Arnica Montana


The Ranch

– is a routine of comfort in a sea of madness and rising darkness.

Planting; weeding; tidying; concrete mixing; building irrigation systems; finishing the greenhouse and so on are comfort for the soul.

Proper rain is a redemption and everything is growing fast.

I’m in the van on the ranch writing my blog. I feel like John Steinbeck when he went off with Charlie. Who needs a writing shed? I’ve got Cerys on in the background – OMG she’s playing Aretha singing Amazing Grace live.

It’s the Summer Solstice. I thought I’d walk to the top of the field at dawn and watch the sun creep over the horizon but it was lashing with heavy rain. No alarm clock needed – I tend to wake up at dawn anyway with my weird lock-down sleep pattern. There’s something very comforting about hearing the hammering of the rain on the lean-to roof. I could never return to canvas. Coincidently, it’s also father’s day, so I’m expecting fuck-all as usual.

Lots has gone out into the beds this week: more beans; peas; onions; Florence fennel and beetroot. The hedges have shot up – so much so, that the fruit bushes dotted throughout are swamped and hidden and I’m wondering whether planting them there was a good idea. The fig tree is bursting – it’s too big to net and whatever quaffed all the figs last year, will surely do it again. Doing particularly well are the stunning purple Blauwstokken peas.

What became apparent from our visit to the organic farm is that greenhouses and poly-tunnels are essential for commercial growing in our climate.

Blog writing


Some of my predictions at the start of lock-down were wrong but I stand by my conviction that locally-grown clean food will become of increasing value in the months and years to come. Food shortages already happening in other countries WILL happen here, particularly in the light of fucked-over trade deals with Europe and the unaccountable dirt forced on us from America. Of particular importance is open-pollinated seed – namely seed which can be collected locally and will breed true to the parent plant. I remember reading a story of slaves weaving seeds into their hair.

Thrushes are singers – robins, blackbirds, the elusive nightingale and the mistle thrush with its characteristic clatter. Song thrushes have always been around but I realise that I haven’t actually seen one for years. I hear it before I pick its stunning speckled breast out with the binoculars. When I first heard it, I thought it was a starling, because it was singing all-sorts, but there was something richer and fruitier about the tone. I’m also finding lots of broken snail shells on flat stones.

Yesterday was warm and sunny. Louise popped up in the evening. We watched the view, sipping a decent red as the thrush serenaded. There was laughter and shouting drifting up from partying on the streets below. I’d nipped home earlier for some provisions. I could have pretended to cook some plot-to-plate shit but it was fish finger sandwiches with mayonnaise and a token home-grown salad leaf.

Blauwstokken purple peas


Now that I have some like-minded helpers, the ranch is gaining its own momentum. The idea all along was to grow plants to sell, to help fund a peripheral off-grid lifestyle. I’m a big fan of the your time for my time concept. Perhaps it’s better to say your attention for my attention or your energy for my energy. The Sikhs have a concept in their religion of all getting together to work on a project for the common good. Lots of people do it. This week, we’ll all get together and build your house, then next week, we’ll build mine. There’s nothing fancy about the idea.

Alex and Phil have my bottom allotment. Instead of charging them rent, they help me out for so many hours a year. They’re both multi-skilled and they’ve been just concentrating on finishing the greenhouse which is coming along nicely. I’ve finished a little portable automated water pump which has a 12 volt battery and a timer. I’m determined to have an automated watering system in the roof – otherwise climbing the ladder with watering cans is a real ball-ache. Inspired by Elias’s lead, I’ve bought a 100l flat roof tank and all the bits and pieces.

Similarly, Dewy concentrates on one project at a time. He sorted all the hedge-planting when I first got the field. He did the irrigation and now we’re building yet another concrete and bottle plinth for yet another water tank.

Gwen, apart from a few plants on her decking, is quite new to gardening and she’s picking it up quickly. She likes all the weeding and planting that I find boring (ironic, given that I’ve been organic gardening for 30 + years). She’s also the catalyst for generating sales, which I’m completely rubbish at. She’s sold a few plants to friends and family (including 30 quid’s worth of rhubarb!) She’s also initiated getting our plants on sale at the wonderful little shop in the Golden Lion in Tod. I’ve known Gig for ages and I could have asked her myself, but I’m too shy. Gwen’s a vegan chef and there’s always scope for plot-to-plate stuff.

On Friday, we got 3 trays of plants together: Dill; parsley; basil; coriander; chives; broccoli; swede; tomatoes and other bits and pieces and took them over. We got some bits at the shop and had some Thai food – my second outing during lockdown.

Automatic water pump



The Johnsons, DC and I are seated at a table in The Mayo, waiting to be called upstairs to have our antibodies checked.

We’re The Last of The Mohicans in terms of VW ownership – there used to be loads of us. The Js had a T4 for years before upgrading to something more family friendly. DC once had a split and now he’s got a bay. Like me, he’s not getting much use and we both talk of selling – mine needs loads of welding.

I’ve tried before and failed, to explain the ubiquitous appeal of the split screen – it’s a design of utter functionality and simplicity and it’s been my little outdoor bedsit companion during lock-down (don’t be a dick – vans are vans – not companions!) I’m itching to get on the road again.

The twin carbs have never run right – they backfire going down hill and constantly stink of petrol. I stumble across a perfect nerd article which explains everything. It’s the emulsion jets. Of course. Why didn’t I see it before! It’s also the main jets, the idle jets, the float jets, the pressure regulator, the inline pressure gauge and the CB manifolds. I have a ‘little look’ on the internet and stumble across a classic carburettor place. Blimey – that’s expensive. Oops.

That means hours stripping the carbs and putting it all together again. The supreme folly of messing about with expensive-to-keep vehicles. What if you can’t get parts for conventional cars post-Brexit? Maybe there’s some sense in it. I’ve decided to keep it at least until we’ve tried a couple of plant sales in it.

VW Kombi


The four of us are part of what I call the The 20 years plus club meaning we’ve been at it (i.e. Emergency Medicine) for 20 years or more. I have to pinch myself, especially as I was a late starter. There are quite a few of us. We have a certain battle-polished surreal acceptance of dealing with the shit end of every imaginable stick. Things have been changing quite rapidly during the pandemic and recently we’ve noticed a lot of specialities refusing to accept referrals – more so than previously and being rude and shitty with it – so much so, that it’s causing us stress. The word Arsehole has become unofficially popular but I think that it has too many letters and is too generous.

Carole has pointed out that as a published author, I’m well-equipped to deal with certain ’enquiries’.

After our blood tests, we head back to base. Angela gets a phone call, answering in her usual perfunctory manner ‘Yep, yep, that’s fine, yep’. It’s the school. It transpires that the oldest has been up to prankish mischief. I’ve been up to prankish mischief all my life, but didn’t have the courage to start until much older. I applaud him. I remember that time when Khany and I went on the rampage one lunchtime and got splendid letters home.

Naughty boy letter


In the latest COVID catastrophe triumph, the govt have ditched the Track and trace programme, run by their mates’ private company SERCO at a cost of many millions of taxpayers’ money. It’s the latest in a consistent series of sensational world-topping fuck-ups. How come no-one is taking these pricks down?

I’m an admirer of John Horton, editor of The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is. He’s just published a book based on his excoriating columns: ‘The greatest science policy failure for a generation.’ ‘Slow complacent and flat-footed.’ ‘…broken system of obsequious politico-scientific complicity.’

In another chapter in the pantomime, several moron ultra thickos go out brawling and ‘protecting’ statues. I know I shouldn’t use the C word – I understand why women in particular find it offensive but there’s just no way round it – how else am I going to add the thickest c**** on earth club to The C*** Registry? My favourite picture is of a bunch of thickos ‘guarding’ a George Elliot statue. Arf, arf. The sublime irony.

There are statues everywhere. I remember going to the conference in Cardiff a few years ago and joking with Thomo about the ubiquitous bronze statues. Tiger bay was diverse a long time before a lot of other places were diverse. My dad was stationed there at one point and he used to describe the curry houses, long before they existed elsewhere.

When I first saw the film of the one in Bristol being toppled, rolled down the street and chucked into the sea, I thought it was in America. There’s a certain excitement to it. There have been calls to get rid of it for fifteen years and then it goes in a day. It’s a metaphor for what people will and won’t put up with in the context of the  current climate.

A huge debate ensues about the wider issues of getting rid of and defacing statues (all of them incidentally elitist white men [EWM]). A lot of the darker history behind these people becomes public. 

Bozo wrote a book about the greatest Briton that ever lived. He rants in indignation about the defacing of the statue but says little about the spectacular government coronavirus fuck-up. The full story of Churchill’s actual past is now firmly in the public domain and either way, people don’t like it – what is without question is his staggering racism.

First courgette


Going back a bit, the German royal family in England – Sax-Coburg & Gotha are twitched when their Russian branch are wiped out by Bolshies. They don’t want it happening over here so they and several EWMs plan to strengthen Germany as a buffer between Europe and Russia. The German Royal family in England change their name to a castle in 1917 following anti-German sentiment prior to the first world war. Moving on, and international bankers and industrialists including Prescott Bush, finance the Nazi party. Hordes of invading German trucks, for example are powered by Ford engines. It sounds incredible, but it’s true and the history is there for anyone to research.

The bulldog steps in and saves mighty blighty, but of course the story is much deeper and more complex than that.

The much darker under-plot of the current climate is that the polarisation towards fascism increases. It’s under our noses and still we don’t see it. The same bunch of EWM are at play again – Bannon for example, involved with both Trump and Cummings. Insidious social media algorithms capitalise on people’s fears – Those darned crowds of protestors have caused an increase in virus cases – and suddenly I’m seeing healthcare workers posting racist crap. Scary.

The BBC gets a new director general and thank fuck it’s a woman who’s worked her way up the hard way – it would be unthinkable to appoint another EWM in the current climate. Except it isn’t. It’s another public school -> Oxbridge Tory boy. Coincidentally the best of scathing politically incorrect British comedy is censored.

I got a bit depressed about it all – too much going on. Too many contradictions. Now I don’t bother any more. I concentrate on the thrush singing and the peas and beans.

Greenhouse coming on


I keep thinking of music vids but I’m just not a folk-twat. I’d rather blast out a blistering loud Rock & Roll concert from the top of the field. It’s entirely possible, as Matt and Tyler have escaped the vile capital and are back in the homeland meaning the mighty Strange shall rise again – their lyric hung pig in the butcher’s clutches reminds one of the plight of ordinary people at the hands of our corrupt government.

I broke my Can’t cook, won’t cook deadlock with a passable watercress (home grown) soup. Now I’ve mastered boiled water and toast. There is some father’s day action after all. Louise and Rachel are coming round and cooking tea. Yum. I’ll just get a few jobs done before wine-o-clock.

The Strange