Alex James: When Chef said he loved my cheese...

Rural Notebook

Related Topics

I wanted to go to dinner, not because it's a fabulous house but because I like the guy. It is a fabulous house, though: proper, old-fashioned, country splendour, a stately home with every trimming imaginable. It belongs to another, more magnificent age. Even now, the spectacular wines in the

cellars are passing their sell-bys and the portraits peeling on the walls because in the 21st century, no one could possibly entertain on the scale that the house was conceived on.

The other guests were largely slightly irritating people, people who were there to see the house. A lot of wide-eyed, waddling, fluffy bunny rabbits, they were, who couldn't tell the wine was knackered. "Well, phhhh... Haven't seen much of you in the papers recently," said someone. Someone else said, "Did you know that my father bought your farm and he actually kept the fields that he wanted, the best ones for farming, of course, and then he sold what he didn't want to the person that you bought it from." It was all just ever so slightly catty. It was tiring. "What do you do?" said someone else who already seemed cross with me. "What do you do?" like that. "What?" I took great delight in telling him that I make cheese. He practically snorted with derision and flounced off to find the rock star he had heard was attending.

I'd brought some cheese with me. "Ooh, chef would love to meet you," said my dear host. "He's a real foodie!" The fact that a chef should also be a food lover seemed to him a wonderful piece of luck. In the vast kitchen, similar to the one where I worked when I was 15 in a hotel in Bournemouth, there was an elderly chef. He was holding a small, cling-filmed piece of cheese in a shaky hand. He was taking it home with him. He fixed my eye with some effort, deliberately. "It's the nicest cheese I've ever had," he said.

I swear I've never felt so proud.

A happening place to be

A bread-and-butter January day, everyone "head down, arse up, pedalling hard", and as I ran through the woods, even the animals seemed busy. A woodpecker hammering, exotic tits building a nest, gangs of skinny deer skulking warily, like the teenagers in Chipping Norton. Ah, to be a part of all that whirring industry under comforting, grey skies. More happening than Manhattan in Fashion Week.

The river runs high

I've only seen the well in the back garden higher than this once – the day that Tewkesbury sank. The river is so handsome, strong. I had an overwhelming urge to jump in, earlier; never stronger. In fact that's where I'm going right now. Communion.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page


Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace

Gabriel Sassoon
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride