What ho, Jeeves!

Country Life Every Week - - My Week -

are for­mer pupils, but they can in­vite guests, which was how I found my­self at Innhold­ers’ Hall, com­mem­o­rat­ing the Ac­ces­sion of El­iz­a­beth I and hear­ing about body-snatch­ing.

One speech re­vealed that, in 1773, a cer­tain Mary Gib­son left a gen­er­ous be­quest to the school, al­beit with un­usual con­di­tions at­tached. To keep re­ceiv­ing the money, the gov­er­nors had to make an an­nual pil­grim­age to Sut­ton in Sur­rey to check the Gib­son fam­ily tomb.

It was a cun­ning plan by Mrs G. She in­tended, in those days of ram­pant grave-rob­bing, to make sure the fam­ily corpses were not taken by the res­ur­rec­tion men. The will fur­ther stip­u­lated that, once the last of her Gib­sons had gone, the tomb should be locked and the key thrown in the River Jor­dan.

Christ’s Hos­pi­tal’s 18th-cen­tury gov­er­nors must have been tempted to throw the keys in the Thames, but, doubt­less then, as now, those in charge of this ‘school like no other’—80% of pupils re­ceive sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial sup­port—are peo­ple of the high­est in­tegrity, so the trip to the Holy Land would most cer­tainly have been made.

On the sub­ject of innhold­ers, the de­cline of the Bri­tish pub is a cause of con­cern, es­pe­cially to those of us in the shires where the lo­cal hostelry is a so­cial life­line. We re­cently dined with a de­vel­oper friend who’s had much suc­cess buy­ing ail­ing ru­ral pubs and trans­form­ing their for­tunes. I asked him what his se­cret was.

Sage-and-beige decor? Foxy wait­ing staff? Big white plates and hip­ster gins? No, it’s ladies’ loos, ap­par­ently. My friend’s ra­tio­nale was that hus­bands de­cide where to go out to eat and wives de­cide whether they re­turn.

My own beef (as it were) with gas­trop­ubs—with any restau­rant re­ally—is that menu let­ter­ing can be small for fiftysome­things. If you for­get your read­ing glasses, you’re more stuffed than a packet of Paxo, es­pe­cially if the light­ing’s on the cre­pus­cu­lar side.

The prob­lem’s ex­ac­er­bated when, as is in­creas­ingly com­mon, ev­ery last in­gre­di­ent is listed in a fancy type­face: for­aged dan­de­lion oil, onion dust, served on a re­con­di­tioned clog and so on. I ate out re­cently with col­lege con­tem­po­raries; we had one pair of 2+ read­ing specs between us, so or­der­ing lasted ages as we all took our turn.

At the time of writ­ing, I haven’t bought a sin­gle Christ­mas present and feel faint at the very thought. Just what do teenagers want?

The an­swer comes cour­tesy of Richard Ark­wright’s Crom- ford Mills, our friendly lo­cal World Her­itage Site. As ev­ery school­child knows (or should), this com­plex was the be­gin­ning of the fac­tory sys­tem that drove the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion.

Ark­wright, a for­mer hair­dresser, be­came the rich­est com­moner in Bri­tain, so eye­wa­ter­ingly wealthy that he claimed he could pay off the na­tional debt all by him­self. So ut­terly stink­ing rich was he that, one merry 1790s Christ­mas morn­ing, his chil­dren came down to break­fast to find a cheque for £10,000 (£100,000 today) rolled up in their nap­kins.

What a great idea—not only cut­ting straight to the heart of what ev­ery­one re­ally wants, but re­ward­ing those who use their table li­nen prop­erly.

Wendy Holden’s new novel Hon­ey­moon Suite is out now, pub­lished by Head­line Re­view

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