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‘Go-it-alone tenant’ must be ad­mired

Martin Hesp would have seemed to have grasped the muddy end of a very long stick. The ‘Leavers’ see the op­por­tu­ni­ties for Bri­tain’s fu­ture when re­leased from the shack­les of a dom­i­neer­ing, un­elected bu­reau­cracy that is Brus­sels. Whereas ‘Re­main­ers’ would pre­fer stay­ing tied to the apron strings. But leav­ing that aside, his anal­ogy of the house tenant want­ing to move has a few prob­lems. He ne­glects to men­tion the land­lord who lives in the pent­house flat. Find­ing space for 28 ten­ants would in­di­cate a large build­ing with 28 bed­sits in, I sus­pect, Spar­tan con­di­tions. That one of those 28 who has am­bi­tions and wants to leave and set up on their own away from the losers, would in­di­cate a de­gree of self im­prove­ment and am­bi­tion, surely to be ad­mired and con­grat­u­lated upon. One of the few things with greater agree­ment than most about Brexit is that what­ever form it takes the UK will be worse off than if it stayed in the EU.

If, by some chance, a fur­ther ref­er­en­dum does hap­pen may I sug­gest that the ques­tion be; Do you want your­self, your fam­ily, friends and the United King­dom to be worse off ?

I as­sume should we stay in the EU the £39 bil­lion bill which Mrs May and Co have signed up to will not be payable.

Now, what could be done with £39bn I won­der? The rail­way at Dawlish would be a mere bagatelle? Pot­holes at £100 each would be an his­tor­i­cal me­mory. Fund­ing cuts to so­cial care, what are they? Aus­ter­ity, what’s that?

Thank you With Christ­mas around the cor­ner the spirit of good­will to all men and women has by­passed the fem­i­nist move­ment. Its mem­bers are en­raged about a display of lingerie by Marks and Spencer in its shop win­dow in Not­ting­ham. The display shows sexy and at­trac­tive fe­male un­der gar­ments next to a men’s must-have out­fits to im­press.

The out­raged fem­i­nists lobby is de­mand­ing Marks & Spencer re­veal who or­gan­ised the display. Don’t these women who cam­paign for equal rights re­alise that the store does not give such a vast display to men’s un­der­gar­ments be­cause they are very bor­ing and unattrac­tive .

Women spend twice as much as men on un­der­wear be­cause they have a choice of what is fem­i­nine, at­trac­tive and makes them feel con­fi­dent.

Men’s socks and pants as Christ­mas gifts might be es­sen­tial, but they are far from en­tic­ing.

I hope that Marks & Spencer does not give and re­move the display.

For­get Brexit and save £39 bil­lion Lingerie row is over the top

We lived in Mi­rador Place, Mount Gould, Ply­mouth, dur­ing the 1940s and 50s. These lovely houses were given to Ply­mouth by Lady As­tor, to­gether with a hall called As­tor In­sti­tute for the peo­ple to hold dances and plays or roller skat­ing, giv­ing joy and plea­sure dur­ing those dark days of war. I have a photo of my sis­ter and I danc­ing the hokey cokey with Lady As­tor.

We think she was a won­der­ful per­son and she did so much for Ply­mouth. We would love to see a statue to re­mem­ber her by. At Hol­lowtree Toby Fair­brother’s busy pack­ing up his gin bot­tles to meet a keen sea­sonal de­mand. It seems the mar­ket for craft gin is boom­ing. And ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­san gin maker I heard on BBC Ra­dio’s The Bot­tom Line, it’s be­ing driven by the search for things “au­then­tic”.

Well it’s true that Toby picked a bunch of herbs from Lynda Snell’s gar­den to sup­ply the “botan­i­cals” for his Scruff gin. Whether this makes it au­then­tic I wouldn’t like to say. But if I were look­ing for a tip­ple that’s as gen­uine as Am­bridge vil­lage pond or the bells of St Stephen’s church I’d go for Joe Grundy’s farm­house cider ev­ery time.

No one’s quite sure how long Joe’s been mak­ing cider at Grange Farm, but it must be at least 70 years. When I first ar­rived in Am­bridge back in the 1980s – I was a script-writer in those days – ru­mours were rife about some of the un­speak­able things that ended up in the bar­rels. A dead rat was once men­tioned.

Now I’ve learned more about Joe’s meth­ods I can see that these ru­mours were base­less. They prob­a­bly orig­i­nated from cer­tain par­ties with an axe to grind. Joe al­ways blamed the Archers, though I’ve no way of know­ing if this is true.

What I can say is that

Joe’s cider-mak­ing meth­ods are an ob­ject les­son in sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion that’s good for both con­sumers and the planet. In fact as farm­ers like Adam and Brian go around spray­ing toxic chem­i­cals all over their crops, they might like to ask them­selves if there’s any­thing they could learn from Grange Farm cider.

A good start­ing point would be the soil in the old or­chard. My sug­ges­tion would be that in a quiet mo­ment they sneak over to Grange Farm with a spade and lift a sec­tion of or­chard turf. My bet is the soil un­der­neath would be rich and dark in colour, full of earth­worms, and hav­ing what gar­den­ers call “a good crumb struc­ture”. Soil like that could grow any­thing – even af­ter pro­duc­ing an an­nual ap­ple crop for more than 70 years.

The Home Farm team might want to com­pare it with the soil on their own land, the soil that grows their wheat and oilseed crops. They know only too well what it’s like – light and dusty, lack­ing earth­worms and with no dis­cernible struc­ture. Blow­away land I’d call it. Or dur­ing heavy rain­storms, wash-away land. It only pro­duces crops be­cause Adam doses it with chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers and pes­ti­cides year af­ter year.

Should Adam and Brian take a closer look at the soil in Joe’s or­chard they might see some­thing even more re­mark­able – a net­work of fine, white threads spread­ing out from the tree roots. These are known as my­c­or­rhizal fungi, nat­u­ral, free-liv­ing or­gan­isms that help the tree roots col­lect vi­tal nu­tri­ents and mois­ture from the soil. They’re also what sci­en­tists think en­ables trees to “talk to each other”.

Across most of Bri­tain’s farm­land chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers and pes­ti­cides have de­stroyed these won­der­ful or­gan­isms. This is why many of to­day’s foods no longer have the health­ful nu­tri­ents they had in our par­ents and grand-par­ents time. And it’s why ap­ples from old or­chards like Joe’s are chock full of flavour and health-giv­ing vi­ta­mins and min­er­als.

These are the ap­ples farm­house cider-mak­ers like Joe use in mak­ing their ar­ti­san prod­ucts. The pure juice is fer­mented in bar­rels us­ing wild yeasts to pro­duce ciders that gen­uinely have that lo­cal dis­tinc­tive­ness the French call ter­roir.

For­tu­nately, we in the West­coun­try have dozens of lo­cal cider-mak­ers us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods like these. Close to my home in Som­er­set Roger Wilkins at Mud­g­ley on the Som­er­set Lev­els has be­come some­thing of a le­gend. He’s even got a cider shed that’s not un­like Joe and Ed­die’s.

In nearby Street, the Heck fam­ily make an im­pres­sive range of sin­gle-va­ri­ety ciders from cider ap­ples with glo­ri­ous names like Porter’s Per­fec­tion,

Kingston Black, Port Wine of Glas­ton­bury and the un­for­get­table Slack-MaGir­dle.

Among the new play­ers in the game are Joe He­ley and Todd Stud­ley, co-founders of the Se­cret Or­chard range made from the fruit of old or­chards, just like the one at Grange Farm. In Corn­wall Bar­rie Gibson makes fine vin­tage ciders at Fowey Val­ley Cider us­ing ap­ples from a small or­chard at Golant as well as other nearby or­chards.

Sadly no West­coun­try pro­ducer will be able to match Joe Grundy’s tri­umph of last sea­son. He made a Christ­mas cider us­ing a lo­cal ap­ple va­ri­ety now thought to have dis­ap­peared – the quaintly named Tum­ble Tus­sock. Un­less, of course, a lone tree sur­vives some­where in a long for­got­ten West­coun­try or­chard?

Statue is fit­ting trib­ute to Lady As­tor

The Se­cret Or­chard range of ciders are made from the fruit of old or­chards, just like the one at Grange Farm.

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