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What an extraordinary story John Calver's is! He pitches us into the past, to a village on the edge of England called Wrabness, and a distant, unplumbed, candlelit world populated by farmers, coal hauliers, smiths and a strange collection of siblings.
One of them, Uncle Bernard, is described unforgettably in these terms: 'In the old shack at Foxes Farm, he could have been a man from the Stone Age getting weapons ready for the hunt.'
Marriage and post-war prosperity take John into a new land - the Essex and Suffolk we know today, with its painted beamy houses and neat towns busy with antique shops. From being a coal merchant, John becomes a craftsman, lovingly restoring old furniture, and we briefly meet the archforger, Tom Keating.
Chairmanship of the Parish Council involves John and Flora in the heart of the community, and their happiness at Domine Farm, with their fields of barley and cats and dogs, seems unalloyed. But there's a sting in the tale, and the new century brings challenges that explain why the author calls this fascinating memoir Nettles and Cream.