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.

Evil bastard

“They weren’t abused as children.Their mothers didn’t strap them on the pot. They came out of the womb perverse and meaner than a bucket of goat piss on a radiator.” ...James Lee Burke has a way with words.

All of us grew up alongside children we instinctively knew were bad ’uns, destined to feature in local newspapers. Although the parents were decent enough people, junior inherited a genetic quirk that was all but branded on his forehead, warning anyone half streetwise to treat with care.

Wednesday, February 20

Listening to tonight's footy on the wireless

Manchester City have played Schalke three times previously in European competition. In 1970 the Blues lost 1-0 in the European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final first leg, winning the return leg at Maine Road 5-1 to progress to the final. ...It was the only game I ever attended in Gelsenkirchen. I remember my companions more than the match.

A couple of months later, thanks to the government lowering the voting age to 18, I got to take part in my first general election. I cast my ballot for Harold Wilson but he was defeated by Edward Heath’s Conservative Party. Some say Enoch Powell’s army of blue-collar voters – what Anna Soubry would doubtless label Purple Momentum or Blukip – won it for the Tories.

On Tory defections - rare solidarity with Labour

“This isn’t about us!” Yeh, right. When you cite John Major as your champion you’ve already lost me. “What unites you (with the Labour eight), other that opposition to Leaving the EU?” Err…. “We all hate the DUP.” Arlene would eat the three of ’em for breakfast. I must be one of a limited number of voters who has been represented by both Rosie Barnes and Sarah Wollaston. James Heaven gives a sense of how we currently view our local MP.

Tuesday, February 19

Destruction and regeneration


Neighbours are swaling today, what passes for land management – the annual burning of gorse and scrub.

Sunday, February 17

Dime Novels…a guilty pleasure.

I became addicted to paperbacks in my early teenage years. On quiet weekends I can comfortably zip through a couple. To an idler they’re a godsend. Detective Dave Robicheaux is a classic example, grotesque southern gothic worthy of Flannery O’Connor. A region of great interest many years ago, the food, music and culture – periodic trips, both business and pleasure, through New Iberia, Lafayette, Avery Island and Morgan City…New Orleans.

While also entertained by two Robert B. Parker novels this week, my current Americana-fest has found it’s apogee in a collection of Larry McMurtry essays.

Conundrums above my pay grade

President Trump is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters captured in Syria and put them on trial. Seems a fair enough request, and I’m told we can’t legally stop these characters returning. Maybe our dick of a Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, could put his white elephant aircraft carrier (Gordon Brown job-creation scheme) to better use?

Friday, February 15

On Days Like These…

Matt Monro. Great singer, crooner. There are times, such as this morning, when pulling a Harry Dean Stanton, walking high on the moor, a vapour-free blue sky and unseasonally warm breeze, larks – literally and metaphorically – in the ascendant, that you can't help but feel all is right with the world.

Lunch…twice-baked cheese soufflé, glass of chilled Sancerre.

Thursday, February 14

Another Western Christian feast day

Up early, to the florist, then home with pastries and coffee. As it’s Valentine’s Day, we lunch on decadent French produce and heritage-stock Vouvray from Le Haut Lieu.

Wednesday, February 13

A demanding day at the coal face

That has been amply rewarded with a selection of reliable classics: eggs en cocotte, calves sweetbreads mit cream sauce, and the last of Gagnard’s Chassagne-Montrachet – a half-decent cheese. A cross I have to bear.

Life repeating itself

To Exeter for supplies. A Blairite Labour-voting city that can’t grow fast enough, seemingly populated by students and foreign construction workers building student accommodation. Housing estates and new towns continue to eat up the surrounding countryside, driven in part by white flight from London and the South East. Graphics on buses promote new housing in commutable conurbations, advertising 2-3 bed homes from £70k – yours for a mere £3.5k deposit. Pretty much what we bought into back in the ’70s.

I would have to be blind not to notice the Kwik-E-Mart’s produce, particularly dairy, has suddenly sprouted a Union Jack. I even heard one shopper ask whether the stuff that came from Ireland was “from our Irish or theirs”. Am sure the republic’s agri-food food sector will have learnt from the hit Scottish produce took when displaying a saltire.

Monday, February 11

Losing the plot – side effect of eating too much cheese

To supplement our local deli, a specialist establishment (Bath & Belgravia) sends me a selection of three cheeses each month. February’s shipment included a hard cheese from the Malagueña breed of goat, produced by a lad in Malaga. Per Argudo ships about 200 tons/year of Gris de Montaña, primarily to Italy and France. As it happens I’m surrounded by neighbours that keep goats and who supply milk to cheese producers or make a version themselves. We’ve no shortage of goats cheese but that doesn’t mean I want to eat the same old every day. In something of a Mountain to Muhammad meme, the Argudo lad moved from the Pyrenees to Malaga because it’s where the goats are. I’m told neither of his primary markets have much in the way of goats either...

…And when I began typing this post there was a point to the story. Unfortunately, following a zillion and one interruptions, I’ve now forgotten what that was, and as the fire has gone out I have to go chop some wood.

It’s the trade-off you make

The countryside is being left behind with a third of rural households unable to make a mobile phone call indoors and over half unable to access 4G networks. Nearly a fifth of people in England live in rural areas, yet the evidence shows that many of them face inadequate services, whether telecoms, public health or transport. Conversely, of course, no fucker bothers you out here in the sticks. 

We don't do social envy

For all the modern rhetoric of smouldering public resentment against the super-rich, a German study suggests a clear majority of Britons still share Lord Mandelson’s sentiment: that we are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes. A detailed survey of attitudes towards the wealthy in different countries shows that Britain is a considerably friendlier place for millionaires than its neighbours, and more easy going than even the US. British millennials appear more kindly disposed towards the rich than any other age group. I’d like to believe this was true, that we are basically a righteous sort and the idea of aspiration trumps that of envy. An element of Gudgeon always assumes people with more money than I do have either worked harder or are imbued with more talent – though as one of the usual faces reminded me recently, there’s an element of luck involved.

Saturday, February 9

Unwilling to settle for the mundane

A London MP (doctor* by profession) was on the box this morning discussing knife crime in her area. She appears to have actually spent time interviewing the relevant demographic (young black men), and it seems their demise boils down to the lack of an alternative (legitimate) career path. Naturally we’re talking London, arguably the biggest job-creating machine on the planet – providing you can read and write your future is assured. Five minutes later a miscreant of the same parish was on BBC Radio 4 pontificating on the same subject. His bleak assessment was that, if you are crap at football and music, crime is your only option. Stereotype or what?

*Given the mess our MPs are making of Brexit, more or less any idiot would appear a perfect fit. So why do we encourage doctors of all people to put themselves forward at a time when there are vacancies in every one of our A&Es?

Friday, February 8

Storm Erik

A total nightmare this morning, trees down (motorist dead at the scene), roads closed. Ground so soft the motor struggled off-road. Have now returned with supplies, shut the door, and I’ve no intention of going anywhere.

Thursday, February 7

Boomers' soundtrack beats all

“It almost goes without saying that if you grew up in the swinging Sixties, swaggering Seventies, dazzling Eighties or bombastic Nineties then you prefer golden oldies to the auto-tuned digital beats of today. But it turns out even millennials feel the same.”       …Last night I watched the ’58 spin-off film from Six-Five Special, Jim Dale, Lonnie Donegan and Dickie Valentine. Dire doesn’t cut it – was mind boggling to appreciate the distance ‘popular music’ travelled over the next decade. Then just as suddenly, during the 21st Century, life as we know it went into reverse.

That 'Men are from Mars' thing

Men’s brains are wired to Anything for a Quiet Life – on the home front. They are taking a stand at work: kicking ass, ringing people up who have fallen short of expectations and giving them what for. But at home, given the choice between Standing Up for What is Right and Not Rocking The Boat, they are choosing the latter every single time. Women: the opposite, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a point of principle. Women are very happy to rock the boat, kill the motor and see what happens.

Wednesday, February 6

Food

We appear to be undergoing the traditional mid-winter trend to Spanish-style food, colourful vegetables and lots of chorizo-flavoured dishes, pork and beans, tapas and tango. Meaty, brooding savoury aromas, with snappy tannins and a long leathery finish. If only the weather would play ball. No pedants, please.

Then again 'we' are stuck with Theresa May

As someone who includes frothing nationalists among the extended family, I struggle to understand what the SNP is aiming for with their Westminster music hall act. Ian Blackford and that snide Armani suit of his (today’s Prime Ministers Questions) does little to further the gravitas they presumably aspire to. Everyone had lots of time for his predecessor, Angus Robertson, and we acknowledge the lad was a hard act to follow. But does the party have to aim so low?

Suppose it could be worse – and I wasn’t thinking of Theresa May.

Tuesday, February 5

Pissing down, morning till night

The word dreich has become both a cliché and cultural appropriation, though given today’s weather the term that has never been more apt.

Am listening to Theresa May’s Belfast speech: the woman’s a disaster, has zero talent for much of anything – a complete waste of space.

Saturday, February 2

So sweet

“Leo Verrucas – can you hear me Verrucas! Your boys took one hell of a beating! Your boys took one hell of a beating!”

Damned by faint praise

I imagine Pat Barker must have banged her head against the nearest wall when reading female reviewers enthusiastically pigeonhole her latest book The Silence of the Girls as a ‘feminist’ Iliad or Homeric #MeToo odyssey. That’s fifty-thousand lost sales from the nine out of ten men who will immediately strike it from their list of ‘Books I must read’.

Thursday, January 31

The smoky allure of vanished glamour

A twin-prop plane, a soft packet of duty-free Rothmans…a leather BOAC shoulder bag and a swift double brandy before landing.

Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails

While some parents misguidedly believe boys are different from girls, providing your lad can be persuaded to take up gardening and cooking, and become a prize swot, there is every chance the young rascal will transition into something else. 

Both sides are as bad as each other

May not be Chicago but it’s still chill out there. Following yesterday’s trek (conscience salved) and today’s heavy snow, believe I’ll settle for a chair beside the fire – you can get too much of a good thing. Have given up listening to the news; like rats in a sack. While we despair at the antics of our elected representatives in Westminster, we shouldn't forget our real duffers are sent to Brussels. Am sure we are not alone, so don’t expect too much of that lot either.

Wednesday, January 30

Skive time

It is rather white this morning, the moor a cliché picture postcard. Birds pecking at the window, demanding to be fed – the yard a criss-cross of miscreant paw-print trails. Feels like –5°C, with a 90pct chance of more snow. As long as you go easy on the ice, the perfect day for a walk.

Tuesday, January 29

Have heard it all before

‘A top rate of tax of 70pc, a maximum salary and the nationalisation of key industries’ are all policies drawn from political movements in major G-7 countries, and which may well be implemented over the next few years. Corbynomics is going global! Simplistic, naive and nostalgic it may be, but even Poundland Lenins have a vote. You’d think we’d have learnt from the past, what works and what doesn’t, that we’d look at Venezuela and say to ourselves “No thanks.” But then political sympathies are a lot like the weather, are seasonal. Interesting and entertaining but predictable too. Every generation feels the need to reinvent the wheel.

I wouldn’t be me without an occasional vernacular quirk or Del Boy lyricism. It’s less a posh boy’s affectation so much as an acknowledgement of my proletarian origin – though there was a time I used to drink at the bar of a St James’s club (lads I worked with acquired their membership as a right-of-passage birthday present from Dad). Not that it left much of a veneer: I was introduced to a new face in the Dog & Duck last week, and despite my having left the home town in ’68, he nailed my accent to within a couple of miles.

Monday, January 28

Crying in the wilderness

The Guardian’s John Harris yearns for a return to the past, not that horrible past he habitually maligns, so much as the more recent and imaginary pre-Brexit Xanadu, a world he imagines existed before identity-politics reared its head.

Sunday, January 27

Eton and ’Arrow boys

I doubt George Osborne or Tony Blair will ever be mistaken for Ray Winstone.

While Clare Foges approaches the same age old problem from the opposite direction.

A bottle a day helps you work, rest and play!

I suspect reading this sort of thing in The Sunday Times leads to cognitive decline, rather than the bottle of Burgundy:

Drinking alcohol costs more than you think, warn scientists who have calculated that households suffer hidden costs of £2,400 a year for every bottle of wine drunk per week. “Alcohol costs us in all kinds of ways,” said Simon Moore, professor of public health at Cardiff University, who co-led the study with psychiatrists at Oxford University. “Regular drinking reduces our health, happiness, employability and our ability to think and remember. It also raises the risk of cancer and of assault.” The research, funded by the Medical Research Council, involved analysis of the health, wealth and lifestyle of 141,000 British drinkers aged 37-73. The aim was to compare alcohol’s benefits, such as making people feel happy or sociable, with the higher risk of depression, insomnia and cognitive decline.

Sunday lunch, vegan style

It was to be a succulent saddleback chop mit complimentary kidney, and peppery lentils from Le Puy-en-Velay. Unfortunately, with the pork barely half-cooked, a gust of wind intervened, bringing down a tree and taking out the power line. My consolation dish of lukewarm lentils was tres tasty however, and it got me thinking about what a vegan-only lifestyle might entail. While I can see the attraction for a week or two – to give the digestive system a rest from the steaks and daubes, (a la checking into The Priory to dry out), I can’t imagine there’s a cat-in-hell’s chance such a crazy, virtue-signalling fad will ever go mainstream.

Need to chop more firewood

Bit of a blow last night, fair amount of debris scattered about the yard. Not that the roaring gale and crash of timber interfered with my sleep, comatose till half-eight. Caught the footy highlights on the box last night so no urgency about getting up to catch the repeat. Although the wind’s eased off this morning, a chill northerly has brought sleet to brighten our morning.

Saturday, January 26

Age brings different priorities

84-year-old Fochabers man Charlie Armour confirms haggis-flavoured ice cream is better than sex.

Superwoman crushes male opposition

Jasmin Paris stuns the world by winning the 269-mile Spine Race, 15 hours ahead of her nearest male rival.

The music was a lot better too

As for the drinking culture of the 1970s, it was everywhere. “It was really that thing that had passed along from the wonderful 1960s, the freedom to rave,” said Thompson.    ...It seemed fun at the time, would be considered deplorable behaviour nowadays – and yet given the state of society, the current younger generation probably need to party even more than we did.

Friday, January 25

Slacker struggles to cope with the simple life

The dream of an idyllic home in the countryside, with chickens and vegetable plot, is beyond the reach of most mortals, it has become a lifestyle suitable for only two types of people: backwoods survivalists living totally off the grid; and chaps who recently sold their hedge funds and can now afford the immensely labour-intensive pursuit of living the simple life.

Coincidently…

Before we know it the Cheltenham Festival will be with us. Cheltenham made the news recently when, following a series of accidents, Paul and Clare Rooney told trainers they didn’t want their horses to race at the course. The coincidence is that this morning I was reading an obituary for sports writer Hugh McIlvanney – and earlier in the week had come across a 1977 article he wrote for The Observer, ‘Requiem for a champion’, when Lanzarote was shot after breaking a leg in the Gold Cup. Like much of McIlvanney’s output it is classy prose, from a time when sportswriters could write. Or maybe it just seems that way because I was more interested in sport back then, and it was a time when everyone read newspapers – or at least the sports pages. After the old boy retired three years ago, the great Muhammed Ali issued a tribute, saying “His words were a window to the lives, the courage, the struggles and the triumphs of the champions of his time.” Hugh McIlvanney, bon viveur, cigar smoker, drinker, story teller, reader and thinker.

Thursday, January 24

I'm confused

All babies are born equal, no matter their race or class, says professor. In a scientific first, a team of researchers tracked the physical and intellectual development of babies around the world from the earliest days after conception to age two. “At every single stage we’ve shown that healthy mothers have healthy babies and that healthy babies all grow at exactly the same rate,” said Prof Stephen Kennedy, co-director of the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute. “It doesn’t matter where you are living, it doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is, it doesn’t matter what your race and ethnicity is, receiving decent medical care and nutrition is the key.” The study should help settle the debate over the role of genetics in determining intelligence. “There’s still a substantial body of opinion out there in both the scientific and lay communities who genuinely believe that intelligence is predominantly determined by genes. Well, that’s clearly not the case.”

Thin people should not act 'morally superior' - they just have lucky genes, major study finds. A ground-breaking study by Cambridge University, which focused on healthy adults with a low body mass index (BMI), reveals the impact of genetics on body size is greater than previously thought. From saliva samples, the team was able to carry out DNA analysis which revealed previously unknown regions of the human genome associated with healthy thinness. They also established that approximately three quarters of people in this cohort had a family history of being thin. Meanwhile comparison against 1,985 severely obese participants discovered additional genes connected with poor weight control, a finding which shows “the genetic dice are loaded against them”, according to the study. Professor Sadaf Farooqi, who led the research, said: “It’s easy to rush to judgement and criticise people for their weight, but the science shows that things are far more complex. “We have far less control over our weight that we might wish to think.”

Francis de Sales triumphs again

I assume former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is adopting the Weinstein defence: not guilty of any ‘criminality’. Maybe you believe I’m a cad, am deemed to have broken some sort of ‘code of conduct’. I challenge you, however, to prove I have contravened any criminal ‘law’. Given what’s going on just now, a plethora of stories, the patron saint of journalists must be working overtime.

Still Game

To Health Centre this morning for annual medical. They call everyone in once/year to confirm we are still alive. Basic stuff: blood pressure…are you eating your five/day and drinking less than fourteen units/week, taking regular exercise, blah, blah, blah. Waiting room filled with white men of a certain age that look/dress similarly (imagine then denizens of a bar room in a Rebus novel). In charge of today’s clinic is a young girl, trainee doctor from local medical school. We respond to her every question with a lie.

The tragic reality

That Plymouth Moor View has Johnny Mercer representing its constituency, and we remain stuck with Sarah Wollaston.

Wednesday, January 23

What are they drinking?

Europe has issued an emotional plea to British politicians, calling on Parliament to authorize a second referendum and abandon Brexit altogether. Berlin will back an extension to Article 50 even if Parliament is still not sure exactly where it is heading. The likelihood of reversing Brexit is rising, they believe, helpfully suggesting the single transferable vote offers the fairest mechanism for our resolving the deadlock. Voters would make a first and second choice from a ballot with three options: the Theresa May deal, no-deal, and revocation.   ...Thanks, but no thanks.

Tuesday, January 22

Thankful for (not so) small mercies

Sleet for breakfast, with heavy snow due later – and only the thought of Brexit to warm us. Then again we’re not living in Yemen or Syria, are a long way from Venezuela and Zimbabwe. If all we have to worry about are a handful of placard-waving sad sorts outside Parliament, or a raucous Question Time audience, we ain’t doing too badly.

Then again, there's always something lurking round the corner. There but for the grace...as they say.

No luck with my critter traps this morning. Not exactly Jeremiah Johnson but it helps keep the pests to a manageable level.

Monday, January 21

Insatiable demand

To the local chemist this morning: most everyone over 50 appears obliged to take statins these days – assuming, that is, we want to remain on the right side of our GP. Although the nearest metropolis isn’t exactly large (pop. 3,500), four pharmacists were working flat out to fill prescriptions. Little wonder NHS finances are under pressure.     ...Lo and behold, local lunchtime news advises dispensaries are a busy due to Brexit fears encouraging patients to stock up on medicines.

Sunday, January 20

Nut cutlets for lunch

Short but punishing trek on the moor this morning. Glorious day, though; despite being cold, grey and tres wet, you can’t pass it up. A little more than two hours start to finish and only one other guy (on a trail bike) to share it with. Hardly a wilderness in the strict sense of the word but sometimes it feels that way. Not that I’m complaining: these days the less Gudgeon sees of other people the happier I am. Home to a steaming cauldron of braised beef, sans the traditional bottle of claret (Dry January). Am reliably informed that if I eat nut cutlets and fungus burgers instead of meat for the next ten years, the emission savings will equate to a single transatlantic jet flight. Not in my lifetime, Sonny Jim.

Saturday, January 19

A Song For January

An’ a so de rain a-fall 
An’ a so de snow a-rain 
An’ a so de fog a-fall 
An’ a so de sun a-fail 
An’ a so de seasons mix 
An’ a so de bag-o’ tricks 
But a-so me understand’ 
De misery o’ de Englishman 
 Andrew Salkey 
‘A Song For England’ from Caribbean Voices Vol 2.

Friday, January 18

Friday Fish

Fresh from Brixham. In a further two-fingered salute to the EAT-Lancet Commission, today’s lunch is a variety of fish roes dusted in flour and fried in butter. Scallops and black pudding mit potato röstis for supper.

Paul Mason commenting on the decline in BBC’s catering standards (and the reduced status of journalists): “Served sausages that would survive a tactical nuclear strike and cold beans. In the days before politics became viscerally nasty, MPs used to hang around at the end of programmes like Newsnight and the Marr show to pick up gossip and spread bonhomie. Now it’s just the journalists and the cold beans.”

What colour are you?

For a long time I was white. I turned grey at the age of forty and remained that way for 20 years. During recent years I’ve been black.

German friends plead for Brits to stay in abusive relationship.

Thursday, January 17

Outrage over 97 y/o man driving vehicle on public roads

How do they think old folks move about in the countryside when there is no public transport. Another ageing Leaver lives to fight another day.

The return of wartime rationing

The EAT-Lancet Commission, a group of 37 health experts, has spent two years compiling the "planetary health diet", which they claim is the healthiest and most sustainable food plan for everyone in the world. However to comply with the new diet, the average Briton would need to slash their red meat consumption by 77 per cent - from 62g to 14g for pork and beef - allowing them to have a 8oz steak just once a month or alternatively enjoy a single slice of bacon once every four days. The report also limits dairy to 250g a day, about one cup of milk, three-and-a-half fish fingers a week, and just three eggs a fortnight.

Wednesday, January 16

Pantomime

What a palaver, this Brexit business. In many ways a storm in a teacup. 2008 was considerably more fraught, as are those day to day challenges that is most people’s life. I guess it serves as a cause célèbre for the grievance mongers – and entertainment for us, looking on. Hard to believe there are so many fuck-ups in the world, and that somehow we’ve contrived to shoehorn the lot of ’em into our debased political class. Six hundred dim-wits led by two of the most worthless individuals to have graced the stage. I’m still for Leave and would vote the same again. But I’d rather stay in than accept May’s deal, the worst of all worlds.

Sunday, January 13

The Westminster bubble

The Sunday papers prove dispiriting reading. Can’t say I’ve much to add to the general feeling of drift and obfuscation at the top. Conservatives appear to have lost sight of who or what the party stands for; many MPs think they are LibDems or Kippers. A soap opera, bereft of worthy characters. The only consolation is that large parts of the world appear to be undergoing a similar schism.

Friday, January 11

The upside to living in the sticks

“I get to be rude, eccentric, antisocial, reckless, prejudiced, reactionary, unkempt, unapologetically conservative and free to a degree that just wouldn’t have been possible in my benighted townie years.”

Thursday, January 10

A frightening thought

Sourpuss is what led us to this mess, gave us Jeremy Corbyn. Can you imagine facing the girl across a breakfast table every morning. Little wonder hubby moved into cabaret.

Devaluing an icon

JLR feature prominently in this morning’s news. Any Brexit hit to their operation, so the story goes, pales against the manufacturer’s two principal problems: Diesel and China. The first is in part self-inflicted, naturally, the government having demonised diesel fuel; the second is due to an economic downturn in their biggest market. While 20% of JLR’s production goes to China, seemingly, it accounts for 50% of the company’s profit. One interesting aside was the assertion that, having opened a production plant in China, Land Rover vehicles have become less desirable – punters reluctant to shell out for the locally produced snide instead of a prestigious Western version. Although our political class seem incapable of organising a piss-up in a brewery, it seems there’s still some value in Great Britain.

Battening down the hatches

Well below zero degrees this morning. A hard frost. Hard frost and blue sky. I’ll settle for that. Life is good providing you don’t listen to what passes for news. I appreciate journalists are paid vast sums of money to wind up the natives but sometimes they go overboard. As long as no one’s dropping bombs on the homestead I’m happy enough. Crisis, what crisis?

Monday, January 7

Another year beckons

For all intents and purposes today is the first day of the year. The day I am supposed to return to work – to what passes for normal life…routine. The Christmas decorations came down on Sunday and my to do list was pinned to the notice board. Reappraising it this morning I’ve decided there’s nothing that can’t be put off till spring.

Saturday, January 5

The Brexit effect?

Millennials shun modern liturgy for ‘bells and smells’ Twentysomethings are flocking to Anglo-Catholic services for traditional worship. It is possible to detect a streak of contrariness among the young adults throwing themselves into traditional Anglicanism…to relish thumbing their noses at a society that assumed Anglo-Catholic Christianity was too ancient and too highbrow for their generation to appreciate. There are also a fair number of “young fogeys” among the millennials who are returning to church. Their interest seems driven as much by traditionalism for its own sake as by faith. One of the recently baptised said that he felt a “duty” to preserve the cultural heritage and patrimony of established Christianity, “regardless of the theology”.    The purple-robed choristers, Latin chants and clouds of pungent incense seem so very long ago.

Friday, January 4

Comparing apples and oranges

Kids have to be so much better than their grandparents, says Fraser Nelson. I know, I know, he says work harder, but Boomers had it cushy a familiar trope. I was born the same year as Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish, two football greats from my era. I dare stay if their twenty-something self was magically transported to the modern game they’d struggle – nutrition, training and tactical awareness has moved forward, as has the quality and quantity of competition. However, assuming they were born a generation or two later, both would have benefited from these evolutionary improvements and their inherent talent would still result in the two of them playing in the current Premier League. Or is that not a given? You can only play the team in front of you.

Thursday, January 3

The Festive Season has ended

Back to raking leaves and bonfires…tinned sardines and a packet of crackers for lunch.

Tuesday, January 1

Casting pearls…

What more could you ask to begin the new year: Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, a bottle of chilled champagne and bowl of fried cashew nuts. That the Vienna audience is such a po-faced bunch of stuffed shirts who look like they’d rather be anywhere else – fulfilling a social obligation as opposed to enjoying the performance – is a pity. Seriously, though, the venue is something The Donald could have commissioned; and don’t get me started on Polkas.