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.