Sunday, July 28

Use it or lose it - in praise of walking

The sea squirt starts life boring, and gets more so, but along the way it does one thing that is very interesting indeed. In its larval stage this creature swims around the rock pool, its tail propelling it much like a tadpole’s. Its talents at this time are not impressive, being limited largely to staying upright and hiding from predators. At least it moves, though. When adulthood approaches that changes. It sticks itself to a rock, where it will stay fixed for the rest of its life. And the first thing it does upon finding a suitable site, the one interesting act in its life? It consumes its brain. There is, the neuroscientist Shane O’Mara argues, a message here. Movement is far more than just a means of locomotion. It is intimately connected to our bodies, our brains, and ultimately how we exist as a species. Without it, we atrophy. 

...Needless to say, I am out walking on the moor this morning.

Saturday, July 27

Summertime...let's hear it for George Gershwin

Garden benches should be available on the NHS. I don’t believe there’s a better way to pass an afternoon – not least after lunching on Cornish scallops and black pudding...a bottle of Pernand-Vergelesses finest. 

Thursday, July 25

Let's hear it for the oiks

Last night’s ‘F**k Boris’ demo in London really was an extraordinary spectacle. So intense was the Brexitphobia of the assembled pink and blue-haired haters, that when a man turned up wearing a pro-Brexit placard, he was rounded on viciously. A bunch of protesters surrounded him and screamed ‘Nazi’ and ‘scum’. One woman said, ‘YOU C**T’. The demo was painfully middle class. The protest didn’t only stink of weed — it stunk of entitlement, too. It felt like a march to defend not only the political status quo but also the privileges that it affords to certain sections of society. It was made up of predominantly white, youthful, urban professionals, the sort of people who haven’t clapped eyes on a working-class person since the time that bloke from Canvey Island came to fix the boiler in the east London flat their parents help them rent. ‘Sexist’, ‘Racist’, ‘Fascist’, ‘You filthy, goddamn, pock-marked fascist asshole’ — these were the slogans on the protesters’ placards. Such juvenile, historically illiterate sloganeering tells us nothing whatsoever about Boris, who clearly is not a fascist or a racist. But it tells us a great deal about London’s modish middle classes and the blind fury they feel that their lovely lives are being rattled by Brexity oiks.


I was cruising round in the motor this morning, flipping between stations, when Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talking came on the radio. Must be 50 years ago Nilsson’s version was a hit, after featuring in the film Midnight Cowboy. Recall watching the movie at a cinema at the time of its release – wasn’t hard to pick up on any number of themes most teenage lads could identify with back then, not least getting the hell out of Dodge and moving to somewhere where the sun keeps shining. A great film, when they made great films. Pure nostalgia.

Wednesday, July 24

Are we so bereft of talent?

The room was full of happy-eyed, hessian-bagged Lib Dems shouting “Jo, Jo, Jo, Jo”. Feminists every one of ’em. Noise was so high, only younger gundogs will have heard it. It was a massed squeaking — like mice celebrating the start of their summer holiday. “I stand before you as a candidate for prime minister,” Ms Swinson hollered. “I am ready to take my party into a general election and win it!” …And you thought Tim Farron was a plonker.

It would be churlish, watching PMQs, not to wish Theresa May our best. But then I’m churlish: the woman has been an embarrassment. It’s what happens when we try to play safe. Let’s hope the fat boy is of a different order, albeit I’m not holding my breath. Regretfully the alternatives are far worse. I can’t help looking at the current front bench and wondering who if any will be remembered by the general public a year from now.

Tuesday, July 23

Soaking up the sunshine

In an effort to mitigate today’s weather – the heatwave, we’ve decamped to the
Cornish coast for pasties and ice cream. An unbelievable 33°C.

A stain on West Bromwich East

Like or loath him, Corbyn is everything he says he is – wears his prejudices on his sleeve. Apart from wanting to steal all I’ve worked for and give it to the first deadbeat that crosses his path, I haven’t a problem with the lad. If his brand of dystopian Britain is the sort of fantasy you buy into then more power to your elbow. However, there’s a special place in hell for that oily little fucker Tom Watson.

Sunday, July 21

Cutting back on teachers’ perks

The end of summer term is traditionally a time for children to escape the classroom on a school trip. “Cutting back on school trips or abandoning them altogether is yet another example of the detrimental impact the crisis in school funding is having on the lives of children and young people who are being denied access to enriching experiences they might not otherwise get,” said Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union. Some teachers make extraordinary efforts. Jon Clarke, the shadow headteacher at Walsall Academy, took a group of children to Everest base camp and is heading to Ladakh with 14 more later this year. …And here was me thinking my generation was well served by a week under canvas at Beaudesert scout camp in Rugeley as a means of widening horizons and building character. The Himalayas? What would Greta Thunberg have to say about this sort of thing: flying around the world, despoiling native lands.

Local produce has its limitations

I’m all for it, local produce that is. Returned home from this morning’s trek on the moor to a plate of fresh crab originating in south west waters. Friday I consumed a kilo of mussels from the river Exe, yesterday a giant sized fillet of hake landed at Brixham. Today’s lunch is loin of saddleback from our man in Beaworthy, accompanied by veg from our neighbour’s allotment. Unfortunately there’s little you can do about the wine.

Less work and more play

In pursuit of Utopia, Sonia Sodha says “a shorter working week for those who need it most implies a labour market where the low-paid have more rights and bargaining power. The rest of us, rightly, should expect to pay more as taxpayers and consumers for the services and goods they produce for us.” The low-paid she references as employees in Amazon warehouses and call centres (today’s dockers and miners), the ones, as it happens, most at risk of losing – being priced out of – their jobs by automation and artificial intelligence. Perhaps the answer has less to do with everyone paying more tax and higher prices for the goods and services we consume, than retraining the low-paid to be well-paid AI and machinery technicians? At the end of the day, two in five British workers will always be resentful and unhappy in their work – as they are in their marriages and their lives in general. Being grumpy and blaming others for everything that happens to you remains a legitimate and popular lifestyle choice. Doubtful the Guardian would survive without it.

Saturday, July 20

Driving test pass rate at decade low

Passed my driving test first time, getting on for 50 years ago. Can still recall the examiner’s words: “Not at all impressed with your ability behind the wheel, but having failed the previous six candidates, and as we are desperately short of qualified drivers…”

Old diesels

No, not Zoe Williams. The enthusiasts were out in numbers this morning, cameras at the ready. For many people these units are as iconic as Apollo 11.

We keep digging ever deeper holes

Yesterday’s fruitcakes and loonies – the basket of deplorables, what Gordon Brown once described as "that bigoted woman", have, according to Paul Mason, morphed into today’s fascist white supremacists, “a plebeian movement that demonstrates calculated ignorance against vaccines, against professional expertise and against culture, who believe that getting a college degree is useless.” You would think The New Statesman was above this sort of guff. But then everyone has now gone too far for compromise, have tied our respective colours to the mast.

Friday, July 19

Grumpy old men (and women)

This Week’s last hurrah was another reminder that my sort has had its day. While not dead yet, and Brexit notwithstanding, I guess the new world order will continue to do their best to ignore us. And maybe they should – leave us to our corner banquette in the Dog & Duck.

Thursday, July 18

Immigration, citizenship and those “go home” tweets

You say tomato i say tomahto. My neighbour at the barn, our previous home, told me that although he'd moved to the village 45 years ago he was still referred to as the blow in (his family originated in the adjacent county). Many in the village can trace their people (in the local cemetery) back to the 17th Century. 

Wednesday, July 17

Theresa May is worried

"Frankly, my dear, none of us give a damn."

Might as well be on a different planet

Viewed from the sticks, listening as I am to Shelagh Fogarty’s show on LBC – the debate inevitably focusing on Donald Trump’s “Go back to where you came from.” – we yokels too often forget London remains a different country. I doubt David Lamy’s constituents appreciate that when someone from this part of the world meets more than two black or brown faces in an average month it’s subject to debate at the Dog & Duck.

Tuesday, July 16

The moon landing and 1969 revisited

“Half a century on, I wonder whether the culture wars that led eventually to Leave and Remain weren’t born in 1969 as people decided — almost without noticing — who they were.”

Continuing story of smug North London tosspot versus small town yokel. Although contemporaries, Gudgeon was already old before his time having grown up chuckling to Hancock and Haynes rather than Monty Python. That much cited cultural signifier was lost to me as there was limited access to television in those days, although I did get to watch the moon landing. One thing I do have in common with Aaronovitch is that we both wore combat jackets and spent part of that year in the Rhineland.  That he acquired his jacket from Sid’s Surplus Store and I from the QMS was the more likely cultural determinant than either Sid James or Eric Idle.

Monday, July 15

Crazy tree-huggers the lot of ’em

“I’m involved because I have children and I want them not to starve and die in social collapse. If you look at what scientists are saying, that’s what’s coming.” 

Taking hyperbole to a new level...thankfully I’m not in the city anymore. Principal disturbance hereabouts has been the dash to complete cutting and baling ops – and given today’s near total silence, I assume they’ve finished. The only sound this afternoon is that of beating butterfly wings and an occasional bloop as a bubble breaks surface in the septic tank.

All you have to do is laugh and smile and dance and sing

We’re all going to hell in a handcart, says The Times Alex Massie. Same old doom and gloom they wheel out every Monday morning. I doubt the country’s any more divided than we appeared to be in the ’70s and ’80s, or that our economy is in any worse shape. We always muddle through somehow. “This time next year…” as Del would say.

Sunday, July 14

Bring on the tartan blankets and a half of shandy

According to a recent UK-wide poll, unless you live in Scotland, those about to slip anchor into their sixth decade are living a life of hedonistic abandon reminiscent of the last days of the Roman empire.

Saturday, July 13

Mine’s a large one

According to The Express, the Queen is believed to favour cocktails and drinks four of them a day. That’s up to six units or so, which is impressive stuff for a woman of 93. Almost as impressive as Fred Owen whose obituary appeared in The Times this week. Fred was a veteran of the newspaper industry when four-hour lunches were the norm. During his latter years he was keen on holidays in Cornwall, where he indulged in long pub lunches. Fred died on May 1, 2019, aged 94. Another life tragically cut short by excessive drinking.

Commenting on Wimbledon

 Sad to see old Crouch go – retiring from competitive football at the age of 38. Conversely, Roger Federer – soon to celebrate his 38th birthday – is knocking them dead on the tennis courts. I wonder to what extent this reflects the lack of emerging talent in tennis, as opposed to the large number of outstanding young footballers feeding into the system?

 Sportsmanship in tennis is a thing of the past (says Taki), and Wimbledon crowds now act like football fans. Coco is only 15, African-American and plays like a dream, but her opponent did not deserve to have her double faults greeted with loud cheers. If anyone was the underdog, it was the white, blonde Slovenian loser. There were about ten people in Coco’s Wimbledon box: coaches, her parents, emotional enhancers, masseurs, hitting partners, strategists, you name it. Polona Hercog’s box was empty but for one man, who looked on expressionless. I imagine that Coco has more sponsors knocking on her doors than I’ve had hangovers while the Slovenian has had maybe one, if any. But it was she who was the baddie in that drama.

Friday, July 12

Good riddance

I don’t like to kick people when they’re down but, viewing this evening’s Laura Kuenssberg interview, you can’t deny Theresa May is anything but the ultimate arsehole. Sad, too, to see Andrew Neil bow out in the manner he did. It was a poor effort.

Artificial grade inflation

“Firsts or 2:1s were achieved by 70 per cent of those who got three Ds or less at A level. A first used to take genius and three years camping in the library. Now any fairly bright student who works hard stands a pretty good chance.”    …I would imagine it’s why prospective employers focus on the university an applicant attended rather than the grade they achieved. Would also presume it is the reason there are pay differentials in seemingly like for like occupations.

Thursday, July 11

Living it large

Beautiful day, circa 26°C. Jumped into the motor and ran down to Dartmouth for lunch. Comfortable restaurant on the quay, serving great food:
  • Scallops roasted in the shell with white port & Garlic 
  • Dartmouth Crab Salad with radish, pea shoots & bottarga 
  • Whole Sand Sole fried crisp with aioli 
  • John Dory cooked on the bone with salsa verde 
  • Fior di latte panna cotta with Apricots & Armagnac 
 A splendid Tuscan wine and the best expresso in Dartmouth. Music provided by Stan Getz and João Gilberto.

A little knock-back won’t do them any harm

I wish commentators wouldn’t escalate general disagreements with such emotive words as ‘War’. But then there’s so much on offer, and attention spans so limited, a little flag waving to encourage people to visit your site has become compulsory. Frank Furedi is always worth a read, and today’s Spiked article on Global Culture is both typical and relevant, given Western culture warriors seem to be losing confidence in their cause. They still have the upper hand of course, but as Robert Booth confirms in today’s Guardian, these days we’re less likely to be cheering from the rafters. A little knock-back should remind the pious pricks among us that there are two sides to an argument.

Wednesday, July 10

Always places to go and things to do

Life marches on relentlessly, day after day…year after year. Seasons appear and disappear with increasing frequency. While enjoying this wonderful spell of weather, five minutes from now, leaves will be falling – and I’ll be at the top of a ladder clearing gutters. This week we’re up to our knees in blackbirds, assailed on all sides by newly fledged wrens – voles and shrews scurry hither and thither. While the frogs and toads and song thrush do their best, snails continue to undermine Mrs G’s efforts in the garden and allotment. Am waiting on an overly plump mare to drop her foal, before the herd moves to fresh pasture. Neighbours work all hours, seemingly incapable of sitting still for five minutes – always places to go and things to do. What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare..

Sunday, July 7

Word to the wise

But it was not enough to convince Greek voters tired of living under the burden of high taxes and social security payments. Probably why Boris is promising to cut taxes while simultaneously spending money like a drunken sailor.

Why bother living?

I recently read that it is very possible that in the near future some of us will choose to tap into a high-tech, very sci-fi style of nourishing ourselves, like food pellets and food bars that are highly-specialized, personalized all-in-one meals that meet our specific nutritional needs. But please, god, not just yet – at least not in my lifetime. How do you replace the satisfaction that accompanied today’s grilled veal chops and those meringues…the vino and that coffee? We’re overrun by progressive puritans, a soulless generation.

Saturday, July 6

Still in recovery mode

The local metropolis has surpassed last weekend’s Scooter Festival with this morning’s convoy of vintage military vehicles (South Devon 1940s Festival). Star of the show, a T-34. Hot food served by the Catering Corps in the NAAFI, a hog roast and barbecue. Live music. Next door there’s a Summer Food & Craft Fair, with the obligatory coach parties and queues of motors. Needless to say Gudgeon beat a hasty retreat to the homestead – am now ensconced beneath a parasol with newspapers and a jug of Pimm’s.

When council estates were a dream

The old boy had borrowed a hand cart from the coal merchant to ferry the Gudgeon household to our new council home. Back in the 1950s they were a dream for my parents (indoor plumbing, kitchen with larder, garden front and back), and in comparison to the lives of today's urban children, the ready availability of abandoned lime pits, mines and quarries, canals and coppices afforded a marvellous adventure playground and a relatively safe environment in which to play. In due course, however, the council estate also became the very incentive my generation needed to get on in life – i.e. to do whatever it took to get out of there.

Friday, July 5

Sleeping it off

The downside to reunions relates to the quantity of alcohol consumed – and this past week’s was a doozy. Big-city liberals one and all; albeit great company, hugely enjoyable, not least the crate of Verve Clicquot. Have retreated to my bed for a couple of days.