The Ranch:

1st November

It’s sometimes tricky to romanticise ordinariness.

Each and every day Linda mucks out her stable into my midden – 365 barrow loads a year or thereabouts.

My favourite metaphor, analogy, call it what you will, is the swimming one. The one where a woman is swimming round the coast (wild swimming is in) to get to her children (she’s left her handbag too). The tide is against her and she is constantly swept back. Nevertheless she keeps going. Each stroke, each breath, is a calculated measure. 

She knows that the tide will change and so with each stroke she paces herself.

All she has to do is keep afloat and keep facing in the right direction.

There is a lull when the tide neither comes or goes. High water.

Her careful pacing pays off and she seizes the moment to circumnavigate the most treacherous peninsula.

She rounds the headland and suddenly the tide is with her.

She races along and as another grey windy drizzly dawn dawns, she reaches her destination.

Obvs the same analogy applies to me as I walk up the track which is running with water. Despite my irrigation measures, the field is a slutch patch and my wellies are getting stuck as I barrow the equine golden nuggets.

I forgot to bring my self-help book Dicks who dare, Knobs who know by Mike Hunt. I could be dipping into it for inspiration. It comes with a wellness and mindfulness app and is filled with nuggets of inspiration: turn your clag nuts to gold; enlightment and happiness are a click away.

That rain and shine axiom is a bit skewed at the moment as it’s raining non-stop all the f’ing time.

Rubble pile


There’s more indoors than outdoors this week, grâce à la pesky Covid.

On brief visits to the ranch, I pretend that the lashing rain is refreshing and that slipping on the treacherous slimy paths is in lieu of my annual skiing trip – watch out for those leaves – you’ll be off piste if you’re not careful. Aprés ski?

As ever, I start with gormless pottering i.e. ‘the ward round’. I dawdle round the field getting wet and do a bit of weeding and seed collecting.

When we had the dog, I had a party-trick affectation to impress the kids. I would speak to him in French and he would go wild with joy. He would jump, skip, wag his tail and even bark. It was of course the tone of voice and the fact that he was getting the most special of undivided attention.

‘Comme tu est le plus beaux des chiens.’

‘Les autres ne comprennent pas.’

‘Jusqu’au fin du temps mon ange.’

I presumed that it was exclusive to our dog, but I tried it with Sam and Sky’s dog and it worked with him.

Now I am dogless.

The zenith of the ward round is the top corner of the field where the view is stunning, rain or shine. It adjoin’s Jimmy’s pen where Michelle’s black pony lives. I am not horsey and for years this particular horse has just ignored me. Now, he quietly neighs as soon as he detects me and he greets me fondly. He is the most nervous skittish horse. For a long time, I did that horse-whisperer ‘turning-away’ thing, until I gained his trust. Does the French thing work with horses?

Stove lit


For years on the ranch, outdoors meant outdoors and when it rained heavily I sheltered under a sheet of polythene.

Now there’s the cubular space (demi-shed C) that has 4 enclosed sides and two that are completely open. In the centre is a stove and raised behind, a secret gypsy caravan-like hidey-hole. There’s also the stable and the greenhouse.

Indoors meets the outdoors. The stove’s heat pours out through the open sides in hopeless inefficiency, yet its warmth is sufficient and it’s chimney pipe heats through the hidey-hole.

At home, indoors means getting stuck into music and print-making again.


Our 30 W Hartley amp


Elias, Sam and I meet on the ranch. It’s raining. We light the stove and I make a cup of tea. They are both very witty and cheer me up. Sam does a hilarious stand-up-like piss-take of a pseudo spiritual type. He stands on one leg with hands in prayer pose and describes a cross-eyed third eye on his forehead.

We talk with enthusiasm about resurrecting our amp-building business, starting with building clones of classic pedals (which Sam is already doing) and making high quality guitar leads.

We reflect on how lucky we are and about how Covid provides a unique opportunity to start certain types of business.

Woodblock prints


It’s difficult to get across to people that one of the most important things on earth for human survival is self-pollinated seed. It’s estimated that around 70% of traditional local seed-growing and saving has been replaced with large-scale industrial farming.

The simple concept of breeding seeds to suit the local environment isn’t well understood, but it’s on the increase. I’ve joined Seed SovereigntyAll gardeners should join.

This week I bought all my Autumn garlic and onion sets. You can plant them from September and I’ve left it a bit late. It’s OK though, because the weather has been mild. I also bought a lot of my seed for next year from Real Seeds. They’re a brilliant company.

I’m replacing the ladder in the greenhouse with a wider less-steep one, which will be better and safer for carrying heavy pots and trays to the top floor.

Andy, the new lad at the bottom has completely transformed the allotment that he’s taken over – he’s a landscape architect and in the space of a couple of weeks, he’s transformed it. He’s had a digger on and already got half the fencing up.

Before pic of Andy's allotment


The muse is all washed out of me. Normally I’d record a video of one of my songs but I’ve done an extra shift and I’m exhausted.

It’s a Saturday and I’ve done the early. Emergency departments are overwhelmed through no fault of their own (at what particular point will we have the guts and foresight to hold the government to account?)

Ambulances queue down the corridor to offload. Patients are on trolleys on the back corridor. My colleagues as ever, are eternally magnificent. Both we and the patients are at increased risk of exposure and it’s unfair.

Back home, I’m the wrong side of wretched and decide to relax and sink into a gin and wine sozzle, listening to music.

Something quiet and gentle? No – I turn the record player up LOUD and play a few blasting faves:


Cli click, clicky clicky-click click click.

Cli click, clicky clicky-click click click.

(Slight pause.)


Bump be-bump bump bump bump bump

Bump be-bump bump bump bump bump

Wah wa-wah wa wah-wa wah.

Wah wa-wah wa wah-wa wahy wa


Then it kicks in with the most powerful guitar riff on earth ever. Have you guessed what it is?

We used to call it kicking-in. Now it’s called ‘a drop’.

I’ve been studying a handful of records for their dynamics. One of them is Faithless’s Drifting Away. Another is James Brown’s Blind man can see it (extended). In particular, I’m working on my We’re all on the spectrum of humanity song. The central theme is the sometimes unnecessary over-medicalisation of the human condition, both by the profession and the public – medicalise it and give yourself an excuse for acting like a **** 

I had a moment of weakness, descending into being a folk-twat. I’m over it now. I’ll save that for my 90s. It’s scissor-kicks and kicking out the jams all the way.

I remember Inger’s dad talking about seeing Sean Connery in a chippy in Portabello. He once came to St Andrew’s when I was there. You can’t beat a gritty rags to riches story.

Meanwhile, the squirrel girls go into hyper charity shop mode in anticipation of Thursday’s lock-down. She buys more shiny spoons.

Shiny new charity shop spoons courtesy of squirrel girl


If I was a reader, I’d probably start with Dickens. 

Please sir, can I have some more? The tiniest of frail vulnerable human creatures plucks up the courage to ask for more – we all know what happens next. Should children be going hungry in this country, in this day and age? Corbyn is a bit fuddy-duddy and utterly crucifiable, but racist he’s not. Now he’s suspended from Keir’s Tory party and there’s no opposition left to a bunch of utterly corrupt eugenic clowns. The Serco fuck-up has caused deaths. I’ts no joke.

Rather than reading, I like picking up snippets here and there – papers, radio.

I have a couple of book ideas on the go and now another has popped into my head. Its flavour is of Margaret Atwood’s The handmaid’s tale. The simple premise is that of a French Revolution mentality set in the present time. It’s called Marching South. Millions of Northeners leave their homes and march south to topple the government. (Check out the first book here.)

My story The Fox Queen has taken shape. The fifteen minute series on Woman’s Hour was about the Greek Gods giving fifteen dogs the gift of human speech and intelligence – set in modern times. I didn’t like it much, but it gave me a couple of ideas.

Also on Woman’s Hour, was a woman who had written a book about all the sexist clichés that men use. She pointed out that there are very few female ultra powerful female characters such as in Killing Eve. My character is recruited by the king of the foxes recruits to pursue a bloke who bludgeoned a fox to death.

…The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

I haven’t had time to do a video this week. This one is a gentle dig at pseudo-authority.