Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 613

18 AUGUST 202 2 7 Photography: Lorne Thomson/Redferns/Getty Images 1 Where do you live? In North London with husband Stephen, daughter Ellie and Tibetan terrier Muttley. We got a dog because Ellie’s an only child – we hated the idea of her not having anyone to stomp off to her room with. 2How was turning 60? Traumatic! I thought I wouldn’t care, then about a week before I went: “Oh my goodness...” It’s just that life is so precious. You want to slow it down because it goes by so fast, but also it makes me determined to have an absolute ball. 3Are you a good cook? Yes. I cook to relax. My signature dish is wild mushroom risotto. I’ve always got the ingredients handy. 4Do people ask you more about acting or Altered Images? It’s a mixed bag. Some ask about Red Dwarf and Gregory’s Girl, and teenagers go: “You were the crazy mum in Skins!” Then I’ll be on the Tube and someone next to me will subconsciously sing [Altered Images’ 1981 hit] Happy Birthday. 5How did Mascara Streakz, your ärst album for 39 years, come about? During lockdown, I realised how much I missed singing. Stephen is an amazing musician, so we wrote some songs together. A friend said: “I’ll get you a deal on this” – and he did. 6Is it ‘true’ you’re the inspiration for Spandau Ballet’s number 1 single True? Gary Kemp said that, but I’m always embarrassed when people bring it up. They’re like: “It’s about you? You?! It makes me laugh. 7What would little Clare think of grown-up Clare? What a show off ! Mascara Streakz by Altered Images is out on 26 August. Interview: EmmaHigginbotham The actress and Altered Images singer on hitting 60 and inspiring a classic hit 7 QUESTIONS WITH… CLARE GROGAN trees on the spot. “Maybe grapes?” he suggested instead, more or less as a parting shot. RamDass was undeterred. “I didn’t mind what I grew, I just wanted to be out in the fields,” he recalls. With no experience of viticulture, he contacted agricultural college Harper Adams University, hoping to join a course. “They said: ‘We have no interpreter here and you have no formal education, we can’t take you.’ I said: ‘So you can’t helpme?’ They replied: ‘Oh no, we’ll help you, we just can’t admit you.’ They put him in touch withWroxeter Roman Vineyard, just a fewmiles fromhis land, where the owners lent him their expertise and equipment – a generosity of spirit that’s been typical, he says, throughout the wine community ever since. The Chahals faced a backbreaking task. Countless heavy posts were hauled in and 14kmof wire was hand strung ready for the vines. Planting took five years, with constant vigilance needed to defend the new shoots from rabbits and frost. Everything was done by hand, the only farm machinery being the old, broken blue tractor left behind in the sale, which later became the inspiration for the vineyard’s wine label. Although the couple’s children all have jobs of their own, they pitch in with business, practical and financial support. New vines take four to seven years to bear suitable fruit and their financial help has seen the vineyard through the early years of endless outlay. “I paid to look after themand now they pay to look after us,” says RamDass with a twinkle. The first harvest in 2013, four years after the first vines were planted, was ‘like Christmas’, says daughter Kiran, who helps with book keeping andmarketing. Expectations weren’t high, as they’d been warned young vines wouldn’t produce anything of quality. But they won six awards, with an international accolade the following year. Life at Rodington hasn’t always been rosé. A sudden late frost in June 2020 killed o a swathe of young grapes and vastly reduced the size and quality of that year’s harvest, but the vines were spared. Then RamDass su ered a heart attack and stroke, though he has recovered well. Today, production, which takes place at regional winemaking facility Halfpenny Vineyard, runs to a healthy 17,000 bottles a year. Nine grape varieties are grown at Rodington and RamDass chooses the blends himself. Not much of a wine drinker (he sometimes opens a bottle of red), hemakes his judgement by tasting the grapes, while Nirmala and Kiran don’t drink alcohol at all. Their own-label, easy-drinking reds fromRondo grapes are enormously popular and are award-winners, along with whites including Solaris, Bacchus and Ortega. Rodington wines are stocked by local merchants and restaurants and there’s a brisk trade from their onsite shop. Tastings and tours are on hold post lockdown, but there’s surely an income stream in pairing wines withNirmala’s Indian cooking, using herbs and veg she grows in the garden. Barns were built with the aimof producing wine on site, but no one seems in a hurry to follow the boutique vineyard trend. Other than the occasional trip to India to see family, the couple don’t take holidays. “Here, we have sun and a view, no worries and our own beds,” says Nirmala. “But look at this view…” says Kiran. It’s a glorious, hear-a-pin-drop, south-facing landscape with views across miles of fields towards theWrekin and Shropshire Hills. The vines are healthy and they also grow a variety of laden fruit trees – which would no doubt surprise the expert RamDass consulted. It could be the perfect place to put your feet up, do nothing and watch birds wheel in the sky, but it’s also an idyllic place to work. “This is not a job for them,” says Kiran quietly. “It’s therapy,” rodingtonvineyard.co.uk ‘I didn’t mind what I grew. I just wanted to be out in the fields’ easy does it Ram Dass and Nirmala by the old tractor seen on their wine labels; Ram Dass tends to his vines (right); daughter Kiran (below)