Wednesday 1 July 2009
Alex James: I'm going to take my cheese underground
Got to the hotel about 4.30am. Topiary, fountains and four-posters, two miles from Glastonbury. It was blissful to sit there in the morning sun, sipping tea and sucking cigarettes. I was quite content, didn't want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone for once and was slightly annoyed with myself for having arranged to meet a cheesemaker in Shepton Mallet.
Pete Humphries, of White Lake Cheese, always wins best goats' cheese at the British Cheese Awards and, on paper, it had looked like a good opportunity to pop in and see him while I was in the parish. But I was still covered in Florence Welch's glitter, knackered and reluctant to make the hyperspace leap from music to cheese. Even before I arrived, though, I was glad I had said I would see him. It continues to surprise me that, no matter how much I talk about it and lay awake at night thinking about it, there still comes a point every single day when I fancy a nibble on some cheese. On Saturday, it was when I was about halfway to Pete's. We sat on a hilltop overlooking the festival with a selection of his latest experiments and gorged ourselves stupid. I told him about the cheese I'm trying to make with the milk from Highgrove and said that instead of building a cheese factory, I was thinking about using old, refrigerated shipping containers. I want to price it at three quid, and that would keep production costs down. "You've still got to insulate them, like you would a building – best thing to do is bury them," he said. "That's why they used to make cheese in caves, underground is just a big walk-in fridge."
Why does nobody else do this, we wondered. Only people who grow skunk do it underground. Soon as I got home, I called the planners and told them I wanted to build some cheese caves. They're coming next week.
The buzz word is 'disappear'
I've wanted to keep bees since we arrived here and I keep trying to find out more about them. Everyone tells me different things but no one says it's easy. While I was away, there was much excitement when a swarm landed on our roof. They've started making a nest and seem very much at home. Nothing to it. I'm starting to think it's the best thing you can ever do, disappear for a while.
A drive in the countryside
Long-haired hedges in Somerset are completely different from the clipped, A-shaped hedgerows of west Oxfordshire. The roads are narrower, too – intimate corridors winding along to infinity like hidden streams. These long lanes are the place, not the thing that leads to another place. No one part of the countryside is nicer than any other, but no two parts are the same.
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