HOW WE MET; MIRIAM MARGOLYES AND PATRICIA HODGE

Pat has this icy hauteur, but she loves filthy jokes; Miriam can't be deceptive, and some find her shocking er

Onion trouble

"Quite a few of my onions have gone rotten in storage" writes Kenneth Fitchett of Dorchester, Dorset. "I left them in the sun for a good fortnight. They then had several weeks in good sunshine on the shelf below the garage window. When I cut off the stalks before putting them there, there was a juicy liquid in some. These must be the ones whose stems have brown stains on them."

Letter: Australian onions should make us cry

Sir: Ron Parker, chairman of the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Information Bureau (letter, 15 October), rightly highlights the health benefits of fresh fruit and vegetable consumption; why does he ignore the threat to health of pollution from transport?

Gardening: Cuttings: Weekend work

RUNNER beans and French beans that have cropped to exhaustion (or stringiness) should be cleared off vegetable plots. Globe artichokes that have sprouted new growth may need protection now that the first frost has arrived. For a supply of onions as early as May next year, plant onion sets such as Unwins First Early. These don't grow half as big as later-maturing onions.

GARDENING / The jolly orange giants of the vegetable world: Onions like footballs, cabbages big as cartwheels: at the Spalding championships size really does matter, as Anna Pavord discovers

MEL EDNIE'S onion came to the UK Giant Vegetable Championships last weekend packed in a square wooden box with 'DANGER' written on the lid. The heaviest onion in the world, it arrived fresh from its success at the Kelsea Onion Festival. Inside this box was 12lb 4oz of onion, straining against its outer skin like a wrestler in a corset. Mr Ednie, a builder from Anstruther, Fife, stood nonchalantly aside while two acolytes reverently lifted the beast on to the scales.

Flat Earth: Enter a peeler

THE SMACK of firm government, that's what we like to hear] And where more audible than in Norway, where you may expect to be harshly punished for not being really rather nice to policemen? One motorist, pulled over for speeding, looked the cop up and down, then, coldly and deliberately, called him 'an onion'. Fined pounds 375. Take him down.

Gardening: Cuttings: Monstrous onions

GROWING monster vegetables is a particularly British fetish, and Harrogate's Great Autumn Flower Show today has the annual weigh-in of monster onions. Last year's winner was within a quarter of an ounce of the world record. This year, with superlative growing conditions, the record may be broken. Also at the show are roses in quantity, fruit and a display of pelargoniums. The show is in the Exhibition Halls at Harrogate, 9.30am-5pm, admission pounds 5.50.

RADIO / Take two onions

HERE'S an idea: 'Rub the part morning and evening with onions until it is red, and rub it afterwards with honey - or electrify it.' The part receiving this attention - the scalp, of course - is then expected to sprout hair. Straight upwards, presumably, and smelling like a Chinese take-away. If you had 300 guesses as to the author of such a tip, you'd never get it right. It was none other than that famous old Methodist trichologist John Wesley. His remedy cropped up, if you'll forgive the expression, in the course of A Word to the Wise (R4), an anthology of ancient, arcane advice introduced by Rosalind Miles.

Onion taunt

First Edition

Onion trap

BUCHAREST - A man and his son were electrocuted by a boobytrap they had set up to protect their onion patch against thieves. Florian Iorga, 42, and his 16-year-old son Aurel were found dead in their pyjamas among the onions behind their Bucharest house by the man's wife on Friday.

Best-sellers: Top 10 crisp flavours

1 Cheese & onion

TELEVISION / An awful lot of Everything

IT'S THE bleak midwinter; you've got a good fire going and the curtains drawn; at last, you're ready for some cosy festive-season TV. So what do you get? Holiday adverts, full of blue skies and beaches and people wearing less than is good for them. This year, programme makers seem to have gone out of their way to collude with the advertisers on the crazy idea that summer holidays are what we want to be thinking about as we fold away the wrapping paper ready for next year. Sharon and Tracey went to Hollywood. Victor Meldrew went to the Algarve. Lovejoy went to the Deep South of the USA and Spender went to Marseilles. These fab feature-film-length specials are supposed to be a treat for us, full of fresh, intimate angles on our favourite TV folk. But they are just depressing, like the holiday snaps of somebody whom, you suddenly realise, you never really liked half as much as you thought you did.

Gardening: Cuttings: The onion field

BOXING DAY is the traditional time to sow seed of show onions, the monsters that loom like hand grenades on the benches of late summer horticultural shows. The world record is 11lb 8oz for a single onion, and Unwins, the seed merchants, is offering a pounds 2,000 prize to anyone who can beat that weight with an onion grown from its seed strain 'Unwins Exhibition' ( pounds 1.35 a packet). You need to sow early in gentle heat to give prize onions the maximum amount of time to put on weight. Seed and full details of the competition and its rules are available from Unwins, Histon, Cambridge CB4 4LE (0223 236236).

READER RECIPE / Great balls of fire

THIS recipe, from T E Lobo of Ealing, west London, opens our new series on curries. Mrs Lobo will receive two bottles of Pinot Grigio 1992 Borgo Molino. She writes: 'I am proud to enclose a recipe from my late husband, Peter, a Goan who had lived in Darjeeling until he came to Britain when he was 20.'

THEATRE / Double fantasy: Paul Taylor on Looking Through a Glass Onion at the Criterion

You are a big rock / pop star and you've reached that fatal date with premature death. As the assassin starts to level his gun, or the plane tilts, or the toxins in your body launch their ultimate protest, what rushes through your mind? A delirious re-run of all the adulation and sex 'n' drugs you've managed to pack into a short life? Or the ghastly thought that in a decade's time, some run-of-the-mill lookalike may well be fronting a West End show lazily based on your music?
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