Saturday, March 31

Saturdays, what’s not to like

To Tavistock market for supplies – pies, that is. Pork pies, pheasant and smoked ham pies, turkey and cranberry pies…pie heaven. Shit, if you can’t indulge yourself at Easter then you’re a lost cause. Back home for the racing from Musselburgh (Mrs G. is on a roll).

Friday, March 30

He was more sit down than stand up

Most everyone was a Dave Allen fan – the cigarette and whiskey, that urbanity. So much so we once booked the lad for a works do.

Good Friday

Oysters on the half-shell, lemon soles, vintage Blanc De Blancs.

The holidays are here so they’ve dug up the highway, a minor but important arterial road. The lads arrived yesterday afternoon, ripped up the tarmac, installed temporary traffic lights and buggered off till next week.

Thursday, March 29

Familiar face returns


 Thursday afternoon run to the Kwik-E-Mart to pick up something nice for supper (pay day). The Easter roads are chocka, nose to tail Range Rovers and Porsches...an occasional Bentley (Alex Masterley and the boys en route to Salcombe). Weather forecast doesn’t promise much – sleet and snow this morning – but then life’s what you make it.

Wednesday, March 28

Avoiding a smack in the ear

While yesterday’s double-figure temperature has given way to a zero-degree chill, this morning’s jog through the mire was nothing if not enjoyable (jog remains a flexible term on my part, perhaps determined trudge is more apt). As Gudgeon wends his way through what is euphemistically described as ‘late middle age’, am forced to acknowledge my inexorable slide down the food chain. Have been passed by three neighbours recently, all of them women, thirty-plus years my junior and who appear to be real athletes rather than sad sorts. As they speed by, one stride to my three, it’s tempting to offer up one of my classic smart-arse comments. Unfortunately for yours truly all are inches taller and have broader shoulders.

This is a new idea?

Having reduced the amount of sugar in their soft drinks, manufacturer AG Barr are believed to have discovered a replacement ingredient: Alcohol. While initially entering the booze market through their purchase of Funkin, Barr’s are now considering adding alcohol to IRN-BRU. However if memory serves, customers have doing this since the 1970s. Depending on whether you had a sweet tooth or not, certain bars I frequented often included a bottle of ‘Scotland’s other national drink’ alongside the lemonade and water jug, to add to your whisky/vodka/rum…

Tuesday, March 27

More green tosh

A bowl of lamb stew is as bad as driving 31 miles! Of course if you want to get rid of the calories you could always cycle rather than drive, kill two birds with one stone and leave lots of carbon credits in the bank.

Doing our bit for the economy

Although British drinking habits continue to change (drinking less overall, drinking at home, cultural antipathy), according to Camra, the rate of pub closures has slowed. Evidence elsewhere also suggests customers have begun to return to pubs in preference to dining in medium-priced restaurants such as Jaimie’s Italian. The most interesting point in the BBC article, however, is the extent to which drinking habits vary across the country. Aside from their traditional Thursday-night binge, it seems our stereotype of the drunken Scotsman is no more – our northern neighbours having been overtaken by we cider drinking yokels in the South West.

Saturday, March 24

The green fallacy

Michael HeathWe’ve an ever expanding community that relocate to the neighbourhood from towns and cities in order to raise their children in a rural ideal, afford the little mites a healthy, archetypal Swallows and Amazons environment. The families eat organic food and drink organic wine and recycle everything that isn’t nailed down. They also arrive driving the largest collection of clapped-out vehicles outside the Mad Max franchise. Our production of particulate matter, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxides must be on a par with Macedonia.

Traditional nosh

Visibility down to 50yds this morning. Thanks to the overnight rain and Friday’s muckspreading operations, my prior visit to the car wash proved a complete waste of time. Sat watching the girls on the gallops cutting up the ground ... I can imagine them returning to the stables, and horses and riders being hosed down much the same as the motor. …Having acquired a large parcel of pork, Mrs G. is busy in the kitchen preparing an old favourite: petit salĂ© aux lentilles. While not exactly seasonal, salt pork seems more apt than spring chicken.

A novel experience

I appreciate Holland are going through a rough patch but it’s still good to put one over them. Something of rarity. Over the past decades I’ve lost more cases of beer to cloggies than to anyone. After his experiences at Everton, Koeman must have thought the only was up.

Friday, March 23

America’s Churchill

John Bolton, security advisor: never met a war he doesn’t like. Good to see the old boy back in the saddle.

A good big ’un always beats…

I backed into another motor this morning when reversing out of a parking space. Connected midships, pushing the vehicle sideways. Its unfortunate driver, tear in eye. couldn’t believe his pride and joy was two-inches narrower and deficient two doors, while the tank had suffered barely a scratch. Filed under embarrassing moments.

Let’s not kid ourselves

Grammar schools have a limited impact on achievement because genetics determine academic success, says a study from King’s College London. Of course everyone concedes there are other reasons parents may opt to send their children to selective schools. I suspect your family’s socio-economic status is the primary determinate in what school you attend, however once we find ourselves amongst our own, the extent to which we sink or swim depends primarily on our individual effort and application – or so we’d like to think. Aside from a narrow group at both ends of the spectrum, I contend we’re all much of a muchness. One of us may have a natural aptitude for maths while another is big on languages; grafter you may be top of the class, while I, being lazy, bring up the rear. Our subsequent achievements, such as they are, we ascribe to innate talent and hard work, without acknowledging much of this was bequeathed to us by our parents, that we are little more than lottery winners.

Thursday, March 22

Why Germans shop at Aldi.

There’s a fun article in today’s FT’s by their Berlin correspondent as to why Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t a prayer of being elected to office in Germany, given the natives are addicted to austerity. ‘German finance ministers earn the admiration and support of voters not by promising tax cuts and spending increases, but by proving their commitment to fiscal discipline.’ Tobias Buck reckons historical precedent and Protestant restraint have led to the renunciation of immediate satisfaction in favour of preparing for those inevitable bad things that lie waiting round the corner. He reminds us German households save about 10 per cent of their disposable income, twice as much as the average EU or American, and contrasts Germany’s prudence with a UK economy built on eyewatering levels of debt. I can’t help but imagine the size of the European economy if Germany stopped saving all that money and developed a taste for consumption.

If you’re not careful...

I know I’ve wittered on about this in the past but I can’t help it: the feeling that time flies by too fast. I’m told this is because very little in our adult lives is new, we’ve seen it all before and so rarely give things much thought – similar (novel) experiences are logged in our memory and there isn’t the space to accommodate duplicate episodes, so why bother. Days and weeks become much of a muchness and years lead one to another...

Wednesday, March 21

A walk in the wilderness

First time in days. While most of the white stuff has disappeared, didn’t stop me getting into trouble – a stretch of snow that bridged a gully. Plummeted straight down tunnel-like through several feet. Not easy to swim your way out, backstroke worked best. Nice day … actually feels like spring.

Failing to dress the part

“When I meet Horrocks, who looks and dresses like a bank manager…” I’m sure dress – appearances, do matter. There can be no greater insult that to have a Guardian journalist accuse you of looking and dressing like a bank manager. Seems the OU of old is long gone and its future is far from certain.

Faulty goods

Dr Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University academic that harvested data from Facebook, admits he is 6 times more likely to get things wrong about a person than right; and anyway, he says he was conned. Then again, how many of us would buy a used car from a ha’porth with pink hair?

Monday, March 19

Yet more white stuff

Looks a nice day from inside the homestead, but then I’m not one of drivers trapped on the A30. As the police are so fond of saying: “What part of don’t go out do you not understand?” I was hibernating, woken at eight – a combination of faulty fire alarms and neighbours texting for help. There was a time we used to take this sort of thing in our stride. Guess it’s not part of the modern era.

Sunday, March 18

Tonight’s BBC FA Cup draw

The blonde was there for what particular reason? Seems that while we removed the gratuitous floozies from Formula One and Darts, Emirates FA Cup organisers insist on a more traditional approach.

More snow overnight

Porridge for breakfast. Out on the yard at six this morning: Met Office advised a temperature of -4°C, though the brisk north easterly made it feel several degrees colder. First time this winter the locks have frozen. Up town for milk and papers, returned to deteriorating conditions, falling thick and fast – mini beast is proving to be a bigger animal than its predecessor. Gudgeon is now chopping logs, Mrs G. checking on neighbours. If I owned a dog equipped with the traditional brandy barrel the mutt would be working overtime. I blame the Russians!

Saturday, March 17

Comfort food

Yesterday’s dinner was Ossobuco, a dish Mrs G. produces on average four times/year, either bianco or the tomato sauce version. The veal shanks came from one of our neighbour’s animals…and very nice it was/is, given tonight’s supper features the leftovers – for want of a better description – a ragu. Mountains of spaghetti, washed down by a spectacular ’91 Sangiovese. Just the sort of warming thing you need when snow has been falling all day and the forecast is dire.

Easy to misconstrue

Living in a sectarian bubble is ‘hard work’ in Scotland… While the finer points of Scottish angst are lost to a Sasanach, I suspect referring to your team as ‘soldiers’ doesn’t help the cause.

Wednesday, March 14

Drink of the gods

Although we eat well as a matter of course, exception meals are … well, exceptional. Tonight’s pork chops (mit kidney) with apple and onion being a case in point. A dish you will struggle to find in the finest restaurants. The accompanying wine was an intense aromatic example of the Roussanne grape from an accomplished southern French Domaine. Nectar ain’t in it.

Britain alone in a dangerous world

It must have appeared much the same in 1939.

Good news: there’s jam tomorrow

While treating all financial economists with a degree of caution, am encouraged by Roger Bootle’s take on the Spring Statement in this morning’s Telegraph. One of the few positive spins I have seen. As he says, the OBR is in danger of becoming the Remainers’ poster boy for Brexit pessimism – and we’ve more than enough of those. Bootle thinks Chote’s lot are substantially underestimating the likely future strength of both investment and consumer spending. Our intrepid chairman expects the UK’s economy to grow this year by about 2.0% and to continue at this rate for the next few years, allowing the chancellor, whoever that may be, to increase public spending, reduce tax rates AND lower borrowing. His caveat of course relates to you know who taking charge of the nation’s finances.

Tuesday, March 13

How much money do you need to be rich?

Many people think an income of £45k means you’re wealthy, while others pulling down £100k regard themselves as ‘comfortably poor’. “ Once you’ve paid the school fees, the dog walkers, the au pairs, the mortgages of several properties, families actually feel quite pinched.” Dr Tsivrikos, Consumer Psychologist at UCL said wealth was relative and how rich we felt depended on who we’re comparing ourselves with. Even a person at the top of their social circle can feel like a pauper.

Monday, March 12

New spending priorities

Given the potential for escalating hostilities, the most frustrating thing about the Skripal affair is having to rely on the word of our government (politicians tell porkies – weapons of mass destruction ). You know what they’re going to say: “Although we’ve no proof, ‘Wink wink nudge nudge. Say no more.’” On the face of it an assassination on foreign soil with a banned nerve agent that’s traceable to a specific Russian laboratory seems a tad reckless. Unless of course Putin wanted to give Britain a very public poke in the eye to see whether we’ve any balls left. We bottled out of Syria. Flying a succession of TU-160s in close proximity to UK airspace has failed to get a rise out of anyone, likewise sailing Russian naval vessels through the English Channel. Britain has a tentative foot in Eastern Europe, but would we fight to defend our allies? If Putin has ambitions I guess he needs to know. Just as well Hammond has decided austerity’s over and we can buy something to shoot back with. The NHS will have to muddle through for a bit longer.

Old folks take up the slack

South Korea has more economically active people aged over 60 than in their twenties, as elderly poverty forces half the country’s pensioners back into work – often the sort of menial work young graduates refuse to undertake. Korea’s highly educated youth remain reluctant to pursue the blue-collar jobs of their parents, and yet wonder why more homes aren’t being built. Unification could be a match made in heaven.

Sunday, March 11

D’oh!

According to Rod Liddle I’m a Grumpy Social Conservative … am also told the Pope’s a Catholic.

Saturday, March 10

Lullaby

Before you’d given death a name
Like bear or crocodile, death came.
To take your mother out one night.
But when she’d said her last good night
You cried, “I don’t want you to go,’
So in her arms she took you too.

Richard Murphy 1927 - 2018.

Mother’s Day tomorrow… First time I came across this verse, the week previously a young woman with babe in arms had thrown herself from a local promontory. It has stayed with me since.

To Tavistock for supplies…

Duck, guinea fowl ... belly draft from a Saddleback. Half-hour in town and soaked through. It was – is – lashing down. Out on the moor there are columns of heavily-laden teenagers trudging through the mire, serious runners tackling partially-flooded undulating roads. To the kayakers it’s water off a duck’s back. Made it back to the homestead to find the hunt saddling up – rather them than yours truly, tis blowing a hoolie. Am now settled beside the fire, waiting for Man Utd v Liverpool to kick off.

Turned out nice again… Rain stopped, wind dropped, mist dissipated and the sun came out – along with neighbours, bearing guns.

Friday, March 9

Rural giveaways

‘So how do you know they’ve had sex?’ ‘Well, I saw her in Abergavenny, and she was wearing his wellies.’

Thursday, March 8

Population implosion

Hardly. But maybe not growing as fast. Gets you thinking though. Between my paternal/maternal grandparents, over twenty kiddies were produced. Their offspring, my parent’s generation, begat an average of three per couple; and while a number remained child free, there must be a zillion cousins. Gudgeon and Mrs G’s immediate family account for ten Boomer siblings, who have in turn produced a cohort of eight Generation X/Millennials. Their children are now up and running, ten at my last count. Not sure my back of a fag packet calculation indicates any meaningful trend. Certainly not a ‘monumental’ one, as Allister Heath’s peak baby article contends. And given I won’t be around when civilisation as we know it ends, do I really give a toss?

Wednesday, March 7

Kebab, anyone?

Returned from this morning’s walk with 60 sheep that had followed me down from the moor.

Tuesday, March 6

The obesity war

Public Health England insists our diet follows the 400–600–600 rule. Accordingly, after consulting a calorie chart, I have begun formulating menu options:
  • Breakfast: bowl of porridge, slice of buttered toast and black coffee. 
  • Lunch: bottle of white wine. 
  • Dinner: club sandwich and black coffee. 
 Can’t see this campaign working, but then who am I to question the experts.

Saturday, March 3

Spuds with everything

There was chatter recently regarding the choice and quality of potatoes. I may be wrong, but I’d be surprised if more than 20% of the population could distinguish between the generic offerings of ‘red’ and ‘white’, let alone individual varieties. Marfona, Orla and Triplo are popular locally – the latter featuring on today’s menu. While half of us consume our potatoes in the form of chips, conscious of weight issues, many refuse to eat the humble tuber in any form. I still can’t get my head round this obesity thing. When kids we were fed stodge almost every day, cheese and potato pies were a typical weekly standard. Yet everyone was as thin as a nail?

Also unlikely I’ll ever revisit The Monkees hits

Nothing lasts forever … Our trusty coffee machine, loyal servant for more than a decade, has given up the ghost; and though it could have been repaired, technology has moved on. The replacement from the same Swiss manufacturer is broadly similar but produces a superior cup. As it also features programmed options, for old times’ sake, I tried a cappuccino. Transpires what tasted ‘cool’ as a teenager, tastes revolting when you’re an adult.

Friday, March 2

Who will rid us of this woman

In so many ways, not what we wanted to hear. Dammit I’m English: am used to disappointment – have lived through countless World Cup tournaments. But she’s even more disappointing than Sven and Woy.

Thursday, March 1

Emma and The Beast

A temperature of –7°C this morning; more like –16°C in the wind. Blizzard forecast for the afternoon (severe gales) – weather man says there’s potential for up to 50cm of snow. A quick run to town for papers and milk, before battening down. I doubt we’ll go hungry: there’s enough in the cupboard to keep the entire neighbourhood fed for a month.