Imagine Phil the Milkman tootling by in his milk van, his floor-length beard flowing in the wind out of the open window, hoppety-skipping out with two bottles in one hand, in and out before the customer's rottweiler has even noticed him. He's an absolute legend, is Phil the milkman.
When Phil gets back in his van, his bakelite carphone rings. It's his mum. She asks him to pick up some parsnips from Farmer Cyril, not the crappy supermarket ones but the cultivar Farmer Cyril developed in 1914, because those modern ones just don't have the bite. Phil grumbles about the extra round trip but he doesn't want to disappoint his mum, because she's not going to be with us forever, is she? Besides, Farmer Cyril is a card, always ready with a great story from his days at Klondike or the Crimean War. They just don't make guys like that anymore.
But when he arrives at Farmer Cyril's Parsnip Growery, Farmer Cyril is unusually subdued. "I am feeling poorly," says Farmer Cyril. "Can you take care of Mi