John Bone: Ghostly goings-on in property-land

This is supposed to be an egalitarian age in which any surviving social distinctions are thought to depend on income rather than breeding. Yet my Lord how the English still love a lord! Which is why the Duchess of Montrose gets a mention in an ad in our property pages. Not because she lived in or ever owned the house up for sale but because she once owned the land it stands on. Perhaps the ghost of her grace can be glimpsed in the garden.

It is a strange and sad fact that despite the popularity of tv food shows, most of us lack basic cookery skills. Making even the simplest sauce, let alone something tricky like a mayonnaise is way beyond perhaps even a majority. Custard and rice pud come in cans. The microwave is the vital kitchen kit. So all praise to the basic cookery courses planned for Mildenhall this summer. Especially as the impulse comes from councillors who, instead of fretting about potholes and sewerage schemes, have given their clout and cash to something that matters even more – how to eat well for less money.

Discovering that the world’s best rum is made in Dullingham sounds so bizarre that when I read about it in last week’s Journal I glanced at the top of the page to make sure it wasn’t April the First.What a triumph for Messrs Winterbourne and Walters to win to win top prize for their gorgeous gargle in an international tasting. Especially as rum has been in eclipse for ages. Up to now I only drink it if I have a cold or need something to burn on the Christmas pudding. But local loyalty alone obliges me to start splicing the mainbrace.

Encouraged by trilby-wearing men in tv series like Quirke and Foyle’s War, I have decided to emulate the traditional headgear of the racing classes and wear a hat. By which I mean a proper hat with a crown and a brim, not one of those cloth caps that make men look like furtive ratcatchers. Why is it that for the past half century or more hats have been spurned by most men with the exception of the nobility, who wear coronets, and burglars, who wear balaclava helmets? You never see a bowler even in the City these days although a few stray toffs still sport boaters at Henley. But if I am to wear a trilby it must be battered. I do not want to walk about this town in a new hat looking like an amateur, I want a crumpled, greasy little number like those seen at the races. Now there’s an idea! Why doesn’t some inspired Newmarket retailer set up a grubby hat shop? After all, plenty of gents’ outfitters sell brand new jeans that been torn and begrimed at the factory.

I do wish the tv and radio weatherfolk would stop talking about the “risk” of rain or the “hope” of long dry spells. Whether the weather is or is not welcome depends on what individuals want. The gardener greets a downpour that his golfing neighbour abhors. So let us have less of this “hope” and “risk”. I’ll judge the weather, dear met men. You just get it right. Right?

I was horrified to find a whole page of last week’s Journal devoted to popularising the pernicious idea of open-plan living. It actually encouraged readers to knock down the interior walls of their homes. Please, I beg you, disregard this dangerous notion. There is an old and somewhat cynical saying “Good fences make good neighbours.” As far as I’m concerned that goes for inside as well as outside. Much as you may love your family, you do want a bit of privacy, somewhere you can get away from your little darlings and they can get away from you to do their homework. Somewhere to sulk alone or simply snooze. Walls were put there for a very good reason. Let them stand!