The Ranch:

What’s that?

yet another demi-shed


Er it’s a construction.

What’s it for?

It’s for putting stuff in.

So it’s yet another unfinished shed then?

Well no, not exactly – it’s for using the bricks that I’m digging up from the bottom of the field from Monty’s old brick paths.

How long have Monty’s old brick paths been there?

At least 30 years.

So what’s the sudden urgency?

Well bricks are useful.

I thought you said you weren’t starting any more sheds until you’d finished the others.

Well that’s not strictly true.

So it’s demi-shed E then?

What do you mean?

Well in your book, you describe all your unfinished sheds and refer to them as demi-sheds A, B, C and D.

Do I?

Have you thought of getting help?

I don’t need help.

There are organisations you know. The Shedaritans and Shedaholics anonymous


Chilean Guava


Speaking of demi-sheds, I’m really pleased with demi-shed D (the greenhouse).

The top floor is noticeably much hotter than the bottom floor – something that I never specifically designed or anticipated. The ‘Dutch Barn’ shape and the mezzanine wooden floors must somehow help to reflect the heat back up. The view from the front bit at the top, with it’s little pair of patio-like opening doors is unsurpassed. I have a chair up there now.

Dewy gave me a Chilean Guava which has loads of exquisite tasting berries on it. It’s an unusual taste that I can’t describe – there’s a hint of peach in there.

Now is the time to get on with jobs like servicing the tractor brakes and fixing that big lawn mower again. I’ll be ordering  a couple more fruit trees and next season’s catalogues will be out soon.

The hillside is getting quite exciting. We have a new lad at the bottom who is a landscape architect and within a couple of weeks, he’s completely transformed a completely derelict allotment using a digger. There was a rickety pigeon coop that had been there for decades. I wish I had some before and after pics.

We’re all going to have a meeting soon and plan next season: buying in bulk, and who will be growing what. Everyone’s on it. There’ll be no shit American poisoned food on our farmlet. Between us, there’s enough land and horse muck for us to be self-sufficient and more.

View from top of greenhouse


Today’s haul includes: the last 2 figs; dill; parsley; cabbage; kale; broccoli; peppers; a chilli; tomatoes; the last of the carrots; watercress; rocket; lettuce; French sorrel. Not bad for this time of year. I keep intending to spend a week living just off my own food with only 5 other ingredients allowed. I don’t think that I’d get far.


Today's ranch haul


Jungle fuzzy felt:

One of my favourite toys ever was a jungle fuzzy felt which I got for Christmas when I was five. It was just a green felt board with cutout shapes of animals and trees that you stuck to it. I adored it. I always liked practical toys where you could make stuff.

I’m reminded of that wooden toy that has different shapes and the corresponding holes for them to fit in. It’s great for teaching babies co-ordination and cognition. Is that where the expression round peg in a square hole comes from? I quite like it as a metaphor for education in general.

Medical education has changed a lot. The first part of the Medical College exams have always been multiple choice – broadly for testing knowledge base. The other parts used to be practical and hands on, but now there’s a lot more multiple choice.

Old sleeping bag


I once had a chance to write medical exam questions, but never quite got round to it – I might have a go now.

Daisy is 7. She has a poorly tummy. Mummy has already taken her to the doctor’s but she’s getting worse. Mummy is worried and takes her to the hospital.

Which specialist will see Daisy?

a.  A skin specialist?

b.  A bone mending specialist?

c.  An old people’s specialist?

d.  A children’s specialist?

Well done everyone. You all got it right. d is the right answer.

Let’s try another one – this is a bit trickier

You are the trauma doctor on call at a Major Trauma Centre. You see an elderly man who has fallen downstairs and hurt his head. You arrange a scan and there’s some bruising and bleeding on the brain, but it doesn’t need an operation. Which speciality will the patient be admitted under?

a. The front bottom speciality?

b. The back bottom speciality?

c.  The medical speciality?

d. The Emergency Medicine speciality?

e.  The head injury speciality?


a. The front bottom speciality? They look after ladies. That’s the wrong answer.

b. The back bottom speciality? They put lubrication on a long black bendy pipe and shove it up your bottom. It has controls at the top a bit like a mini one-handed play station console. It used to just have a lens at the top to look through, but now the picture is displayed on a large high resolution screen so that the operator and all their audience can see it – your outside and inside bottoms are fully on display – the ultimate in supreme indignity. If you’re lucky, you might hear the muffled chat of the audience talking about botox and hair extensions. The same procedure is available for every orifice in the body. No – that’s the wrong answer.

c.  The medical speciality? The trauma doctor has already spoken to the head injury doctor who has said, that because the patient doesn’t need an operation, they should be admitted under the medical speciality. That’s the wrong answer. The medical speciality looks after medical problems – not injury problems.

d. The Emergency Medicine speciality? You actually get a point for this. At a Major Trauma Centre, Emergency Medicine is fully involved in looking after injuries. Sometimes, a patient will have had a bad accident but not need an operation. Emergency Medicine will often admit them for a day or two, just to keep an eye on them and get them up and about again. Emergency Medicine also deals with literally anything and everything that isn’t an emergency, because it’s the route of least resistance. It’s also the speciality of absolute kindness, which is why they get ‘regular attenders’. Sitting in an Emergency Department waiting room offers more than the harsh outside world for some people. Not quite the right answer.

e. The head injury speciality? That’s the right answer. The head injury specialists are the most well-equipped to look after head injuries.

Well done to everyone who got the right answer.

Office record player


The other ranch

I rarely do overnight shifts these days. t’College says you don’t have to once you reach a certain maturity.

That darned virus and that pesky privately Serco-run test and trace intheworstpossibleway is playing havoc. A completely well colleague with a negative test has to self-isolate for a fortnight and there’s a vacant shift, so I step in.

The on-call room has a piss-proof plastic mattress and a single puce-blue hospital-issue blanket. I take my secret weapon and it makes a big difference. It’s the old big oblong sleeping bag that’s been around for yonks. I remember the kids sleeping in it when we were camping, so it’s been around at least a couple of decades. It lives behind the settee in the front room and loads of people have dossed in it after parties and so on. Louise has sweetly tied it up with two pieces of brown string, suiting my bumpkin-ness. It has a warm comforting smell and somehow forms a cosy little protective cocoon. I pretend that the loud sound of the air-conditioning outside and my tinnitus are actually forest sounds, and I miraculously get a couple of hours sleep.

I refer a patient to the appropriate speciality. The colleague on the other end of the phone tells me to ‘refer to the medics’. I patiently give him the necessary factual information and guidance (including a. – see the f’ing patient. b. Document your findings. c. Communicate your treatment plan to the patient’s family. d. Present the case to your team). Unfortunately, he’s unable to process the information. It doesn’t matter a flying fanny fart what he, his consultant or any other fucker thinks. The patient will be admitted under the correct speciality. That’s the way it is. In this instance the round peg is pre-ordained to fit in the round hole, and nothing is going to change that. I’m too tired for sport, so I just make the necessary arrangements.

The night fades into morning and King Richard comes on for the medics. Any fucking-about with regard to the patient’s admission destination ends abruptly.

Paintings in Towneley hall


On Friday we have our monthly meeting and we’re all concerned about the inevitable increase in attendances, both Covid and non-Covid. Once we reach capacity, we have to go back to corridor medicine which doesn’t allow for safe distancing, putting us all at increased risk.

The conviviality and raucous humour between staff is second to none but for some of us, there’s underlying anxiety. I’m certainly scared again. I have a harrowing shift one day, and my sleeping is all over the place again. We all tick a few PTSD boxes, but you never ever ever hear Emergency Medicine people say ‘I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD’. There’s something about the companionship that mitigates some of the tougher aspects.

Statues in Towneley Hall


I start the van for the first time in ages and we go to Tod. It runs like a dream – it’s a shame to have to sell it.

Time and time again, I try and persuade Louise to get an Insta account but she’s not interested – she’s too private. She’d go viral. She’s a consummate expert on finding interesting items – then there’s her jewellery and weird little sculptures of found objects. I no longer get annoyed about all the stuff coming into the house – I’ve changed my view.  Now it’s more like a squirrel concept. Yesterday, she came back with a rather stylish black waistcoat with tassels.

Louise in new waistcoat


I have a wander round Towneley Hall. I objected strongly when they started charging to get in but now I don’t mind. It’s run by volunteers and they’re struggling to stay open. It’s a wonderful place. It’s only a fiver for a ticket for the whole year. Now I buy two every time I go in and give them away.




Beatrix Altringham and I converse across the ocean. We’re using our portable electronic telephones. She sounds close enough to be in Accrington or Crawshaw Booth, but she’s three and a half thousand light years away in Delawhere? Our telephones have an application (a green one) that reaches all the way across the sea.

America is worse than here. There are food banks and poverty and destitution but on a bigger scale. At least here we have the NHS (John Pilger’s film about selling it off is worth watching) and we’re less likely to get murdered by the police (although they just passed the SpyCop bill).

A round peg in a square hole is of course a metaphor for a misfit. The misfits have to challenge the one-way road to totalitarianism. Someone has to be asking the wrong questions at the wrong time.

I’m determined not to get into the same lock-down rut as before, on the wrong side of wretchedness. Ranting, making videos (this week’s is Painting Snails), singing misfit songs  and Wuthering Heights-like toiling on the ranch have to be part of the routine regardless of mood or recalcitrance.

And when this shiteshow is over, the music industry will be a level playing field and our little back room label will be kicking out the jams – in the pipeline a MeLeon/SJH EP and a Damaged by Gherkins single. It doesn’t matter if the peg doesn’t fit the hole. Take vitamin D and remember that heaven is in the ordinary.