Sunday, July 21

Cutting back on teachers’ perks

The end of summer term is traditionally a time for children to escape the classroom on a school trip. “Cutting back on school trips or abandoning them altogether is yet another example of the detrimental impact the crisis in school funding is having on the lives of children and young people who are being denied access to enriching experiences they might not otherwise get,” said Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union. Some teachers make extraordinary efforts. Jon Clarke, the shadow headteacher at Walsall Academy, took a group of children to Everest base camp and is heading to Ladakh with 14 more later this year. …And here was me thinking my generation was well served by a week under canvas at Beaudesert scout camp in Rugeley as a means of widening horizons and building character. The Himalayas? What would Greta Thunberg have to say about this sort of thing: flying around the world, despoiling native lands.

Local produce has its limitations

I’m all for it, local produce that is. Returned home from this morning’s trek on the moor to a plate of fresh crab originating in south west waters. Friday I consumed a kilo of mussels from the river Exe, yesterday a giant sized fillet of hake landed at Brixham. Today’s lunch is loin of saddleback from our man in Beaworthy, accompanied by veg from our neighbour’s allotment. Unfortunately there’s little you can do about the wine.

Less work and more play

In pursuit of Utopia, Sonia Sodha says “a shorter working week for those who need it most implies a labour market where the low-paid have more rights and bargaining power. The rest of us, rightly, should expect to pay more as taxpayers and consumers for the services and goods they produce for us.” The low-paid she references as employees in Amazon warehouses and call centres (today’s dockers and miners), the ones, as it happens, most at risk of losing – being priced out of – their jobs by automation and artificial intelligence. Perhaps the answer has less to do with everyone paying more tax and higher prices for the goods and services we consume, than retraining the low-paid to be well-paid AI and machinery technicians? At the end of the day, two in five British workers will always be resentful and unhappy in their work – as they are in their marriages and their lives in general. Being grumpy and blaming others for everything that happens to them remains a legitimate and popular lifestyle choice. Doubtful the Guardian would survive without it.

Saturday, July 20

Driving test pass rate at decade low

Passed my driving test first time, getting on for 50 years ago. Can still recall the examiner’s words: “Not at all impressed with your ability behind the wheel, but having failed the previous six candidates, and as we are desperately short of qualified drivers…”

Old diesels

No, not Zoe Williams. The enthusiast were out in numbers this morning, cameras at the ready. For many people these units are as iconic as Apollo 11.

We keep digging ever deeper holes

Yesterday’s fruitcakes and loonies – the basket of deplorables, what Gordon Brown once described as "that bigoted woman", have, according to Paul Mason, morphed into today’s fascist white supremacists, “a plebeian movement that demonstrates calculated ignorance against vaccines, against professional expertise and against culture, who believe that getting a college degree is useless.” You would think The New Statesman was above this sort of guff. But then everyone has now gone too far for compromise, have tied our respective colours to the mast.

Friday, July 19

Grumpy old men (and women)

This Week’s last hurrah was another reminder that my sort has had its day. While not dead yet, and Brexit notwithstanding, I guess the new world order will continue to do their best to ignore us. And maybe they should – leave us to our corner banquette in the Dog & Duck.

Thursday, July 18

Immigration, citizenship and those “go home” tweets

You say tomato i say tomahto. My neighbour at the barn, our previous home, told me that although he'd moved to the village 45 years ago he was still referred to as the blow in (his family originated in the adjacent county). Many in the village can trace their people (in the local cemetery) back to the 17th Century. 

Wednesday, July 17

Theresa May is worried

"Frankly, my dear, none of us give a damn."

Might as well be on a different planet

Viewed from the sticks, listening as I am to Shelagh Fogarty’s show on LBC – the debate inevitably focusing on Donald Trump’s “Go back to where you came from.” – we yokels too often forget London remains a different country. I doubt David Lamy’s constituents appreciate that when someone from this part of the world meets more than two black or brown faces in an average month it’s subject to debate at the Dog & Duck.

Tuesday, July 16

The moon landing and 1969 revisited

“Half a century on, I wonder whether the culture wars that led eventually to Leave and Remain weren’t born in 1969 as people decided — almost without noticing — who they were.”

Continuing story of smug North London tosspot versus small town yokel. Although contemporaries, Gudgeon was already old before his time having grown up chuckling to Hancock and Haynes rather than Monty Python. That much cited cultural signifier was lost to me as there was limited access to television in those days, although I did get to watch the moon landing. One thing I do have in common with Aaronovitch is that we both wore combat jackets and spent part of that year in the Rhineland.  That he acquired his jacket from Sid’s Surplus Store and I from the QMS was the more likely cultural determinant than either Sid James or Eric Idle.

Monday, July 15

Crazy tree-huggers the lot of ’em

“I’m involved because I have children and I want them not to starve and die in social collapse. If you look at what scientists are saying, that’s what’s coming.” 

Taking hyperbole to a new level...thankfully I’m not in the city anymore. Principal disturbance hereabouts has been the dash to complete cutting and baling ops – and given today’s near total silence, I assume they’ve finished. The only sound this afternoon is that of beating butterfly wings and an occasional bloop as a bubble breaks surface in the septic tank.

All you have to do is laugh and smile and dance and sing

We’re all going to hell in a handcart, says The Times Alex Massie. Same old doom and gloom they wheel out every Monday morning. I doubt the country’s any more divided than we appeared to be in the ’70s and ’80s, or that our economy is in any worse shape. We always muddle through somehow. “This time next year…” as Del would say.

Sunday, July 14

Bring on the tartan blankets and a half of shandy

According to a recent UK-wide poll, unless you live in Scotland, those about to slip anchor into their sixth decade are living a life of hedonistic abandon reminiscent of the last days of the Roman empire.

Saturday, July 13

Mine’s a large one

According to The Express, the Queen is believed to favour cocktails and drinks four of them a day. That’s up to six units or so, which is impressive stuff for a woman of 93. Almost as impressive as Fred Owen whose obituary appeared in The Times this week. Fred was a veteran of the newspaper industry when four-hour lunches were the norm. During his latter years he was keen on holidays in Cornwall, where he indulged in long pub lunches. Fred died on May 1, 2019, aged 94. Another life tragically cut short by excessive drinking.

Commenting on Wimbledon

 Sad to see old Crouch go – retiring from competitive football at the age of 38. Conversely, Roger Federer – soon to celebrate his 38th birthday – is knocking them dead on the tennis courts. I wonder to what extent this reflects the lack of emerging talent in tennis, as opposed to the large number of outstanding young footballers feeding into the system?

 Sportsmanship in tennis is a thing of the past (says Taki), and Wimbledon crowds now act like football fans. Coco is only 15, African-American and plays like a dream, but her opponent did not deserve to have her double faults greeted with loud cheers. If anyone was the underdog, it was the white, blonde Slovenian loser. There were about ten people in Coco’s Wimbledon box: coaches, her parents, emotional enhancers, masseurs, hitting partners, strategists, you name it. Polona Hercog’s box was empty but for one man, who looked on expressionless. I imagine that Coco has more sponsors knocking on her doors than I’ve had hangovers while the Slovenian has had maybe one, if any. But it was she who was the baddie in that drama.

Friday, July 12

Good riddance

I don’t like to kick people when they’re down but, viewing this evening’s Laura Kuenssberg interview, you can’t deny Theresa May is anything but the ultimate arsehole. Sad, too, to see Andrew Neil bow out in the manner he did. It was a poor effort.

Artificial grade inflation

“Firsts or 2:1s were achieved by 70 per cent of those who got three Ds or less at A level. A first used to take genius and three years camping in the library. Now any fairly bright student who works hard stands a pretty good chance.”    …I would imagine it’s why prospective employers focus on the university an applicant attended rather than the grade they achieved. Would also presume it is the reason there are pay differentials in seemingly like for like occupations.

Thursday, July 11

Living it large

Beautiful day, circa 26°C. Jumped into the motor and ran down to Dartmouth for lunch. Comfortable restaurant on the quay, serving great food:
  • Scallops roasted in the shell with white port & Garlic 
  • Dartmouth Crab Salad with radish, pea shoots & bottarga 
  • Whole Sand Sole fried crisp with aioli 
  • John Dory cooked on the bone with salsa verde 
  • Fior di latte panna cotta with Apricots & Armagnac 
 A splendid Tuscan wine and the best expresso in Dartmouth. Music provided by Stan Getz and João Gilberto.

A little knock-back won’t do them any harm

I wish commentators wouldn’t escalate general disagreements with such emotive words as ‘War’. But then there’s so much on offer, and attention spans so limited, a little flag waving to encourage people to visit your site has become compulsory. Frank Furedi is always worth a read, and today’s Spiked article on Global Culture is both typical and relevant, given Western culture warriors seem to be losing confidence in their cause. They still have the upper hand of course, but as Robert Booth confirms in today’s Guardian, these days we’re less likely to be cheering from the rafters. A little knock-back should remind the pious pricks among us that there are two sides to an argument.

Wednesday, July 10

Always places to go and things to do

Life marches on relentlessly, day after day…year after year. Seasons appear and disappear with increasing frequency. While enjoying this wonderful spell of weather, five minutes from now, leaves will be falling – and I’ll be at the top of a ladder clearing gutters. This week we’re up to our knees in blackbirds, assailed on all sides by newly fledged wrens – voles and shrews scurry hither and thither. While the frogs and toads and song thrush do their best, snails continue to undermine Mrs G’s efforts in the garden and allotment. Am waiting on an overly plump mare to drop her foal, before the herd moves to fresh pasture. Neighbours work all hours, seemingly incapable of sitting still for five minutes – always places to go and things to do. What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare..

Sunday, July 7

Word to the wise

But it was not enough to convince Greek voters tired of living under the burden of high taxes and social security payments. Probably why Boris is promising to cut taxes while simultaneously spending money like a drunken sailor.

Why bother living?

I recently read that it is very possible that in the near future some of us will choose to tap into a high-tech, very sci-fi style of nourishing ourselves, like food pellets and food bars that are highly-specialized, personalized all-in-one meals that meet our specific nutritional needs. But please, god, not just yet – at least not in my lifetime. How do you replace the satisfaction that accompanied today’s grilled veal chops and those meringues…the vino and that coffee? We’re overrun by progressive puritans, a soulless generation.

Saturday, July 6

Still in recovery mode

The local metropolis has surpassed last weekend’s Scooter Festival with this morning’s convoy of vintage military vehicles (South Devon 1940s Festival). Star of the show, a T-34. Hot food served by the Catering Corps in the NAAFI, a hog roast and barbecue. Live music. Next door there’s a Summer Food & Craft Fair, with the obligatory coach parties and queues of motors. Needless to say Gudgeon beat a hasty retreat to the homestead – am now ensconced beneath a parasol with newspapers and a jug of Pimm’s.

When council estates were a dream

The old boy had borrowed a hand cart from the coal merchant to ferry the Gudgeon household to our new council home. Back in the 1950s they were a dream for my parents (indoor plumbing, kitchen with larder, garden front and back), and in comparison to the lives of today's urban children, the ready availability of abandoned lime pits, mines and quarries, canals and coppices afforded a marvellous adventure playground and a relatively safe environment in which to play. In due course, however, the council estate also became the very incentive my generation needed to get on in life – i.e. to do whatever it took to get out of there.

Friday, July 5

Sleeping it off

The downside to reunions relates to the quantity of alcohol consumed – and this past week’s was a doozy. Big-city liberals one and all; albeit great company, hugely enjoyable, not least the crate of Verve Clicquot. Have retreated to my bed for a couple of days.

Saturday, June 29

Not dead yet!

Senior civil servants have become increasingly concerned about Jeremy Corbyn’s health and warned that he is not functioning on all cylinders. The future of Mr Corbyn, 70, was openly discussed at an event attended by mandarins this month amid suggestions that he has become “too frail and is losing his memory”. “He doesn’t seem all there sometimes,” a senior Labour politician said.

Tell me about it! Although Magic Grandad has a couple of years on Gudgeon, few of us in what I like to refer to as late middle-aged are the full shilling – and no amount of running and cycling will compensate for the decades we’ve spent abusing our bodies.

Thursday, June 27

Best served cold

“Max (Hastings) is an ill-tempered snob with a short attention span. He has his talents, but it pains me to report that when seriously tested, he was a coward and a flake.”

Whereas “Donald Trump is Jesus Christ on wheels”.

Always willing to compromise on days like this

For some unfathomable reason, this glorious weather doesn’t appear universally popular? Following a busy day working outside, am doubling down this evening with N’Awlins Barbecue Shrimp for supper. I’ve been cooking this dish since given the recipe by a lad from Lafourche Parish back in ’79. It has never let me down, not least because it’s a favourite of Mrs Gs. Primary difference to the original version is that he cooked the accompanying potatoes in Zatarain’s Crab Boil, and his wine of choice was a bottle of whiskey. Of course then there’s the shrimp – the closest I could get are Madagascan tiger prawns. Though not the real thing, they look the part.

Kept in the dark and fed ...

If only. It’s as though we’re experiencing one of those silly seasons, when the half-bright scribes go on holiday and their locums find little of importance to write about. Although the Conservative leadership contest keeps most of them usefully engaged, there’s plenty pontificating on things they know bugger all about or have overtly biased opinions on. Little is of interest to the rank and file. Climate change…I mean? Who above the age of 30 believes a word of what’s spouted or gives a fig for extinction rebellion? On a scale of 1–10 the subject comes way behind fixing the broken wheel on my mower or installing a replacement light in the bathroom. Maybe Glastonbury and Wimbledon will keep the chattering classes diverted for a while.

Tuesday, June 25

Food note

I can’t recall ever eating so much asparagus as we have this season – green, white and purple. While all English grown, 75 per cent of the green variety has been local produce. Alas our season has ended, and the imported stuff just isn’t the same.

Not that old chestnut again

Britain is still ruled by a privately educated elite, says the Guardian’s Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett. And why not, we ask ourselves. There’s been a lot of these ‘private school and Oxbridge types rule the world’ stories recently. I’d argue, however, that their pre-eminence is a good thing – is precisely the reason we are all so nonchalant about the Conservative Party crashing and burning at the next general election, and Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell taking up the reins of government. Despite the two old commies’ rhetoric, in much the same way the establishment has all but killed off Brexit, our fee-paying/Oxbridge educated masters – be it Whitehall, the courts, BBC, et al – will continue to prevent whoever inhabits No10 from doing stuff not approved by their social circle, our benign protectors.

Economists take retail sales plunge with pinch of salt

Fastest fall in retail sales in 10 years piles pressure on high street.

Purely as a non-verifiable aside to the above... What is noticeable (to me) – and it has only become apparent this past year or so – is the growing number of cars on the road in this neck of the woods that are over 10 years old. The German diesel scandal, the demonising of diesel in general, appears to have put the brakes on not just the sale of new motors but the second-hand market too. People aren’t scrapping their ageing bangers and trading up to more efficient models with a cleaner engine. Seems that, at least for the foreseeable future (next decade or so?), the pollution problem around town is likely to become worse rather than better.

Classical music has a metadata problem

“Classical music listeners, perhaps to no one's great surprise, are still of the analogue world. Research group MIDIA found, in a survey of 8,000 listeners across 8 countries, that radio and CDs are the most popular ways to listen to the genre. Classical concerts shown on TV are categorised as one of those things your nan watches on a Sunday afternoon. However, while it is easy to paint classical music as a genre for the greying, there's a clear reason why CDs remains the most popular format among the 8,000 listeners who MIDIA surveyed. Pop music, for instance, is often grouped around one star performer who is backed by a host of players and songwriters. The compositions themselves are also concrete: cast in recorded time at a certain tempo, with a certain arrangement, during a certain era. Classical music, on the other hand, shares none of pop music's certainties. Despite the arrangements being set, the interpretation of a piece by the performers is often as crucial as the underlying music itself. Young listeners are aghast to notice a marked difference between the various recordings … with larger orchestras, the effect can be even more pronounced. In the streaming age, this is a disadvantage. Spotify, for instance, encourages its listeners to search music by artist, genre or song – which makes finding classical music a slog … an existential problem.” 

It only becomes a problem on discovering your new motor isn’t fitted with a CD player!

Saturday, June 22

Fidelity…

It’s High Noon for the Conservative Party. While many of my drinking companions married their ‘childhood sweetheart’ (sounds so quaint in the 21st Century) and have lived happily ever after, like most men, I also have friends who are serial philanderers that have been dragged to the altar multiple times. The latter are great fun, albeit at times dangerous company, and you would never entrust the family firm to their hands – unless, of course, the future of the organisation is in serious peril and this is your last throw of the dice. It has been said the verdict on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy was decisive in that “She saved the country, and ruined her party.” Boris could achieve both, either way.

Friday, June 21

Nosy neighbours

It’s why you buy a home with reasonable grounds and a paddock or two…so that nosy neighbours remain at arm’s length. If the boss wants to read me the riot act in a strident Peggy Mount-like manner it is no one’s business but hers.

Seriously, though, the manner in which the MSM has latched on to Boris’s ‘domestic’ this evening is shameful. That some lowlife next door is taping your conversations and feeding them to the press tells you you’re living in the wrong neighbourhood. Can’t say I’ve been a supporter of the big lad, but if the reptiles hate Johnson this much he must have something going for him that’s worth voting for.

All the pain and none of the gain

While not what you’d describe a political geek, like most responsible citizens I take a passing interest. One of the obvious changes to debate for someone with grey hair is the absence of mature Brian Walden-style commentators and, if today’s Politics Live is to be believed, a growing reliance on the airhead – pretty young girls you wouldn’t trust to buy your weekly shopping, let alone cook a tasty meal or iron a shirt. My generation appears to be solely responsible for paying the BBC licence fee and yet are most poorly served by the output. 

Friday Fish: lobsters from a Teignmouth boat and a classic chardonnay from the Cote de Beaune.

Thursday, June 20

We’re still ‘on holiday’, so to speak

Been a busy time recently, and, following a two-minute debate, we decided to take what remains of this week off – put our feet up and follow the action from Ascot. ...I’d like to say the Conservative leadership battle is as exciting as the Gold Cup but I’d be fibbing. Boris Johnson v Theresa May in trousers. Our competitors must be quaking in their boots.

Monday, June 17

Letter to Brezhnev

Today we hosted visitors from our northerly climes who are currently touring the country. We grew up together and the principal of the party remains my sole line on what remains of our teenage era – the kids from those years. Needless to say I roasted a fatted calf and cast open the wine cellar, discovering rather belatedly that everyone had become a teetotal vegetarian. The general conversation was less to do with how successful we may or may not have been, than the current prospects for their adult children and infant grandchildren. No one talked of social mobility but rather that their offspring might one-day have a roof over their head and a career that affords some sort of reassurance about the future.

The downside to our guests’ dining reticence is that I am now obliged to eat a dozen leftover meringues, punnets of strawberries and a pint of cream.

Sunday, June 16

That's one expensive shirt

“I’ll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They're too much fun.” Babe Ruth.    ...O how the world has changed.

They're not my people

According to a recent survey – and let’s face it, none of us have ever been included in a survey or focus group, so who are we really talking about – some 86% of people think the UK needs a Putin or Xi Jinping to take charge. Of course we all want a strong leader capable of cracking heads together, but only if he accords with our particular view of life. There was a time I sought a range of views before arriving at a consensus; nowadays, however, hell will freeze over before I read another word from the likes of Matthew Parris, Simon Schama or that fuckwhit Max Hastings – life’s too short. As with most, I inhabit an echo chamber.

I’m told today’s India v Pakistan World Cup cricket match will be watched by a billion people world-wide; that 500,000 people applied for Old Trafford tickets. In contrast, despite the hype, a crowd of barely 13,000 attended last week’s England v Scotland women’s football World Cup game at the Allianz Riviera stadium. Unfortunately the BBC licence fee doesn't acknowledge our viewing preferences.

Friday, June 14

A ban on daytime drinking

“Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was a trader at the exchange when he started working in the City in the 1980s. He likened working at the modern-day LME today to ‘being a battery chicken’ in an interview with the Financial Times last year.”

The world’s gone to pot…or, rather, to camomile tea. God what an awful life they appear to lead in the City these days. I can’t but believe they deserve it, sad sorts one and all. Always excepting the cokeheads of course.

Regretfully most all the old faces have long since expired

The Scots Guards Team, all arms pace sticking competition. Alas the couple of Scots Guards I served with, good friends both, have long expired...heart attacks r us. 

Utilities engineers…be it electricity, gas, water or telephone/broadband. It’s as though I have them on speed dial. Rural life is not for the faint-hearted.

Thursday, June 13

Today was a Ploughman’s...

Not that your average ploughman indulges to this extent, not least when accompanied by a decent glass of Mâcon-Vergisson. The homestead’s cheese board has been bolstered by several quality products from our domestic market – including Guernsey’s Maida Vale, Keen’s Cheddar, Sparkenhoe Blue, Duckett’s Caerphilly and Cornish Yarg. If we left the European Union next week I doubt the gastronomes among us would shed a tear, would be more than happy to make do. The wine of course is another matter.

The story of our times

“The classical liberalism of John Stuart Mill that has shaped our political tradition says that people should be allowed to do things that other people disapprove of, so long as it doesn’t interfere with others’ freedoms. In practice, the creed needs refining. In drafting its laws, society needs to achieve some balance of harms and freedoms.”    …But who gets to arbitrate and to police our behaviour, given the disconnect between people and politicians is so great, when the disconnect between competing tribes is so great? Turning a blind eye seems to have fallen out of fashion.

Tuesday, June 11

Wet wet wet

Am glad I’m not downhill from here, given the rain. Need to don my water-wings and show a leg – places to go, things to do.

 Is there a bigger car crash than the BBC defending their eye-watering salaries and gratuitous upper middle-class lifestyles by penalising the elderly. The succession of BBC executives appearing on this morning's telly make that backstabbing Gove look respectable.

Desperate stuff… I shouldn’t knock him but it’s difficult to be anything other than cynical – of Rory Stewart that is (today’s campaign launch). A Forest Gump-like character with more clichés to the square inch than your average politician. Then again he’s not Sajid Javid.

Sunday, June 9

Invisible

You realise you’ve become irrelevant when the rabbits and other assorted wildlife ignore your passage across the yard and instead of their running off you have to walk around them.

The slow pace of seasonal change is evident from the rowan (mountain ash) trees, the shade of whose flowers differ across the breadth of the yard. Aside from keeping local witches at bay, their strongly aromatic scent are a reminder of the trees that defined South London mansions. Our bluebells have been replaced by heath spotted orchids, although not in the same sort of numbers.

Saturday, June 8

We’re not dead yet

Have to admit the Trouping the Colour parade is a spectacle and a half. Watching thousands of people flood the Mall is a reassuring sight and a rejoinder to the liberal wing of the Conservative Party.

Friday, June 7

Tweet, bloody tweet…

Burning the candles at both ends doesn’t come easy to an idler…I need an early night. To Bovey this morning for the annual craft fair. Dire weather, lashing down – soaked to the skin. Several years ago it was worth the effort but no more. Back home for dry clothing before attending exhibition opening of popular local artist. Home again to feed livestock and chop wood. The list of outstanding chores grows. ...It seems every twig on every shrub, hedge and tree features a fledgling, tweeting its heart out.

Neighbours are in Wadebridge at the Royal Cornwall Show. I’m told the average age of our farmers is 60; barely 3 per cent of those engaged in farming are under 35. Everyone’s kids go to Uni and pursue a career elsewhere. Farming’s a tough life and they’ve witnessed the toll it exerts on their parents.

Wednesday, June 5

Purgatory

Everyone on my side of the business has spent time in this part of the world. Ferraris and fishing vessels aside, fond memories are few and far between.

Tuesday, June 4

It’s the way you tell ’em!

A key objective of Sure Start was to provide specialist health services to parents, such as baby-weighing clinics, alongside more general health advice and parenting support, childcare and employment advice. Up to now proponents have struggled to back up public support for the policy with clear evidence of its effectiveness. The study found no evidence that Sure Start helped reduce child obesity among five-year-olds or improved maternal mental health, although it added that data limitations should not be taken as evidence that there was no effect in reality. 

It’s how we spin things; how we interpret or misinterpret what we read.

Monday, June 3

A journey down the Thames estuary


“It was so exciting to read about the places I knew, but 100 years before, in the fictional bleakness of Dickens’s imagination.”    Must admit, if it was possible to go back in time, have always fancied the Dicken’s era myself. Though not quite the days of Magwitch’s ‘cribbed and barred’ Noah’s Ark, my paternal grandfather came of age on the Thames estuary – having been consigned by the London Workhouse Board to Training Ship Exmouth moored off Grays in Essex. He graduated, if that’s the correct term, in 1893 (see Peter Higginbotham’s photo of that year) and pursued a career in the Pool of London. Looking back, I wonder at the odds of my following in his footsteps, so to speak, given I was born alongside a Black Country canal rather than the Thames. And yet more by chance than design, I ended up a shipbroker in the City of London. Another compulsory read for yours truly. (Alas it was pretty crap.)

There's a reason

Sunday, June 2

Please tell me it's not true

There is one demographic in particular they, the Conservative Party, need to understand better. Most want current levels of tax and public spending to continue, while one-fifth want more spent on services even if it means raising taxes. Only a third support tax cuts and spending reductions. Forty-two per cent want the next prime minister to maintain present efforts on climate change and 36 per cent want him or her to go further. Almost seven in ten Tory supporters back renewables subsidies, 62 per cent favour a ban on energy-inefficient household appliances and more than a third endorse a fossil fuel tax. Climate change is an emerging wedge. Almost seven in ten Tory supporters back renewables subsidies, 62 per cent favour a ban on energy-inefficient household appliances and more than a third endorse a fossil fuel tax.

If this is the target Conservative Party demographic I'm in the wrong place.  

Seriously?

Grace and Alastair Campbell ask their podcast guests to pick a six-a-side team, either dead or alive, to change the world. Here is their own selection:

GRACE CAMPBELL:
1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US politician
2. Bob Marley, singer-songwriter
3. Reese Witherspoon, actress
4. Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, musician and actor
5. Joe Lycett, comedian
6. Munroe Bergdorf, transgender model and activist

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL:
1. Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid hero
2. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of US Vogue
3. William Shakespeare, playwright
4. Angela Merkel, German chancellor
5. David Blunkett, former Labour home secretary
6. Shelley Kerr, manager of Scotland’s women’s football team

Fair’s fair and all that, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But seriously? I assume this is the sort of list people think they have to produce in an effort to signal how righteous they are, a bit like pretending to love both classical music and Status Quo when appearing on Desert Island Discs. Can’t comment on the girl’s list as I have no idea who half her choices are. But Campbell’s… Mandela? It’s like the archetypal pageant/beauty contestant citing ‘World Peace’.

Saturday, June 1

Taking it off here, Boss?

Farmers say prisoners allowed to work on day release could help fill post-Brexit void of EU fruit pickers.

Our Rhododendrons are on the wane. For a brief period each year they dominate, are spectacular – the bees love them too.

A Fellow Gourmand

Oo, you are offal... (letters to The Spectator)   
 Sir: Laura Freeman (Snog a Tory, 18 May) may be comforted to know there are plenty of people in England who aren’t as squeamish as she suggests — and for whom sweetbreads, kidneys, hearts, brawn, chits are part of a normal diet and always have been. We also eat what we are given, which is disagreeable when badly cooked and ridiculous when fashion led, but helped us survive rationing, school lunches, and other stretches of real austerity. 
Yeatman, 
Dartmoor, Devon

Derby Day

Brilliant sunny day. Friday’s internal temp was 42°C but today should exceed that. Perfect barbecue weather! Spurs banners to the fore (neighbour still bangs on about the 60/61 season, has shirt autographed by Mackay et al). The skies above have resembled a D-Day event this past 48hrs as tens of thousands of Scousers make their way to Spain.

Kwik-E-Mart was active at half-nine this morning with the down from London holiday crowd (traditional hipster beards and multiple offspring). Though a disproportionate number doubtless vote Green, all drive ageing VW transporters that spew more emissions than next door’s tractor.

Friday, May 31

Keeping busy

Have got to get another ride-on. Although it looks the business, the lawn now takes half-a-day to cut. Fortunately we have a dozen ponies to tackle the rough stuff – could run our very own mini gymkhana. And thanks to spring flowers, everywhere a riot of colour. Not quite the stuff of Everest but there’s plenty of visitors out walking on the moor (nice weather). Off to town(s) this morning for supplies…a fishmonger located in the first, baker in another, hardware store situated in the distant third.

Wednesday, May 29

Jaywalking mollusc?

A driver who said he "swerved to avoid an octopus" before crashing his car had taken a cocktail of drugs, a court has heard.

Pensioner poverty should be stamped out

‘Rich’ doctors and headmasters should pay more tax to fund pensioner poverty, says Guardian columnist Dawn Foster.

It’s written in the stars

Or not, as the case may be. “We humans flatter ourselves that we are authors of our own destiny – masters of superior insight, willpower and rationale. In fact, we’re merely machines made flesh: operating under the necessary illusion of free will, while our subconscious circuitry is busy driving us down paths preordained by our genes. Though many of us concede that luck has played at least some part in our lives, the concept of fate has largely fallen out of fashion. Learning that things are quite written, and prescribed into, us can be very liberating,” It’s a common enough trope and I’ve heard it all before – maybe even accept that to a large extent it could be true. But then I meet complete tossers who have made a very good life for themselves despite their Achilles heel. There are multiple ways we can play the questionable hand we are dealt – living in a fantasy world isn’t the worst fate that can befall you.

Tuesday, May 28

Is it worth the effort?


Guess I can see the attraction for someone accumulating a portfolio of experiences to compensate for their mind-numbing day job.

But seriously, standing in line to tick a box? The whole point is solitude.

Monday, May 27

All good fun

The morning trek was an effort, not least as we were putting the world to rights till the early hours – digesting election results. What a turn up. How the Conservatives resurrect themselves is beyond me. Then again, if you didn’t know different and were relying on the MSM for news, you’d think the Brexit Party had lost rather than won.

Farage is not everyone’s cup of tea, but at least he’s not Emily Thornberry.

Sunday, May 26

Arghh...

BBC EEC election coverage. A lone Welsh guy surrounded by harpies.

Self-inflicted wounds

You screwed the pooch, you silly tart. Job for life, great salary and benefits (handbag stuffed with brown envelopes – aka ‘outside interests’), an over-generous pension - and you let your self-regard get the better of you.

Pork barrel politics

Prime minister backs increased spending north of the border to undermine SNP’s push for independence. I guess you could argue a case for payback after nicking their oil, but the SNP will only piss it away. There are more deserving cases for public largess outside of Scotland and Tower Hamlets.

Charlton 2 Sunderland 1

Congratulations to my old golfing partners: Charlton recover from calamity own goal to stun Sunderland in stoppage time.

Sunday lunch

As I’ve said repeatedly: the quality of beef and lamb on sale hereabouts it outstanding. Grazed on the finest forage, how can you go wrong? And don’t get me started on our chickens. Pork, however, is a rare beast – there’s no money in pigs, apparently. Today’s slab of saddleback is a rarity, ditto Puy lentils. The Côte de Beaune was pretty good too.

Friday, May 24

Bunker dining

Whether it’s the demise of mid-market restaurants or your local pub, the drift to eating and drinking in the comfort our homes remains the trend. And why not when the fare on offer is so superior. I long ago gave up on the prospect of eating decent food in local hostelries; the aim in frequenting the Dog & Duck or Le Chicken-in-a-basket is the company and the crac rather than the culinary experience. Much better everyone slops their food and drink, throws up, over someone else’s carpet rather than yours. If you really want to treat people, however, or be treated in return, then home it is. Today’s ultra-fresh sole was far superior to any of the so-called fish restaurant meals I’ve eaten this past couple of months, and the wine a fraction of the price. Having to wash dishes and carry guests to their car seems little enough burden.

At last!

Proud to serve…dignified speech…public sympathy… In the old days she would have locked the office door and taken out her service revolver.

Thursday, May 23

Off to the polling station to do my duty

Intriguing isn’t it: what will be the turnout and are the polls broadly correct? Farage aside, I think we can assume that if any participant scores marginally above the dire projections it will be cause for unbridled optimism from their supporters. Given the country is saddled with a talentless, gurning fuckup, just about anything would be an improvement. Let’s hope the Brexit Party induces a big enough scare to ensure she’s replaced and we can move on.

Wednesday, May 22

One of those afternoons...

Today’s barbecue celebrates the arrival of our first charges (ponies) of the season. On the menu is rib of beef and a non-too-shabby Northern Rhône from Brézème-based 'vinificateur négociant' Julien Montagnon. A comfortable chair in a shaded corner of the garden and something half-decent to read.

Tuesday, May 21

Even mid-market food requires talent, and it costs.

Jamie Oliver says he now regrets serving crap in his restaurants. He’s even more sorry his target audience recognised overpriced rubbish when they saw it and decided there were better ways to spend their money. …Casual dining? What we used to think of as a pint and a bag of crisps – the ones with little blue wraps of salt. From what I understand, people have deserted celebrity chef restaurants and returned to pubs and the traditional publican’s wife’s cooking. The food is even worse than Oliver’s but at a fraction of the price.

Monday, May 20

Not his finest moment

The gasp-out-loud moment in Thatcher: a Very British Revolution (BBC Two) was an interview with Michael Heseltine in which he was asked how to describe the Margaret Thatcher he knew. “She comes from a certain social background,” he said, “one step up the ladder… With it, a lot of the characteristics that you associate with people who’ve just made it.”      ...And this from a man who had to buy his own furniture.

Sunday, May 19

Sundays…

Up early on the moor, a sea of lilac-coloured bluebells and eye achingly-bright yellow gorse. Soundtrack 50/50 skylark and stonechat – the archetypal gorse bird (gorse chat, moor titling, furze chitter…). Home for Sunday lunch and a St. Émilion 1er Grand Cru Classé that some kind soul gave me last Christmas.

Saturday, May 18

Birdwatching

The yard is tres busy this morning, with our resident blackbirds and newly fledged robins augmented by wagtails, chaffinch, swallows, house sparrows, coal tit, blue tit, wren, nuthatches, wood pigeons, a cuckoo, crows, a buzzard, both green and great spotted woodpeckers, bullfinch – and a first at the homestead, a pair of collared doves.

Thursday, May 16

Mistakes happen

Unfortunately this sort of thing never happens to me. ...Barbecue at full stretch this afternoon, with pork ribs and new season lamb. No le Pin, but an above average Mencia grape favourite.

Tuesday, May 14

Small mercies

One glance at the ethnic diversity of the Brexit Party’s MEP candidates would put any Oxbridge senior common room to shame. And the more the (racism) allegation is made against Nigel Farage, the more it seems the real target of Remainer criticism isn’t Farage but the ordinary voters who made the “wrong” choice in the referendum (fruitcakes and loonies...village idiots). Brian Walden would have taken a very different approach with today’s leaders.       Must admit, Walden was required viewing. Only Andrew Neil comes close these days, and his card’s been marked. Intellectual rigour, as Trevor Phillips suggests, has become a rare commodity. Though Rifkind’s absence is an improvement.

Monday, May 13

Annual rite of passage

Ten Tors challenge ends in Dartmoor sunshine.

Woman on impossible journey?

What goes on in men’s minds is a subject journalist Melissa Katsoulis has spent a lot of time researching while writing her new book, ‘The Secret Life of Husbands’, which collates the experiences of countless male friends and acquaintances, as well as insight from historians and sociologists. “Being with my husband for 15 years has made me realise I don’t know anything about men,” she tells me.    …It’s a two-way street, sweetheart. I’ve been married 45 years and once watched ten minutes of ‘Sex and the City’, yet have no idea what goes on inside a woman’s head.

Saturday, May 11

Unsustainable business model?

John Stewart, who runs a fish and chip shop and restaurant in the town, said: “I am looking for staff constantly, there is a big turnover all the time. Oban is screaming out for staff, but there are no Europeans coming over and a lot of people say they are better off on benefits and tax credits. We blame the absence of cheapo staff on Brexit!

Whereas doubling the wage for apprentices means far fewer apprentices. There are two ways of keeping kids off the streets, dealing drugs, stabbing each other and stealing anything that isn’t nailed down: subsidising university education, which we appear happy to do; and subsidising apprenticeships, which Corbyn’s Labour thinks beyond the pale. One rule for one and one rule for another.

Life ain't as bad as it's painted

Glorious sunny morning for the start of this year’s Ten Tors. Drove across the moor to Tavistock Farmers’ Market – stocking up on saddleback and guinea fowl from a favourite producer. The town was mobbed, haven’t seen it so full in an age – more of us choosing to holiday at home? Road traffic must be up by a factor of three…two fingers to the climate change mafia. Given I’ve never produced any offspring and haven’t boarded an aircraft in 15 years, I reckon I’ve a free pass for the remainder – and that includes my new 32mpg diesel-powered motor, the multiple wood stoves and LPG boiler…the char-grilled steaks.

A team of Brexit Party stalwarts had set up shop on the high street (the only people who appear to be spending any money on the forthcoming European elections). Came home with a selection of posters and car stickers.

Friday, May 10

Intergenerational equity

Change of plan this morning with a ‘duty calls’ neighbourhood hospital run. Sitting around waiting on my return fare was an eye opener: living, breathing cadavers every way I looked. While the health service is expensive business, I guess most of the characters I clocked have spent a lifetime of shoulder to the wheel, paid their dues – and it’s their time to collect.

Thursday, May 9

Heavy on the fish this week

Yesterday across the Taymar to Saltash, for salmon and prawns. Today to Dartmouth, crispy fried salt & pepper squid and langoustine tails. Torquay tomorrow, for whatever’s been landed. The kids are back in school but everywhere remains overrun by Germans, Rosamunde Pilcher fans.

Today’s restaurant was only too typical: passable food but a noisy crowd.

Wednesday, May 8

Unbelieveable

For someone that consumes his football via the wireless, BBC 5 Live, these past two evenings have been a treat.

The vapid sentimentality of our times

If one more person mentions royal babies I swear I’ll become a born again republican.

Appears there's no money in this either

The NHS is seeing the first sustained fall in GP numbers in the UK for 50 years, the BBC can reveal. An analysis by the Nuffield Trust for the BBC shows the number of GPs per 100,000 people has fallen from nearly 65 in 2014 to 60 last year. Panorama's programme, GPs, Why Can't I Get An Appointment?, is being shown on BBC One at 19:30 BST on 8 May.

It’s probably worth watching this evening if only to dispel my misconceptions. Have no particular insight but… I wonder to what extent the denigration of GPs within the medical profession itself has affected their recruitment (second rate career path). Suspect there’s also a reluctance of female GPs to step up to the plate when it comes to assuming responsibility for managing local practices. Too many of the girls appear to prefer a three-day week to accommodate family responsibilities, and the lads have their nice little earners on the side (gentleman farmer, property developer, etc.). There is obviously not enough money in GP practices, so perhaps they should begin charging fees, or be a little more creative in generating additional revenues? Let’s face it, if GP surgeries were a high street business they wouldn’t be far behind BHS and Woolworths.

So, not a good career move

“Writing income is very uncertain. You have no idea when writing if anyone will buy the book, and it’s very rocky when it comes to pensions. It’s a really accepted idea in our culture that writers are wealthy – they’re not, and not from writing.”

Monday, May 6

Making hay while the sun shines

In today’s Times Clare Foges dwells on the mediocre quality of our politicians in comparison to the greats of yesteryear. Thinking back I’m not so sure they were particularly special back when, or whether we were merely conditioned to be awed by the great and the good. I think every administration should find space for the Richard Burgons of the world, if only to flatter ourselves with the thought that we’re not as dumb as we sometimes fear. …In attempting to rise above the middling crap, the holiday weekend continues to feature a selection of delicious local and not so local dishes. Cheese takes centre stage today with an excellent Caerphilly, a très pungent goat’s milk cheese and an artisan Manchego – all providing the supporting cast to Mrs G’s twice-baked soufflés. Our Burgundy theme continues, with Sunday’s excellent pinot noir conceding the ground to chardonnay, a Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint-Marc. Tomorrow it’ll be back to the Blue Nun and spreadable triangles. Suspect I may be the only lad in the South Hams who partners Meursault with pork scratchings.

Sunday, May 5

What a glorious morning!

Bank holidays were invented for such days. Out on the moor early, enjoying the peace and quiet. By peace and quiet I mean someone who has nesting wood pigeons, a cuckoo and a belligerent cock pheasant holding court outside his bedroom window. Roast rib of veal and a 2012 Morey St. Denis 1er Cru for lunch.

Friday, May 3

Anything but


Out walking on the moor. A spell of fine weather that looks to extend through the bank holiday. Morning’s roads were bumper to bumper holiday traffic, people escaping our ongoing Brexit/election yawn. I have no idea what motivates people to vote as they do. What’s behind the Conservative rise in boroughs such as Walsall? Here in South Hams, Labour lost their sole councillor (Con 16, Lib 10, Ind 5 & Green 3). In Theresa May’s government we have one of the biggest fuck-ups in history; yet Corbyn remains beyond the pale.

Thursday, May 2

Sign of the times

It is lunchtime and only 2% of the local electorate have cast their vote.

Not one of us

Rain stopped play. Which is just as well given my heart wasn’t in it – mowing the grass, that is. Ran up to Exeter instead: the new motor was recalled by manufacturer for instrument (re)calibration. In times past this usually meant tweaking the carburettors or mucking about with a feeler gauge; nowadays it relates to software updates. …Home for a steak and eggs supper.

Just when you think it can’t get worse… Theresa May throws her Defence Secretary under the bus. Not Guilty! cries young Gavin. Never liked him, chime the chorus. Media commentators are quick to describe Williamson as gauche and naïve, a onetime salesman of coal tongs and pokers. While social mobility appears alive and well, upstarts such as Williamson aren’t necessarily welcomed with open arms.

Sunday, April 28

Best not tempt fate


Call from the old country…another of my teenage sidekicks bites the dust. Two down, one missing, three remain standing. An hour later the phone rings again: a relative I long lost touch with has expired. On the basis everything comes in threes I refuse to answer the phone for the rest of the day.



London Marathon today. When it kicked off in ’81 we were living in a flat not far from the start line in Blackheath. My abiding memory – a reflection of how I view this jamboree – is the sight of Jimmy Saville in a gold lame tracksuit jogging past beneath the window.

Aaargh! Devon tops quality of life study, low inequality and clean air.    Devon outperformed 149 other local authorities on three broad measures: high levels of physical activity, volunteering and good air quality, but researchers also pointed out that the council had lower levels of inequality than comparable authorities.



“If you live here (in Exeter) you can be on a beautiful beach in 20 minutes and you can be hiking on Dartmoor (or canoeing on the Dart) in 20 minutes.”

Friday, April 26

My thoughts exactly

Never forget — in business, in medicine, in agriculture, in politics, perhaps in any complex self-regulating system — the best course of action is often to take no action at all, or to intervene very little. But this is also the hardest course to defend, and (in medicine, certainly) the most likely to get you blamed or sued. By far the best manager I have ever worked with is judiciously idle. If he suggests doing something, you know without question that it is worth doing. All salaried jobs are biased against inaction. Yet, in an age of constant disruption and over-abundance of data, choosing what to ignore is a much more valuable quality than overreaction. Sir John James Cowperthwaite, as financial secretary the architect of Hong Kong’s prosperity, understood this: he banned the collection of economic statistics, since they might encourage people to interfere in the economy.

And this is my problem with Brussels (The House of Lords and our numerous Parliamentary Committees). When you assemble an army of makeweights and pay them extravagant sums of money, their natural instinct is to justify themselves by poking their snouts into things that don't concern them. 

Thursday, April 25

Intergenerational fairness

It’s a conundrum. The younger generation favour an open, global society with no restriction on immigration (or on their travelling to work abroad), only to discover better educated migrants with a driven work ethic take their jobs and homes. And yet while old folks, conversely, wanted to restrict immigration in order to protect their progeny, somehow gramps is still to blame – should be cast out of the country pile he bought for half-a-crown and consigned to a static caravan in Clacton, savings confiscated and pension means tested.

A grey, wet and windy start to the day

Low pressure systems have a lot to answer for – can determine your outlook on life, sets the tone for the day. Still, onwards and upwards…another bank holiday in a week or two’s time. The trick is not to turn on the wireless and listen to the news, the reptiles will always bring you down. I guess bad news sells. ...To the dental surgery this morning.

Wednesday, April 24

I just don’t get it

“Girl inspired Britain to act on climate change.” I don’t understand this infatuation the chattering classes (Ms Thunberg had earlier met Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader; Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader; Caroline Lucas, the Green MP; and the Westminster leaders of the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, Ian Blackford and Liz Saville-Roberts) have with a ‘teenage activist’ who, to my eyes, looks and behaves like a 6-y-o? Is this really what we’ve come to – what counts as informed debate? The guests on yesterday’s Daily Politics included a typical Extinction Rebellion rep, an upper middle class plonker who had no doubt been afforded a privileged education. Regretfully none of this had lodged between his ears. The lad’s game plan, to combat climate change, appeared to be textbook Mao Zedong – the populace laid waste in support of the cause.

Tuesday, April 23

It might have been a spectacular weekend but...

I don’t say this often, but am pleased Easter is over and we are back to work. Indulged too much – in danger of developing the waistline of a Sri Lankan rozzer. Supplies are low and Gudgeon is reduced to breakfasting on out-of-date cereal. Need to get off my butt and break out the mower before rain arrives – albeit neighbour’s sheep have infiltrated the yard and appear to be eating everything in sight. 

Monday, April 22

The Bluebells are back

The life of an idler

When I throw back my head and howl
People (women mostly) say
But you've always done what you want,
You always get your own way
- A perfectly vile and foul
Inversion of all that's been.
What the old ratbags mean
Is I've never done what I don't.
                                                     (Philip Larkin)

Sunday, April 21

One does not a summer make

Out on the moor early morning before it gets too hot (and the hordes arrive). A dream Easter: glorious weather, slow-cooked shoulder of hogget, a glazed ham, lots of great vino… Swallows are here house hunting, checking out the barn, along with our first cuckoo of the year.

Friday, April 19

Can’t complain about the weather

Given this morning’s traffic, the entire country seems bent on spending Easter weekend in the South West. Neighbours anticipated the influx and have buggered off elsewhere. Following departure of our house guests, and bleating livestock aside, the homestead has fallen silent – I have taken refuge in a cold beer and Guns of Navarone on the telly. Life moves on, yet reassuringly, here at least, it stays the same.

Thursday, April 18

The birdsong is deafening this morning

The homestead is alive to the sight and sound of countless nesting residents. We’re not short of foxes or badgers either, roe and red deer too. Voles, rabbits and hares, feral cats from neighbouring barns, a stray lurcher or two…runaway horses that have torn up my grass.

We lunched with a party of German visitors yesterday. The story is an increasingly familiar one: it was their first trip to England, “We wanted to visit before Brexit, as this may be our last chance to see England.” Don’t know what they’ve been feeding them on the continent, but I had to explain yet again, we are not decoupling our island and floating it out into the Atlantic. Everything went well until one smart alec told Mrs G. he believed Germany had remained very patient with us while we made up our mind. Needless to say things went downhill thereafter.

Saturday, April 13

D'oh!

In these crazy times, many liberals are turning to elite media to find their own values expressed. Newspapers never previously knew what readers read but in the digital era we found out: currently, they like articles that reaffirm their identities. 

…Think I’ll skip the “progressive” trips to Iran and Cuba.

Thursday, April 11

One's salad days


The sort of day you are glad to be alive. Blazing sky and an unseasonably high temperature. Bees and other pollinating insects giving it large among the blossom and flowers – the yard a riot of orange, yellow and blue. Chaffinch dominate…robins, blackbirds and wagtails – voles scuttle here and there. Though only 4°C this morning, afternoon is T-shirt and shorts, and when work finished we lit the barbecue. If blackened carcinogens don’t kill you, the booze (a spectacular Barolo) probably will.

Tuesday, April 9

Damn it, man, we're British

Among old friends and ex-colleagues, I remain famous for my tall tales and gross exaggerations. However, even Gudgeon would be pushed to conflate a breakdown of governance with Britain entering our Weimar period. I wonder which of our political luminaries Max regards as a populist monster, Boris, Jeremy, or both? As disruptive as Brexit may prove, we are unlikely ever to behave in the manner of 1930’s Germans or those pillocks from 18th Century France.

That said, if we are to invoke the spirit of the Weimar Republic… I suppose there’s an argument the Nazis would never have come to power, that the Second World War would never have happened, without the draconian economic reparations imposed on Germany following the Treaty of Versailles. Some will no doubt similarly contend that if the United Kingdom is forced to revoke Article 50 or is obliged to settle for some god-awful May/Corbyn deal, the lingering resentment will come back to bite Europe in years to come. If I was Brussels I’d let us go.

Another icon falls by the wayside

When Rumpole of the Bailey was told that he had to move with the times, he replied: “If I don’t like the way the times are moving, I shall refuse to accompany them.”

Sir John Mortimer’s works are to be “reimagined” as a new TV series, with the next generation of his family writing the scripts. The actress Emily Mortimer, 47, most recently seen in Mary Poppins Returns, will produce the show through her company King Bee and write it with her younger sister and fellow actress Rosie, 35. Their work promises to be very different from the original ITV adaptation, which starred Leo McKern as the criminal lawyer and ran for 43 episodes between 1978 and 1992. “They have written a very modern take on Rumpole,” Polly Williams of eOne, a company co-producing the new shows, said last month at the Banff World Media Festival in London.  

I can already imagine the result.

Monday, April 8

Life outside of Brexit

Glorious day, temperature in double figures. Managed to get out on the moor for a few hours this afternoon. Only Monday and there are already lots of visitors. Everyone has a smile on their face: I assume it’s the sunshine. The ponies look out of place with their winter coats, but then we were hit by snow last week. A shock for the day-old lambs.

Sunday, April 7

Indulgent pleasures






Watched this film on the box this morning. It may well qualify, is reputed to be, the worst film ever made. But amazingly it's not the worst thing I have seen on the telly today.

Saturday, April 6

Reviving communist literature

Not so sure it’s a good idea: every generation should be required to learn the hard way… Unfortunately I am blessed with instant forgetfulness and doomed to cover the same old ground. It drives Mrs G. crazy that I can watch The Dirty Dozen for the fiftieth time and remain uncertain who wins. Some books (Patrick O’Brian’s entire twenty volume saga, for instance) I’ve read five times, always anticipating how the story pans out. Milan Kundera’s stories I reread because I enjoy them and they resonate.

Elsewhere, today, Janan Ganesh speculates on whether too much of a good thing can lead to a lack of appreciation and enjoyment. When ‘just enough’ is sufficient. “There is such a thing as the optimal income for the sensual enjoyment of life, and it is not the very highest. The lucky ones are not the super-rich, however discriminating, but those in the ambiguous economic tier where pleasures are attainable but not yet quotidian.” It begs questions: What is just enough...qualifies as the ambiguous economic tier? Whether the unchecked scandal of our times really is drinking beer with exquisitely slow-cooked meats.

Belatedly, the answer: US$ 300k/year, apparently.

Electric vehicles aside, there will always be steam trains

September last year Mrs G. ordered a kitchen island from a local cabinet maker. At the time we thought delivery by Christmas a bit of an ask, had our fingers crossed it would be completed for the new year. Our unit was finally delivered this morning! A quality product, nevertheless…testament to patience as a virtue. I have to admit the lad’s work is a thing of beauty – in these throwaway days of ours will be treasured by someone a hundred years from now.

Aintree aside (a memorable event, great race), today is the opening of South Devon Railway’s Golden Anniversary Steam Gala. Guess some things do last forever. Am sure today’s FA Cup semi-final will be forgotten by this time next week.

Friday, April 5

Few things last forever

Gudgeon’s wellies are barely ten years old and have developed a leak. A case of shoddy craftsmanship or excessive wear and tear? I hate to give up on things…am still wearing shoes I purchased in the 80s, remain confident they will see me through to the end. Guess you get what you pay for, although an occasional polish helps. My more utilitarian walking boots are changed out every second year, primarily due to neglect. Suspect we view politicians in a similar manner – not worth the dubbin.

After 25 years of faithful service our washing machine is on the blink. Neighbour is aghast that I would consider buying a new model, insists on replacing the motor bearings for me. “Don’t give up on these old machines, you can’t buy this sort of quality nowadays.” I get similar advice from the engineer who services our gas boiler.

The new vehicle has already proved to be a sound investment, if only for its heated steering wheel.

Tuesday, April 2

When all is said and done

when all is said and done
what counts is having someone
you can phone at five to ask

for the immersion heater
to be switched to 'bath'
and the pizza taken from the deepfreeze

      Dennis O'Driscoll (Home)

Sunday, March 31

Unicorn thinking

People should defer to the judgement and consciences of MPs; a People’s Vote will heal the country; a National Unity Government is the way forward.

Saturday, March 30

After the Lord Mayor’s Show…

It’s only when you wheel out the mower you realise how big this place is. Relatively speaking of course, in comparison to the sliver of grass that graced South London Mansions. Today was first cut of the season. From now till October I’m on a treadmill.

Friday, March 29

There’s a special place in hell

Pavement dining in Exeter yesterday, chilled wine alfresco – shirt-sleeve order, and only March! Only adults, too, the university appears to have taken off early. In stark contrast today in Totnes was freezing fog – a damper to be sure. I’d great plans for the day, have organised a party to celebrate our departure from Brussels, crates of champagne on ice. Unfortunately none of us took account of our parliamentary pygmies. The party will go ahead, but as a wake rather than a celebration. Clams and spaghetti for lunch, to line the stomach.

Wednesday, March 27

The good times are comin'

Shades of Monte Walsh. Slept the afternoon away on a bench in the yard, soaking up vitamin D. We’ve had a rough winter and it’s nice to have a taste of decent weather. Sunshine, barbecue and a glass or two of Rioja. What more could you ask? Let us hope it’s a pointer to a fine summer.

Tuesday, March 26

Another day at the coalface

The downside to this spell of beautiful weather (14°C today) – lots of early spring chores, garden equipment to be serviced, roofing and fencing repairs, clearing winter detritus from barn, building bonfire, spraying yard for green mould and algae. Resurrecting barbecue and retrieving rib of beef from the freezer for tomorrow’s inaugural run.

Casting aspersions

Being a newsreader is “the only job which actually requires no talent at all” and “there are some real lame brains doing it”.    ...I suspect nice teeth and a pair of tits goes a long way too. 

Another familiar brand bites the dust

I’ve retained a soft spot for Majestic Wines ever since they opened in Greenwich in the ’80s, when they competed with Oddbins and Davy’s. And while I’ve been a loyal customer over the years (have a case on order from the local store), in terms of both choice and quality, it has been losing ground to the supermarkets for some time. Majestic’s staff are their biggest asset and the obvious losers from this change, and I don’t see Gormley lining his shareholders pockets anytime soon. Another dare I say inevitable high street casualty. The Oddbins footnote recalls my early days as an employee of Whittalls Wines (Chateau Pleck) during the 1960s, where I acquired a taste for exotic beverages such as Mateus Rose and 100° proof Polish Vodka.

Sunday, March 24

One thing I think we can all agree on

Iain Duncan Smith, commenting on this morning’s Andrew Marr Show: “Parliament is full of people that couldn’t run a whelk stall.”

Saturday, March 23

The elements continue to misbehave

Set out across the moor this morning in sunshine – and at just about the halfway point, visibility sank to zero, the temperature nosedived and rain arrived. Spring it may be but winter refuses to bugger off. Home to a chair beside the fire, horse-racing from Kelso. The prospect of a roast chicken for supper. Have played a number of golf courses in the border region; was once a guest at a grand wedding.

Given the uncertainty over Brexit and potential shortages, I have white-van-man operating a shuttle service out of Berry Bros and Yapp. 

Friday, March 22

The least bad option won’t work

I’d like to say the news from Brussels is riveting but, it’s more like pulling teeth. Let’s face it, Theresa May’s deal is crap. I’d accept revoking Article 50 in preference, and if forced to vote again would obviously opt for a hard Brexit. Whatever Parliament comes up with as a compromise solution, false choice or not, will be a dud. Rather than lance the boil, another referendum would merely stoke the fire. Brussels is fed up listening to this shit; we’re fed up listening to it too. I’ll go with a toss of the coin or cutting the cards, providing it’s a straight choice between revocation and walking away. Whichever way it goes, most of us have already moved on. It is what it is…and the next election will be a doozy.

Worth a late night just to watch Dutch historian Rutger ‘Basic Income’ Bregman comprehensively trashed by Portillo and Johnson on Andrew Neil’s This Week. A classic ‘We’ve been there, done that – you’re talking crap, Sonny.’ Seems every generation from Hengist Pod onwards insists on reinventing the wheel.

Thursday, March 21

Stereotype or what?

Russian sailors rescued from deserted island off coast of Wales after taking wrong turn on drunken dinghy ride from Barry.

The moor is beginning to live again, larks and frogspawn to the fore. Wet underfoot but far enough from civilisation to compensate.

Wednesday, March 20

Bah humbug!

The first day of spring, spring equinox – and as if by magic, when I opened the door this morning, lo and behold a rabbit. The last days of Rome but life goes on, today is also the International Day of Happiness.

Tuesday, March 19

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t

Knife crime has less to do with police numbers, says Trevor Phillips, than race – people of colour. Knife crime predominantly affects communities with low white populations, and larger refugee populations. Rather than address the issue, Sky/BBC choose to feature a token number of black faces in front of house positions and congratulate themselves on their diversity drive. ...Can’t say I have a dog in this fight, but anything Phillips (and David ‘White Saviour’Lammy) can do to unsettle or embarrass the smug ‘bourgeoisie’ Remoaners at Sky/BBC is good with me.

Saturday, March 16

Best laid plans

Not getting any better out there. Today it’s gusting to 60kts, heavy rain…more trees down. Power off-line. Can only imagine my neighbours frustration, given they are all rugby enthusiasts. Then again...

Friday, March 15

In one hand and out the other

Council Tax Bill 2019/20 drops on the mat this morning:
  • County Council charge... + 3.0 pct
  • District Council charge... + 3.1 pct
  • Parish Council charge... + 8.1 pct
  • Fire and Rescue Authority charge... + 3.0 pct
  • Police and Crime Commissioner charge... + 12.7 pct

We believe what we want to believe

One of my old drinking partners was an Austrian lad. I recall once sharing a stein or two of bock, and for whatever reason (too long ago to recall), asking whether the ‘Sound of Music’ was ever popular back home. His frank admission was negative: truth to tell, he conceded, too many people were rooting for the other side. That particular afternoon in Hamburg came to mind when reading Edda Goering’s obit the other day, the admission that she had never felt her surname a hindrance. I’m thinking, of course, about Soldier F. In much the same manner, and despite Martin Fletcher’s entreaties, our respective positions are bred in the bone. While the rights and wrongs of the story are pretty damning, like most, I’d hoped we’d drawn a line beneath this saga after the Saville inquiry.

Thursday, March 14

Local girl wins at Cheltenham

Bryony Frost became the first woman to ride a Grade One winner over jumps at the Cheltenham Festival after Frodon produced a tremendous front-running performance in the Ryanair Chase.

So I guess it’s no Brexit

No deal, no Brexit, or Teresa May’s deal? Seems no deal has been all but ruled out; and as much as we want to see an end to this saga, the Prime Minister’s deal is out of the question.

Soaked through before breakfast this morning. The wind continues its onslaught, one of my favourite trees is down. Neighbouring properties have suffered more significant damage.

Wednesday, March 13

Deserting the sinking ship

Six friends are currently sunning themselves in Africa – apparently it’s the place to be this month. Two are living the high life, partying and generally behaving badly; two are competing in sporting events, pursuing their somewhat esoteric lifestyle; two are in the bush under canvas, immersed in a Hemingway dream. I can barely summon the enthusiasm to drive into Plymouth.

And they say life is boring

We can continue to harrumph about parliament’s inability to run piss-ups in breweries, and I’m as bad as everyone else, but you have to admit it’s an interesting study in human behaviour. Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction – and we are rarely afforded the opportunity to see it played out before our eyes. This is the so-called establishment (officer class) we’re talking about, the sort of people we rely on to keep the trains running, that we habitually defer to. Just once they let us have our say … Bet they don’t repeat that mistake. I can appreciate how frustrating the saga is to our neighbours on the continent, not least to the likes of Guy Verhofstadt. But unlike our European cousins (“I was just following orders”), the Borg Collective, we don’t always do what we’re told.

Tuesday, March 12

Looking on the bright side

Damn but it’s cold out there. WET, too (sleet). Not least when the yard is flooded and I’m obliged to crawl round the place unblocking drains. On the plus side there are more onerous duties I can think of.

Back to the future

I recall Britain’s nadir in the 1970s, when working alongside Dutch lads, Scandinavians, Germans, Americans… Brits enjoyed a woeful reputation. Thanks in no short part to our political leaders, Wilson, Heath and Callaghan, our dire management class and obstructive trade unions, to the outside world we were a laughing stock. Given what’s now happening to Brexit, the procession of nonentities appearing on this morning’s All Out Politics, we appear to be engaged in some sort of nostalgic wet dream.

Monday, March 11

Lots to look forward to

At least two neighbours are out with their chainsaws, woodland management duties. It’s on my list too – but I have to work up to these things gradually, and spring’s still some time away. Drove to the Kwik-E-Mart for supplies, to find the down from London crowd had stripped the place clean over the weekend. Paid seven quid for six stalks of English asparagus – the first of the season. A quid per stalk! Unbelievable. Storm Gareth hits tonight, which should make the Cheltenham Festival even more interesting. Throw in the Brexit bun fight, Calcutta Cup, and we’ve a fun week in prospect.

Sunday, March 10

Narrows the list of suspects

Police are investigating after Liverpool FC goalkeeper Shamal George was attacked outside a bar. The 21-year-old, who plays for the Liverpool's under-23 squad, was injured at the Red Door bar in the city centre at about 02:00 GMT on Saturday. One of the offenders is described as a white man who was wearing a white t-shirt.

Am too soft these days

Wimped out this morning and cut my walk short. It’s supposed to be fun…a combination of sub-zero temperature, wind gusting to 50kts and penetrating rain.

Saturday, March 9

Memorable suppers

Calves liver and a dish of sliced, baked potatoes (aka stovies). Beuvale cheese, the ever-popular British take on stinky Gorgonzola.

Friday, March 8

Nil income tax. We can but dream.

“Being flown from speech to speech in the Texas Panhandle on billionaires’ private jets appealed to me. I’m not saying that I’m not looking forward to my train journeys to and from the Stoke-on-Trent, Wimpole Hall and Chalke Valley literary festivals, but any method of transport that doesn’t include the phrase ‘wheels up’ will be something of a let down from now on. The economies of the Panhandle cities are growing at a rate of 10 per cent year-on-year, fuelled by fracking and nil income tax. It’s what California must have been like in 1849, or Klondike in the late 1890s.” 

How we poor deluded fools originally envisaged Brexit Britain.

Thursday, March 7

My gang, right or wrong

Fake news, TIG's comfort blanket. “No amount of media reform is going to correct for human foibles. There are voters who would disbelieve the Oracle at Delphi if it contradicted their views. Perhaps we dwell on fake news to avoid a much bleaker explanation for all that is happening. Every so often, usually after decades of relative peace, voters lose their aversion to extreme ideas and rogue politicians, even when they understand them perfectly well.”

Social faux pas?

A week or two ago it was funny tinge, today it’s coloured. A minefield, you say. Even someone so prone to social gaffs as Gudgeon appreciates such terms are a decade or more past their sell by date. Then again, anything that gives Amber Rudd a red face is OK by me. Or should that be Native American face? Difficult to believe Rudd didn’t appreciate what she was saying. If she didn't, and Rudd is so tone deaf to the BAME community, a protected species, the Brexit-voting white working class must be from a different planet.

Frustrations of everyday life

While most people are reasonably bright I concede there are also a number of dumb schmucks among us. And so far this week I appear to have bumped into all of them. Even after spelling things out in a loud deliberate voice, following up with written instructions (in capital letters, bold type), they still contrive to fuck it up.

Wednesday, March 6

Well done Phil Neville

England win the She Believes Cup for the first time after thrashing Japan in their final match.

Girding my loins

At least two inches of rain fell on the homestead last night and this morning it’s much the same. Am about to don waterproofs and venture outside – things that need doing, places to go.

Cash system on verge of collapse

Ok so it’s written by a self-interested group, and there’s a degree of click-bait hyperbole, but cash is always worth talking about. Not least because of those who they say will most likely be affected (have you notice how the media use the term “older people and those that live in rural communities” in much the same way they used to refer to the disabled and simple-minded). Many transactions in rural communities remain cash-based, though I concede its use is in decline. One of the biggest drivers is the tax man, with independent contractors under increasing pressure to produce realistic accounts – cash in hand is a fraction of what it a couple of decades ago. My old boss back in the Bevis Marks days carried a wedge the size of a toilet roll.

The way it worked for a good many of us

“I take the view that it’s better to train as a plumber and if you really think it’s better to be a philosophical plumber, you do an Open University degree at age 40,” he said.

I’ll drink to that!

Tuesday, March 5

Really needed a decent kip

However at three in the morning the fire alarm goes off. Stumble around, knocking over glass of water on bedside cabinet, soaking books and radio. Work my way around homestead but can’t locate smoke or flames. Decide it’s a fault in the system. Switch off mains supply and, still unable to isolate alarm, climb ladder and systematically work my way through system, removing batteries from individual units. At four I give up, return to bed and doze for an hour with pillow over my head. Get up again and repeat process to no avail. Mrs G. finally emerges from bedroom, elbows me aside, and locates carbon monoxide detector left lying around by wood-stove engineer aeons ago. Confirms it is the offending object by virtue of it being six months beyond its expiry date, before throwing offending article out of nearest window, glaring meaningfully at yours truly, and returning to bed.

Monday, March 4

Pony Express

Received letter in this morning’s mail, postmarked Baton Rouge 26th Jan. In an era when email is considered old hat it is rather reassuring to find we still have friends that own a fountain pen and insist on corresponding in such an archaic manner.

Sunday, March 3

The other side of the coin

Dutch kids are the world’s happiest teenagers, so the story goes, because Dutch society is more equal and gives greater weight to work/life balance. The downside of course is you are asked to conform, to know your place – social mobility may not exactly be frowned upon, but I suspect neither is it encouraged. There’s a great Scottish saying “I kent yer faither” (or words to that effect), i.e. don’t get above yourself. I’ve seen it in Dutch organisations when someone gets promoted and his/her colleagues resent it. So it’s great if you want to swan about wearing the ubiquitous Gap store uniform, live in an identical box, breakfast on the same slice of supermarket Edam, do what you’re told. But if you want more from life than that you were born into...

The local school where I grew up as a kid doesn’t exist now. It was a basket case, in the country’s bottom five on national stats. Years ago when the parents were quizzed about how they viewed this dire situation, they gave the school a thumbs up – “As long as the children are happy then we’re happy.” That they will leave school with zero qualifications and live the same desperate life we do is neither here nor there. As with the Dutch kids, as long as they’re ‘happy’.

Fingers crossed

Up at half-five. Storm Freya has arrived, dumping large parts of one or other ocean on the homestead. Bits of tree and other debris flying about outside. Storm Erik, its predecessor, killed a poor unfortunate nearby, so you can’t be too blasé. Always a plus if we manage to hold on to our power supply.
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore
Today’s highlight, as every Sunday, is lunch. The ultimate comfort dish: large quantities of slow-cooked oxtail with added marrow bone, a stylish Pauillac that boasts Ch. Lynch-Bages heritage.

Saturday, March 2

Challenging day on the moor

Dark and damp, blowing a hooley. On with the walking boots. There’ll come a time, so they say…case of enjoying it while I can. Beats sitting behind a desk.

Whine, whine, whine…

“The kids – some of them – have turned round and demanded action on climate change and hardly anyone turned up to debate it in the House of Commons. Why?” …What part of “Because we’re not interested” does this sad old tart not understand? Conversely, John Harris continues to demonstrate the reason he’s one of the few worth reading in the Guardian.

Friday, March 1

My ‘To Do List’ grows by the day

Friday fish…Morcilla de Burgos and ultra-fresh scallops from Brixham. European indoor athletics on the box...David Lean’s This Happy Breed.

Wednesday, February 27

Taking advantage

17°C in February? What’s not to like. Unfortunately the last of our sunny days, so I donned the blazer and deck shoes and sailed down to Dartmouth for lunch at Tonks’ place. Carpaccio of red prawns, fillet of hake, and an excellent Vermentino. Not sure about the shaved lard as an amuse bouche.

Say it isn't so

It is difficult to believe we will ever elect (or inherit) a more incompetent nonentity to lead this great country of ours. If a general election was held tomorrow, however, the same bag of shit would likely be returned to power – such is the dearth of opposition. I’ve never seen a more ghastly shower of individuals than the six hundred or so sad sorts that litter the green benches. And these are the best of ’em: the real incompetents we select as MEPs or consign to the House of Lords. An even sadder thought is our politicians may actually represent the electorate at large, that in reality we are looking in the mirror.

Tuesday, February 26

Spring still some time away

Though our feathered friends appear to think differently. Time marches on – early blossom in the hedgerows, pollinating willow and hazel, primrose and daffodil. Walkers out in force, riders on horseback, serious runners in training, kayaks on the Dart.

Sunday, February 24

Another of those glorious days

The perfect Sunday: sunshine and silence – tres quiet. A trek on the moor, pre-lunch libation in the Dog & Duck, large portion of roast animal mit veg, and an afternoon snooze in my armchair.

Saturday, February 23

It’s a thought

David Wallace-Wells ends his book, The Uninhabitable Earth, by musing on astro-biology and Fermi’s paradox: why, despite the colossal size of he universe, with its billions of planets, is there no sign of extra-terrestrial life. The answer, he suggest, may lie here on Earth. Perhaps super-intelligent technological civilisation such as our own quickly burn themselves out by destroying their home planet. Perhaps, there is nothing to stop them from committing suicide if they choose, consciously or unconsciously, to do so.

I’m more of a Saint and Greavsie man

Am sure Eilidh Barbour is a nice enough girl but have been obliged to turn off today’s Football Focus. The ultimate irritating voice, accent. We don’t get much in the way of footy on terrestrial television these days, and in truth have been conditioned not to expect a lot. I want my safe spaces back.

Friday, February 22

Same old story

Sauvignon Blanc with steak: are you crazy? Eating deep-fried Mars Bars and quaffing Buckfast from the bottle is, as Helena says, in part down to mood and memory – influencers. But you really don’t have to behave that way. Tonight’s supper is a slam dunk: Gloucester Old Spot and Alain Graillot’s Crozes-Hermitage blanc.

Invited to dinner by the most gracious of neighbours. As usual Gudgeon behaves badly (they’re Remainers), having to return this morning with arms full of flowers, sticky buns and grovelling apologies.