Thursday, November 29

Mop and bucket time

Storm Diana’s a noisy bugger; waste of time trying to sleep – suspect everyone is up early this morning. Neighbour’s home flooded. It never rains…as they say.

Wednesday, November 28

Autumn

Despite the febrile Brexit atmosphere and life’s daily ups and downs, the world remains relatively predictable – at this time of year that means gales and heavy rain, fallen trees and missing roof slates, boiler on the blink. Soups and stews are augmented by the grill, veal steaks and black puddings, potatoes of every shape and size; greens, greens, and more greens. A Mediterranean diet is for the birds – who are everywhere. Vast flocks of crows, wood pigeons, chaffinch and long tailed tits. A squad of blackbirds spend each day turning over leaves in the yard in search of food. Game birds are skulking in bushes hiding from the guns.

Tuesday, November 27

School dinners are crap

“Fruit and vegetables given to children under a government scheme are largely imported, often of poor quality and have higher levels of pesticide residues than supermarket equivalents…and is failing in its mission to encourage young people to eat more fresh produce.” ...School dinners are crap! Who’d have thunk?

Sunday, November 25

Making the most of it

And yet here I am, walking on the moor…a beautiful autumn day. Flocks of birds in flight, countless critters scurrying through the undergrowth. One of those ‘glad to be alive’ mornings. You meet neighbours, of course, necessitating the need to stop and talk (just when the Grand Prix is about to kick off).

Saturday, November 24

Foggy and wet

Grim best describes the yard this morning, it has been bucketing down all night. Roads and rail line flooded. Thankfully we finished outside before the rain arrived. Not a day, a weekend, for walking on the moor.

Friday, November 23

Friday nights…

Tony Blackburn followed by Friday Night is Music Night, a bottle of something vaguely alcoholic, and my weekly edition of The Spectator. I began subscribing to the Speccie during the early ’80s, drawn to the exploits of Jeffrey Bernard and the exotic rich boy Taki. Although sceptical of our young lad from Nairn I have to admit the magazine has prospered under his leadership. While there are a limited number of people that can read and write, The Spectator has more than its fair share of decent columnists.

Obituaries of note...John Large, a challenging man

Large collapsed in front of Jenny with a drink in his hand; she said it was the first time he had left a pint unfinished.

Thursday, November 22

Typical faux pas

If you decide to book a team of tree surgeons for the day, probably best it doesn’t coincide with Mrs G’s birthday, not least when you’d promised a celebratory lunch at a fashionable hostelry, and instead the good lady ends up brewing urns of tea for the workforce and cooking dinner at home. Duelling chainsaws ain’t in it. Thankfully Gudgeon had gift-wrapped a Liberty Beauty Advent Calendar, earning automatic admonishment.

More than one way to skin a cat

Media and arts courses at colleges ‘offer false hope’ of glamorous careers by offering too many media studies and arts courses, the education watchdog has said. And yet the last time I made a similar remark, a couple of old friends reminded me their daughters have each succeeded in their chosen field, in fashion, publishing and behind the camera, and that all three own their own home in London. A former classmate also chided me that as an arts college graduate she remains the only individual among our sorry bunch to have made it into Who’s Who.

Tuesday, November 20

Levelling the playing field for boys?

Labour’s Angela Rayner promises to end the hegemony of middle-class girls who do well at school.

Log stoves and Dimplex heaters

It’s back home to the simple life, raking leaves and chopping wood. Simple and cold. After sub-tropical Bath, this morning the yard is minus-four (wind chill). Thank god for log stoves and mugs of hot tea. Between badgers foraging for grubs and our tunnelling moles the paddocks are a mess. ...As long as there’s feed and you chat to them occasionally the ponies appear indifferent to most everything. ...Chatting to neighbour across the hedge: exchanging gossip is human currency wherever you find yourself.

Saturday, November 17

Onwards and upwards, as they say

Three days in Bath (or any city) can be injurious to health. Too much temptation. Even with my aches and pains, partying like there’s no tomorrow remains fun, and in this miserabilist Brexit environment of ours a welcome release. On the downside, the weekend confirms my belief that while restaurant food is on the whole well executed, the quality of produce leaves a lot to be desired. Merely good doesn’t cut it these days – perhaps why so many restaurant chains are going out of business. Today by contrast we found a great backstreet bistro, presided over by a French lad straight out the Raymond Blanc playbook, oily Gallic charm personified and worth every penny of his 20% gratuity. One last evening to go…

Thursday, November 15

A Jack Reacher-style lunch

An old fashioned three-hour session at the Ivy Brasserie – burger and fries, apple pie and ice cream. Not sure Reacher is a Rose Champagne and Sauternes man, but Mrs G. was calling the shots. The city of Bath seems a long way to travel for a telephone and broadband service.

If I didn’t get back to you…reasons

Best laid plans, as they say... Last thing I was looking for on Monday was a lightning strike to take out the transformer and our electricity supply. Took eight hours to fix, before failing again two hours later – a whole day more or less wasted. The strike fried our mainline telephone and broadband, and tossers they are, BT estimate sometime next week before restoring service.

Sunday, November 11

Let's hear it for Wall Street

Hold your nose and count your cash. Since a certain divisive figure was elected on November 8, 2016, the Dow Jones index of American shares has soared by 45%. Even the Standard & Poor’s 500, a broader benchmark of US stocks, is up 33%. By contrast, over the same period, the poor old FTSE 100 index of Britain’s blue-chip shares has edged forward by a meagre 6%.    ...And yet most of my drinking companions at the Dog & Duck continue to put their trust in the Westminster Government and a Post Office savings account? 

Saturday, November 10

Maybe Hobson’s choice is the best we can hope for?

Whether it’s Jo Johnson decrying the mess she’s made of Brexit, or Cressida Dick bemoaning what a piss-poor Home Secretary Theresa May was, the sad fact remains we have no obvious replacement. Whichever way this plays out the backlash will not be pretty. Not that any other country or institution appears exactly spoiled for choice.

Friday, November 9

House-trained guests

Mrs G. has always been tolerant of the characters I bring home from the Dog & Duck. Some lads, however, are not particularly women friendly. In London it used to be Millwall supporters, the ones that find it difficult to string together a sentence without including at least two profanities. Here it’s the lads who wear rings on their thumbs and in their ears, extinguish spliffs in the good lady’s tea cups, and rest their feet on the kitchen table.

Each to their own

A former colleague from Generation X calls, mirroring an all too familiar complaint about the contemporary workplace. Seems our swashbuckling red in tooth and claw commercial life has given way to a bureaucratic regulatory regime – tick box culture, taking a lot of the fun from life. Cavaliers have given way to ranks of Dickensian clerks. I guess Brexit was doomed to failure from the start, the current generation more intent on pursuing a four-day week than conquering markets and slaying the opposition. And yet young people expect similar rewards?

Thursday, November 8

What passes for entertainment

Have worked my way through a veritable stack of books this past couple of months. They beat what’s on offer from the small screen – you can’t best your own imagination/interpretation. My favourite, among a decent field, has to be ‘Only to Sleep’, a Lawrence Osborne tribute to Phillip Marlowe. I’ll read anything from Osborne – a class act; and Raymond Chandler is a god. I used to feel the same about film in general, but over this past decade or more movies have been made for a less demanding audience. I remain a sucker for old shit like this afternoon’s ‘Barefoot Contessa’. The film is baloney, of course, laid on with a trowel. Classy baloney of the highest order.

Wednesday, November 7

Dialling it back and having fun?

Dream on. Have worked harder during the first week of November than at any time last month. To the quarry this morning for aggregate to fill pot holes (rain devastated track); returned to stand on top of ladder clearing gutters and replacing slates, rain lashing down (Gudgeon is waterproofed). Cleared room prior to arrival of carpet man (removing seven bookcases), installed ceiling lights, rehung artwork, replaced a couple of window locks, and fitted new fire bricks. Whatever satisfaction I feel from my efforts is tempered by the knowledge that Mrs G. puts in double the hours I do.

Tuesday, November 6

A demarcation of civilisation

Or a prison wall? Senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot agreed that Mrs Hajiyeva could be released on bail - if she pays £500,000 as a guarantee, stays at her home in Knightsbridge, “does not travel outside the M25” and reports to police every day... I recently ordered an item of furniture from the Conran Shop, who appeared aghast that I lived beyond the confines of the M25. Their delivery charge was eye-watering. Apparently they need two operatives in the van – one, presumably, to hold the shotgun.

A free afternoon

Battening down hatches in advance of approaching storm. Shame we have to lose this wonderful autumn scenery...

Storm arrives! You have to picture it: I’m surrounded by windows (and livestock) – have a panoramic view, tucked up beside the log stove. Homestead enveloped in mist, small trees bent to the wind – the 60 footers barely twitching, horizontal rain. It’s great stuff. A million miles from what passed as the inner city of my early teenage years.

Sunday, November 4

Wet ain’t in it

Driving through the rain to Plymouth for supplies was particularly testing – and yet could man survive without ScrewFix and Sunday opening? Rewarded with a roast pork (Saddleback) lunch mit all the trimmings. ...Caught Arron Banks on Marr. The lad could be trafficking kidnapped babies and you’d forgive him, if only for his ability to piss off the usual suspects.

Saturday, November 3

Back to the jumps

Saturday mornings include an early call to the bakers before they sell out. Ciabatta, brioche and those sticky cardamom buns that Mrs G. favours. Today is sheep fest – neighbour is hosting an open house, complete with catering truck. Everyone gets to see shepherds and dogs in action on the moor, is lectured on the various breeds of sheep and all things pertaining to woolly animals. Another local, Bryony Frost, is back on top of Black Corton at Wetherby.

Friday, November 2

A bar on every train!

Easy to pooh-pooh grown men’s infatuation with trains, and you had to be careful of the enthusiasts (cameras/tripods at the ready) when driving across the narrow railway bridge this morning. In an era when diesel is so maligned, however, it’s refreshing to see people celebrating the real thing.

Thursday, November 1

Poppy refuseniks

Not around here, matey. The local metropolis has gone overboard this year, decorating lampposts and grass verges with poignant displays. “Why should we wear poppies for wars we weren’t even alive for,” they ask. For most of us it’s an annual reminder of our parents and grandparent’s generation – to say nothing of the friends and neighbours we sent to the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al. – and the ultimate sacrifice. At the going down of the sun and in the morning...

Sticks to your ribs

Gudgeon celebrates the end of Stoptober (there’s a reason married men live longer and enjoy better health). On the plus side, and in spite of the sautéed potatoes, pasta and iced fingers, I start November a couple of pounds lighter (circa 137.0lbs). My weight has been pretty well static for several years. Today’s repast includes a Rhône favourite, obviously, together with large portions of comfort food – braised shin of beef, greens and sweet potatoes.