Sunday, March 31

Unicorn thinking

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

Saturday, March 30

After the Lord Mayor’s Show…

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

Friday, March 29

There’s a special place in hell

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

Wednesday, March 27

The good times are comin'

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

Tuesday, March 26

Another day at the coalface

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

Casting aspersions

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

Another familiar brand bites the dust

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

Sunday, March 24

One thing I think we can all agree on

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

Saturday, March 23

The elements continue to misbehave

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

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

Friday, March 22

The least bad option won’t work

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

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

Thursday, March 21

Stereotype or what?

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

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

Wednesday, March 20

Bah humbug!

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

Tuesday, March 19

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t

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

Saturday, March 16

Best laid plans

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

Friday, March 15

In one hand and out the other

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

We believe what we want to believe

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

Thursday, March 14

Local girl wins at Cheltenham

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

So I guess it’s no Brexit

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

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

Wednesday, March 13

Deserting the sinking ship

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

And they say life is boring

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

Tuesday, March 12

Looking on the bright side

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

Back to the future

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

Monday, March 11

Lots to look forward to

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

Sunday, March 10

Narrows the list of suspects

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

Am too soft these days

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

Saturday, March 9

Memorable suppers

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

Friday, March 8

Nil income tax. We can but dream.

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

How we poor deluded fools originally envisaged Brexit Britain.

Thursday, March 7

My gang, right or wrong

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

Social faux pas?

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

Frustrations of everyday life

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

Wednesday, March 6

Well done Phil Neville

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

Girding my loins

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

Cash system on verge of collapse

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

The way it worked for a good many of us

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

I’ll drink to that!

Tuesday, March 5

Really needed a decent kip

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

Monday, March 4

Pony Express

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

Sunday, March 3

The other side of the coin

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

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

Fingers crossed

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

Saturday, March 2

Challenging day on the moor

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

Whine, whine, whine…

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

Friday, March 1

My ‘To Do List’ grows by the day

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