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.