Sunday, September 22

There but for fortune…

‘This was the first flat I lived in. It was a Victorian tenement flat called a “room and kitchen”. We had this room and one bedroom, the toilet was on the landing shared with the neighbours.’ Yep, been there, done that (I recognise the hair and fashionable attire) – except it was single room sans bedroom in the basement beneath a bookies. Doesn’t have to define your life. ...But then that leads us on to the much maligned concept of ‘meritocracy’ and the questionable belief that you are what you make of yourself. Having recently bumped into a couple of individuals I started out with I have to acknowledge an element of the ‘sliding doors’ rationale. That and Kirsty’s line about “There was a lot of diversity, and I definitely aspired to have one of the houses at the top of the hill,” she says. “That’s what you don’t get in these peripheral estates.” Emphasis on the second sentence.

Sundays...

Autumn has definitely arrived (blocked gutters and squally showers). Blackberries from the hedgerow and yogurt for breakfast, boiled brisket (ageing milk cow, heavy on the root vegetables) and a rich cabernet-driven Médoc for lunch. A succession of brutal gladiators on the box.

Saturday, September 21

The idyllic homestead

“In my house beautiful there would be no wifi, no phone signal, nor BBC radio or television.” Sounds rather familiar, though a “beautiful year-long hallucination” would be to gild the lily.

Latest review suggests more should be done to introduce county lines to national parks. Plonker Gove has a lot to answer for.

“Everyone blames Wigan and Stoke for Brexit but we should really be blaming Cornwall and Devon.”

Friday, September 20

Not that the old hag (or the party) has changed

It is good, in the midst of all this, to be reminded of the leader of the GLC, Ken Livingstone, trying to offer £53,000 of taxpayers’ money to the Troops Out movement, and to read once again his view, that “what Britain has done for the Irish nation . . .” was “worse than what Hitler did to the Jews”. Livingstone’s sidekick at the GLC, John McDonnell, called for talks with the IRA on “peace in London”. Interesting, too, to be reminded that during Tony Benn’s and Ken Livingstone’s attempt to take control of the Labour Party for the left, Margaret Beckett, no less, was found screeching “traitors” at the sensible minority who wanted Denis Healey to be leader of their party.

Friday fish

“Lobster mash topped fish pie, containing Dover Sole, mussels, tiger prawns, Grade One Scottish salmon and smoked haddock.” At least that’s what it claimed on the wrapper. Score 5/10 – my search for a half-decent store-bought fish pie continues.

World Cup

Am watching Japan v Russia on the box... Friends are en route. Eight days (three matches) flying cattle class: £8,500. That's an awful lot of beer.

Thursday, September 19

The Monarch

Commenting on David Cameron in the manner of William Sadler, aka Gino Fish: "I know of no such person."

Onwards and upwards

The homestead is enjoying a spell of fine weather and we’ve put in a fair few miles walking on the moor. Weary that I am, however, outstanding chores reared its head today as the mower hoved into view. I love our life – esto perpetua, as the posh boys say, and placate myself with the thought that my aches and pains are the result of a life well lived.

Pots and kettles

“Sir John Major will today compare Boris Johnson to a dishonest estate agent as he urges the Supreme Court to rule that the prorogation of Parliament was unlawful.”    ...Is that the worst he can come up with: an estate agent? I still haven’t forgiven Major – an unmitigated disaster of the first water – for Black Wednesday. George Soros and the Bundesbank are in my black book too.

'The' most important issue...really?

“A majority of the public recognise the climate crisis as an emergency and say politicians are failing to tackle the problem, backing the interests of big oil over the wellbeing of ordinary people.”    ...Given the accompanying picture in the Guardian article, however, it seems to be more of a problem afflicting young women. One would assume ordinary men prioritise securing a well-paid job in the oil & gas industry and putting a roof over their family’s head.

Wednesday, September 18

Manual labour or desk work?

Trust me, there’s no comparison – especially when it comes to audits. I really, really, really, hate paperwork. Someone had the effrontery to question the veracity of my response to their query. Fortunately, given I have difficulty in recalling what happened last week, I’m one of those sad sorts that retains notarised transcripts of meetings that took place in 1988 and 1993.

Tuesday, September 17

Worth reviewing a year from now

RNLI donations surge (or not) after criticism of its work overseas. One donor said he had struggled to donate because the RNLI site had crashed under the traffic load. Others said they were setting up direct debits to support the work of the charity overseas and as a riposte to the coverage in the Times and MailOnline. An RNLI spokesperson said: “The volume of responses we have received on this matter is vast and ongoing – the overall picture is changing constantly at the moment, so it may be several weeks before we have a full understanding of its impact on donations to the RNLI. This is such a polarising issue … we have also received some very negative responses, including people contacting our supporter care team requesting to withdraw or reduce their support for the charity.”    The number of non-politicised and scandal-free charities we can give our money to diminishes year by year. I guess the left would prefer we increase taxes in order the government can donate our money for us.

Monday, September 16

If your number’s up…

The authors looked at evidence from around the world, including one review of 17 trials involving more than 250,000 people. Their conclusion? There is no convincing evidence that health checks significantly reduce your risk of dying — whether it be from a heart attack, stroke or cancer. They may pick up undiagnosed high blood pressure, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes in some people, but this doesn’t appear to translate into worthwhile benefits.

Way to go, girl

North Devon’s poor white trash just don’t get the European Union, says Kirsten Johnson, the Lib Dem candidate for North Devon. Where the fluck do they get these people?

UPDATE.

Saturday, September 14

Sunny Saturday

Late off the mark this morning. Both nearby towns are chock-a-block with locals and visitors alike taking in the sun. Friends visiting Scotland send postcard from Aberdeen. A plaintive one-liner: “It hasn’t stopped raining.” I read foreign landowners north of be border face being stripped of their property under Labour plans to set a residency requirement and a limit on how much one person can own. Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, has set out a land reform agenda that hands much privately owned land to communities. Can’t help thinking the place is fast becoming reminiscent of Zimbabwe. Both used to be great countries…one of them once had a football team. Back home for the racing from Doncaster, the St Leger.

Friday, September 13

Early start

Though 14th is the Harvest Moon, for all intents and purposes if you are up early this morning it has arrived – has lit up the homestead. Unfortunately and much to the annoyance of our tawny owls, all turned black at five when the moon sank below the ridge. Sunrise is due at 06:31.

What a great day! The sun shone and the barbecue worked overtime. Nuked meat aside, the salad harvest continues to produce. I don’t believe we’ve ever grown so much quality green stuff. Let’s hear it for global warming. Post-Brexit supply chain problems hold no fears. I’m sure our African/American/Asian neighbours can more than compensate for any Dutch/Spanish shortfall.

Wednesday, September 11

What other things are men thinking (and not telling us)?

They would rather we didn’t watch ‘sport’ with them. It’s just something they used to be allowed to do on their own and while they can live with us joining in, the fact that we don’t know all the little rules but nonetheless want to have them explained as we go along, and regardless of not being quite up to speed with all the little rules, we will have a view on how the game is proceeding, is something they find a bit annoying.

One foot in the grave

This week’s mail brings news of yet more acquaintances, one a friend of more than four decades, another an old golfing partner, consigned to retirement/care homes. However comfortable the establishment, after being appraised of the cost, I’d suggest your money is better spent drinking yourself into an early grave.

D'oh!

“Corrupt, undemocratic and hypocritical: I've seen Brussels at its worst.” Good grief, woman, what did you expect to find. Our own people aren't exactly shy of climbing on the gravy train when the opportunity presents.

It’s the way you tell ’em

In this overly sensitive politically-correct age of ours, when the rejoinder ‘Big Girl’s Blouse’ has grown-up journalists such as Alice Thomson wet themselves, it’s worth reminding everyone what life used to be like. Am currently reading one of Georges Simenon’s ‘Inspector Maigret’ stories, Pietr the Latvian. Originally published in 1930 the stylistic differences are obvious. However it’s what’s said that really denotes the period. I can’t imagine, for instance, a contemporary author of fictional literature attributing a similar sort of mindset to his hero:
“Every race has its own smell, and other races hate it. Despite opening a window and puffing relentlessly at his pipe, Inspector Maigret could not get rid of the background odour that made him uncomfortable. Maybe the whole of Hôtel du Roi de Sicile was impregnated with the smell. Perhaps it was the entire street. The first whiff hits you when the hotel-keeper with the skullcap opens his window, and the further you go up the stairs, the stronger it gets…”

Tuesday, September 10

The bucolic countryside stirs

Slept in after late night following the debate in Parliament – a sorry shower, the lot of ’em. Woken by baying hounds, neighbours on quad bikes exercising the pack. Not to be outdone, others have cranked up their chain saws (stress on the multiple). Visited by family of red deer – stag with impressive set of antlers, a hind and calf.

Sunday, September 8

Onwards and upwards

The trail-running crew are out in force this morning. I won’t say there are more women runners than men these days but I do seem to see more of them. Attended a neighbour’s shindig last week and couldn’t help noticing everyone’s daughter was six-inches taller than me. Guess it comes to us all.

Nothing new there then

Must have been close to midnight when we spilled from the Dog & Duck. Temporary ceasefire’s holding, though everyone seems to be operating on a hair trigger. Most want their day in court: a general election, so they can settle scores. Even then I doubt anyone will get the answer they want and community spirit will continue to fester. Bad as things look I still view it a pale imitation of the 1970s. 

Thursday, September 5

Cheese of the month: Queso de Valdeón

Maybe a pale imitation of Cabrales but it still makes your eyes water. Begs a strong red wine.

Eating your granny... Large portions of neighbour’s retired milk cow. Tastes out of this world, albeit she needs a lot of long slow cooking.

Wednesday, September 4

Overturning gendered roles

In the manner that Victorians sent small boys up chimneys to scrape and brush soot away, I push the diminutive Mrs G. through small windows to shin across sloping roofs while barking orders from below. The homestead’s guttering required attention and you can only get to it from above.

Tuesday, September 3

Deserting the sinking ship

Seems barely a couple of weeks ago we were in the yard being buzzed by swallows. Now it’s just the occasional lone bird heading south. Redstarts too, on their way to Africa. Leaves are falling but the grass is still growing.

Monday, September 2

Just sayin

Years of austerity and Brexit uncertainty have created a generation of authoritarian younger voters who are less interested in democracy than strong leadership, research suggests. A study of more than 5,000 people found that two thirds of younger voters were in favour of “strongman leaders” prepared to defy parliament.

Saturday, August 31

Never alone

Usual familiar faces: moths, big time, drawn to the light; brown long-eared bats released from the loft; the hooting calls of our resident tawny owls.

A return to the Thatcher days

Today’s histrionics are, thus far anyway, a rather effete impersonation of the often violent resistance to Thatcherite reforms … The same sort of social circles (in some cases, the exact same individuals) who sneered at the greengrocer’s daughter and likened her supporters to typhus, now loathe the oiks who did not understand what they voted for. Ironically, they repeat the familiar language of bigoted reactionaries: Leave supporters are backward, ignorant, naïve and easily misled. So their judgements, for their own good, must not count. When I was growing up in America, this is exactly what white people who did not think they were racists, used to say about black people.

Friday, August 30

Living on top of each other


We remain knee-deep in visitors and roads are tres busy; you can forget a parking space in town post-10:00 am. Retreated with coffee to a bench alongside the Dart, only to be told by a rough sleeper that I was occupying his seat. Moved on to Birdwood House – artist in residence a familiar face whose graphic illustrations of industrial Britain takes you back in time. Likewise this week’s feature on local BBC News: a rerun of old film featuring life in the area a generation or more ago. The programme concluded with the observation that, unlike the good old days, people now climb into their car and socialise elsewhere. Some would regard this as a safety valve; much like my idea of being trapped in a nightmare.

Wednesday, August 28

Best line so far

Remainers have had a painful reminder of what happens when they forget Mike Tyson's cardinal rule: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

For what seems like weeks, prior to today, our screens have been filled with protests from Hong Kong – an administrative region of China, from where, we’re told, citizens are regularly abducted and ‘disappeared’ to the mainland. A mainland where minority communities are incarcerated for ‘re-education’ in concentration camps. Not today, however, because China has been trumped by something far worse: a country whose prime minister is compared to Hitler after having the temerity to tack another 4-5 days onto his fellow MPs’ traditional autumn break. The fallout – hyperbole, is verging on the ridiculous … the Dog & Duck’s Remainiacs have totally lost it.

Paul Mason on BBC Newsnight… The lad’s been watching too much Peaky Blinders.

Tuesday, August 27

Back to work!

Always look on the bright side, they say, apparently it increases your chance of reaching 85. I once thought celebrating my 40th birthday was an achievement. Today we’ve Chiffchaffs for company – also known as Choice and Cheep hereabouts. Neighbours are baling, wrapping and stacking.

Monday, August 26

I got sunshine on a cloudy day

Out on the moor this morning – only three other walkers, glimpsed from a distance. Not that I’m complaining but what a waste. Now back home, resting beneath a sun shade, glass of champers and bag of crisps, listening to Motown Weekend on the wireless – what bank holidays are for.

I love bank holidays as a matter of course, they are sacrosanct. However this weekend, for whatever reason, is turning out to be one of the best. Sat outside on the yard drinking coffee at six this morning; almost total silence, broken by the sound of dead leaves hitting the ground – autumn already on the horizon.

It’s everybody’s favourite, says Beverly Knight. Sorry, Sweetheart, but not among the people who were there. Stevie Wonder was never a favourite, and most definitely not Very Superstition – the soundtrack to one or two seedy London nightclubs we frequented back in the 70s.

Sunday, August 25

Toiling in the fields

Lot of visitors knocking about this weekend. This morning they took off in loaded cars, bikes strapped to roof. A day at the seaside? In nearby fields there’s no break for Sunday – figures are bent double, harvesting fruit and veg. Backbreaking (and thirsty) work in this heat.

At the homestead a succession of barbecued pork ribs, charred rib of beef, chickens broiled to perfection…several types of potato…more so in the variety of salad leaves…olives and fried cashew nuts.

A life on the sidelines

In relative terms, I’ve lived
A charmed life
Dodged many a bullet
And I wonder why I
Was spared
Whose place I took
Why me, so many opportunities
(Too often spurned)

It comforts me to sit
On the bench...the useful spare
Always there, just in case

Some nights I wake in a sweat:
What if he suddenly turns to me
And crooks his finger?
       (WLA)

Saturday, August 24

BBC Final Score

You have to feel for Martin Keown. Fuckin’ arseholes. We don’t ask for much.

Friday, August 23

Blitzkrieg revisited

Seems most of England is heading in our direction for their bank holiday. Managed a haircut (pulse of the nation), milk, bread and papers, before beating a hasty retreat to the homestead. Weather’s playing ball, well into the 20°s; not a breath of wind. A chores free, guilt free weekend. Pork chops (saddleback) a la Rowley Leigh, a decent (Alain Graillot) white. Life doesn’t get much better.

Thursday, August 22

Intergenerational angst

“Contrary to popular millennial misconception that the baby boomer generation is living the high life at their expense, older people are actually paying more in tax while receiving a falling share of public spending. Millennials and people approaching middle age are enjoying more benefits-in-kind from the state than their predecessors despite a decline in the rate of pay rises. Nowadays older people work for longer or pay tax on private pensions; and though younger people benefit less, their net contribution is lower than that of their predecessors. Analysis found that people now aged 20-24 were net beneficiaries when comparing taxes and benefits, receiving £4,124 more than they paid in, while the generation born in the 1950s were net contributors when they were in their 20s and paid in £2,593 more than they took out.” 

We sometimes forget there are other generations…

“There is no shame in nostalgia for a world that was as one likes it. I am not above it. If globalisation goes into reverse in the coming years, as per the hype, I will sob Pathetically for the noughties, my own Eden, when the whole planet appeared to have been created for mobile young men with no responsibilities. It is just odd to live through the rebranding of the 1960s from the wokest of decades to the last truly conservative one.” (Janan Ganesh, Citizen of nowhere, FT) 

At the end of the day you can only play the team in front of you.

It takes all sorts

British army ‘targets’ under-18s from poor backgrounds to fill its ranks, writes The Guardian, highlighting a disparity between northern English cities and London’s migrant communities. The lefty brigade has never been a recruiting sergeant for the army and I recall my local youth club leader doing his best to talk me out of enlisting when I was 16. I admit that for some it’s a career choice of last resort, but that doesn’t invalidate the opportunities provided by the armed services. On concluding my regular service I did a brief spell in the territorials, the not-untypical recruit being an undergraduate from the local Russell Group university.

Against the grain

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund have increased their investment in equities to 69.3 per cent of its assets, contrary to the advice of most of our teenage scribblers financial commentators who have switched wholesale to bonds and cash. Time will prove which is right.

Stirring the pot

The SNP are a bunch of Nazis, says Scottish Secretary Alistair Jack, fuelled by anger, bitterness and resentment. If this doesn’t wind up the relatives nothing will. Fanciful as it seems, I think the Conservatives see this strategy as a way of replacing potential losses in the South West (to the LibDems) with more MPs north of the border.

Wednesday, August 21

Doesn’t necessarily have to be Brexit

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said (Peter Drucker). “The new generation of educated French pols think they can speak English. What they actually speak is Globish, syntactically correct but with no understanding of the assumptions shared by British speakers,” says The Telegraph’s Boris whisperer, hinting at why our Gallic cousins don’t really get us. I could say the same thing about German acquaintances who freely admit to operating on a different wavelength. Have been reading translations from Russia and Chile which, while hugely entertaining, struggle to say what they mean (I struggle to hear what they say). Two days ago a BBC News presenter made an offhand remark demonstrating his total misunderstanding of the subject in question. How can we hope to reach an agreement on anything when we are often talking at cross-purposes?

Early morning

Sun has returned and the paddocks are buttercup yellow. Yard is more on the lavender side, lots of flowering oregano and red rowan berries – rabbits and white-tailed bumblebees. Early morning trail runners…riders exercising their steeds. Above me at 37,000ft an Airbus A320 en route from Manchester to Malaga.

Monday, August 19

The Devil's Spawn

Those most vilified pests who we love to loathe. Whisper their name, at the risk of your dinner guests choking on their vol-au-vents. Cyclists.

In praise of the grape

Today’s Times comment page (Thunderer) takes a stand again the high level of tax that is levelled on vino. “Duty on wine has risen by 39 per cent since 2010, while for spirits and cider the figure is 27 per cent, and for beer 16 per cent. The last chancellor to cut still wine duty was Nigel Lawson, 35 years ago, when we still had pound notes in circulation … It’s ridiculous that British wine drinkers are paying 68 per cent of all the wine duty paid in Europe.” Alas, my friends, taxes have to be raised from someone, and just as the top one-per-cent account for more income taxes paid than the bottom ninety-per-cent, then so too the “polite, pragmatic middle”. Consider it a public duty.

Am currently reading the recently reprinted Waugh on Wine (1986). Thanks in part to our former colonies we forget how far we’ve come these past four decades in terms of the range and quality of wines available to the general public – that doesn’t include £5/bot wine. The younger generation who appear to prefer pills and self-absorption don’t know what they’re missing. Back in 1975 my then employer provided Gudgeon with a generous expense account, encouraging me to venture out and enjoy myself (I might have misinterpreted his instructions). As a committed oenophile for more than forty years I continue to live up to what one assumes were his expectations.

Sunday, August 18

Dreary stuff - the papers

Have just read Saturday’s paper for the second time. I appreciate our newspapers face difficult times (so 20th Century), but you don’t have to be a regular reader to note a decline in standards, the dearth of experienced and knowledgeable writers with a little wit – oddballs and contraries that make a publication worth the money. Yes, I know, most people now expect this sort of shit for free. How about the ‘not most people’ sorts?

Am listening to Glam-ma – as P.P. Arnold styles herself – on the wireless. She first came here in 1966 (aged 18) – with Ike and Tina Turner, touring with the Rolling Stones. Contrary to popular convention Britain at that time was perceived by black Americans as more integrated and cosmopolitan. In the ’60s the Brits were into my Grandad’s music, she says – blues and soul. ...So when exactly did it all go wrong for us?

Saturday, August 17

As night follows day

Police raided council-run travellers' campsite after Pc Andrew Harper was dragged to his death.

A decent lunch is the key to higher productivity

Eurostat’s index of ‘Labour productivity per person employed and hour worked’ — in which the ‘EU 28’ benchmark is 100, the UK’s score in 2018 was 99 and France’s 116. It reminds us that the French skilled worker is a lot more productive than his British counterpart. I have been studying the Frenchman in his native habitat to find the secret of his efficiency, and I think it has to do with the hours he doesn’t work, at midday. The restaurant Auberge de la Nauze at Sagelat, Dordogne, for example, had a fleet of vans in its car park mostly belonging to a local water company, whose operatives were tucking merrily into an excellent no-choice three-course menu — €18 for us, no doubt cheaper for them as regulars subsidised by their employer. But having had to call out the same company the next day, I can report that its service was as swift and effective as you’d wish from any utility. Higher UK productivity in the coming free-trade era will depend, of course, upon radically improved levels of innovation, automation, skills training and capital investment, but let’s also learn the French lesson that better lunches make happier workers. (Martin Vander Weyer, The Spectator)

Friday, August 16

Dark plots and conspiratorial thinking

Britain’s liberal elite (and a vocal minority of my neighbours) are paranoid nutjobs, says New Statesman’s John Gray.

A different liberal view has become influential in the last few years. The election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote and the advance of populism have shaken the faith in reason, and liberals have invoked concealed forces to explain an ongoing shift in politics that does not square with their view of history. A conspiratorial mindset is now common among bien-pensants who only two or three summers ago would have regarded the idea that politics is shaped by covert actors as a sick fantasy. In this new liberal world-view, progress has not just stalled. It is being wilfully undermined and reversed by clandestine means. ...If there is a remedy for our predicament, liberals cannot supply it. Detecting the fingerprints of conspirators in the disarray of their societies, they are possessed by the pathology they rage against. Unwilling to admit why progress has foundered, liberals have embraced the worst kind of magical thinking. The dark forces they see conspiring around them are shadows of a resistance to reality that exists in themselves.

Thursday, August 15

Multi-tasking, my arse

“I once went on a camping trip with two other families. At one point we womenfolk went off on a jaunt and stopped by a garden centre. I had to hide my friend’s plants in my car because she knew her partner would hit the roof (not easy in a field) if she tried to sneak them into the footwell. Not because there was no room, but because – well who knew?”

Doesn’t it piss you off: the motor has a boot the size of a Parcelforce delivery van, there’s three empty seats in the back – yet every time we return from the shops she insists on climbing into the front passenger seat and cramming two shopping bags, a butchered steer and crate of vino into the footwell.

Political whore

My local MP. An example of why our political class (and the NHS) is a basket case.

Wednesday, August 14

Indolent apathy

I’ve discovered Oblomovism and it appears to agree with me.

Tuesday, August 13

Chortle

As public sentiment in favour of proroguing parliament to secure Brexit grows, the Dog & Duck’s Remainers become ever more shrill – it’s driving them crazy. John Bolton’s enthusiastic endorsement is fuel to the fire. Happy days.

The procession of telecoms vans, tree surgeons, roofers and scaffolders appears never ending – it’s the same after every storm. Thankfully the homestead dodged this one. Am taking advantage of the brief dry spell to get out across the moor, following my week-long birthday extravaganza I need some fresh air and exercise.

A denizen of the Dog & Duck has just returned from a long weekend in Edinburgh – his first venture over the border. He’s an enthusiastic convert to the city; Amsterdam and Dublin are no more. Admitted to some difficulty with the accent, however, and had to resort to lip reading. I warned him not to venture further north.

Monday, August 12

Chewing on life’s gristle…

Families are becoming better off as ultra-low unemployment and rising wages boost their finances, yet while happiness, satisfaction and the feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile are on the rise, people are growing more pessimistic about the economy.   
…In reflective moments I find myself wishing I hadn’t wasted so much of my life worrying about things that never happened. Of course my brooding could well be the reason I avoided various pitfalls.

Hoist with his own petard

My restaurants failed because I was selling overpriced muck to a bunch of peasants, says Jamie Oliver. Or words to that effect. When exactly did our young, urban middle class (his target demographic?) become the proletariat?

...Mondays were invented for leftovers: today it’s cold duck and steamed beetroot.

Sunday, August 11

Everyone needs a goal

A whole roast duck is a thing of beauty. The perfect Sunday lunch reviver, post birthday celebrations – and while a California pinot noir would normally be too fruity for my taste, after the caramel sweetness of yesterday’s port it ventures on the austere.

“My house in Somerset has nine cellars, stretching underneath the greater part of the house. In former times they provided sleeping and living accommodation for the lower servants as well as one wine cellar and a village lock-up, which is picturesquely called the dungeon and must prove too damp for storing wine. It has mysterious hooks hanging from the ceiling which, we tell ourselves, were probably used for curing hams. That will be the last cellar to be fitted with racks but my life’s ambition is to fill all nine by the time my youngest child leaves university and starts earning his own living. Then I will settle down to an early retirement at about fifty-one and drink my way though all nine cellars in the years that remain to me.” 
(Auberon Waugh on wine.) 

Worth remembering the lad died aged 61. Waugh believed that while the dangers of smoking and drinking were exaggerated, the dangers of hamburger eating were seriously under-reported; he frequently referred to ‘hamburger gases’ as a serious form of atmospheric pollution and even made references to the dangers of passive hamburger eating.

Saturday, August 10

Mine's a large one

Hit overnight by the weather; today is even more blowy – you don’t want to be out there under canvas. Across the moor to Tavistock farmers market for supplies: a half pig, the best hog’s puddings in the south west, guinea fowls and ducks. Back home for Football Focus and a glass of bubbly. Birthday Boy gets the rest of the day off (stacked three truckloads of logs last night). I might have a few miles on the clock but am still game.

Friday, August 9

Friday Fish

Razor Clams and Turbot, mit Cassis Blanc, the ultimate seafood partner from the slopes of France's highest sea cliff, Cap Canaille.

Thursday, August 8

Rather here than the airport experience

Across the border into bandit country this morning. Cornwall’s roads are as busy as ours, a lengthy procession of holiday makers. Of course the downside to staycations is inclement weather, this week being a prime example: rain, rain, and more rain. But then life is full of disappointment, it builds character. Sheltering in the porch with a chilled glass of Bandol rosé and a pint of prawns is good enough – am perfectly capable of imagining a sun-drenched deck offshore Nice.

Tuesday, August 6

It's a point of view

Donald Trump is the best prime minister Britain never had. All over the world, Trump is doing for Britain almost overnight what Britain’s leaders have failed to do for decades. He’s finally clearing up the shameful mess that Britain left when it welched on its imperial responsibilities, and he’s doing it for free. Instead of snobbishly deriding him, the British should thank the orange man for freeing them from their destructive relationships with the Orangemen in Northern Ireland, and the police-state Islamists of Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority. The obvious way to thank Trump won’t cost Britain much either. The City of London is already full of crass monuments to greed. One more won’t hurt. Let him build a nice golden Trump Tower in central London, and a Trump Hotel too. If Brexit works out, the government should consider putting a statue of Trump onto the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, so that the heroes of empire will be joined by the man who cleared up after them. It’s the least Britain can do to thank the best prime minister the British have never had.

Playing catch-up

Fresh air and manual labour is wonderful thing. After I finished yesterday I sank a couple of beers and then slept for ten hours.

Sunday, August 4

There’s a song in there somewhere

After yesterday’s sunshine, this morning I set off across the moor in tres misty conditions, steady drizzle. An early start before the runners arrive on their wild ultra-marathon. At 32 miles and a 4,000ft climb it’s something I can barely dream about.

A cloud of swallows circle the yard, 20-30 occupy the telephone line – I can hear them through the whine.

Thursday, August 1

An idler’s life

The ponies have moved on and the paddocks are now topped. Yesterday I cleaned out the shed and begun stacking logs for winter, and this morning I cut the grass. Much more and I'll be breaking into a sweat. ...Seems to be more insects around this year, lots of bees, butterflies and lizards. Rabbits are lying about the yard sunning themselves; a fox and badger have been wandering about the place recently, a young deer too. Can’t say I’ve seen much in the way of bats? Goodwood on the box, a brief snooze in the sun, before firing up the barbecue.

Sunday, July 28

Use it or lose it - in praise of walking

The sea squirt starts life boring, and gets more so, but along the way it does one thing that is very interesting indeed. In its larval stage this creature swims around the rock pool, its tail propelling it much like a tadpole’s. Its talents at this time are not impressive, being limited largely to staying upright and hiding from predators. At least it moves, though. When adulthood approaches that changes. It sticks itself to a rock, where it will stay fixed for the rest of its life. And the first thing it does upon finding a suitable site, the one interesting act in its life? It consumes its brain. There is, the neuroscientist Shane O’Mara argues, a message here. Movement is far more than just a means of locomotion. It is intimately connected to our bodies, our brains, and ultimately how we exist as a species. Without it, we atrophy. 

...Needless to say, I am out walking on the moor this morning.

Saturday, July 27

Summertime...let's hear it for George Gershwin

Garden benches should be available on the NHS. I don’t believe there’s a better way to pass an afternoon – not least after lunching on Cornish scallops and black pudding...a bottle of Pernand-Vergelesses finest. 

Thursday, July 25

Let's hear it for the oiks

Last night’s ‘F**k Boris’ demo in London really was an extraordinary spectacle. So intense was the Brexitphobia of the assembled pink and blue-haired haters, that when a man turned up wearing a pro-Brexit placard, he was rounded on viciously. A bunch of protesters surrounded him and screamed ‘Nazi’ and ‘scum’. One woman said, ‘YOU C**T’. The demo was painfully middle class. The protest didn’t only stink of weed — it stunk of entitlement, too. It felt like a march to defend not only the political status quo but also the privileges that it affords to certain sections of society. It was made up of predominantly white, youthful, urban professionals, the sort of people who haven’t clapped eyes on a working-class person since the time that bloke from Canvey Island came to fix the boiler in the east London flat their parents help them rent. ‘Sexist’, ‘Racist’, ‘Fascist’, ‘You filthy, goddamn, pock-marked fascist asshole’ — these were the slogans on the protesters’ placards. Such juvenile, historically illiterate sloganeering tells us nothing whatsoever about Boris, who clearly is not a fascist or a racist. But it tells us a great deal about London’s modish middle classes and the blind fury they feel that their lovely lives are being rattled by Brexity oiks.

IF YOU DON'T HAVE AN OIL WELL...GET ONE!

I was cruising round in the motor this morning, flipping between stations, when Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talking came on the radio. Must be 50 years ago Nilsson’s version was a hit, after featuring in the film Midnight Cowboy. Recall watching the movie at a cinema at the time of its release – wasn’t hard to pick up on any number of themes most teenage lads could identify with back then, not least getting the hell out of Dodge and moving to somewhere where the sun keeps shining. A great film, when they made great films. Pure nostalgia.

Wednesday, July 24

Are we so bereft of talent?

The room was full of happy-eyed, hessian-bagged Lib Dems shouting “Jo, Jo, Jo, Jo”. Feminists every one of ’em. Noise was so high, only younger gundogs will have heard it. It was a massed squeaking — like mice celebrating the start of their summer holiday. “I stand before you as a candidate for prime minister,” Ms Swinson hollered. “I am ready to take my party into a general election and win it!” …And you thought Tim Farron was a plonker.

It would be churlish, watching PMQs, not to wish Theresa May our best. But then I’m churlish: the woman has been an embarrassment. It’s what happens when we try to play safe. Let’s hope the fat boy is of a different order, albeit I’m not holding my breath. Regretfully the alternatives are far worse. I can’t help looking at the current front bench and wondering who if any will be remembered by the general public a year from now.

Tuesday, July 23

Soaking up the sunshine


In an effort to mitigate today’s weather – the heatwave, we’ve decamped to the
Cornish coast for pasties and ice cream. An unbelievable 33°C.

A stain on West Bromwich East

Like or loath him, Corbyn is everything he says he is – wears his prejudices on his sleeve. Apart from wanting to steal all I’ve worked for and give it to the first deadbeat that crosses his path, I haven’t a problem with the lad. If his brand of dystopian Britain is the sort of fantasy you buy into then more power to your elbow. However, there’s a special place in hell for that oily little fucker Tom Watson.

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 you 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 enthusiasts 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.