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.