Thursday, May 31

Prams and toys

Chelsea pulls the plug on new stadium. Maybe Fulham can take up the slack?

Divorced from the outside world

Out on the moor before eight this morning. Barely 50yds visibility. Town is full of visitors but up here we’re on our own – local racehorse trainer on his trusty steed (think Pale Rider), and two runners making the most of it…sound of a distant quad bike and that’s about your lot. Fog has been with us for a couple of days and doesn’t appear anxious to leave anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 30

The rich like their booze

It seems that the richest in society splash out a significantly higher proportion of their food and drink spending on champagne … And more broadly, the richer a household is, the more of their money they spend on alcohol. The richest households spend an average of £5.78 per person (per week) buying alcohol to drink at home.   ...If this is our ‘richer’ households, who the fluck is drinking all the booze? The last time I looked, £5.78 buys you a single glass of champagne.

Arboreal splendour

Although the overnight thunder storms failed to materialise, this morning remains tres wet – the hours of effort we put in yesterday, digging and mowing, paid off. Gudgeon’s green fingers are down to painting the bathroom rather than any claim to Monty Don competence, the yard’s garden-like resemblance a reflection of our predecessors’ planting and Mrs G’s ongoing enthusiasm. Although we are barely into spring, our man asks if it’s too early to begin delivering supplies of firewood for next winter. Time and tide, as they say.

Monday, May 28

Bank holiday Monday

Blue sky…the yard a sea of buttercups. Tiny voles scurry about the place, blue tits pillage spiders’ webs for insects. Alas, despite the ‘holiday’, places to go and things that need doing.

...Errands aside, turned out to be an idyllic (code for lazy) day after all. Suppose I should have cut the grass on returning home, but then there’s always tomorrow (Gudgeon motto). Unbelievably quiet. Haven’t switched on the wireless or read a newspaper, deciding instead to spare the blood pressure and enjoy myself. What with the fine weather, open windows, treated the neighbourhood to an afternoon of Jimmy Smith and George Coleman.

Saturday, May 26

Layabout

After several days of fish – tuna, shrimp, mackerel and hake – I need a steak. So off to Tavistock this morning for supplies. Home to follow the action from Haydock Park – feet up, cold beer. I still can’t warm to ITV’s presenters. Have the place to myself as Mrs G. is down on her allotment shovelling manure. The ponies are doing much the same in the paddocks and the air is quite ripe. A fair number of holiday visitors round and about, the weather behaving itself.

Friday, May 25

Backstabbing runt

While we’re on the subject of Aberdeen… Michael Gove’s direct attack on country life.

Gove to front Ruth Davidson putsch. Ruth Davidson? I as soon as vote for Diane Abbott.

A different world

Aberdeen is Scottish city with the highest proportion of foreigners. Out of a population of 228,000, 55,000 were not born in the UK. Gudgeon suspects there are also a significant number of residents who were born in England. When I arrived in Aberdeen early ’72 it was 18 months before I encountered a fellow ‘English Bastard’ let alone anyone exotic. The Oil Industry put paid to that. Six fun-filled years, from Jimmy Bonthrone to Ally MacLeod...before the Alex Ferguson era.

Thursday, May 24

It won’t end well

Brexit! The atmosphere in the Dog & Duck is toxic, insults traded back and forth. The landlord has barred one individual for threatening an especially irritating remoaner with a bar stool, but more will follow. Everyone suspects Britain will stay yoked to Brussels…fears the bitterness will continue in perpetuity. Dominic Cummins gives a flavour of what could be waiting down the line.

Wednesday, May 23

Choosing the off switch

Exeter this morning to collect a new ‘music centre’ (CD player and DAB radio). My wireless was on its last legs and I’ve all but had it with the television. Even Sky News of which I once counted myself a fan. Their advert breaks remind me of those high streets in impoverished borders towns, where every other premises is a charity shop. Sky’s diet of grief from Grenfell and Manchester barely gets going before it is interrupted by a succession of sad sorts making demands on our pocket money to help rescue crippled donkeys or sad-looking urchins in faraway lands. It’s not the way I want to stay informed or be entertained.

Impressive beast

To say the homestead is well-ventilated is to put it mildly. Two steps out the front door, however, and it is a different world – the air, the scents and smells (livestock notwithstanding). Maybe it’s fanciful to believe air quality adds years to a life but it has to be better than living in the city. Reckon I could smoke twenty fags/day and still come out on top. Aside from a distant hum from the A38 all I can hear are birds…and the Chinook, obviously, along with the military transport. I have no idea what the latter is but it dwarfs a Hercules.

How can young television producers/writers empathise?

The original thinking man’s crumpet, Joan Bakewell, puts the case for ageist diversity: “Let’s stop lumping everyone over 60 into this strange group called ‘the old’.” I suspect divergence can be a problem within the so-called boomer generation, let alone conflating the views and values of everyone between 50 and 90. I have friends in their mid-50s I’ve known since they were teenagers, and still view them as kids. Likewise me to my old golfing partner who whinges about being caught for national service. I have neighbours that have ten years on me who are from a different generation (and thirty-something neighbours who originate from another planet). The world moved at such a pace during the 60s/70s/80s, a mere five-year age gap can make the difference. Identity politics…they don’t know the half of it.

Tuesday, May 22

Never work with animals or children

I don’t mind animals, it’s the kids I object to.

Morning visitors

A Golden Wren (Siskin) on the windowsill, a hornet on my desk lamp. Stonechats prominent today, Wheatears too.

I like this one but..

Manuel Pellegrini has been appointed West Ham manager on a three-year deal … How does that Lidl advert go again: “I like this one – kept us in the Premiership. But this one’s managed Man City and Real Madrid.”

Saturday, May 19

Great day for a celebration

Forget Windsor, the local lanes are a riot of colour – spring flowers. Men are queueing for cases of beer at the Kwik-E-Mart. I assume Cup Final rather than wedding?

Let’s face it, if Bishop Michael Curry was officiating at your wedding you’d have thrown in the towel long ago. When they struck up Thou Great Redeemer the relief was palpable.

Friday, May 18

Friday fish

Scallops and black pudding (there are three varieties in the fridge). The accompanying salad reflects how fortunate we are in this neck of the woods. A Condrieu (white peaches, lychees and grilled nuts) is probably overkill – but what the hell: it’s Cup Final weekend. Though not into weddings or the Royal Family, anything that pisses off Kevin Maguire is good with me.

Continuing to boost the economy

To Exeter – via Totnes and Newton Abbot – for supplies. Actually Exeter was a visit to the body shop. For three decades I sat behind a wheel of one sort or another, commuting and distance driving, home and abroad, with barely a mishap. Rural motoring by comparison is one long scrape. Hawthorn hedges strung with barbed wire are a favourite. Can you believe £2k to respray a couple of panels? Parts of my vehicle have been painted more times than the homestead – 48hrs out the shop and all you can see is a thick coat of mud.

Aargh!

Well done Holland, I guess. That’s 17 England defeats in 24 penalty shoot-outs.

Thursday, May 17

Yet more sunshine

Neighbours out at seven, guns blazing. If you were a kid why on earth would you go to school on a day like this? I’m off out, across the moor. If you don’t use it…

Wednesday, May 16

Shires and Clydesdales in demand

Horse-trekking centre shuts because riders were too overweight.

Up shit creek

And no idea which way to paddle. “Were in our climacteric period,” says the deputy governor of the Bank of England, “past our peak and no longer potent.” Fills you with confidence doesn’t it. If I was running a business I’d be loath to invest anytime soon. Then again, most all the BoE’s forecasts this past ten years have been woeful, see no reason why the Threadneedle Street gang should suddenly sprout a brain. The lack of leadership in the country is mind-boggling, not least from No10. None of us wants to gallop into the valley of the shadow of death, but at some stage somebody has to shit or get off the pot.

Sunday, May 13

Spring's annual trick

A glorious morning…to be alive and among it, spring’s annual trick of making everything look new. Congrats to the Amatola couple, may you enjoy the day. The years fly…. have opened a bottle of Hermitage for lunch, to toast you.

A neighbour rang last night. She’d heard shots – people up to no good, would I investigate. You have to picture me wandering the grounds in the dead of night, torch in hand, the possibility of being confronted by a couple of lads with guns – threatening to rap them on the knuckles with my walking stick if they don’t desist.

Small mercies

It appears we finished third from bottom in the Eurovision song contest, thanks in part to SuRie attracting the sympathy vote? No one likes us and we don’t care.

The shift against capitalism

I read in the papers that young adult Americans are falling out of love with capitalism and their disaffection extends to language. People trust ‘The Truth’ but not ‘The Evidence or The Facts’. If not a post-truth world, a post-factual one, writes John Authers. Thankfully he concludes that while America no longer appears to like capitalism, unless populist politicians goad them into doing something, life as we’ve known it will continue. Would that Theresa May curb her compulsion to mess with things she shouldn’t. I still can’t decide if the girl’s left or right. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore, nowadays we’re either in people or out people.

Saturday, May 12

Party time at the homestead

Yes, I know, any excuse for a drink. 45 years ago today I proposed to Mrs G. The old boy sold his AJS to fund a marriage, I sold my bike to buy an engagement ring – there was nothing left for the married bit. Still, both romantics at heart.

Friday, May 11

Ten Tors

The annual challenge. Bit wet tonight, a chill 2-3°C, but decent enough over the weekend.

Farage in confidence and supply role

Would be priceless: Nigel Farage joins DUP and takes seat in Parliament.

Various

WVM delivered our monthly supply of coffee this morning. My father was more than happy with his post-war coffee/chicory essence and would be shocked by the amount we now spend on premium roast beans. …A neighbour asks if I can recommend a tradesman to work on one of his rental properties in town. I’ve a number of good friends who each have up to a dozen buy to let investments. All struggle to understand or choose to ignore why millennials are so bitter and twisted, why young people remain unhappy lining the pockets of rentiers instead of owning their own homes. …I know it’s in the news just now but it was still disturbing to bump into a familiar face and learn his wife has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. …Drove home from the market behind several Triumph Stags with Swiss plates, presumable on a tour of the West Country. The Stag was always a thing of beauty, albeit an unreliable piece of shit. ...Have just purchase my fourth (fifth?) successive pair of Scarpa walking boots. They don’t seem to last as long as they once did, perhaps because I treat them so abysmally – our disposable society. …Do you find that tart fronting Nationwide’s TV advert as irritating as I do? ...£50m for grammar schools? Though not a fan of grammars, I suspect our much maligned middle class pay more than their fair share of taxes – deserve some payback. There has to be more to life than our continual fixation with the bottom 20 per cent.

Thursday, May 10

The truth behind jet set business travel

A great deal of time is spent sitting on the end of your hotel bed watching CNN on the telly.

In the shadow of brighter sparks

While waiting my turn with a consultant yesterday I sat perusing the New Statesman magazine. I know, I know – but I’d read everything else. Skipping through Paul Mason’s guff on the meaning of Marxism today, I settled on a millennial essay decrying the new cult of perfectionism – spawn of neoliberal meritocracy. You’d think millennials were the first generation required to come to terms with being sorted, sifted and ranked. I thought about the article again this morning when reading Gerald Moore’s obituary in the papers. “Polymath Moore was an oral surgeon with the soul of an artist, a doctor with a Harley Street practice whose paintings were good enough to be exhibited alongside David Hockney, and who found time away from his surgery and his studio to run a safari park and a motor museum in the grounds of his palatial home – a published poet, novelist and an author of children’s books, etc, etc...” In other words a right clever Dick. Regretfully it’s the fate of every generation of mere mortals that we are required to live in the shadow of those who can run faster and jump higher.

Wednesday, May 9

There’s always someone out to get you

To the area general hospital this morning for an exercise in box-ticking. The usual quota of old folks seated in the waiting room. Decent enough people, just a bit worn. Doubtless living in the same old house where they bought up their kids – all long gone of course, children of their own now (millennials). Pretty happy with their lot, eking out a pension with a bit put by in the Post Office earning half of one percent. Though they own their house, like them it has seen better days. Had to arrange an equity loan to replace the roof, wondering if they can increase it to cover a new kitchen. Too big for them really and costs a packet to heat, but there are so many memories and nowhere suitable to move to. Wondering how they’d cope if that evil bastard Willetts got his way and doubled their council tax. Thankful they can vote.

Monday, May 7

Bank holiday footy highlights

England v Italy (EUFA Under-17 Championship) at Walsall's Banks' Stadium. Kids they may be, but I suspect either side are a step up from Saturday's Wembley participants. Give ’em a frock and blonde wig and ask they self-identify, and maybe we could win a World Cup.

Bluebells


All it takes is a couple of days sunshine. The dominant sound this morning
is buzzing insects.

Sunday, May 6

Whatever floats your boat

A buddy emails on return from his latest zig-zag tour, back and forwards between here and Houston, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Bangkok, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Athens, Marbella, Philadelphia, Oporto, Oman, Perth and Sidney. Despite the hassle that comes with international travel, he loves the buzz and will never stop. My neighbour is the same: South East Asia, Africa and North America on a continuous basis. I’ve spent this afternoon asleep on my bench in the yard, aware how fortunate I am – not having the bug, that is.

Saturday, May 5

Dumb, politically correct Victorians

“Things have certainly changed,” says David Bailey. “When you look at the world now, people have more than they ever had, but in a way we’ve gone back to how we were before the Fifties. We’re like a politically correct bunch of Victorians. The world has become so dumbed down, it’s scary.”

“In May he sings all day…”

Out early this morning. Cliche it may be but to describe the dawn chorus as a cacophony of sound is never more apt than at this time of the year. Above it all the cuckoo’s irritating bleat. During May, unfortunately, he sings all day.

Friday, May 4

Yet another public holiday

The ‘Down from London’ crowd were much in evidence this morning: Range Rover SVRs in the Kwik-E-Mart car park. I left home early, picked up supplies and returned as fast as the motor would carry me. Greek salad with a glass of fizz for lunch. The holiday is off and running…barbecued rib of beef for supper.

First thoughts

Results from the local elections show mixed results. The Conservatives will be reasonably happy despite Plymouth and Trafford. Seeing off Labour in London is a big morale boost – anti-Semitism obviously a bigger problem for Corbyn than Windrush is for Theresa May. Although it suggests there are limits to activism, the difference in demographic voting intentions – between local and national elections – gives Labour reason to feel optimistic. Younger voters are far more likely to turn out for a general election. Brexit remains the key. If the government fudge the end game and then fail to sell it to their supporters the Conservative Party will be toast.

Who cares?

The big question at heart of Stormy Daniels saga: Does anyone give a fuck?

Thursday, May 3

Regressive taxes, sugar or otherwise…

A longstanding drinking companion was in touch yesterday. A 40/day smoker for 50 years, having reached the age of 80, the good lady admits she is slowing down. Last week I was introduced to a senior surgeon from one of our large teaching hospitals, a cigarette clamped between his lips. Many of his department colleagues smoked. “Helps us cope with the stress,” he said. I suspect regressive taxes have never been a barrier for either individual.

Living on the breadline

Nearly half of the UK’s classical musicians haven’t a pot to piss in, says the Musicians’ Union. I imagine it’s the same with most writers and dancers, young graduates with arts degrees in general. Pursuing a career in the arts – particularly the esoteric variety – is not dissimilar to semi-professional football: you are a sparky or painter & decorator from Monday to Friday, and play football at the weekend. Perfecting your ‘art’ is what people do of an evening after ‘work’, once you’ve paid the rent.

Wednesday, May 2

On the domestic front

Although it took several hours graft over the past couple of days, I have to admit the yard is looking good – fingers crossed the sun makes a holiday appearance this weekend. Given the recent poor weather Mrs G’s allotment is still bare, with nothing in the ground. Trees and hedges have yet to get going and there’s little sign of bluebells. Thankfully our swallows and ponies are settling in, blackbirds have built a nest outside the kitchen window and sparrows are in the eaves. Rabbits (and spiders) are everywhere.

Tuesday, May 1

Annual ONS survey of drinking habits

The ONS informs us that professionals – including those preachy doctors from the BMA – who earn pots of money continue to party like there’s no tomorrow. “Statisticians caution that the data is likely to underestimate actual levels of drinking because many people either play down their own drinking levels or are reluctant to admit to them.” Pull the other one.

Challenging rituals

Giles Coren writes an amusing little ditty in today’s Times. Buying his wife a birthday present. Admit it, we dread the annual ritual as much as we do when buying Christmas and anniversary presents. They’re guilty reminders we haven’t been paying attention, have missed the countless clues – are rarely on the same wavelength. At least I’ve learnt enough not to buy Mrs G. a food processor for a gift.

Male friends are simple to deal with: a few muttered comments about last night’s footy or the boxing – sheep or silage – and they leave you alone. With a woman you have to engage your brain in an effort to determine some sort of common ground/interest: it invariably means moving onto unfamiliar territory. If a bunch of woad-painted lads from Papua New Guinea paddled up the River Dart this morning in a dugout canoe and stepped ashore wearing grass skirts with bones through their nose I instinctively know we’d have more in common than I do with the countless young women that surround me.

Our taste for Tandoori chicken

They are the ‘Best Indian cookbooks ever’, according to an article in the weekend papers (mutton curry was on the homestead’s menu). As with most British homes there are several on the shelf. We stick with a book recommended by Mrs G’s Indian colleagues (not on the list), a couple that impressed me by returning home exhausted every evening and quasi-religiously taking two hours out to prepare, cook and eat a decent meal. There’s no short cut, spices having to be dry roasted, ground and cooked out each time. I developed a taste for curry in the army (a unique variant), and we continue to eat it as a treat once monthly. In my 20s a visit to the high street ‘Indian’ would be a weekly custom, either with Mrs G., or following the match/after work with the lads (following five pints of lager). My last visit to a high street establishment was a decade ago. The meal was execrable. I never understood the need to import people from Bangladesh to cook this sort of crap, not least when a jar of supermarket gloop is probably superior. I recall listening to a group of graduates laughing hilariously when asked why they weren’t following their parents into the restaurant business…why much of our immigration remains little more than a glorified Ponzi scheme.