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.


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.

Thursday, June 21


Am watching the plucky Aussies attempt to overcome a bunch of technically superior Danes, appreciating the hopes and aspirations of so many are wrapped up in the outcome. It’s a game…people take life too seriously. Neighbourhood activists, for instance, have a coach booked to take them to London for this weekend’s ‘March for a People’s Vote’. By activists I mean the sort of dipsticks that post selfies of themselves arm-in-arm with that dog-turd A.C. Grayling (similar age group and alma mater). They’re very much the minority around here, albeit a vocal and influential one. So much so our whore of an MP has consistently rebelled against the government line in an effort to maintain her cosy sinecure. Entertaining stuff that it is, it doesn’t keep me awake at night.

Wednesday, June 20

UK's 12th ranked university

Exeter university has apologised after a quote from the German general and military theorist known as the Desert Fox was used to motivate staff and students. A spokesman said the staff member who selected the quote “did not know who Rommel was" and the information was taken from a free-to-use website (rather than the film featuring that nice Mr Mason and his wife Miss Daisy). I thought the only history kids were taught these days was the second world war?

Blowing the cobwebs away

On the top of an extremely misty moor before breakfast, helping neighbour track down livestock. Among the larks and stonechats, a dramatically-coloured fiery brantail (redstart), giving it large in that melancholy verse. Then to town: fresh bread for lunchtime bruschetta, pork ribs for tonight’s barbecue.

Tuesday, June 19

Square eyes

Three televised matches every day AND Royal Ascot.

Winning start ... it's all downhill from here

As we are busy I celebrated England’s win with several alcohol-free lagers, falling asleep at ten and waking at seven. Must have needed a kip. The Three Lions win against Les Aigles de Carthage was not without incident and kept us on the edge of our seats – a work in progress, as they say. Football is the ultimate win-win, legitimising both national fervour and ancient prejudices rivalries. That we are happy to share a beer afterwards is testament to the power of football over politics. Fogbound this morning, literally rather than metaphorically. Appears the murk is with us for a couple of days.

Monday, June 18

Always look on the bright side

Like many I switch on the morning news and immediately turn it off again. If it’s not the EU facing an existential migrant crisis, NHS stealth taxes, or the usual bleeding hearts, it is more knavish tricks designed to wreck Brexit. Am embarrassed to admit I chuckled over the story of a man being crushed to death by his own mother’s coffin after trying to push it up a bamboo ladder at her funeral. Brought back memories. Thank god for the World Cup, which, touch wood, appears to be going well – perhaps I was a bit hasty in my criticism of the hosts. Of course England haven’t played yet, though all of us are hardwired for disappointment.

Sunday, June 17

Another good game

Nice enough rib of veal for lunch. As with anything immature, however, these cuts require a healthy dose of rosemary or sage to make them palatable. Saved today in part by sautéed potatoes and my go-to Crozes-Hermitage. Congrats to Serbia: case of a good big ’un always beating a good little ’un. You have to admire the Patrice Evra look – straight out of Live and Let Die. Unfortunately Eniola Aluko isn’t Jane Seymour.

Saturday, June 16

The righteous and the unrighteous

The motor’s in dock for a wash and brush-up, and my courtesy car is one of those high-revving dinky toys that growl like a Ferrari and drive like a hamster. Gets me to the nearest town – four miles away – for milk and papers. Six forward gears and I have yet make it out of second.

Hard luck, Aussies. I didn’t think it was a penalty either. Gudgeon was cheering you on – as instructed. Life at the homestead is governed by Mrs G’s rules, and supporting cheese-eating surrender monkeys in the current Brexit climate is a no-no. Though frequently berated for my casual racism, it seems there are acceptable and non-acceptable forms of racism – and mine, inevitably, fall foul of the arbiter.

Yeeees! Let’s hear it for Iceland.

Friday, June 15

Propper footy

Jesus they’re good: Spain, that is. Am pleased we’re not playing them. At least not yet.

Wasted opportunity

Watching the Egypt v Uruguay match on the box. The stadium is half-empty? This is what happens when those corrupt FIFA toerags pimp out their tournament to a country whose citizens either can’t be arsed or haven’t a pot to piss in – can’t afford the tickets.

Thursday, June 14

If only life were so simple

Children are not born bad. Crime results from inequality. A little more redistribution and crime will be eradicated, says retiring assistant commissioner with political ambitions.

Wednesday, June 13

Nice work if you can get it

Jeremy Clarke channels his inner low life… “On Monday night I went to a party at the Crazy Horse nightclub in Paris thrown by the philosopher oligarch Vitaly Malkin. The champagne was Perrier Jouet; the strippers were top drawer. During the interval I was invited into a small lounge along with some French journalists and intellectuals to meet the man. The plush little interview lounge was stocked with bottles of champagne and vodka on ice. At this point I moved on to champagne and vodka mixed half and half. His personal assistant confidentially asked me whether I would like to ask Mr Malkin a question. I said that I did. I badly wanted to ask him if he or any of his friends had any coke they could sell me. It was the only thing missing.”

Attempting to shackle the market

Men should stop trying to be like Gladiator Russell Crowe in the boardroom if there is ever going to be complete gender parity in the workplace, an education chief has said. Alpha males dominating boardrooms and treating the office like the Colosseum must come to an end to allow ‘feminine traits’ to be expressed and equally valued, Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of the Girls' Day School Trust (GDST), suggests.    …I’d make two points. The first is that – aside from the necessity of paying my rent and putting food on the table – the whole point of work IS to behave like a gladiator. While we might not be competing on a football pitch or in the ring, being matched against our rivals is what gets us out of bed every morning. My second point relates to ‘feminine traits’. Because I couldn’t be arsed to reach for the controls last night, I ended up watching ten minutes of the BBC television programme Grammar Schools: who will get in? And I could not help noticing the featured grammar was dominated front and centre by a significant number of strapping African girls. I can’t imagine these formidable-looking young women are any more the shrinking violet than either of the alpha Williams sisters – and somehow in need of our protection. Let’s not sell our daughters short, nor emasculate our sons.

A similar observation from Sex and the City.

Brexit and Korea aren’t part of this world

Out on the moor before seven this morning. Too nice a day to pass up (worked my backside off yesterday). Ferns and nettles shoulder high, pink-purple foxgloves, lots of rabbits and wood pigeons…up on the hills, pipits and stonechats – skylarks, obviously. No other soul about.

Tuesday, June 12

The pox doctor

“There wasn’t much that couldn’t be cured with a glass of red wine,” he liked to (half) joke. Re-read his book, To Your Good health! The Wise Drinker’s Guide, several months ago.

Dr Thomas Stuttaford, b.1931 d.2018.

Monday, June 11

Thrifty till 50, then spend to the end…

I’m doing my best but, given human nature, it goes against the grain. Writing in the New Guardian, IFS’s Paul Johnson informs us that many of the assets people retire with are still with them 30 years later. Retirees live on their pensions — state and private — but neither use much of their savings nor unlock their housing equity. “We put all that effort into accumulating assets and then fail to spend them.” And this, of course, has a detrimental effect on the economy. While Johnson sees this in part as an aberration – in the future, with no private pension income to live on, people will have to treat their other assets differently – he believes we will continue to forgo our Lamborghini in favour of security, our peace of mind. Being the cynic I am, Gudgeon is confident the government has large departments beavering away on the development of new taxes to solve the problem.

Sunday, June 10

Petit salé aux lentilles

Basic stuff: slab of cured pork (saddleback), poached in a bath of savoury stock. Puy lentils to die for, a bottle of Jean-Louis Chave’s finest.

Saturday, June 9

BBC Radio 4 - something for the ladies

“It was five hours before I heard a male voice on Radio 4, when Saturday PM came on. Five hours. We must have heard snatches (an appropriate term, I think) of Radio 4 40 or 50 times and on each occasion it was a woman moaning about something. Moan, moan, moan, all the livelong day. Women were moaning as we passed Thirsk, Selby, Doncaster. They were still moaning at Retford and Newark and Grantham. Their moaning was often afforded succour by the presenter — always female — who did a spot of empathetic moaning alongside them. Marginal moaning, tendentious moaning, gratuitous moaning. A drama with foreign women moaning. A discussion programme with British women moaning. It was ceaseless.”

Friday, June 8

Another lad bites the dust

To Bovey this morning, delivering Mrs G. to the Contemporary Craft Festival. Women coming together to lust over jewellery and fluffy pillows. In a nod to their menfolk there’s a blacksmith that makes pokers and another who fashions very desirable knives – the sort Gordon Ramsey and your average London moped-riding highwayman covet.

Talking of chefs…Anthony Bourdain, rock star of the culinary world.

Twice-baked souffles for supper, accompanied by an outstanding Grand Cru Alsace Riesling.

Faux outrage

I’m pretty sure the final terms of our departure from the EU will please neither side. And yet while the political scene appears toxic, I suspect much of the brouhaha is media generated. We are a long way from the civil war of the ’70s and ’80s, and can console ourselves the population of most other countries appears similarly set against one another. The world has never been richer and in better health, but people can’t get beyond the belief that someone somewhere is doing better than they are.

Monday, June 4

Making hay while the sun shines

Although yesterday was busy, this morning the tractors were out first light. Not to be outdone, and no doubt to the horror of Rod Liddle, I’d trapped and despatched three irritating critters before breakfast. Have spent the rest of the day repairing fences and hacking at undergrowth – mowing Mrs G’s half-acre of lawn. Trust me, there are worst ways to while away time – it’s been a near perfect day. If only I hadn’t just slopped a half-pint of Amstel on my keyboard.

Sunday, June 3

Benefit of the doubt

For his excellent Nixon biography if nothing else, forever destined to live within a yard of hell.

Happy days? It's a relative thing.

Been one of those days. The ultimate sunny afternoon – the Ultimate Summer Party...Ever! Let's face it, we may have been a naive bunch back then but life was fun and we were happy in our ignorance...remained optimistic.

That said you have to remember the underlying theme of those days: “We gotta get out of this place if its the last thing we ever do, we gotta get out of this place cause girl there's a better life for me and you.”

Live and let live

I bow to no man in my admiration for the dipstick from Middlesbrough. Rod Liddle’s latest whinge, however, grates a little. I haven’t really got a dog in fight – am the sort who goes out of his way to carry a spider outside rather than flush it down the lavatory. But his predictable townie v country-folk attitude to wildlife seems at odds with most Millwall fans I know (bludgeon anything and everything). Wherever I’ve lived I have tried to fit in, and when faced with something outside my competence, defer to the experienced hand (local competence). If my neighbours insist on shooting badgers to protect their cattle then more power to their elbow. I can’t get my head round a society that votes so enthusiastically to abort babies but is aghast at the thought of people on horseback chasing foxes.

The countryside’s immigration problem

With no little irony, Stewart Dakers complains that immigrants are ruining his rural idyll. Not the dusky lads from Somalia and Bangladesh you understand, but white flight from big cities. This is not gentrification, he says, but social cleansing on a grand scale – coarsening our once-gentle town, and predicts it won’t end well. I guess the Brexit debate must have passed him by, or maybe he’s late to the party? I recall when we made our initial forays into the rural hinterland (Dorset) some 15 years ago, the local pub was full of young Stewart Dakers types who’d inherited their parents homes and – rather than offering the properties to their neighbours at a ‘realistic’ price – had sold to incoming Londoners for what each considered a ridiculous sum of money. There was lots of punching the air, rounds of celebratory drinks…all they could think of was getting the hell out of Dodge and pursuing a career in some distant sunny land. The once-gentle town could go hang.

Saturday, June 2

Relationships were never easy things to manage

But still, I’m sure there was a time when life was simpler: Is it really possible for two people to simultaneously sexually assault each other?

We’ve been given a mare and a ten-day-old foal to look after. Am watching the little mite dash about like a good ’un, wondering how much urban kids would benefit from so much space or whether it would freak them out.

Friday, June 1

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

On this day in 2001... The familiar Dudok-inspired municipal building of our past. Don’t
suppose my old desk is still there, nor the bottle of Macallan in the bottom drawer. Top of the tower was once the best little cocktail bar in South London.