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.

Sunday, May 5

What a glorious morning!

Bank holidays were invented for such days. Out on the moor early, enjoying the peace and quiet. By peace and quiet I mean someone who has nesting wood pigeons, a cuckoo and a belligerent cock pheasant holding court outside his bedroom window. Roast rib of veal and a 2012 Morey St. Denis 1er Cru for lunch.

Friday, May 3

Anything but


Out walking on the moor. A spell of fine weather that looks to extend through the bank holiday. Morning’s roads were bumper to bumper holiday traffic, people escaping our ongoing Brexit/election yawn. I have no idea what motivates people to vote as they do. What’s behind the Conservative rise in boroughs such as Walsall? Here in South Hams, Labour lost their sole councillor (Con 16, Lib 10, Ind 5 & Green 3). In Theresa May’s government we have one of the biggest fuck-ups in history; yet Corbyn remains beyond the pale.

Thursday, May 2

Sign of the times

It is lunchtime and only 2% of the local electorate have cast their vote.

Not one of us

Rain stopped play. Which is just as well given my heart wasn’t in it – mowing the grass, that is. Ran up to Exeter instead: the new motor was recalled by manufacturer for instrument (re)calibration. In times past this usually meant tweaking the carburettors or mucking about with a feeler gauge; nowadays it relates to software updates. …Home for a steak and eggs supper.

Just when you think it can’t get worse… Theresa May throws her Defence Secretary under the bus. Not Guilty! cries young Gavin. Never liked him, chime the chorus. Media commentators are quick to describe Williamson as gauche and naïve, a onetime salesman of coal tongs and pokers. While social mobility appears alive and well, upstarts such as Williamson aren’t necessarily welcomed with open arms.