Harbour master’s Earl Grey wine down to a tea

THERE are times – sadly frequent enough this summer – when passengers disembarking at Maseline Harbour need a helping hand, if only to guide them to the handrail on the steps.

Sark harbour master Jim Hodge with the home-produced wine he is selling at Stocks Hotel. (Picture by Phil Falle)
Sark harbour master Jim Hodge with the home-produced wine he is selling at Stocks Hotel. (Picture by Phil Falle)

THERE are times – sadly frequent enough this summer – when passengers disembarking at Maseline Harbour need a helping hand, if only to guide them to the handrail on the steps.

That hand is often provided by harbour master Jim Hodge who, in common with many Sark residents, also fulfils another useful function when he’s away from the day job.

Jim has turned his hobby, in his case making some exceptional alcoholic drinks, into a reasonably profitable ‘and thoroughly enjoyable’ sideline with a retail outlet adjacent to the gift shop at Stocks Hotel.

Before he transferred operations to Stocks’ tap room – much to the delight of his wife Sam, who reclaimed the work surfaces in her kitchen – making wine was really a hobby; something he’d seen his sister doing when he was a teenager in his native Scotland.

The move to Stocks came about during a chance conversation with one of the hotel’s directors, Alex Magell, who sampled Jim’s wine over a meal and suggested that once the hotel’s renovations were complete there might be room to retail it.

The result is that the shelves are full and there’s more in the taproom awaiting bottling.

The hobby started seven years ago with the aid of some old books sent by his sister and the first he made was from Earl Grey tea bags. This sounded strange to me, as I was expecting elderberry or something similar.

I pointed to something labelled ‘raspberry’ on a shelf and asked if he’d grown the fruit. No, was the reply, pointing to the label, that’s from raspberry tea.

‘Where I use fruit and vegetables I try to use as much locally-grown produce as I can,’ he said, pointing to celery, beetroot and rhubarb marked on other labels. ‘But you can make it pretty much out of anything.’

What about sloes, I asked, thinking about the bush in my own garden, which annually produces enough fruit for six or seven litres of sloe gin but this year has been totally bereft of fruit?

‘I’ve made sloe wine but it’s not to everyone’s taste. I like it, but it’s an acquired taste,’ he said with a smile.

Jim explained that the tea wines are quickest to make – four months or so is about the norm – while others such as celery and blackberry can take between nine months and a year. He is also making liqueurs and I have to say I was fascinated with one.

In addition to using strawberries and pineapples he also produces a coffee bean and orange liqueur, using a fruit stuffed with beans and some vodka providing the ‘oomph’ – principally because that spirit does not overpower the flavour of the other ingredients.

And how soon before he quits the day job down at Maseline Harbour?

‘We’re doing quite well,’ was all this particular canny Scot would say.

The way things are here at present in relation to jobs, it’s nice to report on someone who is finding a market for what started as a hobby.

*

I referred some weeks ago to shop noticeboards being a traditional and effective form of communication and have noticed a marked increase in the number of Sarkees and long-term island residents advertising for work, with ‘anything considered’ being a frequently used phrase.

My journalistic colleague Bob Parsons, who produces the excellent Sark Scribe monthly magazine, has clearly noticed the same thing, because in his October edition he is offering free advertising space to anyone seeking work.

I hope that Sark doesn’t return to the bad old days and those who need work done and can afford to pay fair and proper rates don’t take unfair advantage of those seeking employment.

It does no one any favours at all.

l The email address for comment is fallesark@sark.net.

Comments for: " Harbour master’s Earl Grey wine down to a tea"

Jai

Why the silence. Phil has made a very scary and drastic point about the umeployed on island.

Not one post about the drastic situation that Phil refers to now that the jobs are disappearing over the horizon. All the smug posters decrying SEM and all it stands for seem to have gone silent!

There seemingly have been problems from day one with Planning! They have been pilloried by the gated community and Chief Pleas members continually and never once has the Chamber of Commerce or island parliament sort to get together with them and the other biggest employers to form a strategy to cover future employment on island.

I do not support any political group but feel that for now the gated community are happy as they will have cheap gardening, house cleaning and young fathers out of work willing to prop up their aging potting sheds.

Island workers, a lot whom have a business of their own as well as an island job to boot do not have to retire at 60 to pass their jobs onto the younger generation as they seem to be jobs for life. The roads cannot take on everyone but I suspect that this year there will be a long list of applicants as in the old days.

Where are all of the happy posters who wanted to rid of SEM now? Handing out well paid jobs to the residents with all that goes with a good job and good employers?

Tchico

If Sark Estate Management had bought only one hotel, there would be only one, overpriced, hotel going bust on Sark, not four. Other businesses, including guest houses and hotels, have done reasonably well, despite the recession and the dreadful weather. Even if Chief Pleas had given Delaney all his helicopters, paved roads, electric buggies and personal doctors, SEM would still have failed. Even Delaney cannot control the weather or tow Sark into the Med and at £200-£400 a night, those who can afford those prices are going to holiday in Dubai, least of all in the last 'fascist state' in the West, as Mr D brands his island retreat. The failure of SEM rests squarely on the shoulders of the man in charge.

milly

i fear sark is being groomed to be a rich mans retirement home,with no room for crowds of workers or visitors disturbing their peace.

the man

sark has been going down that road for years... i used to drive a carriage in the late 90's and there were regularly thirty or so horses on the road. the older drivers would always reminisce about ' the good old days' when they could remember twice as many. this year there were rarely double figures. this surely indicates that the tourism trade is dying off. what is left? a retirement home for the well off who now run the island like a cliquey incestuous boys club. ask the current constable whether he wanted his vingtenier. or if he was told that he couldn't choose his deputy, as it is historically done, and he had to have the deputy he was given. ensuring a well behaved chief pleas puppet in a position to deal with the law and uphold it as and when needed. like a friend said... does the new deputy even know where the pubs are and what would they do with a full blown Saturday night punch up? sark has been going down the pan for years and the only people who cant see it are the ones who don't need to. who also happen top have got themselves in charge. rant rant rant!!

Jai

Milly & the man at least have got the guts to say what they feel and how Sark is going to end up hurting. By Sark I mean the families who live on island, their children who will be looking for jobs when they leave school and those who would try to open up new businesses but fear to as it means that they would have to toe the line to stay in business. Where is the representatrion on island of the old Sark families, the genuine Sarkese, the new families who have come on island over the years and settled down to build a house and start families who will become the islands future?

Does it matter how many hotels shops etc.SEM opens? As long as they provide jobs for those who need one and are willing to operate their businesses at a loss then that is up to them.

What right is it of the elite gated community with private incomes to deprive anyone else of a job by not helping anyone to open up a business. If SEM want to get Beauregard up and running then why are they not getting backing from the Chamber of Commerce, C.P's et al and all the help needed to do so as they would have in any other domain?

As for the the Constable scenario. Do the cabal not realise that in this day and age one cannot keep such matters secret and that eventually everyone gets to know what happened. It is an electronic age open to all not just themselves. 'the man' says it all and what does that ogre for the future? The days of our nice well known local constable and his friend the Vingtenier assisting with any problems on island have well gone.

alan

The statistics in terms of visitor numbers and passengers/freight on IOSS do not support "Sark is going down the Pan.

Sark is not going down the pan, it is a small rural independant community under attack by big money who want control of a tax havan. That attack has been going on for some years, through the courts, through the Sark Newsletter, through buying up land and creating unsustainable jobs.

Its as simple as that. Outside of SEM shenanigans, Sark is the same beautiful friendly island it has always been.

the man

no alan, 30 odd years ago Sark was a small, rural independent community. these days it is a small club with those who have and those who have not. it is a nasty vicious back stabbing place where the ' elite ' are desperately clawing at whatever power they can retain and at the same time trying their hardest to discredit and besmirch the name of anyone they don't approve of.

the island used to be a nice place to live where everyone knew each other and generally got along. now there are people who have known each other years who suddenly don't speak because of political and employment differences.

i am peed off with people trying to paint a picture of sark as a beautiful friendly place as it used to be because the truth is that it is not the same anymore. and that is the fault of the well to do of the island, as much as anyone else...

Jai

Maybe 'the man' that Alan works for the island or a business that is part of the 'system' that has now evolved.Oh well, I can always buy a bottle of Jim's strongest tipple. Seems like the only solution likley to come out of Sark these days.

winelover

Anyway back to the main topic "Harbourmaster’s Earl Grey wine down to a tea". Well done Mr Hodge it looks lovely and it looks like your the biggest wine producer on the Island so well done again.

Can't wait to try some.

Can I get it in Harrods yet ?

Oz Clarke

Quite agree that Jim's country wines at Stocks are very good. Particularly like the Sark Nettle, the Ginger and the Raspberry Tea.

They taste all the better because no natural habitats were destroyed in their production, and they are sustainable.

Except no substitutes.

P l'agiarism

If you read the SNL - Sark's economy is ruined, tourism in 2012 has been a disaster, and that has caused 150 jobs to be lost and its all the fault of the "feudal establishment". What absolute twaddle. In September visitor numbers , despite a wet summer, a harsh UK and Europe economic climate, and the poison of the SNL equate to 2010, albeit down on 2011 but still healthy. In August IOSS stats show passenger numbers steady, passenger and freight revenue up from 2007, Operating costs showed a sharp rise in 2010/11 due to the chartering and then acquisition of the Belle. Sark is a tiny island of three and a half miles in length and a mile and a half wide has a population of around 600, 6 hotels and tourist beds equating to around 378, which of course is a seasonal trade. So what were these 150 well paid permanent jobs and what were they employed to do - apparently builders, gardeners and 4 vineyard workers. Renovate the 4 SEM owned hotels to an unaffordable standard and then what. I will ignore the vineyard, which is just a rich man's toy, and never going to be economically viable. It doesn't take a genius to work out the BBs tactic. Sark never had and never will have the ability to support more than a small number of permanent year round jobs as compared with the numbers of working age adults on the island. With a temporary seasonal surge in the summer. In the same way it doesn't take a genius to work out the BBs tactics in challenging the lifeline service of the IOSS first through supporting the Trident Application and now through the courts. Opening up the tourist market to France through market competition- bah humbug. IOSS winter lifeline service would not survive - read the Spencer report. In the same way it it doesn't take a genius to work out the purpose of the SNL and its attacks on Chief Pleas, Seigneur and all that stand in their way. There is only one strategic objective in each and every tactic by the BBs, GD and SEM and that is to gain control of the Tax Haven that is Sark. Until each and every resident faces that reality then Sark as you know it will disappear. Your island - but for how much longer.

Guern

Very well put and true, other and Sarkee's have to accept it.

They either have to keep on fighting to keep their way of life or roll over which is not in their nature.

As I have said before the public are voting with their feet and supporting Sark business and not SEM, so they have to make a commercial call and close for the winter months.

You will never make Sark a 12 month of the year business.

Bee

Totally agree with you both 'P l'agiarism' and 'Guern' on ALL points made.

Tax avoidance and more Tax avoidance was always the Name of the Game from 1993.

A tweak here and a twitch there, tying Sark and Chief Pleas up in knots.

It has disgusted me from the onset.Looking from the outside and watching every move made.

Also knowing what the true Sark was once all about.