time of year

Now this is what I call a real frost. A beautiful day, but zero degrees this morning. Time to turn on the central heating and chop more wood; exchange my polo shirts for flannel.

Saturday, October 27

Modern-day public stocks

I wonder to what extent the Telegraph’s salacious pursuit of Philip Green is in danger of fostering a Kavanaugh-style polarisation of public opinion, not least when lowlife Hain is on the opposing side. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this latest case, I would hope the lad gets his day in court rather than being summarily stripped of his knighthood. The court of public opinion can be a fickle thing, siding with the likes of goody two shoes Cliff Richard while prepared to believe the worst of a Jew in the retail trade. Denigrating Tommy Robinson while praising Lord Peter “I’m speaking out against wealth and privilege” Hain. No surprise No10 is among the first to jump on the bandwagon.

Friday, October 26

Glass half-empty

According to this week’s Speccie the country isn’t doing too badly. “Companies have been hiring at a rate never seen before. Youth unemployment is at an all-time low. Salaries are (finally) rising faster than inflation. The Office for Budget Responsibility, which has been almost as gloomy as Mr Hammond in its outlook, will have to admit that it has yet again got it wrong and that the public finances are in healthier shape than it has assumed. Income inequality is near a 30-year low, and corporation tax receipts are churning in at a rate that has astonished the Treasury.” Good as things appear, however, I suspect its nothing Theresa May and her chancellor can’t fuck up given enough rope.

Same old same old...

“More than 50,000 military personnel from 31 nations opened Nato’s biggest exercises since the Cold War yesterday, defending Norway against a possible attack from the east. the two-week show of strength, intended to project western readiness to deter Russian aggression, involves the deployment of 250 aircraft, 10,000 tanks and land vehicles, and naval vessels such as USS Harry S Truman, a nuclear aircraft carrier.”       …I spent my teenage years skulking round Rhineland forests, waiting for Russian tanks to roll across the border. Fifty years later we’re both still at it.

Wednesday, October 24

Pipe dream

A wonderful spell of fine weather. As with summer, however, the sunshine remains off limits. Autumn and we’re still trapped indoors, decorating. When we do finish painting there’s new lighting to be installed, carpet and blinds to be fitted. Outside has been sorely neglected, the list of chores ever lengthening. Promised myself we’d take two months off at the end of October – a pipe dream? Am trying to recall how we managed to do this sort of shit when we both worked for a living.

The diet of champions: gallons of coffee and a box of Ella’s iced fingers.

Sunday, October 21

Bah Humbug!

Flicking through the Sunday newspapers merely confirms the rightness of my decision to stop the world and get off. Lunatics and asylums ain’t in it. I count it a plus that work on our local transmitter has deprived the homestead of radio and television signals, sparing me the broadcast media’s worthless opinion. …To the market this morning, loading up on veal and venison – both freezers are just about full. Whatever’s waiting in the wings, be it Brexit or Corbyn, pestilence and plague, at least we won’t go hungry.

Friday, October 19

Still hard at work

Tres weary. Since Mrs G. sacked the decorator and installed me in his place, it’s been nose to the grindstone. In order to meet the Boss’s exacting standards, walls and ceilings have to be restored to perfection, knots, holes and blemishes dealt with, everything sanded to within an inch of its life. Three different undercoats to address the multiple surfaces, a minimum two topcoats on each. When not painting, I’m either washing brushes and rollers, or driving to Exeter for more supplies – have spent a small fortune on posh paint. Guess it keeps me out of trouble, idle hands and all that.

Wednesday, October 17

Too busy to post

Painting & Decorating. It’s not so much the prep as the god-awful wall panelling I have had to remove – my predecessor was a moron.

Sunday, October 14

Not gonna happen

“Experts, says the BBC’s environmental analyst, generally agree that for healthy lives and a healthy planet, the battle over climate change will have to get personal. That could mean people driving smaller cars, walking and cycling more, flying less, buying less fast fashion, wearing a sweater in winter… AND EATING LESS MEAT. People will still live good lives, but they'll have to make a cultural shift. If governments do not feel able to back those messages, they say, the near impossible task of holding global temperature rise to 1.5C will become even more difficult.”

…Not gonna happen, certainly not in my lifetime.

Sundays…

Wonders never cease: it has stopped raining and the sun made a brief appearance…ladybirds are emerging from window frames. A morale-boosting Oirish stew for Sunday lunch – a lazy Sunday. Lazy for me, that is; we’ve taken in a stallion and he’s busy defiling the mares. Lazy means idle hands…and just as we found our food supplies running short, so too the wine cellar. Have spent my idle moments ordering up supplies from Bordeaux and the Languedoc, North West Spain and Tuscany. Everyone needs a hobby, something to keep them occupied during autumn and throughout those long winter nights.

Leaders' debates

I see Sky TV’s debate petition has stalled in the mid thirty thousands. If something was popular with the public I would anticipate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to join the clamour. 36k seems such a piddling number for a national campaign, and maybe reflects the public’s antipathy to political debate. Perhaps May and Corbyn should agree to a dance off with their respective partners, a la Strictly? Television debates are nothing more than an opportunity for snake oil salesmen such as Cameron and Clegg – skilled in the art of flannel – to impress the gullible.

Saturday, October 13

Restocking freezer

The yard resembled a war zone this morning. Took off across the moor to Tavistock Farmers Market before the next weather front arrives. Today is one of those days you’re better off staying home, except supplies were low. Picked up steaks and joints of native-breed beef, and an assortment of saddleback pork. Throw in yesterday’s half-hogget and the larder’s suddenly looking healthier.

Contagions of sentiment

“Many people are turning their backs upon specialists, whether in the fields of medicine, science, economics or foreign policy.” Max Hastings decries the contemporary fashion for ‘sentiment’ as an antidote to ‘experts’. And what right-thinking person could disagree with his premise? The trouble stems from people such as Max who spend much of their time belittling anyone that actually does disagree. Like many of his ilk, Max believes there are those born to lead, and the rest of us – those bereft of the necessary cognitive, technical, or social skills. It’s the sort of in-your-face arrogance that led to Brexit, Trump and Corbyn. A little self-deprecation, humility, goes a long way.

Friday, October 12

Autumn is the hardest season

Storm Callum has arrived with the usual litany of fallen trees and flooded roads. Up here on our wind swept corner the deluge is particularly heavy, first real test of the summer maintenance programme. Have dispatched Mrs G. to check on neighbours; those downhill of us keep a dingy at the back door.

The electricity supply has been restored in time for supper. A portion of hogget from the man next door. I guess the reason an animal is classified as ‘rare breed’ is that there’s not enough meat on the carcass to make it economically viable. I also suspect the breed is not to everyone’s taste.

Wednesday, October 10

All work and no play

While I’ve managed an occasional trek on the moor, the homestead is keeping us busy. One more room to decorate and that’s the lot for this year. The actual painting isn’t a problem, so much as choosing a colour scheme. In the old days I would prevaricate at length, before painting everything magnolia. These days it’s white, albeit a poncey Farrow & Ball white.

Monday, October 8

Good luck with that one

“Using gas boilers to heat homes could be abandoned as governments are set to face renewed calls for dramatic action to tackle climate change. A major report on the impact of global warming, to be published on Monday, will warn about the speed and scale of measures required to keep temperature rises to a level beyond which many vulnerable countries say their survival is at risk.”   ...I’m sure these people inhabit some sort of fantasy world. Listened to the papers review on Sky News this morning… In past times everything was attributed to being ‘Thatcher’s fault’. Seems the great lady has been usurped by Trump.

Saturday, October 6

Good times do end

“When Novak Djokovic beat Kei Nishikori to reach last month’s final of the US Open, he ensured the survival of modern sport’s eeriest statistic. No man born after 1988 has won a grand slam singles title. In this discrete world of fixed rules and limited variables, all the accumulated gains in physical conditioning, technical know-how and performance data have failed to make a Stanislas Wawrinka, let alone a Djokovic, from the uncountable tennis-playing boys born after 1988. The cohort that is 30 or below has no answer to its elders. That we have lived through an unrepeatably good era of sport, and are due drabber times, is hard to accept, so resilient is the idea of history as linear progress. While it is confined to sport, that idea is a harmless naivety. If it bleeds into the real world, however, it creates the expectation of continuous improvement in material life. When this is dashed, well, look around you for the fallout. The anger of the day stems from a kind of innocence. It assumes progress to be the natural order of things — not just the way the world should be, but the way it has been most of the time. So, when we find ourselves renting at the age our parents bought homes, or stuck in a mill town that peaked two generations ago, we think something anomalous is going on. From there it is a small step to the conclusion that our venal rulers have jammed the normal operation of history. Dump them and the machine will resume its gradual upgrades. The leftist millennial and the middle-aged reactionary both treat the past as a baseline from which there must be, if not constant improvement, then no slippage at all. A lifetime of peace and riches since 1945 has left us with this sunny take on how history works. Unfortunately, progress proves to be fitful and reversible. We take a golden age for granted, until it ends.” (Janan Ganesh, FT)

Part of the game, this time of year

You spend a good part of the day raking leaves, loading them into a wheelbarrow and trundling each load down to the composting site some 120yds distant. Then you wheel out the mower and treat the yard its last shave of the season, before clearing gutters and downpipes in advance of the rain. Only to wake this morning and find the homestead buried under a carpet of leaves, gutters and downpipes blocked. You spend a good part of the day raking leaves… Don’t laugh, it beats the gym.

Thursday, October 4

Bygone era

Maurizio ‘Zanza’ Zanfanti, legendary playboy from Rimini – obituary.

Tuesday, October 2

“Every country has the government it deserves”

For all our faults – and we’ve a fair few – England’s a none-too-shabby country. Listening to Conservative Party Conference speakers, however, you wonder what we have done to deserve such a shower. Is contemporary politics so unattractive a career? I could forgive their woodenness and lack of stature, if the trains ran on time. But they don’t. And don’t get me started on the so-called opposition.

Sunday, September 30

How quickly it changes

Autumn food: boiled gigot of mutton with caper sauce – a big meaty, brooding savoury wine from Northern Spain…blazing wood fires. Outside the leaves are falling. Wood pigeons predominate, a flock of tinkling goldfinches…squirrels are burying nuts, ponies have begun growing winter coats.

Thursday, September 27

Last of our warm days?

A scorching 26°C in Exeter. Ate lunch on the terrace of a regular venue, soaking up the sunshine ‘while admiring the view’, serenaded by a sax-playing busker. I appreciate you’re not supposed to objectify women in this brave new world of ours, indulge in aesthetic judgements. But it would be like visiting a gallery and not looking at the art on display?

Monday, September 24

Rough Monday

Tote that barge and lift that bale ain’t in it. If only I could sing bass baritone. The homestead is looking good but there’s still a ways to go…place reeks of paint. Thankfully the days of woodchip and artex – the 1970s – are consigned to history.

Saturday, September 22

The storm abates

Unfortunately the rain seems determined to compensate. Neighbours in red coats appear undaunted, in pursuit of baying hounds, astride their formidable hunters. Yours truly is hunkered down beside a blazing stove watching the racing from Ayr. Have grilled a rib of beef for sustenance, Mrs G’s pink fir apple potatoes and my trusty chimichurri sauce, a ‘bon marché’ Hermitage.

Thursday, September 20

Salzburg catastrophe

Throughout the pantomime I’ve reassured myself that Prime Minister May had some sort of cunning plan. Even now I prefer to believe the negotiations are a charade, a cynical dance played out between both sides enabling each to claim a victory when we eventually settle. Experience tells me we should have walked when we had the chance, and truth to tell I’m too far down the line and well enough padded to be concerned about the outcome one way or the other. They say a picture is worth a thousand words...maybe we shouldn't have sent a woman to do a man’s job?

Sea Kings final flypast

Goodbye to one of the familiar sights and sounds above the homestead.

Wednesday, September 19

Changing landscape

Weather – gales and rain – has put a damper on the work schedule, with gates waiting to be painted and outside lighting installed. You can forget climbing ladders. ...Have been clocking up the mileage with runs into town for supplies (dentist, optician, barber, etc.), and jaunts to distant North Devon, west of Braunton. The latter was to see a man about a dog, so to speak, but also afforded an opportunity to revisit old haunts. …Our poor weather has brought on a revival in comfort food, mince and tatties, daube de boeuf, etc. – the rosé season is no more, produce from the allotment a different hue.

Sunday, September 16

Generation Sensible don’t know the half of it

Only half of 18-24-year olds will have had a drink in the past week, compared with 78 per cent in the year 2000. The same goes for smoking, drug-taking and having sex. There are, of course, multiple reasons why this might be so. Somewhere to live is a start: back in 2000, when the average house price was £80,365 and average annual pay £18,848, getting hitched could also be the chance to climb onto the housing ladder. In the interim, average pay may have risen to £27,271, but house prices have ballooned to £226,906, or eight times the average salary. While young adults at the turn of the century were boozing their way into the new millennium, today’s teens are more likely to be found in the gym than the pub. Small wonder they’ve been dubbed “Generation Sensible”. Not sure how living it large is dependent on owning a house, but there you go.

Bummer

Former England and Ipswich Town footballer Kevin Beattie dies of suspected heart attack. His career was dogged by injury and all but ended at the age of 28, when he left Ipswich. Thirty years later he was living in a council-owned bungalow in Wren Avenue in Ipswich, where he cared for his wife who has multiple sclerosis.

Saturday, September 15

Tragic

“Our second-biggest selling product is Pepsi," he said. "Isn’t that sacrilege? We are no longer a nation of piss artists.” Lavazza coffee is Wetherspoon's best-selling drink by volumes.

Friday, September 14

Blind leading the blind?

Longer lives and rapid advances in technology could mean the end of retirement, Mark Carney has warned. The governor of the Bank of England today said the very nature of work is changing with Britain on the cusp of entering a Fourth Industrial Revolution which will be dominated by artificial intelligence, automation, biotechnology and 3D printing. This speed at which this will occur and the shift required from workers to a new and different set of skills will be far greater than previous industrial revolutions, he said, adding that this means workers may not be able to “seamlessly” move to new jobs and many may not be able to afford to retire in response. It comes a day after the cabinet was warned that house prices would fall by 35 per cent over three years after a chaotic no-deal Brexit, according to a stark briefing by Mr Carney. 

A recent report implied that, with an average age of 31, staff at HM Treasury are too young and inexperienced, and as a consequence know diddly-squat – are prone to giving dud advice. Although aged 53, am not sure we should take the man at the helm of the Bank of England too literally either. Carney’s pronouncements enter one ear and exit the other – but then maybe I also rely on my heart instead of my head. The most disturbing thing I’ve read recently is that the government has been unable to identify anyone local – a Brit – who is either capable or willing enough to take over as governor when Carney buggers off back to Canada.

Bubbles and echo-chambers

“I think I might sooner live in a society governed by the regulars of a Devon pub than in a world designed by the graduates of Stanford University and MIT.”

The cliché is that French food is better than ours

If there’s a cliché, Mr Rayner, it’s of your own making. “And yet, here I sit on a sun-dappled terrace in south-west France… I have just returned from a run to the local boulangerie with armfuls of croissant baked this morning. In the kitchen, we have baskets of plump, misshapen tomatoes from the fields just below the house we are staying in, a board full of stinky French cheeses making a bid for freedom and slabs of paté that smell of all the best bits of ground animal…I have become the living, breathing embodiment of every damn filthy food cliché of which I claim to be suspicious; I am the heir to snooty Elizabeth David made soft, wobbling, French-cheese-boosted flesh.” …I don’t doubt there are pockets of Britain where fast food outlets predominate; suspect France has its fair share of culinary lavatories too. Even here in the sticks, however, providing you’re prepared to search them out and have deep enough pockets, life has long been enlivened by local producers. We’ve artisan bakers that are more than a match for our Froggy counterparts, an abundance of golden girolles and stinky cheeses, just-picked tomatoes and figs on the turn.

As tradition dictates, Friday features my weekly infusion of Omega 3 – this week including a fair-sized tin of locally sourced caviar. “Locally sourced,” you say, “pull the other one.” And yet Exmoor Caviar is in demand from Michelin starred chefs across the land, is favoured by Brett Graham (The Ledbury), Jonny Lake & Ashley Palmer-Watts (The Fat Duck & Dinner) & Raymond Blanc (Le Manoir). …Of course, there are only two things you can drink with caviar (and vodka is off limits these days), obliging me to concede there are things the French do better. As the big lad is reputed to have said: “In victory I deserve it…In defeat I need it.”

Wednesday, September 12

Just pleased it's over

Opened up the old part of the house this morning. It has been used as a store during the summer maintenance programme and was tres damp – two blazing fires appear to have sorted the problem. You could spend every waking day around the homestead, finding things to repair, paint, rewire…attack with saw or axe. Although it addresses the idle hands conundrum, as an avowed idler, every pint I sink these days comes with a large dose of guilt (should really be back home doing this, that or the other).

The final bill for the programme arrived this morning. Instead of a fixed-price arrangement, on this occasion I took a punt and agreed to pay everyone on an hourly-rate basis. The former hasn’t really worked for me, with contractors turning a blind eye to problems they discover in a rush to get to their next job. Of course there are always discoveries that require attention, and my original 3 week estimate was almost immediately revised to 5-8 weeks. In the end the programme took 10 weeks, including occasional Saturdays and a number of 10 and 12 hour shifts. A total of five lads played their part, three tradesmen and two grunts; albeit no more than three were on duty at any one time. All worked their butts off and did a great job. I can’t fault the result. Five individuals on an hourly rate… With the books now closed, my estimated cost at two weeks in, turns out to be just £140 adrift. Appears I haven’t lost my touch.

Jumping the shark

It seems our 11-year-old children are the fattest in Europe, primarily because they drink an excessive amount of alcohol: Research on 53 countries found Britain rising up the obesity league tables, and among the “world champions” for alcohol consumption – on a par with Poland and Latvia… Dr Claudia Stein, director of the division of Information, Evidence, Research and Innovation, WHO Regional Office for Europe, said… drinking levels in Europe are the highest in the world. We hold the horrible world record of being the world champions in alcohol consumption… obesity trends are “alarming” – with high levels seen among children as young as 11.      …OK so I’ve quoted somewhat out of context, but that’s what the Steins of the world usually do in an effort to reinforce a point. And of course the Telegraph loves to conflate these things to wind up their audience.

You couldn’t make it up

Makes you wonder what they teach kids nowadays. According to one train of thought, Soviet Gulags are just like university – an opportunity to learn something and better yourself. Solzhenitsyn was once compulsory reading for students of a left-wing bent.

Tuesday, September 11

We can but dream

“A curious sympathy for hardcore socialism is taking root among thirty-somethings…Open reliance on the bank of mum and dad has made dependency culture socially acceptable in a way it just wasn't 30 years ago. There is, thus, a serious possibility that we have not reached peak Corbyn, but rather he is slightly ahead of his time.”       ...Let me get this straight, we’re destined to become Sweden at just about the time Sweden hits the buffers. Making predictions about the future is not too dissimilar to dreaming what we’d do if we won the lottery. Had our boomer predictions come true, we’d now be living the life of George and Jane Jetson.

Monday, September 10

Just keep pushing

My weekend visit to the Dog & Duck provided all the confirmation I need that our local Brexit war remains intractable. Both sides are so far dug in, neighbours could be on different planets. The sole argument of Remoaners – one they’re not shy of repeating at every opportunity – is that Brexiteers are uneducated, racist troglodytes who should never have been afforded a vote, that everyone with half a brain and an education is leaving the country to live among civilised people on the continent. All they’ve achieved is to wind up the so-called silent majority who were sitting on the fence. Have no idea how a second vote would pan out, but I wouldn’t discount a significant majority for the hardest of hard Brexits.

Sunday, September 9

’Twas the same when I was a kid

Fell for the same line, and grabbed it with both hands. Enlisted at sixteen…ambition and risk was the point of the exercise. Never regretted a minute.

Sundays…

Out on the moor early morning for my regular trek. A glorious sunny day. Younger runners, beating up the ground. Home to lunch: a medley of black puddings and lambs kidneys, a sun-kissed red from the Languedoc. An afternoon snooze.

Friday, September 7

A case of giving with one hand...

In an effort to meet our deadline the team worked a ten-hour shift yesterday. A final push this morning and we’re finished. For a couple of weeks that is, at which time the next stage begins. Am hoping that part proceeds at a more leisurely pace…features something a little more engaging than Spiced Honey, fashionable colour of the season. ...Much grumbling among the lads regarding Hammond’s stealth tax – reneging on the Class 2 NICs contributions. As it happens they’re married to girls working in the health and education services, the ones who will doubtless benefit from the Chancellor’s (taxpayers’) largess. A case of robbing Peter to pay Paula? You could argue the money stays in the family unit, minus the government’s commission of course.

Wednesday, September 5

The yard resembles a car boot sale

Disassembled scaffolding and buckshee timber, power tools and paint tins…white vans. We’re not there yet but the end is in sight. Yes I know I’ve said that before…fingers crossed this time. While there’s more that needs to be done, everyone is in need of a break. To those fellow citizens who assume property is a one way bet, free money, I would respectfully remind them of the maintenance costs that come with your average home. Even Gudgeon would be prepared to consider a capital gains tax on domestic properties – providing mortgage interest payments and maintenance costs can be deducted from income/property tax liabilities. Think of the boost to the economy, replacing kitchens and bathrooms every alternate year, building countless extensions – pantries and wine cellars, gyms and swimming pools, libraries and cinemas, stables…

Tuesday, September 4

The Grill - a great bar

At least it was till 1973. Haven’t visited for some years. The Fittie had its moments too.

The soaps – a ringside seat

Busy-busy, running here and there, yet still finding time to walk the moor. Guaranteed to aid sleep, you’d think... I was woken from my slumber at four this morning – four o’clock, mind – by a ‘domestic’. A not-so-happy couple decided to air their grievances outside my bedroom window. The lady’s name appeared to be ‘Fat Skag’ and the lad was ‘Paedo C***’. At least that’s how they addressed each other. She tore into him for close to a half-hour without once taking breath. I haven’t tuned into EastEnders since Dirty Den was impregnating school girls, but imagine this is just the type of confrontation (entertainment?) most people sit down to watch on weekday nights.

Sunday, September 2

Wine and food

The late summer weather continues to impress. There may come a time when I’m bored with sunshine, though perhaps not just yet. Still drinking Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne) – this weekend with both fish and Mrs G’s mutton curry. I suppose the curry presages seasonal change, ditto Friday’s braised beef cheek. Red wines begin to intrude. We’ve drunk some fine Beaujolais (Morgon) recently but they were the exception. Been a fun journey, from le Piat d’Or to here.

Thursday, August 30

Desperate for a break

Our painter has been tres busy, the upside of which is a long weekend for yours truly. There are limits to my ability to interact with other people and I am being pushed pretty close. All good lads but...

Another first

This morning was our first visitor to the homestead driving a hybrid motor. He was out of petrol and, given our semi-remoteness, down to his last kW. Although I’ve never yet opened the front door and been greeted by someone proffering an empty jerry can, I suppose gratuitous use of my electricity supply will become a frequent feature of our green energy future?

Fake news?

There are many headlines I just don’t understand and refuse to believe. This morning’s Times informs us a fifth of Scots – more than a million – are given opioid drugs for long-term pain management. I assume that rather than one in five, the figures reflect repeat prescriptions to a far more limited number of people. If it really is a million individuals, life in Scotland has become more brutal than I recall.

Wednesday, August 29

The holidays will soon be over: good or bad?

Why longer holidays can add years to your life… Taking more than three weeks’ holiday a year could lengthen your life, according to results that give another reason to mourn the end of summer. Doctors should prescribe time off to people with heart problems to ensure that the stress of trying to live more healthily does not kill them, researchers said. ...Counter-intuitively, who among us hasn’t viewed a return to work following our family holiday as a blessed release.

Tuesday, August 28

Another day, another U-turn

Cheese and red meat are back on the menu - as an international study suggests eating around twice as much as health officials advise. The study of 220,000 adults found that eating three portions of dairy and one and half portions of meat a day could cut the risk of early death by one quarter. Scientists said the findings “challenge conventional wisdom” after decades of advice to cut down on full-fat dairy and red meat. ...If this sort of thing keeps up, proves true, I am going to live forever.

It’s the way you tell ’em

I stopped at a cafe in Dalhart and ordered a chicken fried steak. Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak. The cafe was full of boys in football jackets, and the jukebox was playing an odious number called “Billy Broke My Heart in Walgreen’s and I Cried All the Way to Sears.” The waitress was a thin, sad-eyed woman with hands that looked like she had used them to twist barbed wire all her life. She set the steak in front of me and went wearily back to the counter to get a bottle of ketchup. The meat looked like a piece of old wood that had had perhaps one coat of white paint in the thirties and then had had that sanded off by thirty years of Panhandle sandstorms. “Here,” the waitress said, setting the ketchup bottle down. “I hope that steak’s done enough. There ain’t nothin’ like steak when you’re hungry, is there, son?” “No, ma’am, there ain’t,” I said. 
            Larry McMurtry, A Look at the Lost Frontier

I recall once eating a meal at Pinky’s cafe – and yes, it was mashed potatoes and chicken fried steak.

Monday, August 27

Week 9

Bank holiday Monday. Rain stopped at 08:00hrs and builders arrived 08.05hrs. There are approx. 52 windows in the homestead and most if not all have been removed at least once during the maintenance programme, to be repaired and/or re-glazed, and the frames repainted. Today’s team are already tearing into plasterwork and render, lump hammers and power tools wielded with abandon.

I’ll say it again: the current crop of young builders are more than competent, super polite, and a dab hand with the vacuum cleaner. 

Friday, August 24

Sad sorts, every one of us

 
Aside from dribbling and forgetting where we’ve left the keys, one of the principal embarrassments of age is the Uncle Albert Syndrome, a desire to impress the younger cohort with our worldly experience. Think Vince Cable and Jeremy Corbyn making fools of themselves when surrounded by groupies. Tall stories ain’t in it.

Wednesday, August 22

Career choices

I’ll make an unoriginal observation, in that we’ve no chance of building the quantity of housing the country is crying out for – not necessarily because of the dearth of land, nor difficulties with our planning system – but because there aren’t enough lads prepared to enlist in the construction industry, to get their hands dirty. My Irish friends will probably remind me it has always been so, why they came her in the 60s and 70s. Just getting the homestead patched up this summer has been problematic, competing with neighbours for the limited number of live bodies we can lay our hands on – the sort that know what they’re doing. The papers are full of whining Millennials unable to afford somewhere to live, to live ‘normal’ lives. Yet the guys I’ve hired this past couple of months (all aged in their 30s) are married with kids, own their own homes, appear happy to work weekends, bank holidays and put in an occasional 12hr day. Dare I say live normal lives. The sort of life you can’t afford with a degree in grievance studies from Crap Street University.

Friday, August 17

Our weak currency

At one stage this morning my motor was the only British plate in the line. I haven’t seen this many Germans outside of Germany. Must be how Margaret Hodge feels the Poles felt back when. Being invaded was not the response we anticipated when casting our Brexit vote.

Thursday, August 16

Each to their own

Aretha Franklin pops her clogs and everyone in MSM who doubtless doesn’t own any of her albums jumps on the wagon. On the plus side, the Queen of Soul has screwed Madonna’s 60th by putting the material girl in perspective. Guess it’s a generational thing.

Wednesday, August 15

Fortitude

Another day at the grindstone. Weather’s reverting to type. Black, out on the moor – remained dry for the afternoon but now lashing down. Our paint job (renovation) continues…and continues. Both sides are tired, looking to the end game. Began as a three-week prospect; morphed into a five to eight week programme; now, if we’re being truthful, settling on an eight to ten week ordeal. Shouldn’t moan…truth is we have been lucky with the weather. ...Trout for supper, Mrs G’s pink fir apple potatoes. An outstanding Sancerre, glass of Sauternes – bowl of cherries and peaches.

Before you know it...

Made my escape onto the moor yesterday afternoon. A fair number of walkers. Twenty or more riders exercising mounts – thought I recognised one or two, several appeared to recognise me? Flying beneath the radar isn’t as easy as when you live in a large city. On the way down I came across a delivery lorry loaded with builders’ supplies that had taken a wrong turn and become stuck in a narrow lane, both sides of the vehicle wedged against opposing dry stone walls. Took some time to help extract him…with significant damage to vehicle. Sat nav systems have a lot to answer for. Sizable flock of swallows in situ, guess they’ll be moving on pretty soon. Hedges need cutting.

Tuesday, August 14

Grumpy Old Man Syndrome

Even yours truly is not immune. And yet the principal difference between being 67 instead of 37 is the equanimity with which you accept the frustrations of everyday life. Once you’ve come to terms with the realisation that eighty per cent of your fellow citizens are total morons, life becomes a breeze.

Gives mince a bad name

Unbelievable! Massie has actually written something we can agree on.

So many spurned chances

As a player, pundit with a ready quip, and exemplar of smart gentlemen’s clothing, I’ve always liked Ian Wright. Which was why I was so disappointed, yesterday evening on the Monday Night Club, to hear him attributing criticism of Raheem Sterling to racism among media commentators. I thought he was above that sort of thing, grievance politics – obviously been hanging around Lineker too long. If people have a problem with Sterling it’s his failure to close the deal – put the ball in the net – on a more regular basis.

Sunday, August 12

Traditional Sunday lunch

Roast chicken mit the (home-grown) trimmings, oatmeal stuffing and gravy. A classic Graves…bottle of Dufftown’s finest.

Speaking as a short, bald gargoyle

“Freud famously asked: what do women want? And I think that after two marriages, a dozen long-term relationships and a thousand-and-one dates, I’ve discovered the answer to that great mystery: they want a man with a beautiful house – preferably one in the beautiful British countryside. They say size isn’t everything, but it’s amazing how the possession of a big house will alter a woman’s perception of a man. He doesn’t have to be tall and handsome to attract women. He can be a short, bald gargoyle with bad breath — but thanks to his beautiful big house, there are women who will see him as a tall sexy beast. Women will love you for who you are. They just won’t marry you for who you are.”

Just keep digging

I’m beginning to sympathise with Arlene Foster: her jibe about feeding the crocodile. No matter how reasonable or accommodating – the lengths we go to, to meet people halfway – it will never be enough. A Prime Minister that makes Gordon Brown appear statesman-like.

Saturday, August 11

Worse than neighbour’s muckspreading ops

Empties aside, the principal hangover from yesterday’s party is the smell. Among my birthday presents was a rather large box from The Fine Cheese Co. Its contents have permeated the homestead. I’m on a cheese-fest weekend. Large portions of Montgomery Cheddar, Tunworth soft cheese and Bath Blue. Bottles of Gruaud-Larose and Sauternes. Arteries clogging as we speak.

Friday, August 10

A wild Dartmoor morning

Heavy on the rain. Builder and painter downed tools, retired to base – leaving yours truly free to celebrate my birthday in peace. If the actuarial calculations are correct I’m running out of time. Doing my best to make the most of it.

Thursday, August 9

Holland - like Belfast, apparently, but with clogs

“The vision of a globalised society, wherein Moroccans, Persians, Eritreans, Scandinavians and Latin-Americans or what-have-you live in the same street, shop at the same stores, and drink at the same bars, presumably in a land of perpetual sunshine is a fantasy so flawed, so objectively failed, that one would have to spend one’s days in an ivory tower, locked away from reality, in order to believe it. The harsh reality in Holland now is that people have their own barbers, their own shopping markets, their own foods, their own places to socialise, their own worlds. They are not comfortable living around one another, and where they are forced to do so by the rental market, they are not comfortable sharing the space. This is not an opinion – this is a fact backed by government research. The latest findings by the Dutch government explicitly state that feelings of mistrust and loss of identity rise in parallel with an increase in societal diversity.”

Wednesday, August 8

Nothing to see here

Tonight is an Eyetie night: spaghetti mit bottle of Chianti... Racial epithets of the past were a hangover from our parents (wartime) generation: Krauts, Eyeties and Frogs, etc. In this day and age, however, such is our tolerance of ‘the other’, Burka-gate barely resonates. If it does our response is likely to venture into Boris-like humour – can’t take them seriously, someone who swans about dressed in a sack. We remain an open society and, within certain bounds, are allowed to dress and do what we want – however ridiculous. Likewise our right to take the piss. Like many I’m less concerned about accusations of racism than my being accused of burnishing some sort of ragbag of pseudo-liberal pretensions, of virtue signalling.

Tuesday, August 7

We're a sad bunch of cripples, apparently

Our Mediterranean-like spell of weather continues – you can’t get too much of a good thing. If only it could be bottled for when winter begins to drag. Guess that’s why aeroplanes were invented? Make hay while the sun shines, or so the proverb goes, because researchers say that by the age of 50, most of us will be have at least one long-term health condition. Shit, one in five of us supposedly doesn’t make it to 30 before the rot sets in. “We need to look at health through a different lens, one that focuses on how we prevent and delay people developing significant health problems.” Discourage us from consuming or doing anything that makes life tolerable more likely. “Health systems often already know exactly what kinds of activities and interventions can help prevent and delay the onset of such conditions” I bet you do, matey, and I just know you are going to bleat on about it ad nauseam. Not to worry, eh, climate change will do for us first.

Sunday, August 5

Downtime

Great day – homestead to ourselves. Three hours mowing under a blistering sun, the afternoon off. Feet up, Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s.

Now they tell me

“Scientists from Stirling and Oxford universities warn that high winds and heavy rain, which together create near-horizontal downpours capable of degrading walls, could wreak havoc with buildings. It is likely that in this scenario, building element failure, such as moisture ingress through cracks and gutter overspill, will occur more frequently. Driving rain has been estimated to cause more than 90% of critical damage to buildings. A UK climate-change risk assessment published last year warned that using cavity-wall insulation in locations with wind-driven rain could lead to damp, as the insulation retained water that penetrated the facade.”

Saturday, August 4

Please give it a rest

A not untypical letter in this week’s Spectator reads: “I was a remain voter and a Londoner, and was utterly shocked by the result of the referendum … Since then I have been so angered and repelled by the behaviour of Messrs Juncker and Barnier that should we be obliged to vote again I will vote to leave.”    Makes you wonder how another vote would pan out. I suspect the opposition will use every trick in the book to gerrymander a different outcome. Last week a not so secret cabal of geriatric remoaners met with the duplicitous Sarah Woolaston in a darkened upstairs room at the Dog & Duck. Seems our MP is now supporting a People’s Vote on the final deal. She actually believes – or led the poor saps to believe – the franchise can be extended to include 16-year-olds, the UK’s 3m resident EU citizens, and British migrants that live on the continent. Methinks there will be lots of Conservative stalwarts around this neck of the woods looking for an alternative home for our vote at the next general election.

As others see us

“The residents of these islands do not like being told what to do. They are stubborn, intractable and uppity. This subversive, anti-authoritarian strain in the (British) character is captured in a single four-word phrase, a sort of national refrain: I Can’t Be Arsed. The global image of Britain in the 18th century — unruly, fearless and probably drunk — strikes me as closer to the current spirit of the place than the standard clichés of propriety and repression.”
(Robert Armstrong in the FT)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio

It’s the silly season with many regular commentators absent on holiday – civil war in abeyance. A fair number appear to be here in the south west if the roads are anything to go by. Totnes is shoulder to shoulder, German accents prominent. The homestead remains under siege, yours truly surrounded by roof-supporting acrow posts and paint buckets, at least three competing radios all tuned to different stations. Summer is leaching away, a casualty of necessity. As long as it stays dry I’m happy.

Monday, July 30

The grim reality of modern life

Gudgeon’s adventure into non-alcoholic beers continues. I’d like to say we’ve come a long way since Barbican and Kaliber, and yet… My default this past couple of years has been Becks Blue. Initially I thought it as vile as the first two, but the taste has grown on me. During our recent fine weather have been using a pub near Newton Abbot that has a beer garden but only stocks Heineken 0.0 (jury is still out). Another local I frequent has an interesting variation produced by Brauerei Pinkus Muller. Today’s ‘treat’ was Pistonhead Flat Tyre from a Swedish outfit. While I’d love to say something interesting about these beers, truth is they are all crap and a disgrace to the very concept of beer. I thought banning smoking in pubs will kill them, though admitting people with children came close. Non-alcoholic beer could prove the coup de grâce.

For some perspective I’d add that categorising alcohol-free beers as crap is no different to my comparing Starbucks/Costa with a cup of decent coffee. When pushed – when there’s no alternative – I’ll continue to drink what’s on offer.

Grey and wet

Very wet. Mist on the ridge. No builders or painter today, although tomorrow looks promising. Lots to keep us busy. An LPG tanker was first through the gate, topping up neighbourhood supplies. A reminder of chillier times ahead – as if the apocalyptic Brexit warnings aren’t enough. “We should all unite behind getting the best deal Britain,” says Greg Hands, “it’s time to move on.” Some chance: everyone is spoiling for a fight and won’t rest till blood is spilt.

Sunday, July 29

Flogging a dead horse

Despite an increase in the funding of diversity issues, minority ethnic authors continue to write primarily for a female audience – and even that doesn’t sell. One suspects white working-class boys read even less than black lads? Perhaps we should levy a tax on popular chick lit and misery porn to support the demographic publishing balance, even if no one reads it.

It was ever thus

Saturdays are when builders get around to totting up the hours and issuing invoices; Sundays are when I settle accounts. Why do kids waste their time pursuing a third-rate degree at one of our lesser universities when they could be learning to drive a white van? Most likely because, like Gudgeon, with a saw in hand we’d be positively dangerous. I have zero aptitude for laying bricks or painting walls. I can do it, but you wouldn’t employ me. Much better to go to Uni and settle for a non-job, pushing paperwork from one side of the desk to the other. It’s not as if most of us are ever likely to amount to anything that would oblige us to pay off our student loans. Everyone thinks Blair’s push to expand higher education was to raise the country’s skill base, when it was really about unemployment figures. Of course the government was at it long before Bliar. Writing to novelist Barbara Pym in 1967, Philip Larkin bemoaned the ‘suicidal expansion’ of Hull University: “Universities must now be changed to fit the kind of people we take in: exams made easier, places made like a factory with plenty of shop-floor agitation and real-life strikes.”

Conversely… “Another British manager rises quietly to the top of the automotive industry: Mike Manley is to succeed the charismatic Italian Sergio Marchionne as head of the Fiat Chrysler group ... having studied engineering at South Bank Poly. He’s at the high table of car-making alongside Linda Jackson, the chief executive of Citroën, who began her working life as an accounts clerk at Jaguar. Another Brit who would have been with them if he had not died young (in a fall from a hotel window in 2014) was Karl Slym, head of Tata Motors and an alumnus of Derby technical college. Let’s remember that in the current generation we have provided a gritty training ground for world-class executives.”

Saturday, July 28

Blue skies turn black

Our heatwave has come to an end in spectacular fashion, with brutal winds and heavy rain – thunder storms. On the plus side I’m not here on holiday, sleeping in a tent; nor stranded at Stanstead with family (fractious brats), flight cancelled. Suckers. The outrage of so many entitled remoaner metropolitan (North London) travellers is a bonus. You should have stuck to Clacton.

Friday, July 27

Rain stops play

Shouldn’t complain: it’s only been three days in total, less than half I’d expected when we kicked off. Four weeks on... I’d like to believe we’re halfway through phase one but won’t hold my breath. Two significant problems have been discovered – and they can wait for another year. Rome wasn’t built in a day. What began as a paint job has morphed into significant renovation. Been here before; am sure it won’t be the last time.

Rules of fair play do not apply in love and war

"No, I didn't plot a coup in a small African country. The lies spread about me are an attempt to stop Brexit" says Arron Banks. I suspect the establishment’s ‘Get Banks’ campaign is less about stopping our quasi-departure from the EU as forestalling a phoenix-like resurrection of Ukip and the resulting demise of the Conservative Party.

Thursday, July 26

Long may it continue

OK we can’t match temperatures across the south east, however this sun-trap of ours isn’t too bad: 27°C today. Was on the moor yesterday – and when the sun reflects off our new paintwork you can see the homestead from two miles away. Little wonder the fly boys are using us as a marker for their practise runs. We’re 1,300ft up on an exposed section of Dartmoor and growing tomatoes outdoors. Unbelievable! If this sort of thing continues the question of old age care costs won’t arise: wrinklies will be expiring faster than they’re closing old folks homes.

Been quite an adventure, from there to here.

Wednesday, July 25

Different worlds

I spent much of my working life waking up in foreign hotel rooms, switching on a television set and listening to what passes for local news. Often informative, but always alien. Much like our own BBC Breakfast and Sky Sunrise.

Tuesday, July 24

What part of “Don’t go there” do you not understand

The principal caveat at the outset is always not to open any can of worms. Builders, unfortunately, can’t help themselves. All good fun of course, and part and parcel of summer maintenance programmes.

Sunday, July 22

Proxy voting in parliament

Works for me. Think of it: jury service, day one. “Does anyone here – before we’ve listened to the evidence or debated competing arguments – believe the defendant is innocent (or guilty) of the charge? You do? Great. Put me down for the alternative view, and the two of us can go home and put our feet up for the duration. Call me when it’s over – when he’s been hanged.”

Thursday, July 19

Another scorcher

And the forecast is for even warmer weather. As long as the workforce stays focused I haven’t a problem. After last night’s debacle, what passes for fish and chips in this neck of the woods, tonight we returned to the barbecue and a bottle of vino collapso. You know where you are with charred meat. Am sure there’s a wider world out there, but to tell the truth I don’t give a fluck. Given the current crime stats it appears you are all being murdered in your beds, while law and order spend their time posting selfies from Cliff Richard’s pad.

Wednesday, July 18

Hive of dead bees

Let’s hear it for Boris.

Major disappointment

I’m reasonably fussy about food. However there are occasions – surrounded by builders – when you have to resort to convenience. I say occasionally…we’ve lived here for seven years and have never had the opportunity to try our local chippy. It’s a 5* rated establishment, at least according to Trip Advisor’s contributors. Having lived and worked in ports such as Aberdeen and Yarmouth, and as an occasional visitor to Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Hull, I’m not adverse to chippies – like to think of myself as something of an aficionado. Gudgeon has driven to Brixham, Dartmouth and Plymouth on numerous occasions for such a treat. So it was with an enthusiastic expectation – following a physically demanding day – I sauntered down the hill this evening and ordered two large haddock and chips from the formidable looking staff. Garbage! No other word to describe it. And you wonder why the nation’s health is in such poor repair.

Man the barricades!

Good grief, talk about hyperbole. A bit of argy-bargy in Parliament and The Times alt-liberals warn of jackboots across the land – the return of Nigel Farage, with Rees-Mogg and Tommy Robinson on his flanks, presumably financed by unspecified dark forces from America and Russia. If there is a problem in this wonderful country of ours, it’s thanks to the media who love nothing more than to stoke the fire.

Tuesday, July 17

Eye of beholder

To Exeter this morning for supplies. There’s an unspoken assumption that in my dotage and in order to be closer to services we’d gravitate back to the city. Please god it’s not for another couple of decades. ...Dropped in on the V&A’s travelling show at the raam – ‘Pop Art in Print’ (Warhol, Lichtenstein, Caulfield, Hamilton, et al). Worth a look, though I’m with Tom Wolfe when it comes to this sort of thing. While much of the music has stood the test of time, pop art reminds me of the sort of thing we used to knock out as fourth formers in Bert Cheadle’s art class at Crap Street Secondary Modern.

When the millennial hipster behind the till of the gents outfitters complements you on your choice of shirts, you know you’ve selected the wrong ones.

Monday, July 16

Price versus value

Charlotte potatoes, courgettes and lettuce from Mrs G’s allotment have begun to appear on the table. You can buy fresh produce for a fraction of the price it costs to grow yourself, but that’s not the point. Doubt I could pitch my deck chair among the Coop aisles and doze off with an open book in my lap.

Politician wants to pass the buck

Greening calls for second referendum. Not a chance. No, nada, nyet... Your lot got us into this, you sort it out. Threat of an alt-left government is no deterrent.

Sunday, July 15

Sunday Lunch

A half-a-steer, multiple rib barbecue. Bottle of Pol Roger to recover from yesterday’s defeat. France has been my favourite from the outset, albeit having worked with the Croats, am willing to shout for both. All we want is a good game, worthy of a World Cup Final. The English have less of a problem with foreigners than they seemingly do with us.

...Well done Les Blues. Great footy. Hard luck, Croatia – at least your President got to hug an enormous amount of men. Bummer about the rain…Putin looked a spare. Thank god Theresa wasn’t involved, always a social embarrassment waiting to happen, Would imagine Macron has been awarded a free pass for whatever he wants.

Up a creek without a paddle

On Marr this morning the Prime Minister admitted a no deal exit is not on the cards, that the government will reach an accommodation that suits Brussels. It is becoming increasingly clear that if we don’t agree to a fudge keeping us in the European Union in all but name, that ‘in the national interest’, Parliament will vote to overturn the referendum and we will stay in. Heads they win, tails we lose.

Saturday, July 14

Glass half full

Another magical morning (tres quiet…blue sky). A sparrowhawk flew point as I drove down the track, maintaining its precise position through each and every turn. Everything is alive with butterflies, all sorts of fritillaries, large whites and meadow browns – zillions of buzzing insects and scurrying creatures. A wonderful time to be alive.

Am sitting outside the barn, two green woodpeckers at my feet – feasting on insects among the rotting planks. Eye-catching birds with green plumage, bright yellow rump and red head. 
But most the Hewel’s wonders are, 
Who here has the Holt-esters (forester) care. 
He walks still upright from the Root, 
Meas’ring the Timber with his Foot; 
And all the way, to keep it clean 
Doth from the Bark the Wood-moths clean. 
He, with his beak, examines well 
Which fit to stand and which to fell.

Friday, July 13

A glorious day, thankfully

I don’t need another rain stopped play, not if the summer maintenance programme is to be realised. In an effort to keep everyone on side am supplying Monmouth Coffee and pastries from our local artisan baker. In truth, like most I meet in the building trade, they’re a decent bunch that don’t slack. Surrounded by white vans flying the English flag, what more could you ask. Given their respective hourly rates I wonder why it is kids waste time at university instead of going to trade school.

The peasants are sharpening their pitchforks.

Although distracted by our domestic situation, buried beneath paint tins and mounting invoices, am keeping a jaundiced eye on the Brexit saga. Could we have a more incompetent individual at the helm? Well yes: Jezza, obviously. But then they said the same about Trump, and he appears to be delivering much of what Americans asked for. “Nothing has changed,” says Theresa. Yet all I can see is capitulation to Brussels and the prospect of an ultra-soft Brexit or no Brexit at all. Betrayal is everywhere.

Thursday, July 12

U.S. President has landed

Welcome to the UK, Mr President. Let’s work together to drain the swamp.

The vaunted anti-Trump protests have so far failed to live up to billing. A sparse collection of the usual virtue-signalling suspects.

England Footy - jam tomorrow

At least the prospect of jam at some time in the future – a work in progress.

Tuesday, July 10

Heads they win, tails we lose

Repeat trips to town today. Initially for paint (more samples, decisions to make). Second run to retrieve documents from solicitors (boundary dispute). Have to hand it to Exeter, it’s a city on the make – Southernhay was wall to wall totty. Plymouth twice last week, and they appear to be headed in the opposite direction: an archetypal ‘northern city in decline’, right here in River City. …Would love to be engaged – comment – on this week’s Brexit excitement/resignations. However, politics, my attention, is eclipsed by the evening semi-final. Can’t believe I’m shouting for the frogs (never forgave the Belgians for depriving us of ammunition during the Falkland’s campaign – more than enough reason to walk away). How about a face off on the final: England v France – we stay or leave depending on the result, winner takes all? A better bet than our relying on Theresa May.

Monday, July 9

Ah…the smell of burning paint

The homestead’s workforce grows by the day, sustained by tea and Ken Bruce on Radio 2.

Friday, July 6

Can’t believe the weather

Our builders complain about the heat, the midges and horse flies…my tea. But what’s not to like? Life currently revolves around the World Cup and the barbecue – one long party.

Thursday, July 5

Our untouchable religion

The NHS is 70 today. At best a ‘Premier Inn’ health service, albeit ‘free’ (to be abused) at the point of delivery. A bit like the country’s housing stock: not exactly fit for purpose but it’s all we’ve got.

Wednesday, July 4

You can dream

So, through to the quarter-finals. At the outset, for many of us (given England’s track record), the extent of our ambition. After last-night’s win, however, and on penalties to boot, bring on the Swedes…a semi-final match with Russia.

Sod off back and take your children with you

When Noel Bransdon and his wife, Beth, swapped a flat in central London for a rambling cottage near Exeter last year, they expected to forgo such urban frivolities as fine dining. Yet no such compromise has been made: in Devon they have found an array of Michelin-starred restaurants, hipster cafés and a lively social scene. “Exeter offers the same as London but on a smaller scale, and within 20 minutes we can be back home in the middle of the countryside, or on the beach or on Dartmoor,” says Bransdon, a property investor. “And if we want to go to London in a day we can – it takes less than three hours.”

Sunday, July 1

Break in the weather

Out on the moor at six this morning. The rain a real treat. Kidneys on toast for breakfast; a shoulder of pork is in preparation for today’s barbecue.

Friday, June 29

Pest control

The song thrush is much in evidence this year. As a consequence, and with the support our resident frog population, there are no slugs or snails to speak of.

Thursday, June 28

Here we go, here we go...

Sunshine brings out the best in people. In town this morning everyone was smiling and waving to each other. Even Gudgeon the grump played along, dancing to a Barry Manilow number with the girl queueing in front of me at the Kwik-E-Mart till. I’d have loved an invite to whatever party she was attending, given her purchases included two litres of vodka and four cases of lager. …Am not sure it’s for effect or the reality of his position, but the vicar’s patched cassock and 25 year old Mazda doesn’t exactly promote the brand. …Have been wakened at dawn every day this week by man delivering logs for the wood shed. By the time breakfast comes around, two or so hours later, there’s a feeling you’ve earned it. …Builder arrives tomorrow to begin one of those periodic maintenance programmes. Several weeks of disruption. Mrs G. has gutted those parts of the homestead affected, yours truly left with a single chair, a television set and a fridge full of beer. I’ve yet to miss a game and am looking forward to this evening. Needless to say the barbecue is working overtime – a veritable kebab extravaganza. ...Government Remainiacs must be praying England don’t make it past the quarterfinals as our jingoism will know no bounds. A hard Brexit will be the least of it.

Wednesday, June 27

They think it's all over...

It is now. Not that I’m one to dwell on others’ misfortune. Tee-hee.

Hang 'em all

‘At a recent literary event, I sat in stunned silence as a member of the great and the good held forth on what attitudinal surveys had revealed about the habits of folk who voted to leave. “They use teeth-whitening kits,” he shuddered fastidiously. Honestly, the condescension was chilling.’

Tuesday, June 26

Another glorious day … places to go

The full-toned, clear notes of the song thrush are as nothing against the buzz of insects … from across the valley, before five-o-clock, a neighbour’s chainsaw cutting logs. High above there are vapour trails heading to who knows where.

Sunday, June 24

Unknown territory

Half-time: 5 – 0 ... unbelievable.   Sad sort that I am, sat up till one in the morning watching a rerun of the entire game.

Perspective

About 100,000 filled the streets of central London yesterday for an anti-Brexit march, demanding a people’s vote – aka a second referendum.

In 2002 around 400,000 people from across the country marched through central London in a protest against the ban on hunting with dogs. Crowds were so big it took people queuing at the start of the official route more than six hours to filter through, according to police.

Doesn’t get much better

Have been outside early this past couple of days, taking care of chores before it becomes too warm (and the footy kicks off). Blue skies … our own private aviary – yard is full of birds hard at work feeding nests, non-stop twittering. Ponies and cattle asleep in the shade.

Friday, June 22

Well done Nigeria

I’ve got to have one of those shirts. Listened to the first half on the wireless in the barn … just when you think you’ve done your bit, someone arrives with three truckloads that need humping and stacking.

Workplace bullying

There are valid reasons. I’ve spend all morning driving up and down the M5 sorting problems. Even when you spell out instructions in capital letters, the scope for fuck ups is endless. Thank god we’re a Christian country or I’d have the lot of ’em beheaded.