Saturday, August 31

Never alone

Usual familiar faces: moths, big time, drawn to the light; brown long-eared bats released from the loft; the hooting calls of our resident tawny owls.

A return to the Thatcher days

Today’s histrionics are, thus far anyway, a rather effete impersonation of the often violent resistance to Thatcherite reforms … The same sort of social circles (in some cases, the exact same individuals) who sneered at the greengrocer’s daughter and likened her supporters to typhus, now loathe the oiks who did not understand what they voted for. Ironically, they repeat the familiar language of bigoted reactionaries: Leave supporters are backward, ignorant, naïve and easily misled. So their judgements, for their own good, must not count. When I was growing up in America, this is exactly what white people who did not think they were racists, used to say about black people.

Friday, August 30

Living on top of each other

We remain knee-deep in visitors and roads are tres busy; you can forget a parking space in town post-10:00 am. Retreated with coffee to a bench alongside the Dart, only to be told by a rough sleeper that I was occupying his seat. Moved on to Birdwood House – artist in residence a familiar face whose graphic illustrations of industrial Britain takes you back in time. Likewise this week’s feature on local BBC News: a rerun of old film featuring life in the area a generation or more ago. The programme concluded with the observation that, unlike the good old days, people now climb into their car and socialise elsewhere. Some would regard this as a safety valve; much like my idea of being trapped in a nightmare.

Wednesday, August 28

Best line so far

Remainers have had a painful reminder of what happens when they forget Mike Tyson's cardinal rule: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

For what seems like weeks, prior to today, our screens have been filled with protests from Hong Kong – an administrative region of China, from where, we’re told, citizens are regularly abducted and ‘disappeared’ to the mainland. A mainland where minority communities are incarcerated for ‘re-education’ in concentration camps. Not today, however, because China has been trumped by something far worse: a country whose prime minister is compared to Hitler after having the temerity to tack another 4-5 days onto his fellow MPs’ traditional autumn break. The fallout – hyperbole, is verging on the ridiculous … the Dog & Duck’s Remainiacs have totally lost it.

Paul Mason on BBC Newsnight… The lad’s been watching too much Peaky Blinders.

Tuesday, August 27

Back to work!

Always look on the bright side, they say, apparently it increases your chance of reaching 85. I once thought celebrating my 40th birthday was an achievement. Today we’ve Chiffchaffs for company – also known as Choice and Cheep hereabouts. Neighbours are baling, wrapping and stacking.

Monday, August 26

I got sunshine on a cloudy day

Out on the moor this morning – only three other walkers, glimpsed from a distance. Not that I’m complaining but what a waste. Now back home, resting beneath a sun shade, glass of champers and bag of crisps, listening to Motown Weekend on the wireless – what bank holidays are for.

I love bank holidays as a matter of course, they are sacrosanct. However this weekend, for whatever reason, is turning out to be one of the best. Sat outside on the yard drinking coffee at six this morning; almost total silence, broken by the sound of dead leaves hitting the ground – autumn already on the horizon.

It’s everybody’s favourite, says Beverly Knight. Sorry, Sweetheart, but not among the people who were there. Stevie Wonder was never a favourite, and most definitely not Very Superstition – the soundtrack to one or two seedy London nightclubs we frequented back in the 70s.

Sunday, August 25

Toiling in the fields

Lot of visitors knocking about this weekend. This morning they took off in loaded cars, bikes strapped to roof. A day at the seaside? In nearby fields there’s no break for Sunday – figures are bent double, harvesting fruit and veg. Backbreaking (and thirsty) work in this heat.

At the homestead a succession of barbecued pork ribs, charred rib of beef, chickens broiled to perfection…several types of potato…more so in the variety of salad leaves…olives and fried cashew nuts.

A life on the sidelines

In relative terms, I’ve lived
A charmed life
Dodged many a bullet
And I wonder why I
Was spared
Whose place I took
Why me, so many opportunities
(Too often spurned)

It comforts me to sit
On the bench...the useful spare
Always there, just in case

Some nights I wake in a sweat:
What if he suddenly turns to me
And crooks his finger?

Saturday, August 24

BBC Final Score

You have to feel for Martin Keown. Fuckin’ arseholes. We don’t ask for much.

Friday, August 23

Blitzkrieg revisited

Seems most of England is heading in our direction for their bank holiday. Managed a haircut (pulse of the nation), milk, bread and papers, before beating a hasty retreat to the homestead. Weather’s playing ball, well into the 20°s; not a breath of wind. A chores free, guilt free weekend. Pork chops (saddleback) a la Rowley Leigh, a decent (Alain Graillot) white. Life doesn’t get much better.

Thursday, August 22

Intergenerational angst

“Contrary to popular millennial misconception that the baby boomer generation is living the high life at their expense, older people are actually paying more in tax while receiving a falling share of public spending. Millennials and people approaching middle age are enjoying more benefits-in-kind from the state than their predecessors despite a decline in the rate of pay rises. Nowadays older people work for longer or pay tax on private pensions; and though younger people benefit less, their net contribution is lower than that of their predecessors. Analysis found that people now aged 20-24 were net beneficiaries when comparing taxes and benefits, receiving £4,124 more than they paid in, while the generation born in the 1950s were net contributors when they were in their 20s and paid in £2,593 more than they took out.” 

We sometimes forget there are other generations…

“There is no shame in nostalgia for a world that was as one likes it. I am not above it. If globalisation goes into reverse in the coming years, as per the hype, I will sob Pathetically for the noughties, my own Eden, when the whole planet appeared to have been created for mobile young men with no responsibilities. It is just odd to live through the rebranding of the 1960s from the wokest of decades to the last truly conservative one.” (Janan Ganesh, Citizen of nowhere, FT) 

At the end of the day you can only play the team in front of you.

It takes all sorts

British army ‘targets’ under-18s from poor backgrounds to fill its ranks, writes The Guardian, highlighting a disparity between northern English cities and London’s migrant communities. The lefty brigade has never been a recruiting sergeant for the army and I recall my local youth club leader doing his best to talk me out of enlisting when I was 16. I admit that for some it’s a career choice of last resort, but that doesn’t invalidate the opportunities provided by the armed services. On concluding my regular service I did a brief spell in the territorials, the not-untypical recruit being an undergraduate from the local Russell Group university.

Against the grain

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund have increased their investment in equities to 69.3 per cent of its assets, contrary to the advice of most of our teenage scribblers financial commentators who have switched wholesale to bonds and cash. Time will prove which is right.

Stirring the pot

The SNP are a bunch of Nazis, says Scottish Secretary Alistair Jack, fuelled by anger, bitterness and resentment. If this doesn’t wind up the relatives nothing will. Fanciful as it seems, I think the Conservatives see this strategy as a way of replacing potential losses in the South West (to the LibDems) with more MPs north of the border.

Wednesday, August 21

Doesn’t necessarily have to be Brexit

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said (Peter Drucker). “The new generation of educated French pols think they can speak English. What they actually speak is Globish, syntactically correct but with no understanding of the assumptions shared by British speakers,” says The Telegraph’s Boris whisperer, hinting at why our Gallic cousins don’t really get us. I could say the same thing about German acquaintances who freely admit to operating on a different wavelength. Have been reading translations from Russia and Chile which, while hugely entertaining, struggle to say what they mean (I struggle to hear what they say). Two days ago a BBC News presenter made an offhand remark demonstrating his total misunderstanding of the subject in question. How can we hope to reach an agreement on anything when we are often talking at cross-purposes?

Early morning

Sun has returned and the paddocks are buttercup yellow. Yard is more on the lavender side, lots of flowering oregano and red rowan berries – rabbits and white-tailed bumblebees. Early morning trail runners…riders exercising their steeds. Above me at 37,000ft an Airbus A320 en route from Manchester to Malaga.

Monday, August 19

The Devil's Spawn

Those most vilified pests who we love to loathe. Whisper their name, at the risk of your dinner guests choking on their vol-au-vents. Cyclists.

In praise of the grape

Today’s Times comment page (Thunderer) takes a stand again the high level of tax that is levelled on vino. “Duty on wine has risen by 39 per cent since 2010, while for spirits and cider the figure is 27 per cent, and for beer 16 per cent. The last chancellor to cut still wine duty was Nigel Lawson, 35 years ago, when we still had pound notes in circulation … It’s ridiculous that British wine drinkers are paying 68 per cent of all the wine duty paid in Europe.” Alas, my friends, taxes have to be raised from someone, and just as the top one-per-cent account for more income taxes paid than the bottom ninety-per-cent, then so too the “polite, pragmatic middle”. Consider it a public duty.

Am currently reading the recently reprinted Waugh on Wine (1986). Thanks in part to our former colonies we forget how far we’ve come these past four decades in terms of the range and quality of wines available to the general public – that doesn’t include £5/bot wine. The younger generation who appear to prefer pills and self-absorption don’t know what they’re missing. Back in 1975 my then employer provided Gudgeon with a generous expense account, encouraging me to venture out and enjoy myself (I might have misinterpreted his instructions). As a committed oenophile for more than forty years I continue to live up to what one assumes were his expectations.

Sunday, August 18

Dreary stuff - the papers

Have just read Saturday’s paper for the second time. I appreciate our newspapers face difficult times (so 20th Century), but you don’t have to be a regular reader to note a decline in standards, the dearth of experienced and knowledgeable writers with a little wit – oddballs and contraries that make a publication worth the money. Yes, I know, most people now expect this sort of shit for free. How about the ‘not most people’ sorts?

Am listening to Glam-ma – as P.P. Arnold styles herself – on the wireless. She first came here in 1966 (aged 18) – with Ike and Tina Turner, touring with the Rolling Stones. Contrary to popular convention Britain at that time was perceived by black Americans as more integrated and cosmopolitan. In the ’60s the Brits were into my Grandad’s music, she says – blues and soul. ...So when exactly did it all go wrong for us?

Saturday, August 17

As night follows day

Police raided council-run travellers' campsite after Pc Andrew Harper was dragged to his death.

A decent lunch is the key to higher productivity

Eurostat’s index of ‘Labour productivity per person employed and hour worked’ — in which the ‘EU 28’ benchmark is 100, the UK’s score in 2018 was 99 and France’s 116. It reminds us that the French skilled worker is a lot more productive than his British counterpart. I have been studying the Frenchman in his native habitat to find the secret of his efficiency, and I think it has to do with the hours he doesn’t work, at midday. The restaurant Auberge de la Nauze at Sagelat, Dordogne, for example, had a fleet of vans in its car park mostly belonging to a local water company, whose operatives were tucking merrily into an excellent no-choice three-course menu — €18 for us, no doubt cheaper for them as regulars subsidised by their employer. But having had to call out the same company the next day, I can report that its service was as swift and effective as you’d wish from any utility. Higher UK productivity in the coming free-trade era will depend, of course, upon radically improved levels of innovation, automation, skills training and capital investment, but let’s also learn the French lesson that better lunches make happier workers. (Martin Vander Weyer, The Spectator)

Friday, August 16

Dark plots and conspiratorial thinking

Britain’s liberal elite (and a vocal minority of my neighbours) are paranoid nutjobs, says New Statesman’s John Gray.

A different liberal view has become influential in the last few years. The election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote and the advance of populism have shaken the faith in reason, and liberals have invoked concealed forces to explain an ongoing shift in politics that does not square with their view of history. A conspiratorial mindset is now common among bien-pensants who only two or three summers ago would have regarded the idea that politics is shaped by covert actors as a sick fantasy. In this new liberal world-view, progress has not just stalled. It is being wilfully undermined and reversed by clandestine means. ...If there is a remedy for our predicament, liberals cannot supply it. Detecting the fingerprints of conspirators in the disarray of their societies, they are possessed by the pathology they rage against. Unwilling to admit why progress has foundered, liberals have embraced the worst kind of magical thinking. The dark forces they see conspiring around them are shadows of a resistance to reality that exists in themselves.

Thursday, August 15

Multi-tasking, my arse

“I once went on a camping trip with two other families. At one point we womenfolk went off on a jaunt and stopped by a garden centre. I had to hide my friend’s plants in my car because she knew her partner would hit the roof (not easy in a field) if she tried to sneak them into the footwell. Not because there was no room, but because – well who knew?”

Doesn’t it piss you off: the motor has a boot the size of a Parcelforce delivery van, there’s three empty seats in the back – yet every time we return from the shops she insists on climbing into the front passenger seat and cramming two shopping bags, a butchered steer and crate of vino into the footwell.

Political whore

My local MP. An example of why our political class (and the NHS) is a basket case.

Wednesday, August 14

Indolent apathy

I’ve discovered Oblomovism and it appears to agree with me.

Tuesday, August 13


As public sentiment in favour of proroguing parliament to secure Brexit grows, the Dog & Duck’s Remainers become ever more shrill – it’s driving them crazy. John Bolton’s enthusiastic endorsement is fuel to the fire. Happy days.

The procession of telecoms vans, tree surgeons, roofers and scaffolders appears never ending – it’s the same after every storm. Thankfully the homestead dodged this one. Am taking advantage of the brief dry spell to get out across the moor, following my week-long birthday extravaganza I need some fresh air and exercise.

A denizen of the Dog & Duck has just returned from a long weekend in Edinburgh – his first venture over the border. He’s an enthusiastic convert to the city; Amsterdam and Dublin are no more. Admitted to some difficulty with the accent, however, and had to resort to lip reading. I warned him not to venture further north.

Monday, August 12

Chewing on life’s gristle…

Families are becoming better off as ultra-low unemployment and rising wages boost their finances, yet while happiness, satisfaction and the feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile are on the rise, people are growing more pessimistic about the economy.   
…In reflective moments I find myself wishing I hadn’t wasted so much of my life worrying about things that never happened. Of course my brooding could well be the reason I avoided various pitfalls.

Hoist with his own petard

My restaurants failed because I was selling overpriced muck to a bunch of peasants, says Jamie Oliver. Or words to that effect. When exactly did our young, urban middle class (his target demographic?) become the proletariat?

...Mondays were invented for leftovers: today it’s cold duck and steamed beetroot.

Sunday, August 11

Everyone needs a goal

A whole roast duck is a thing of beauty. The perfect Sunday lunch reviver, post birthday celebrations – and while a California pinot noir would normally be too fruity for my taste, after the caramel sweetness of yesterday’s port it ventures on the austere.

“My house in Somerset has nine cellars, stretching underneath the greater part of the house. In former times they provided sleeping and living accommodation for the lower servants as well as one wine cellar and a village lock-up, which is picturesquely called the dungeon and must prove too damp for storing wine. It has mysterious hooks hanging from the ceiling which, we tell ourselves, were probably used for curing hams. That will be the last cellar to be fitted with racks but my life’s ambition is to fill all nine by the time my youngest child leaves university and starts earning his own living. Then I will settle down to an early retirement at about fifty-one and drink my way though all nine cellars in the years that remain to me.” 
(Auberon Waugh on wine.) 

Worth remembering the lad died aged 61. Waugh believed that while the dangers of smoking and drinking were exaggerated, the dangers of hamburger eating were seriously under-reported; he frequently referred to ‘hamburger gases’ as a serious form of atmospheric pollution and even made references to the dangers of passive hamburger eating.

Saturday, August 10

Mine's a large one

Hit overnight by the weather; today is even more blowy – you don’t want to be out there under canvas. Across the moor to Tavistock farmers market for supplies: a half pig, the best hog’s puddings in the south west, guinea fowls and ducks. Back home for Football Focus and a glass of bubbly. Birthday Boy gets the rest of the day off (stacked three truckloads of logs last night). I might have a few miles on the clock but am still game.

Friday, August 9

Friday Fish

Razor Clams and Turbot, mit Cassis Blanc, the ultimate seafood partner from the slopes of France's highest sea cliff, Cap Canaille.

Thursday, August 8

Rather here than the airport experience

Across the border into bandit country this morning. Cornwall’s roads are as busy as ours, a lengthy procession of holiday makers. Of course the downside to staycations is inclement weather, this week being a prime example: rain, rain, and more rain. But then life is full of disappointment, it builds character. Sheltering in the porch with a chilled glass of Bandol rosé and a pint of prawns is good enough – am perfectly capable of imagining a sun-drenched deck offshore Nice.

Tuesday, August 6

It's a point of view

Donald Trump is the best prime minister Britain never had. All over the world, Trump is doing for Britain almost overnight what Britain’s leaders have failed to do for decades. He’s finally clearing up the shameful mess that Britain left when it welched on its imperial responsibilities, and he’s doing it for free. Instead of snobbishly deriding him, the British should thank the orange man for freeing them from their destructive relationships with the Orangemen in Northern Ireland, and the police-state Islamists of Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority. The obvious way to thank Trump won’t cost Britain much either. The City of London is already full of crass monuments to greed. One more won’t hurt. Let him build a nice golden Trump Tower in central London, and a Trump Hotel too. If Brexit works out, the government should consider putting a statue of Trump onto the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, so that the heroes of empire will be joined by the man who cleared up after them. It’s the least Britain can do to thank the best prime minister the British have never had.

Playing catch-up

Fresh air and manual labour is wonderful thing. After I finished yesterday I sank a couple of beers and then slept for ten hours.

Sunday, August 4

There’s a song in there somewhere

After yesterday’s sunshine, this morning I set off across the moor in tres misty conditions, steady drizzle. An early start before the runners arrive on their wild ultra-marathon. At 32 miles and a 4,000ft climb it’s something I can barely dream about.

A cloud of swallows circle the yard, 20-30 occupy the telephone line – I can hear them through the whine.

Thursday, August 1

An idler’s life

The ponies have moved on and the paddocks are now topped. Yesterday I cleaned out the shed and begun stacking logs for winter, and this morning I cut the grass. Much more and I'll be breaking into a sweat. ...Seems to be more insects around this year, lots of bees, butterflies and lizards. Rabbits are lying about the yard sunning themselves; a fox and badger have been wandering about the place recently, a young deer too. Can’t say I’ve seen much in the way of bats? Goodwood on the box, a brief snooze in the sun, before firing up the barbecue.