Wednesday, February 27

Taking advantage

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

Say it isn't so

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

Tuesday, February 26

Spring still some time away

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

Sunday, February 24

Another of those glorious days

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

Saturday, February 23

It’s a thought

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

I’m more of a Saint and Greavsie man

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

Friday, February 22

Same old story

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

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

Evil bastard

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

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

Wednesday, February 20

Listening to tonight's footy on the wireless

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

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

On Tory defections - rare solidarity with Labour

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

Tuesday, February 19

Destruction and regeneration


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

Sunday, February 17

Dime Novels…a guilty pleasure.

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

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

Conundrums above my pay grade

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

Friday, February 15

On Days Like These…

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

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

Thursday, February 14

Another Western Christian feast day

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

Wednesday, February 13

A demanding day at the coal face

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

Life repeating itself

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

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

Monday, February 11

Losing the plot – side effect of eating too much cheese

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

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

It’s the trade-off you make

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

We don't do social envy

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

Saturday, February 9

Unwilling to settle for the mundane

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

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

Friday, February 8

Storm Erik

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

Thursday, February 7

Boomers' soundtrack beats all

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

That 'Men are from Mars' thing

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

Wednesday, February 6

Food

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

Then again 'we' are stuck with Theresa May

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

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

Tuesday, February 5

Pissing down, morning till night

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

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

Saturday, February 2

So sweet

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

Damned by faint praise

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