Ribblehead viaduct


The Ranch – 

May has been and gone – my all-time favourite month. Hot, hot, hot and heady.

Now we have a burst of squally rainy weather and the water tanks are filling up again. The latest drought panic is over, but not before Elias definitively sorts out the irrigation system. He’s bought drip hose, filters, air-locks, timers, T-pieces and so on. We try it out and it works. We actually use a bit of science (or rather primary school maths) to work out how long to leave the tap open (and hence set the timer).

The beds are 11.5 metres long. Each metre needs 7l to give it a decent watering (based on using a watering can). That’s just over 80 litres. The IBC tanks are roughly 1m cubed so a drop of 8cm = 80 litres. We time how long it takes (an hour). Bingo.

Irrigation at last


The success of any organic gardening enterprise is proportional to the amount of organic material fed to the soil. I get the muckings-out* from a medium sized pony which I mulch directly onto the beds once a year – i.e. no dig. All gardening wisdom says that manure should be rotted down before being applied* – they’re all wrong – it works superbly well as it is – within a couple of months, there are worms a couple of inches below the surface. I augment it with a sprinkling of volcanic ash to supply extra nutrients.

I have a total of SIX incomplete brick compost bins. They just need fronts and lids. All my beds are now mulched and I’ve run out of room for the horse muck, so I need to get them operational.

*The manure is wood-chip. If it was straw-based, it probably would need rotting down for a couple of years.
unfinished compost bins


Phil and Alex have filled in two more walls of the greenhouse, using discarded double-glazed units and leftover bits of polycarbonate. Phil has sold a few more plants. Gwen and I are potting up more in anticipation of a plant sale (t’government says it’s allowed now). We’ve got herbs, tomatoes, chillies, brassicas, onions, leeks + loads of rhubarb. The Magpie-ravaged brassica bed has recovered and I’ve built a another cage for a second (with fold-down legs so it can be stored flat).

We now have kale, broccoli, chives, salad leaves and water cress. I need to learn to cook with it all.

Elias films a couple of scenes for a potential Lockdown with Sage vid. There’s the obligatory tractor clip and a popping up behind the rye shot. The mullet wig and pipe return. I am so incredibly childish.

Lockdown with Sage


Last week I had an episode of high bee drama – I was alerted to a low buzzing hum and when I looked up, there were bees everywhere within a large radius of the hive. I suspected they were swarming, but was worried that something else might be bothering them. I phoned Dewy, and in his imitable Monty Don stylee, he calmy guided me through what to do.

He said that the queen had probably landed close by and told me to watch where the bees were heading. He was right – they were just in the hedge opposite – a massive swarm at least half a metre squared. Fortunately, I still had the nucleus box (referred to in bee-keeping circles as the nuc box) that he brought the original colony in last year.

I donned my bee suit (which reminds me of donning PPE) and trimmed the surrounding branches as instructed – the nuc was all ready, next to the existing hive. The hardest bit was cutting through an inch thick hawthorn trunk with one hand whilst trying to support the weight of the tree and the swarm with the other.

In the end, it was a messy business – after knocking the bees from the tree into the nuc box, I had to go back several times to gather up residual little swarms from other branches. It worked though (the essential thing is to get the queen into the box, and the rest will follow).

Dewy came on Monday and we had a look – he said that it’s a really strong colony. Bees are fascinating. Before leaving with her swarm, the queen lays between 5 & 10 queen cells. The first to hatch will kill all the others.

Second bee colony


A day out

Weeks of lockdown aloneness become months and still I’m a shit cook. The truth is I’m a spoilt cunt. Louise has looked after me so beautifully for so long, that I just haven’t got into the swing of all this domestic planning shit – what a dick. I still can’t face going near a supermarket. She pragmatically decides to stay where she is for now (in a newly renovated comfortable little house with Rachel).

After treading the same reclusive rut for so long, a day out beckons. It’s daunting and I’m apprehensive.

I stock up on Oddies stodge and head North, calling briefly at that place where there used to be traction engines. We’re heading for that three carrot-two carrot-one carrot organic farm near Clapham. The greenhouses are closed but the little shop is open and we get some organic stuff.

My dad was a founder member of Burnley caving club – they rented a railway carriage in Stockdale as a base – all his summer weekends were spent in the dales. 

The day is nostalgic as we visit his old haunts – places that I’ve been to so many times before, during my childhood and since: Clapham; Settle; Horton and finally Ribblehead, which is swarming with day trippers. My dad once had a bare-knuckle fight with an Irish man underneath the viaduct – I wish I’d written down more of his colourful anecdotes. We follow the path by the railway.  There’s an abandoned house reminiscent of Royston Vasey and lots of skylarks. We hear curlews and there are lapwings.

The lady in the snack van comments that there have been lots of people out in posh sports car, as a red Ferrari zooms past. She’s sympathetic to the crowds:

‘They’ve been in prison for weeks.’

Settle to Carlisle railway


The other ranch

Gaines and the cool tattooed Russian are spotted by the cycling Johnsons swilling ales in the park.

We have a Paddy and swarms of cool Irish – even bourgeois Dublin is represented. Devlin (from the North) sweeps through resusc like it’s a catwalk. She’s sporting an off-white trouser with a Bay City Rollers cut, featuring dark brown large spots interweaved with smaller brighter spots. Her top, initially appearing all black also sports glossier large black spots against a matte background. She’s conducting an ESLE*. She and her mummy are thrilled to bits because her brother’s band’s Dawn Ray’d has made the 20 albums that change the way we think forever  in Kerrang (he’s a psychiatrist). Meanwhile my anaesthetist friend Oli is making clever lockdown vids where he sings and plays everything himself – Rock & Roll doctors rule.

We have a couple of professors, a College Vice-President, a channel swimmer and a bunch of musos, including of course THE Peel alumni. We’re a bit different – slightly eccentric (or maybe that’s just me?). We have cool helicopter people too – Quinn and the token Scot.

Our response to the pandemic has been well thought out and planned, and changes regularly according to the flow. We are polite, considerate and accommodating, but by the same token, in the politest possible way, no fucker fucks with us.

Acting like an arse? Refusing to see a patient? Patronising the nurses? We’ve seen it all before mate. If we decide that a patient requires your attention, that’s the way it is. Arrogant twattery just provides us with a bit of sport.

Each department has its own style and ours seems to suit the neck of the woods. Stay cool for long enough, and eventually the cool kids will come. No golden handshake shit in our show. The recruitment film seems redundant now, but there are some zany out-takes that could be put to use.

The last hot weekend coincides with the fallout from the Cummings debacle. As a result, we have lots of lockdown abandonment traumas – cyclists and motorcyclists, drunken falls and brawls – at one point, we fear a major incident. Thanks Tories – just remember who’s on the front line picking up the pieces.

*Extended Supervised Learning Event
New brassica cage



Whatever happened to the splendid English tradition of rioting?

Joking aside, rioting invariably takes place following some kind of act of violence towards a unprotected individual by the police – usually murder. The last riots in this country followed the shooting of unarmed Mark Duggan.

America is similar but different – they have lots of guns. In the current situation involving nationwide protest, most of it peaceful, police brutality is at an all time high. Videos abound of police groping and beating women and knocking defenceless old people to the ground and they’re still murdering – there’s a sickening video of two of them shooting and murdering an unarmed man in a wheelchair – the similarity to Stormtroopers is frightening. For every incident captured on camera, there must be hundreds that aren’t.

In this country, there’s an excellent tradition of well-orchestrated protest, resulting in improved conditions for ordinary people. Are you a woman? Fancy the right to vote? Are you a fourteen year old child? Fancy a break from going down the pit or from dying of a treatable illness? Fancy a walk in the countryside?

In terms of ordinary decent people being unable to shape their own destiny, there’s a common theme: the ultra-rich white man from a certain group. In the USA, it’s the Skull and Bones/Ivy League axis. In the UK it’s Oxbridge/Eton/The Masons. These people all believe in eugenics.

I invented the Cunt Register as a literary device when I wrote the book. I took on a bunch of corrupt bullies a few years ago. I saddled my horse, sharpened my sword and went after them. I didn’t do it for me. I did it for my sweet beautiful nurse girlfriends when cruel nasty people were making them cry – it was a different place and time.

The register is now more apt than ever and we could metaphorically say that the Cunt Registry website has crashed due to over-subscription.

At the very top of course, as a shimmering, glimmering pinnacle of cuntness is Cummings. Once people realised that he was untouchable, there was a final sigh in the British psyche – a mass ‘fuck it’ and all pretence of a united effort to mitigate the worst possible virus scenario evaporated.

People are still angry, but they don’t know how to effectively protest any more. I’m a big fan of the ‘peer between the cracks and quietly unsubscribe’ method. For a start, do some research and find out who Cummings and his masters really are and what they stand for. No ordinary person would ever vote for them again if they knew the truth. For every pound we spend, a significant percentage goes into their coffers. Find out which bits, and spend it elsewhere. Non-tax paying trillionaire newspaper owners with very dodgy pasts are a good start.

What we really need is a third party, led by a woman. Starmer alas, with his undeclared financial support and rantings in the Torygraph is just the other cheek of the same arse.


Ladybird rioting book