The Ranch:

… is a clay one-and-a-half acre hillside organic plot in the North of England. At the moment it’s grey-drizzle spittled and the main thoroughfare into the field is tractor-churned mud.

Regardless of day, month or season, it’s a good place to be.

It’s part of 12 acres of other allotments (or ‘pens’). It’s unique and kind of special and there is certainly nowhere like it in England and prob the world.



Your time for my time?

I have two other allotments which I unrent to other gardening nerds and mavericks like me, resulting in the allotment equivalent of a Beat Generation.

When Carlos first met Don Juan, he offered to pay him in exchange for knowledge about the local medicinal plants. Inscrutable, Don Juan refused and replied ‘Your time for my time.’ I like that concept – the trading of each other’s time, where the value of that time is based on what each is capable of doing. If it worked properly in a hospital for example, despite task-related remuneration, cleaners, porters, nurses, doctors and so on would all have equal respect.

It seems to be working pretty well on the hillside at the moment and it’s a real thrill.

New Hugel bed


I get help from my fellow fringe-dwellers and maybe they get some how not to garden tips from me. This week, Alex has finished the top half of the greenhouse . There’s a mesh/timber floor and the water tank is installed at the highest point. Lisa and Dave have started the annual hedge-pruning and have already polished off the outside stretch. I’ve knocked in two rows of stakes in between which they pile the prunings. When it’s fine enough to get the tractor and trailer out, I’ll collect horse muck from the nearby mountain to pile on top, forming a second hugel bed next to the first. Andy (a landscape architect) is going to fit a poly-tunnel for me.

I have my first ever brussels sprouts and I’ve fixed the Ki Gass system on the tractor – the same cold-starting device was fitted to Spitfires. It pumps a mist of fuel on to a hot glow plug. All the autumn onions and garlic are in.

Finished greenhouse


The latest rules?

I think I’m not the only one confused by the ever changing array of rules.

On the now-insipid and dull BBC, the same puerile onerous carousel of slimy government shitsacks appear of Breakfast every morning in between trite irrelevances, in order to keep us up to date with what we can and can’t do.

Can we for example deliver the biggest genocide in English history by ignoring the science and not following the examples of countries who have succeeded in beating the virus?

Can we mercilessly abuse the need for tests and PPE by awarding BILLIONS OF POUNDS OF TAXPAYERS MONEY to the bogus companies of our toff mates? (have a look at ‘The Little Crony’ map here, which shows all the dodgy connections and check out this stark BMJ article here)

Can we march on London in numbers large enough to constitute the 13% of the population needed to topple a corrupt regime?

Can we sit under the lean-to and chat convivially in front of the roaring stove?

Can we send three police riot vans to a bunch of students locked in their residences since two days before shit-down (so that they can pay their rent in full)?  £9000 FOR WHAT?!

I express incredulity over their lack of full-scale rioting. How disappointingly bourgeoisly dull. Elias points out that students represent only a small part of the population, far outnumbered by the grey sea of elderly Daily Turd readers.

Elias asks Garth what he’s been reading.

‘David Copperfield.’

Elias is ploughing through War and peace.

Sam thinks up some spoof titles.

I joke that I’m still on Enid Blyton, prompting a barrage of inappropriate handles from the three of them

Five go Dogging.’ ‘Shadow of the sheep-shagger.’  ‘Beany wearing Gollum-faced fucker fucks off.’ ‘The Secret Seven shit on Bozzer’s desk.’


Ki Gass system


Retire from being daft?

One reaches an age where one considers giving up all rakish piss-taking in favour of becoming a bread-baking twat. All I need to do is hand-grind some of my rye grains, and I’m almost there. Perhaps that time has come? At what age does the sport of embarrassing one’s offspring lose its zing?

Meanwhile, the concept of a camp glam American rapper and HipHop artiste stranded in Burnlé due to Covid is almost too delicious to resist – even more so, when he can’t do an American accent and can’t rap. It’s of course an oblique metaphor for some of the transatlantic craziness going on at the moment. His clown bouffant isn’t dissimilar to other clown bouffants.

As each 7-day period matures, documenting the week’s events becomes an irresistible excitement. On Mondays, I think ‘That’s enough for now’, but then something interesting always happens. Last week it was the most significant election for over a century and this week, it’s Fenny’s 70th birthday.





I avoid the foul town of Blackburn like the plague. They have designed a heinous one-way system to trap unsuspecting Burnleyites who go there by accident. The only times that I’ve braved it in recent years has been to go on Radio Lancashire’s iconic On The Wire programme with Fenny and Steve Barker.

Steve occupies a cool Sherwoodian niche (check the story here) and Fenny does a spot on every programme, due in part to me. 

The BBC in their wisdom, as well as becoming an exclusive Tory mouthpiece, have axed the programme, but Steve is still doing it here and Fenny now does his weekly contribution online.

Aged 21, post-notsensibles, I moved out of my mum and dad’s house and started to find myself. I got really into finger-style guitar playing. After a hitch-hiking trip round Europe, I was inspired to have a go a busking after staying with some friends who made a living out of it.

I started with three tunes and assiduously built a big repertoire, making a modest self-sufficient living out of it. Every town within a 30 mile radius was my hunting-gathering ground, including Blackburn. Back then, there were places to park and it was possible to drive round the centre without being trapped forever in a nightmare maze.

I was busking outside Woolworths one day, when a bloke came up to me, asking me if I wanted to play a gig. That’s how I met Fenny. It’s a good story and it’s all in Dr Fartley’s Memoirs – Part 1

I said yes, I’d like to do a gig but I’d rather do it with my band. Talking to him yesterday, he reminded me that I’d told him we were doing a gig that Friday. It was at the back of the Henley hotel in Colne, where they had an old pre-fab building that they used as a function room. He and his mate Brian Cox came to see us, and we became good friends.

The band was Ow, my hair’s on fire are you bothered? Members included pre-chumbawamba Alice Nutter, Spider, Tom Winstanley (now known as Mrs Cakehead), Michael Spencer, Haggis and Simon Kember. The name came from a hair spray incident resulting in Alice setting fire to her hair.

Hofner Stu Sutcliffe bass


From then on, we saw each other fairly regularly, largely at gigs that he and Brian organised. We met Johnny D and the Darwen crew. When my mum inconsiderately died when I was 24, I was in a real hole, living on my own in a dark miserable winter. Fenny and Brian came and got me and took me out one night. I’ll never forget that. Fenny is a wise, astute, gentle, witty observer. If you’re the kind of person who like me, can count true friends on one hand, then he’s the best to have. He’s starting to write his own memoirs and hopefully, he’s going to do a guest blog on here like back in the old days.

I did a fanzine called All That Thinks and Moves and Fenny wrote a column for it. Every time an issue came out, I’d go on On The Wire and that’s how Fenny met Steve and started doing his regular local music slot.

Ow my hair’s on fire, are you bothered fizzled out after a few gigs, but Tom and I continued as a 2-piece for a while. One day, I phoned Fenny up saying ‘Me, thee and Tom’. He’d never played an instrument in his life and he was 40. He was the bassist and learned to play on my beautiful old Hofner Stu Sutcliffe bass (which I bought from The Mirror Boys in Leeds for fifty quid). I came up with the name The Three Platitudes which still tickles me.

We did a lot of gigs (including the Edinburgh festival) and recorded an album that we never released. Tom worked at The Abraham Moss studio in Manchester and we got to record there for free. The band ended when I started as a junior doctor. I had 3 young kids in one bedroom and we needed a new house. I was shit scared of starting in medicine and turned into a twat, giving up music for a while. Fenny went on to learn the sax, so has had 30 years of being a musician and a radio presenter, which he had never anticipated at the age of 39.

Fenny couldn’t have a birthday do because of lock-down, but his son Alex contacted me, asking me to do a contribution for a video that he was making. I thought about it and rather than do a standard message, I decided to do a pisstake dancing video to a 3 Platitudes tune. Louise got dressed up in a pink wig and daft glasses. I got dressed up in one of the outfits that I used for a John Lee Hartley video and did pseudo-rapping over the top and MC Saga was born.

Swings and roundabouts – the creative wheel keeps turning.

me and Fenny in the 3 Platitudes


Rock & Roll

… is a smoulderingly passionate pregnant force waiting to burst forth again after the shitshow ends and even before if needs be. I empathise wholeheartedly with the industry, which has been so decimated. Paradoxically, it creates a more level playing field. Between us, we have a lot of records to make.

As a family we are pretty tight, especially when someone fucks us over and steals from us. A new drum kit is on the cards. I fancy a Gretsch.

Meanwhile, many thousands of miles away in Australia of all places, my friends Paula Brown and Sonny Michaels flatteringly asked me to contribute to their Halloween show – check it out here. I’m a bit uncomfortable about my brief descent into being a folk twat. They’ve kindly asked me to contribute to their Christmas special. I don’t know whether I’m up to it, but my narcissistic tenant will certainly be.

I’m pottering away with my woodblock printmaking project – 26 blocks in total of the illustrations from the book. There’s something very soothing about it. I’m itching to cut more blocks for the next book.

Back in the real world, where Covid continues to decimate and polarise, I reflect on the value of art as a vehicle for positive change. Our big punk event in Feb (just in the nick of time) was a good, good thing. There’s a direct relationship between art and fun – something much needed in these times. I’m watching with interest a film project called The Bank Job 2020 which involves buying up people’s debts and writing them off. It’s based on a similar project in the USA. 

Sam and Elias


On Friday, Louise and I share a bouteille de vin. I ask her if there’s anything she fancies watching, and she asks for Carol Ann Duffy’s Premonitions. It’s a tear jerker and is of course a reminder of her mummy – here’s the blog I wrote when she died – it’s a weeper. We polish off the first bottle and decide to go across the road to Aldé for another. I’m self-conscious and feel like wearing a mask to disguise my face, but then I’d feel like a right dick. We go, and everyone else is wearing a mask too – how surreal. It’s like a scene out of a zombie movie. 10 months ago, if someone had told me that this would be the norm, I would have laughed.

McNabb puts up a few Dylan Thomas lines:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Me, I’m ordering a new pair of slippers (green with a beige fluffy lining) and quietening down. I wish I could say the same for MC Saga.