Sunday, April 29

Congrats, Lewis Hamilton

Unlike friends and family I’m not a big Grand Prix fan. I watch the races and marvel at the spectacle. But four wheels…getting from A to B a bit smartish? That said, Gudgeon is not immune. While not the nutter of my 20s and 30s, there are occasions when I’m prepared to admit that motoring can be fun. This morning, for instance: decent music (a zillion decibels) on the stereo, empty rural roads, the smell of burnt rubber – on my own and keen to push the envelope, as they say. Only to have some retard emerge from a side road and destroy what was shaping up to be the drive of all time. Prats, all of ’em.

Finns scrap free basic income after discovering it's not free...

Surveys suggest that voters’ support rapidly melts when they are asked if they would support higher taxes to fund it. Sini Marttinen, a Finnish trial participant who has set up her own company, says the study is a victim of the Finns’ instinctive suspicion of joblessness, in a country famed for a staunch Protestant work ethic. “Finns are the only people in the world who would pay €100 to make sure their neighbour doesn’t get €50 for free,” she said.

Another sign of spring

A dozen ponies arrived at the homestead this morning, our first boarders of the year.

Hardly a fair exchange

White Scots are asked to forego the few pleasures they enjoy in exchange for five more years of abject misery.

Saturday, April 28

Supplementary charges or just paying your way?

This week, Londoner Rosie French got a surprise when she checked her bill at east London restaurant Ombra. Alongside her starter of burrata and two tagliatelle mains was a £1.50 “Parmisan supplement”. “Wasn't mentioned to us during the awkward, painfully slow, grating at the table. Would have let her carry on had we known,” she tweeted. The parmesan supplement was, in fact, listed at the end of the menu, priced at £1. French, who is also a chef, tweeted her experience to food critic Jay Rayner, and the subsequent barrage of responses was illuminating: tweeters loathed what they saw as unfair supplementary charges at restaurants. 

I imagine few diners appreciate how difficult it is to make a living in the restaurant business. If eating out is a bit rich for you, despite the many wine drinkers (300% mark-up) that subsidise your meal, stay home and order a Domino’s pizza. Better still, buy something from the corner shop and heat it up yourself.

Friday, April 27

Where did that come from?

The homestead and its environs are flooded, roads a queue of forlorn visitors returning home. If you want nice weather go to Spain.

Thursday, April 26

Don't know they're born

“Young people have never had it so good,” says Emily Dinsmore. And while I agree, Gudgeon is pleased he’s not starting out again.

Wednesday, April 25

Has echoes of Labour’s problem

Germany's Jewish community has faced a wave of attacks and threats in recent months, described by Chancellor Angela Merkel as “a new phenomenon” distinct from the old, far-right anti-Semitism. “We have many refugees among whom there are, for example, people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country,” she said.   ...Brag all you like about the size of your party's membership, but as David Lammy said last week: “If you lie down with dogs…”

The outside world can stay there

A pleasant day, providing you don’t mind the occasional soaking. A number of walkers out on the moor. Birds are busy building nests; lambs to all points of the compass. Mrs G. is salting and skinning calves tongues.

Monday, April 23

Unlucky or inept?

“Blunder after blunder has left Theresa May in serious trouble.” I’ve been willing to cut May some slack, believing her an ‘unlucky’ Prime Minister. On reflection, however, maybe Tebbit’s right: the girl’s a plonker.

The media has a lot to answer for

Is your glass half full or half empty? Listening to neighbours in the Dog & Duck you’d think the latter. Brexit has buggered relationships across the community. Our general funk is driven by the news in general: whether reading the papers or listening to MSM, we could be forgiven for thinking the world is going to hell in a handcart. Counter-intuitively, when asked about our own happiness, almost all of us appear content: 92 per cent rate ourselves rather happy or very happy with our lives. For whatever reason we also believe that fewer than half our fellow citizens are of the same cheery disposition. The country is full of happy people who believe they are surrounded by misery.

Sunday, April 22

The Goldilocks principle

Millions of voters can’t be arsed and just want to be left alone, a poll has revealed. Meanwhile in a secret government laboratory countless scientists are hard at work attempting to clone a Cameron-Clegg-David Miliband mannequin they believe will mollify the electorate.

Running out of time

Mrs G. is well pleased. “With an entitled air and customary fist pump, Mourinho greeted full-time as Manchester United supporters waved their red flags. He will be returning to Wembley next month to try to win another FA Cup.” Graceless he may be, but José remains a winner. Tottenham (Pochettino) meanwhile…you only had to look at the supporters faces. Spurs fans must be hoping their club doesn’t use the new-stadium debt to excuse another trophy-free decade. One of the lads at the Dog & Duck has an autographed shirt from the 60-61 season. He ain’t getting any younger.

Saturday, April 21

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

“The cracks are showing in Austerity Britain,” says Matthew Parris, “Unfilled potholes put lives at risk and have become a symbol of the damage done to every walk of life by spending cuts.” Although we are a high tax country it will never be enough. Hard choices have to be made, but not until after the next general election – post Brexit. Theresa May broached the subject prior to our voting at the last election and promptly lost her majority. If you’re going to steal people’s money it’s best not to warn them in advance. As to pot holes…I seem to recall Labour have promised the under 25’s free bus travel, to be paid for by raiding council pothole funds. In the end it will always come down to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Middle earners suffer most under the taxman. The 400,000 people who pay additional-rate tax (including experienced nurses, teachers and police officers) contribute almost as much to the exchequer as the 25 million basic-rate taxpayers. In total, higher and top-rate taxpayers are responsible for more than two thirds of income tax receipts.

Friday, April 20

‘Rivers of blood’ anniversary

Wolverhampton West’s ‘infamous’ MP. Infamous or not, Enoch Powell was a reflection of the times, a popular man…and looking back, am not so sure society has moved on. We’ve reached an accommodation with each other, learnt to smile and to say the right thing. For a while during the 70s, around the 2 Tone era, I thought we were getting there… Powell seems such a long time ago. Three days after his speech, on St George’s Day, I walked into the army recruiting office in Wolverhampton and signed up.

Today’s newspaper review on the box touched on what interests the public and what is in the public interest. For many, today’s news centres on the Empire Windrush fallout and anti-Semitism, Brexit, the Commonwealth, toxic nerve agents and chemical weapons, cotton buds and plastic straws. For a similar number the news is primarily about our glorious weather, Dale Winton’s sad demise, the Irish Guard’s mascot and Meghan Markle. I’m not making judgements, just acknowledging the electorate’s diverse priorities.

An Arsène Wenger steak

Enjoyable steak for supper. It wasn’t particularly clever: bland flavour, under-aged – poor texture, the sort of thing you’d expect in the pub on steak night. But as it turned out, given the weather and my lack of appetite, it was just the job. Be a long time till I eat something similar.

Thursday, April 19

Chaffinch


Sometimes known as a Pink Twink here in Devon, in Aberdeen
a Chy or Blue Cap, the Chaffinch is today’s prominent visitor.

GlobeLink News

The BBC journalist who broke the story about the police investigation into Sir Cliff Richard has told the singer's privacy case he acted in a "professional and fair" way. Looking at and listening to Dan Johnson, I can’t be the only person to reimagine GlobeLink’s Damien Day.

It's a thought

Could the Windrush scandal end identity politics in Britain? It would be nice to think so, though there will always be the usual arseholes we have to contend with. I know they are expensive but you’d think his pension could run to a packet of razor blades.

Building a dependent voter base

Corbyn’s Labour Party professes the laudable aim of building more ‘affordable’ homes, one million in ten years. More power to their elbow. We need more homes. Leaving aside what we consider affordable, however, I’m drawn to John Healey’s categorisation of the just coping class (those on ordinary incomes) who he says are priced out of the system and would qualify for state largess – for affordable/social (subsidised) housing, not least those he identifies as the hard pressed: IT workers, joiners and nurses. I highlight the three occupations because I’m familiar with several individuals that perform these roles – traditional aspirational lower (and not so lower) middle class. And I’m pretty sure a home on a council estate has never featured in their plans.

And anyway, the ground’s still sodden

The spell of fine weather continues. Unfortunately I buggered my back a couple of days ago and can barely stand let alone lift and carry. When you’ve places to go and things to do, minor inconveniences become a major frustration – and it’s Thursday already. Then again, a brief scan of the papers reminds me how fortunate I am.

Wednesday, April 18

A welcome sunny morning

The neighbours’ spring lambing season has begun in earnest and the homestead is surrounded. We’ve a couple of days sunshine: am hoping the place dries out a little, enables us get on with some work.

Sunday, April 15

Roast chicken, comfort food

A miserable (wet) morning in town. Much quieter with the holiday visitors on their way home. Today’s market was big on street food but short of produce. Settled for a chicken – currently on the spit – to cheer ourselves up. Roast spuds, carrots and parsnips... rainbow chard. A white Hermitage from one of the superstar (family) producers.

A musical about the cold war during perestroika: what could go wrong? And yet, given this past couple of weeks, its revival seems inspired! I was at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1986 when the original production aired. Peasant that I am, however, I found Chess as big a yawn then as I do now. I also recall the session at Langan’s more than compensated.

Saturday, April 14

A real treat

I last ate pizza a couple of years ago and wasn’t impressed. It’s the simple things, not least fresh, quality produce. Today’s bruschetta is a case in point: grilled ciabatta rubbed with garlic, topped with tomato, decent olive oil and salt. Basic stuff, although at this time of year edible tomatoes are difficult to come by... while quality bread has become a matter of course.

The sad inevitability of it all

“Hypocrisy is the likely winner … In this sanctimonious posturing, sadly, Britain must collude. We don’t call the tune and it’s not worth infuriating the US president or undermining President Macron simply to keep our hands clean of hypocrisy. So pin back your ears, prepare for the canting headlines as we Brits lend an airfield, a bomber, a radar, or two . . . and sigh.”

Friday, April 13

We’re trending on Twitter


Today’s star visitor is the goldfinch, music’s gayest child.

Now it’s personal

Brexit fallout at the Dog & Duck continues to exercise everyone. While the saloon bar’s Remoaners have proved poor losers, a real pain, in the interest of community relations the silent majority has kept it buttoned. Until now, that is. Looks like we’ve moved to DEFCON 2.

I can live with that

“Regularly drinking above the UK alcohol guidelines can take years off your life, according to a major report. The study of 600,000 drinkers estimated that having 10 to 15 alcoholic drinks every week could shorten a person's life by between one and two years.”

Appears I am going to expire aged 84 instead of 86. Seems a reasonable exchange, given how much fun I’m having.

Thursday, April 12

Racing and Recreation

While today’s freak heatwave (15°C) means a likely thunderstorm this afternoon, let’s not spoil a bit of sun and opening of the Grand National Festival. It’s kebab day at the homestead! Barbecue’s being made ready as I speak. The refurbished grill was christened last weekend with a rib of beef. Good as this was, however, Mrs G’s Muscovy duck has set new standards.

Fence sitting

“A YouGov poll for The Times finds that only 22 per cent support British airstrikes in Syria, with twice as many opposed. The survey, which only finished polling yesterday, found that 61 per cent think that the Assad regime or its allies probably did carry out a chemical attack.”

OK so he did it but we shouldn’t get involved, it’s nothing to do with us. Fair enough. If this is the general consensus, however, presumably the same holds true for the unfortunate Rohingyas in Myanmar: just another bunch of foreigners killing each another. Likewise in Hackney: knife crime is something that goes on in the black community and not my problem. How close to home does it have to be before we can be arsed? Most people probably wish we could wind the clock back, that Saddam Hussein was still running Iraq and keeping the local populace on a tight leash, acting as a bulwark to Iran.

CDs are retro chic?

“Ladies and gentleman, the impossible has happened. CDs, those much-maligned rings of polycarbonate plastic despised by musos for being soulless, corporate and lacking in texture, have officially become cool. ...I saw a play this week in which twentysomethings pretended to be oldsters by adding talc to their hair, groaning whenever they stood up, and lamenting that their lives were over with nothing to show for it. The hero was 49 - two years older than my present age. Clearly, I may myself be about to become retro chic.”

First they came for the vinyl, now it’s our CDs. I’ve a cupboard full of cassette tapes (the 1980s) waiting to be rediscovered.

The flock grows

Our first two swallows arrived in the yard yesterday, along with a wagtail and a ‘mock nightingale’. We’ve the usual bunch of crows, an assortment of tits – long and short tailed, – dunnocks and finches, the ubiquitous black birds and robins. Buzzards circle above, and last week a grey heron stopped by.

Tuesday, April 10

Pays your money...

Today’s visibility has been restricted to 20-30yds. Heard the neighbour’s tractor moving around, a quad bike and the occasional bleating sheep, but that’s about it. Fog’s a good enough metaphor for the current news cycle, the veracity of the news itself – whether fake, spun or just plain wrong. ...Mustn’t let my cynicism win out, though that’s served me well in the past.

Monday, April 9

Long may it continue

Bonfires and barbecues, fog and rain… Normal service is resumed. Thankfully, though our spring fauna is front and centre, the flora appears to be running a couple of weeks late. While birds pair up and sing sunrise to sunset, the green stuff remains inactive. Long may it continue as I’m behind too.

Saturday, April 7

Contemporary cultural mores

Can someone please explain the difference between Seema Jaswal, currently hosting BBC’s Football Focus (one of my few viewing pleasures), and the grid/darts girls?