Thursday, August 30

Desperate for a break

Our painter has been tres busy, the upside of which is a long weekend for yours truly. There are limits to my ability to interact with other people and I am being pushed pretty close. All good lads but...

Another first

This morning was our first visitor to the homestead driving a hybrid motor. He was out of petrol and, given our semi-remoteness, down to his last kW. Although I’ve never yet opened the front door and been greeted by someone proffering an empty jerry can, I suppose gratuitous use of my electricity supply will become a frequent feature of our green energy future?

Fake news?

There are many headlines I just don’t understand and refuse to believe. This morning’s Times informs us a fifth of Scots – more than a million – are given opioid drugs for long-term pain management. I assume that rather than one in five, the figures reflect repeat prescriptions to a far more limited number of people. If it really is a million individuals, life in Scotland has become more brutal than I recall.

Wednesday, August 29

The holidays will soon be over: good or bad?

Why longer holidays can add years to your life… Taking more than three weeks’ holiday a year could lengthen your life, according to results that give another reason to mourn the end of summer. Doctors should prescribe time off to people with heart problems to ensure that the stress of trying to live more healthily does not kill them, researchers said. ...Counter-intuitively, who among us hasn’t viewed a return to work following our family holiday as a blessed release.

Tuesday, August 28

Another day, another U-turn

Cheese and red meat are back on the menu - as an international study suggests eating around twice as much as health officials advise. The study of 220,000 adults found that eating three portions of dairy and one and half portions of meat a day could cut the risk of early death by one quarter. Scientists said the findings “challenge conventional wisdom” after decades of advice to cut down on full-fat dairy and red meat. ...If this sort of thing keeps up, proves true, I am going to live forever.

It’s the way you tell ’em

I stopped at a cafe in Dalhart and ordered a chicken fried steak. Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak. The cafe was full of boys in football jackets, and the jukebox was playing an odious number called “Billy Broke My Heart in Walgreen’s and I Cried All the Way to Sears.” The waitress was a thin, sad-eyed woman with hands that looked like she had used them to twist barbed wire all her life. She set the steak in front of me and went wearily back to the counter to get a bottle of ketchup. The meat looked like a piece of old wood that had had perhaps one coat of white paint in the thirties and then had had that sanded off by thirty years of Panhandle sandstorms. “Here,” the waitress said, setting the ketchup bottle down. “I hope that steak’s done enough. There ain’t nothin’ like steak when you’re hungry, is there, son?” “No, ma’am, there ain’t,” I said. 
            Larry McMurtry, A Look at the Lost Frontier

I recall once eating a meal at Pinky’s cafe – and yes, it was mashed potatoes and chicken fried steak.

Monday, August 27

Week 9

Bank holiday Monday. Rain stopped at 08:00hrs and builders arrived 08.05hrs. There are approx. 52 windows in the homestead and most if not all have been removed at least once during the maintenance programme, to be repaired and/or re-glazed, and the frames repainted. Today’s team are already tearing into plasterwork and render, lump hammers and power tools wielded with abandon.

I’ll say it again: the current crop of young builders are more than competent, super polite, and a dab hand with the vacuum cleaner. 

Friday, August 24

Sad sorts, every one of us

 
Aside from dribbling and forgetting where we’ve left the keys, one of the principal embarrassments of age is the Uncle Albert Syndrome, a desire to impress the younger cohort with our worldly experience. Think Vince Cable and Jeremy Corbyn making fools of themselves when surrounded by groupies. Tall stories ain’t in it.

Wednesday, August 22

Career choices

I’ll make an unoriginal observation, in that we’ve no chance of building the quantity of housing the country is crying out for – not necessarily because of the dearth of land, nor difficulties with our planning system – but because there aren’t enough lads prepared to enlist in the construction industry, to get their hands dirty. My Irish friends will probably remind me it has always been so, why they came her in the 60s and 70s. Just getting the homestead patched up this summer has been problematic, competing with neighbours for the limited number of live bodies we can lay our hands on – the sort that know what they’re doing. The papers are full of whining Millennials unable to afford somewhere to live, to live ‘normal’ lives. Yet the guys I’ve hired this past couple of months (all aged in their 30s) are married with kids, own their own homes, appear happy to work weekends, bank holidays and put in an occasional 12hr day. Dare I say live normal lives. The sort of life you can’t afford with a degree in grievance studies from Crap Street University.

Friday, August 17

Our weak currency

At one stage this morning my motor was the only British plate in the line. I haven’t seen this many Germans outside of Germany. Must be how Margaret Hodge feels the Poles felt back when. Being invaded was not the response we anticipated when casting our Brexit vote.

Thursday, August 16

Each to their own

Aretha Franklin pops her clogs and everyone in MSM who doubtless doesn’t own any of her albums jumps on the wagon. On the plus side, the Queen of Soul has screwed Madonna’s 60th by putting the material girl in perspective. Guess it’s a generational thing.

Wednesday, August 15

Fortitude

Another day at the grindstone. Weather’s reverting to type. Black, out on the moor – remained dry for the afternoon but now lashing down. Our paint job (renovation) continues…and continues. Both sides are tired, looking to the end game. Began as a three-week prospect; morphed into a five to eight week programme; now, if we’re being truthful, settling on an eight to ten week ordeal. Shouldn’t moan…truth is we have been lucky with the weather. ...Trout for supper, Mrs G’s pink fir apple potatoes. An outstanding Sancerre, glass of Sauternes – bowl of cherries and peaches.

Before you know it...

Made my escape onto the moor yesterday afternoon. A fair number of walkers. Twenty or more riders exercising mounts – thought I recognised one or two, several appeared to recognise me? Flying beneath the radar isn’t as easy as when you live in a large city. On the way down I came across a delivery lorry loaded with builders’ supplies that had taken a wrong turn and become stuck in a narrow lane, both sides of the vehicle wedged against opposing dry stone walls. Took some time to help extract him…with significant damage to vehicle. Sat nav systems have a lot to answer for. Sizable flock of swallows in situ, guess they’ll be moving on pretty soon. Hedges need cutting.

Tuesday, August 14

Grumpy Old Man Syndrome

Even yours truly is not immune. And yet the principal difference between being 67 instead of 37 is the equanimity with which you accept the frustrations of everyday life. Once you’ve come to terms with the realisation that eighty per cent of your fellow citizens are total morons, life becomes a breeze.

Gives mince a bad name

Unbelievable! Massie has actually written something we can agree on.

So many spurned chances

As a player, pundit with a ready quip, and exemplar of smart gentlemen’s clothing, I’ve always liked Ian Wright. Which was why I was so disappointed, yesterday evening on the Monday Night Club, to hear him attributing criticism of Raheem Sterling to racism among media commentators. I thought he was above that sort of thing, grievance politics – obviously been hanging around Lineker too long. If people have a problem with Sterling it’s his failure to close the deal – put the ball in the net – on a more regular basis.

Sunday, August 12

Traditional Sunday lunch

Roast chicken mit the (home-grown) trimmings, oatmeal stuffing and gravy. A classic Graves…bottle of Dufftown’s finest.

Speaking as a short, bald gargoyle

“Freud famously asked: what do women want? And I think that after two marriages, a dozen long-term relationships and a thousand-and-one dates, I’ve discovered the answer to that great mystery: they want a man with a beautiful house – preferably one in the beautiful British countryside. They say size isn’t everything, but it’s amazing how the possession of a big house will alter a woman’s perception of a man. He doesn’t have to be tall and handsome to attract women. He can be a short, bald gargoyle with bad breath — but thanks to his beautiful big house, there are women who will see him as a tall sexy beast. Women will love you for who you are. They just won’t marry you for who you are.”

Just keep digging

I’m beginning to sympathise with Arlene Foster: her jibe about feeding the crocodile. No matter how reasonable or accommodating – the lengths we go to, to meet people halfway – it will never be enough. A Prime Minister that makes Gordon Brown appear statesman-like.

Saturday, August 11

Worse than neighbour’s muckspreading ops

Empties aside, the principal hangover from yesterday’s party is the smell. Among my birthday presents was a rather large box from The Fine Cheese Co. Its contents have permeated the homestead. I’m on a cheese-fest weekend. Large portions of Montgomery Cheddar, Tunworth soft cheese and Bath Blue. Bottles of Gruaud-Larose and Sauternes. Arteries clogging as we speak.

Friday, August 10

A wild Dartmoor morning

Heavy on the rain. Builder and painter downed tools, retired to base – leaving yours truly free to celebrate my birthday in peace. If the actuarial calculations are correct I’m running out of time. Doing my best to make the most of it.

Thursday, August 9

Holland - like Belfast, apparently, but with clogs

“The vision of a globalised society, wherein Moroccans, Persians, Eritreans, Scandinavians and Latin-Americans or what-have-you live in the same street, shop at the same stores, and drink at the same bars, presumably in a land of perpetual sunshine is a fantasy so flawed, so objectively failed, that one would have to spend one’s days in an ivory tower, locked away from reality, in order to believe it. The harsh reality in Holland now is that people have their own barbers, their own shopping markets, their own foods, their own places to socialise, their own worlds. They are not comfortable living around one another, and where they are forced to do so by the rental market, they are not comfortable sharing the space. This is not an opinion – this is a fact backed by government research. The latest findings by the Dutch government explicitly state that feelings of mistrust and loss of identity rise in parallel with an increase in societal diversity.”

Wednesday, August 8

Nothing to see here

Tonight is an Eyetie night: spaghetti mit bottle of Chianti... Racial epithets of the past were a hangover from our parents (wartime) generation: Krauts, Eyeties and Frogs, etc. In this day and age, however, such is our tolerance of ‘the other’, Burka-gate barely resonates. If it does our response is likely to venture into Boris-like humour – can’t take them seriously, someone who swans about dressed in a sack. We remain an open society and, within certain bounds, are allowed to dress and do what we want – however ridiculous. Likewise our right to take the piss. Like many I’m less concerned about accusations of racism than my being accused of burnishing some sort of ragbag of pseudo-liberal pretensions, of virtue signalling.

Tuesday, August 7

We're a sad bunch of cripples, apparently

Our Mediterranean-like spell of weather continues – you can’t get too much of a good thing. If only it could be bottled for when winter begins to drag. Guess that’s why aeroplanes were invented? Make hay while the sun shines, or so the proverb goes, because researchers say that by the age of 50, most of us will be have at least one long-term health condition. Shit, one in five of us supposedly doesn’t make it to 30 before the rot sets in. “We need to look at health through a different lens, one that focuses on how we prevent and delay people developing significant health problems.” Discourage us from consuming or doing anything that makes life tolerable more likely. “Health systems often already know exactly what kinds of activities and interventions can help prevent and delay the onset of such conditions” I bet you do, matey, and I just know you are going to bleat on about it ad nauseam. Not to worry, eh, climate change will do for us first.

Sunday, August 5

Downtime

Great day – homestead to ourselves. Three hours mowing under a blistering sun, the afternoon off. Feet up, Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s.

Now they tell me

“Scientists from Stirling and Oxford universities warn that high winds and heavy rain, which together create near-horizontal downpours capable of degrading walls, could wreak havoc with buildings. It is likely that in this scenario, building element failure, such as moisture ingress through cracks and gutter overspill, will occur more frequently. Driving rain has been estimated to cause more than 90% of critical damage to buildings. A UK climate-change risk assessment published last year warned that using cavity-wall insulation in locations with wind-driven rain could lead to damp, as the insulation retained water that penetrated the facade.”

Saturday, August 4

Please give it a rest

A not untypical letter in this week’s Spectator reads: “I was a remain voter and a Londoner, and was utterly shocked by the result of the referendum … Since then I have been so angered and repelled by the behaviour of Messrs Juncker and Barnier that should we be obliged to vote again I will vote to leave.”    Makes you wonder how another vote would pan out. I suspect the opposition will use every trick in the book to gerrymander a different outcome. Last week a not so secret cabal of geriatric remoaners met with the duplicitous Sarah Woolaston in a darkened upstairs room at the Dog & Duck. Seems our MP is now supporting a People’s Vote on the final deal. She actually believes – or led the poor saps to believe – the franchise can be extended to include 16-year-olds, the UK’s 3m resident EU citizens, and British migrants that live on the continent. Methinks there will be lots of Conservative stalwarts around this neck of the woods looking for an alternative home for our vote at the next general election.

As others see us

“The residents of these islands do not like being told what to do. They are stubborn, intractable and uppity. This subversive, anti-authoritarian strain in the (British) character is captured in a single four-word phrase, a sort of national refrain: I Can’t Be Arsed. The global image of Britain in the 18th century — unruly, fearless and probably drunk — strikes me as closer to the current spirit of the place than the standard clich├ęs of propriety and repression.”
(Robert Armstrong in the FT)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio

It’s the silly season with many regular commentators absent on holiday – civil war in abeyance. A fair number appear to be here in the south west if the roads are anything to go by. Totnes is shoulder to shoulder, German accents prominent. The homestead remains under siege, yours truly surrounded by roof-supporting acrow posts and paint buckets, at least three competing radios all tuned to different stations. Summer is leaching away, a casualty of necessity. As long as it stays dry I’m happy.