Tuesday, 21 May 2019


We have all done it... on holiday, after a lazy day spent soaking up the sun or eagerly exploring the sites, gathered with friends as the sun goes down, admiring the most spectacular view, or snuggled up to a loved one in a cosy hideaway, the perfect secret discovery, sharing a bottle of local wine, perfectly matched to the local cuisine. Such wonderful happy times.

Why is it then, that back at home, returning to the daily grind of normal life, many of us yearn to recreate moments like this, which just end in disappointment?

Of course, much of this anti-climax is because our memories are apt to play tricks on us, recalling the “good bits”, while conveniently forgetting the insects, the sun burn, the accommodation that did not quite live up to expectations, and the rancid wine.

Wherever I travel I always bring back a momento or two; usually something food related, plus a cook book and, of course, a bottle or two of the local tipple. Provided I temper my enthusiasm, an expandable suitcase is usually sufficient to accommodate my purchases. When it comes to carrying home wine, opinion remains divided. While wines drunk in situ do seem to taste different, there is no evidence to support allowing a wine to “recover” after travel.

When it comes to splurging out on quality red wine though, which may have been bottled unfiltered, or where there is sediment present, allowing it to settle for a few days is preferable; much like we need time to settle back into our usual routine after being in holiday mode.
In addition to the time the wine has spent in transit, consideration needs to be given to any exposure to heat, while your luggage sits on the tarmac in sweltering temperatures.

In general, for anything other than a souvenir bottle of plonk, you are better off purchasing it from a reputable distributor.

When visiting small independent wine makers, I often buy a few bottles to take home, if for no other reason than that I know it is something not readily available elsewhere.

If buying wine outside Europe, then there are likely to be restrictions on what you can do; for example, in the US you must use an approved shipping service.

Sadly, as I have learned to my cost, due to the onerous travel restrictions, it is now not possible to carry wine in your hand luggage when travelling by air. It must be transported in your checked-in luggage. Judicious packing, with bottles wrapped individually in bubble wrap and using my clothes as padding, I manage to get away without too many breakages, despite baggage handlers’ efforts to destroy my luggage.

I have also fallen foul of vineyards offering to pack wine in the usual cardboard boxes; even when packed tightly with dividers between bottles, it is unwise to put this in the hold.

If transporting wine is likely to be a regular occurrence, it is worth remembering that while many established vineyards will have international wine shipping services in place, it can be prohibitively expensive, so it is worth considering some of the other options available. All of these are available on Amazon.

•Wine Skins, which have a vinyl exterior and a bubble-wrap interior, are simple to use and are leak-resistant too, costing around £5 and up.

•“Built” wine tote bags are good for just one or two bottles, giving good protection, and with a handy carrying handle too. Various versions are available in the region of £10

•WineHug inflatable wine sleeves, which are re-usable, are worth investing in and provide good protection. They come in various sizes and cost £12, plus shipping.

•Lazenne wine travel bags are lightweight with a heavy-duty polystyrene insert which can hold up to 12 bottles of wine and can be had for £125.

•VinGardeValise is the high-end option, perfect for those who take their wine seriously and really want to push the boat out. This specialist suitcase, with six removable inserts, takes up to 12 bottles and is specifically designed for packing wine bottles (or other liquids such as olive oil or spirits) for air travel. Although expensive, at a whopping £263 for a new one, this is now at the top of my wish list.

One thing to bear in mind is the hold luggage weight restriction of 23kg. A bottle of bubbly weighs in at around 1.5kg, so a dozen of these, packed in a custom-made holder, will just about keep you within the limit.

While we remain in Europe, the personal duty-free allowance is 90 litres (60 for sparkling wine), which should be sufficient for most of us!

Tuesday, 14 May 2019


‘It is often claimed
that the Queen’s
favourite tipple was
claret topped up with
single malt whisky’

As we celebrate the bicentennial of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s birth this year, it seems appropriate that Ilminster’s Literary Festival has invited historian, author and TV commentator Helen Rappaport to explore what happened after the death of Prince Albert in December 1861, and the impact this had on the monarchy.

Personally, I am much more interested in Queen Victoria’s eating and drinking habits. Hence, in addition to carrying out my own research, I turned to The Greedy Queen by food historian Annie Gray. Queen Victoria, as her expanding girth showed (measuring 50 inches by the time of her death at age 81), had a healthy appetite for both food and drink throughout her life. When it came to the beverages of choice to accompany the gargantuan feasts of the Victorian era, chilled Champagne and sloe gin were favourites of genteel ladies, along with a glass of hock (German white wine from the Rhine region) and claret (red wine from Bordeaux).

In addition to London Dry gin, fortified wines such as Madeira, Marsala, Port and Sherry were a regular part of the Victorian man’s beverage consumption, before, during, and after, dinner. Lest we think that alcohol was drunk to the exclusion of all else, lemonade and root beer were also very popular, and surprisingly, sparkling water, such as Perrier, had been introduced in 1863.

Recently released statistics show that in 1840, the year Victoria married Prince Albert, Britain imported 28 million lbs of tea, and more than twice as much coffee. By 1853 this trend had changed as plantations in India began to supply large quantities of tea.

Queen Victoria enjoyed a good cuppa (with a drop of whisky in it) and several tea merchants, who were in business during her reign, produced aptly named blends. Whittards, established in 1886, has Royal Blend tea at £9.50 for 100g, a smooth, rich black tea blended with Madagascan vanilla and red, white and blue cornflower petals.

More recently, The Kent & Sussex Tea Co. has on offer Queen Victoria Blend Tea. Available at just £2.77 for 50g, it is a blend of oolong and black tea.

Regardless of the influence of John Brown, her Scottish ghillie and close confidante, Victoria was for some years a whisky aficionado, consuming Islay Single Malt in liberal quantities. A small distillery near Balmoral produced a version specially for her, which she took with soda water, and on a visit RAISE A TOAST TO THE ROYAL FAMILY Food and drink by Linda Vijeh to Scotland in 1842 she is said to have enjoyed a glass of Atholl brose (a mixture of whisky, honey and oatmeal).

Victoria did much to make the consumption of spirits acceptable to the middle-classes and several Highland distilleries were granted royal warrants by her.
Glenury Royal is one of these, and although it ceased production in 1985 rare bottles are still available for £400+. Royal Brackla, which was issued its warrant in 1835 will set you back anywhere from £47 to £1,200 a bottle, depending upon the age, and Royal Lochnagar, which received its warrant in 1848 can be found from £38 to £550 a bottle.

It is often claimed that the Queen’s favourite tipple was claret topped up with single malt whisky. Indeed, many fine whiskies are now aged in Bordeaux casks.

To raise a glass in homage to Queen Victoria try this pretty version of a recipe for a ‘New York Sour’

60ml whisky
30ml fresh lemon juice
25ml simple sugar syrup (made using a
ratio of 1 part sugar to 1 part water)
15ml full-bodied red wine

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the whisky, lemon juice, and syrup.
Cover and shake well until chilled.
Strain into an ice-filled tumbler.
Pour the red wine gently over the back of a teaspoon so that it floats on top of the drink.


Monday, 13 May 2019


The forthcoming Ilminster Literary Festival (now in its 4th year) gives me pause for thought in relation to how, over the centuries, an army of talented novelists, poets and playwrights, in putting pen to paper, have chosen wine as the subject in which to wax lyrical.

In many ways this is hardly surprising. Wine is the ceremonial liquid of choice, playing a significant part in the Christian eucharist, and we all know the story of Jesus turning water into wine.

Drinking songs abound, and Shakespeare’s references to drink are abundant -  
“I drink to the general joy of the whole table” - Macbeth Act 3, Scene 4
“Good company, good wine, good welcome can make good people” - Henry VIII, Act 1 Scene 4

When proposing a toast, we clink glasses as we take a drink and are bound together, for a fleeting moment, in one single act where everyone plays their part in the stories told; births, deaths, marriages, anniversaries, victories, defeats, graduations, coronations, in honour of someone, in expressing goodwill or celebration of an event.

Here are some snippets from my favourite authors to stimulate your thirst, both for the written word, and a glass of wine!

A Drinking Song, W.B. Yeats
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and sigh.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
Well known for his love affair with alcohol, this set of memoirs paints a vivid picture of Hemingway's time as a struggling young writer as part of the American expatriate circle of writers in the 1920s.

Drinking Alone Beneath The Moon, Li Po
In this Chinese poem, written around 743AD, the poet finds himself alone …   
‘Among the blossoms, a single jar of wine.
No one else here, I ladle it out myself.
Raising my cup, I toast the bright moon,
and facing my shadow makes friends three,   
though moon has never understood wine,
and shadow only trails along behind me.’

I Bring An Unaccustomed Wine, Emily Dickinson
This poem begins…
I bring an unaccustomed wine     
To lips long parching, next to mine,         
And summon them to drink.

Ode to Wine, Pablo Neruda
Such a sensual poem ………..
‘A jug of wine, and thou beside me
in the wilderness,
sang the ancient poet.
Let the wine pitcher
add to the kiss of love its own.
My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendour of life.

The Soul of Wine, Charles Baudelaire
One eve in the bottle sang the soul of wine:
'Man, unto thee, dear disinherited,
I sing a song of love and light divine-
Prisoned in glass beneath my seals of red.
My nectar falls in your fertility,
A precious seed whose Sower is divine,
So from our love is born rare poetry,
Thrusting towards God the blossom on its vine!'

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

South Somerset District Council Election Results

Well, it is all done and dusted and whilst on a personal level I was thrilled to be re-elected for a fifth term of office, and especially to have increased my share of the vote in my ward, and a pretty good turnout, all things considered, of 46%.

This was a difficult election for many reasons, not least the ongoing situation at central government level, which clearly has had an impact on the result.

I know that I could not have succeeded without the help of local residents, many of whom were willing to put aside their own political views to support me, for which I am profoundly grateful. I am also aware though of those who either chose not to vote at all, in addition to those who felt that one of the other candidates would serve them and their community better. In the coming weeks and months I will do my best to identify the reasons for such disquiet and do whatever I can to alleviate their concerns. I am very aware of the fact that it is my role to represent the whole community, and although I know that I do not always get it right, it is not for want of trying.

For my sins, I have also now been elected as the leader of our much diminished Conservative party in South Somerset. Something of a poisoned chalice some might say, but, when you are down there is only one way to go, and that is up! I am very much looking forward to working together with my newly elected fellow members, to ensure that we best serve the whole community.

Cllr. Linda Vijeh, Neroche Ward

Wednesday, 1 May 2019


With local elections less than 48 hours away, the current state of the national political scene has given us all pause for thought.

The high level of anger and frustration at the state we seem to have got ourselves into over Brexit is palpable. The fear amongst those of us who are daft enough to put ourselves in the firing line is not only that the electorate will turn their back on us, but that in their disgust will choose not to vote at all. To my mind this will be the most heinous crime of all. The whole point of a democracy is that we do have the opportunity to choose who represents us. We might not favour any of those who appear on the ballot paper but the very least we can do is to express our disgust by spoiling the paper; this in itself sends a clear enough message.

I am sick and tired of hearing the strident voice of Brexit remainers saying that only a portion of the electorate wanted out. Turnout was high, at almost 72%, and I would argue that those who chose not to vote clearly did not care sufficiently to express a view either way.

What bothers me most though is that the man on the street is not always able to segregate the national picture from the local one. Party political divisions can be toxic. It is often said that in certain areas of the country you could put a monkey up for election and it would be successful because of those who have ‘always voted that way’. This is no longer good enough.

Despite being a lifelong Conservative (for my sins) I certainly have not always voted for the Conservative candidate; I vote for the person that I believe will best serve my interests and those of my community, based on my knowledge of them and the extent to which they have demonstrated their commitment and interest in the issues that matter most to me.

Over many years I have been courted by other political parties but have always declined because I do not share their views or values. Besides, if I part company with the Tories now, they will never change, and change is surely what is needed.

In standing for the local elections myself, for the 7th time, I pride myself on the fact that I am able to gain full cross-party support, and am thrilled when someone says to me, ‘By the way, which party do you represent?’

I consider an election in my area successful if I gain the highest turnout. If I am re-elected it will be an honour and a privilege; and if not, then clearly I have not been doing the job to their satisfaction. That’s politics for you.

Why vote for Linda?

SS – As our Councillor Linda is thorough, consistent, caring and tenacious.

JM - Conscientious and hardworking, Linda grasps situations quickly, supporting us by attending PC meetings and local events.

AS – Linda is always happy to help, fighting for the underdog like a dog with a bone. Nothing is ever too much trouble.

TW - We are amazed at the amount of work she does. Give a problem to Linda and forget about it. It will be resolved as far as is practicable.

LM – Linda’s tenacity and resolve in doing her utmost to help overcome injustice is renowned.

CW – Linda does an amazing job keeping us up to date. I feel more connected than ever before. Hats off to her for being such a hard-working and dedicated councillor.

CN - Linda is a fantastic councillor, being there for me when I needed help, very thorough, and available at the drop of a hat to listen to my concerns, acting accordingly. 

RM - is very active regarding local planning and highway issues and is most approachable.

BP – Linda is an excellent example of what Councillors should be – a listener, enabler, communicator and supporter.

AG - Thank you so much for your input this a,m. Your input was absolutely brilliant and I hope we can use it to help others in Mum's situation. Now only five hours since you left and she has a new shower unit fitted and is asking when you want the champagne celebration - several bottles here need cracking.
Seriously, Mum sends you a huge Thank you and please feel free to publicise any of this. Only trouble I have is that there is only one if you.
Take care and don't work too hard.

TW - Linda,
We both wish you well in the coming election. In our opinion you do not need any supporting comments: We are simply amazed at the amount of successful work you do for us. If there is a problem, give it to Linda and forget it. We know that it will get done as far as is practicable.
If help is needed to assist or promote a project: it gets done! We just get exhausted simply reading the things that you do... six different meetings in one day!!!

DJ - Count us in..............  We think you’re wonderful!!!!!!

CN - Linda is a fantastic councillor and has been there for me when I have needed help.  Linda is very thorough and was available at the drop of a hat to listen to my concerns and act accordingly on these. I would give her my vote.

HD and BD - Comments from two "locals" - If you have a problem with neighbours, roads, family, town or parish matters Linda Vijeh will always try to make positive suggestions.  Whilst not everything has a solution she is always friendly and helpful.
Linda undertakes her role seriously as a Councillor for the people and she cheerfully supports parish, town, village and various church and wider projects. She may not always be able to stay very long at any event but her interest enables her to know what is happening everywhere within her "patch"

CW and DW - Best wishes to you Linda and thank you again for being a brilliant and hard-working councillor. We may fly different political colours but no one could do a better job of representing their constituents and others could learn from your approach.

RM and JM - Cllr Linda Vijeh works tirelessly for her widespread residents, attending many differing events including Parish and Town Council meetings, fund-raising and various charity events, meeting residents to discuss specific concerns, is very active regarding local planning and highway issues and perhaps above all, is most approachable.
This takes up a very large amount of what is often Linda’s long working day which also includes her formal Council meetings responsibilities involving the reading and understanding of lengthy Committee Reports, debating those with Council colleagues in order to reach fair and practical decisions and reporting those to her several local level Parish Councils and other relevant organisations.
Long may she continue representing us!

JM - Linda is conscientious and hardworking, grasps the situation quickly and supports our Community by attending PC mtgs and local events. Available to offer advice on Parish Council matters when approached in between meetings. Good communicator.

LM - If anyone asks Councillor Linda Vijeh for assistance with a problem, they can be assured of her prompt and persistent attention to resolve it.
Her tenacity and resolve in doing her utmost to help overcome injustice is renowned.
She is a caring and compassionate lady so you can rest assured your case will be dealt with in a fair and unbiased manner.
A dedicated supporter of local events which, combined with her Council business she allows to dictate her diary, but regardless of her fully committed life style she always has a smile on her face and time to listen to your concerns.

BP - I have known Cllr Vijeh for several years and have been impressed by the following:
Her attendance at Parish Council meetings where she updated us on topical matters and took forward concerns that we had on a variety of matters.
Her support of a wide range of events across her ‘patch’.  She doesn’t only put in an appearance, but is active within many of those events.  This enables people to speak to her on an informal basis (and vice versa) about any issues they have, usually in a non-political way.
Her proactivity regarding support for fundraising needs, signposting to sources of funds where appropriate.

Cllr Vijeh has endless energy and enthusiasm and is, in my opinion, an excellent example of what a Councillor should be – a listener, an enabler, a communicator and a supporter.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019


The discussion over the reasons given for those who voted Brexit seem to be relentless.

I own a modest property in France, and someone who voted leave, I really resent the suggestion that, certainly in my case, it was largely because of immigration. I feel strongly that we should regain our autonomy and the ability to trade freely.

I believe that where we have gone wrong is, because of the animosity of those who are opposed to any immigration, our lack of actively encouraging integration.

When I visit France, the onus is on me to fit in with their customs and culture; hence my attempts at speaking the language, which is much appreciated by everyone I meet, and my wholehearted approach towards embracing their local customs. I have benefited greatly from my exposure and have done my subversive best to change their views towards us Brits; gifts of English wine, cheese and local delicacies give cause for much amusement and break the social ice.   

However, this is all a two-way street. This week, during his visit to the USA, Nigel Farage used the example of Oldham to demonstrate the deep divisions that exist in some areas of Britain. Much of the fault lies with us as for too long we have put up barriers to integration for those who choose to come and live here; it is no wonder that despite being in the UK for decades, many immigrants have little knowledge of our culture, and in the face of hostility find comfort in mixing with others from their own culture who are willing to engage with them and understand their position.

Whether we like it or not, a certain amount of immigration is necessary, and we must be pro-active about how we handle it to achieve the best outcomes for all concerned. Almost 20 years ago I started up the first English language classes in my local town, and also in the factory where many of the recently arrived immigrants were working. Without exception there was an eagerness to learn the language and settle in, despite a large amount of resistance from the local community.

Look at this way, if a child joins a new school there is rightly an obligation on those already at the school, teachers, pupils and other staff, to make an effort to welcome them and ensure that they settle in as quickly as possible.

Why should this be any different within a local community?
Putting it another way, perpetrators of the current divisive atmosphere seem to ignore the significant number of Brits who own homes abroad yet fail to learn the language and still insist on access to a ‘British’ pub, fish and chips and a fry up for breakfast. Pot, kettle and black come to mind.