Lady Georgiana Fane—High Society Stalker

It’s a truism that the higher you climb in society or show biz the more you have to lose to blackmailers or stalkers. But this is not a phenomenon of modern times. In a previous Jot it was shown how C. M. Westmacott, a gutter press editor of the Regency period, used his position to extract money from high society offenders. At around the same time the Duke of Wellington—since 1815, the most Famous Living Englishman—was a victim of a determined aristocrat by the name of Lady Georgiana Fane...

Born in 1801, Fane had first met Wellington just after the battle of Waterloo, when at the age of 14, she had danced with him at a ball. In her twenties, she became friendly with Lord Palmerston, who apparently proposed marriage to her. This shedeclined and instead turned her attention once more to the hero of Waterloo. Lady Georgiana, whose beauty was captured in two portraits by Thomas Lawrence, was also highly strung, possibly to the point of neurosis. When she features in the memoirs of her cousin, Lady Arbuthnot, Wellington’s confidante, she is often described as being chronically ‘ill’ and at one point Arbuthnot suspects that her indisposition was ‘almost entirely nervous’.  Nevertheless, Wellington seems to have become very fond of the young aristocrat and despite his marriage their friendship developed into romance, with the result that intimate letters were exchanged. After the death of his wife Kitty in 1830, a number of other high society ladies were eager to snare the eligible widower, and possibly because he felt uncomfortable about the increasingly persistent tone of her letters to him, Wellington decided to break off his relationship with Lady Georgiana.

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Scarecrow Verse

From the extensive archive of Peter Haining, this doggerel by an unknown writer and a snapshot of scarecrow with brolly... These are from a file of research material for his 1988 book The Scarecrow: Fact and Fable. The book has this sympathetic review at Amazon: 'Haining really did a great job with this under researched topic. He examines the Scarecrow from its beginnings to the modern day counterparts. What I liked the most was the strong attention given to the figure of the Scarecrow in Literature and Films. If Scarecrows interest you, then you will love this book.' It was an insubstantial file bulked out with a few copyright movie and television stills (Worzel Gummidge etc.,)

A farmer sat in his chair
When the day's work was done
Birds are taking my peas - said he
I'll scare them with my gun

His wife said "John your time you'll save
If you a scarecrow make
Your old brown coat with odds and ends
Will cause those birds to quake

Upstairs there is an old top hat
Gloves in the parlour drawer
Bean poles will make its arms and legs
For stuffing we'll use straw

A turnip from the old barn floor
Will make a splendid head
If stones are used for eyes and nose
We'll paint its mouth" she said

They set to work to make it up
It was a fearsome sight
It gave the birds for miles around
A very dreadful fright.

Stephen Graham—a prince among Soho tramps

Just a few minutes walk from Leoni’s Quo Vadis is Frith Street, now famous as the home of Private Eye, but for a century or more  the haunt of Soho journalists, writers and other near- do- wells, including Stephen Graham, who from 1912 to his death in 1975, lived in a flat at no 60, a handsome Georgian town house. In the days before adventurers in dangerous lands were accompanied by a TV crew, Stephen Graham, who described himself as ‘tramp’ before that word had gained unsavoury associations, explored a number of exotic lands, including Russia, on which he became an expert, recording his impressions in books and articles, until he could no longer finance his expeditions.

The letter, which was discovered among a batch of other unrelated correspondence, belongs to his most productive period, is written from Frith Street and is dated 4th December 1926. In it he invites a Miss Morley to an after-dinner ‘mixed party of various acquaintances who will sit around the fire & talk.’ He also invites her to bring along her copy of his recently published London Nights for him to sign.

In his latter years Graham’s reputation fell into decline, and there is a depressing description of him in poverty and disarray in his flat. He died at an advanced age in comparative obscurity in 1975, but today, however, thanks possibly to the popularity of TV travelogues and cheap holidays to exotic lands, there is renewed interested in his work. Two major online sites are devoted to him, and Abebooks shows that his books are beginning to be collected once again. A biography by Michael Hughes has just been published Beyond Holy Russia: The Life and Times of Stephen Graham. [RMH]

Oliver Messel and ‘Bobo’ Sigrist in the famous Suite he created

It’s got a toilet seat shaped like a scallop shell, a grand double bedroom and more rococo swags, flat columns and baroque touches than a wealthy thespian could wish for. It’s where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton spent their honeymoon in 1964.No wonder American A listers, like Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and Michael Jackson, have demanded it. We are talking about the Messel Suite, which is all yours for a mere £2,950 a night.

This photo, retrieved from a pile of press shots issued by the Dorchester itself, shows its creator, Oliver Messel, arguably the greatest stage designer from the thirties to the sixties, sitting alongside the twenty-two year old Frederika ‘Bobo’ Sigrist, heiress to the Hawker-Siddeley fortune. It was taken on 28 June 1962 on the occasion of her mother’s marriage to British public relations chief Sir Berkeley Ormerod.

Messel and Sigrist, in an artfully arranged pose, may first have met through their shared association with the millionaires of Mustique. Messel lived in a Barbabos beach house named Maddox, which he had totally transformed and decorated to his own designs , while Sigrist  was part of the Bahamas jet-set. A year after this photo was taken, she married Irish film producer Kevin McClory, who was responsible for the James Bond films.

Messel went on from creating stage sets and hotel suites to become one of the most sought after house designers in the Caribbean. Between 1960 and his death in 1978 he designed around 30 homes on Mustique, of which at least 18 have been completed. The V & A houses a large collection of his stage and other designs. [R R]

An Alice B Toklas memento (age 8)

Found - a rare piece of ephemera from the very earliest years of the life of the writer (and cook) Alice B.Toklas. A gilt edged and gold printed card, found in San Francisco from where her American family came. This is an invitation to her grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary at Kempen (Prussia) in Poland. Her grandfather was Simon Wolff Toklass born in  1814 in Kepno, Poznan, Wielkopolskie, Poland and her grandmother born a year later in the same town was Amalie Gnadenfeld. Their son, Ferdinand Toklass, born 1845 in Kepno was by 1880 living at 1880 922 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, California, USA and seems to have dropped one of the s's from his name. He had married one Emma Levinsky in the early 1870s and they had a son (Clarence) in 1872 and a daughter Alice Babette Toklas on 30 April 1877 in San Francisco. The father working for a relation, Max Toklas, as a bookkeeper at Brown & Co, clothing manufacturers of 24 Sansome St, San Francisco. The trip to Poland is mentioned in Linda Simon's well named The Biography of Alice B. Toklas (University of Nebraska 1991.)

Early in 1885, Emma and Ferdinand departed for New York with their eight-year-old daughter, en route to Poland for the Golden wedding anniversary of Ferdinand's parents…they landed in Hamburg…[and] went on to Kempen where the Toklas family was gathered for the celebration. Alice found her grandmother tall, elegant, and poised, and her grandfather quiet and gentle, despite family stories of his escapades in Paris uprisings in 1848.

Linda Simon writes of Alice's grandfather that '…after his escapades on the barricades he was forced home to Poland' where he painted and 'contented himself with excessive patriotic doggerel'- so writing was in the blood.

Christmas advice from 1932

The Perfect Christmas by Rose Henniker Heaton was a companion volume to the same author’s Perfect Hostess and Perfect Schoolgirl. Published in 1932 by the eighty something Australian-born widow of an illustrious Conservative MP, its distinctly barbed humour has hardly dated. In addition to the many jokes and riddles (one of which defeated Professor Einstein) are some handy hints. The following still has value today.

How to Ruin Christmas

Grumble at everything and everyone.
Moan at the mention of presents.
Scramble wildly at the last moment for people you dislike, rather than be left alone.
Do nothing for anyone, and expect everyone to wait on you.
Eat too much, and drink far too much. 
Spend too much, and grumble while spending it.
Spend too little, and grudge even that.
Leave everything to the last, and sit up until 4 a.m., tying up parcels, and decorating madly.
Start a family quarrel. 


What to do with Rubbish Christmas presents

Once again, Rose Henniker Heaton, our no nonsense Australian hostess from 1932, comes up with some timely suggestions as what we should do with that ghastly piece of raffia from the Village Craft Fair or that horrible vase from the High Street charity shop. Take it away Rose.

Never,  never, never give away as presents rubbish or monstrosities you have bought at bazaars.

“That will do for old Aunt Susan”, you say as you look loathingly at a plush handkerchief sachet; or, “The very thing for Uncle Albert “, as you seize a dust-catching newspaper stand.

The only thing to do with rubbish is:

(A) Put it in your Ideal Boiler
(B) Send it to a Jumble Sale
(C) Give it to the Rag and Bone Man on his next visit

Note.--if anyone sends you rubbish as a Christmas present, put it in the fire, and send a telegram of thanks. If that doesn’t make them feel ashamed, I don’t know what will:

Ex---“Thousand thanks for shell pincushion stuck on pill-box.”


Reply paid: “Gilded pinecones safely received; what are they for?”

Note---Present giving is not a question of money but of common-sense.


Artists as foreign spies

It is a fact that many signposts were temporarily removed, especially in rural areas, during the Second World War, and that countrymen were advised to report sightings of suspicious foreign looking and foreign sounding individuals in their district. What is not generally known, I suspect, is that an artist plying his or her trade as a landscape painter could have come under the gaze of local busybodies, including members of the Home Guard, who may have reported them to the authorities.

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Ostrich Fallacies

Found in The Encyclopaedia of Fads and Fallacies by Thomas Jay (Elliott Rightway Books, Kingswood Surrey 1958) a small section on ostrich fallacies. The reference to a Bergen Evans
book is probably his Natural History of Nonsense.

The Diet of the Ostrich

There is a foolish notion that the ostrich can digest iron. Many zoos and menageries have quite a lot of trouble because the public will feed ostriches with nails or bits of metal. As Bergen Evans points out in one of his books, it rarely occurs to people that the purposes of the bars, moats, and walls at zoos is to protect the animals from us. 


An ostrich does not bury its head in the sand thinking that it is hiding itself. But what some politicians will do without the metaphor I don't know. If alarmed, or suspicious, the ostrich will lie flat on the ground with its head stretched out flat in front so that it can size up the situation. And it can do that very well from that position.

Petulengro ‘King of the Gypsies’

Found in the Frederick Warne published children's magazine The Merry-go-Round of October 1937 this piece by (Xavier) Petulengro, who was known as 'King of the Gypsies.' Kooshti Bok, sometimes spelt Kushti Bok is Romany for 'Good Luck.'

Wikipedia says of him '...a British Romanichal horse trader, violinist, businessman, writer and broadcaster, known as the "King of the Gypsies". He frequently broadcast on BBC radio in the 1930s and 1940s, and later wrote regular astrology columns in magazines as well as publishing his autobiography and several books on Romany lore... His funeral at the age of (about) 97 was arranged in traditional Romanichal style, with about 100 mourners in traditional costumes and some 1,500 sightseers.'

This piece was written for the boy and girl readers of Merry-Go-Round -some of whom had attended this ceremony. 'Chavvies' = children.

Kooshti-Bok, Chavvies,

Well, this has been an exciting time for me. As many of you know, I was crowned King of the Gypsies at Baildon in Yorkshire on August 28th. I hope you saw the ceremony on the screen at your picture-house, but I am going to tell you all about it here.

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Manners in the Drawing Room — some ‘don’ts’

From an undated but late Victorian self-help / etiquette book called Don't: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct & Speech (Ward, Lock, London circa 1890). The author is noted as 'Censor' - now known to be Oliver Bell Bunce. Much of the advice still holds, e.g. about reading a book in 2014 it  would be about perusing a smartphone.

DON'T repeat old jokes or tell time-worn stories. DON'T make obvious puns. An occasional pun, if a good one, is a good thing; but a ceaseless flow of puns is simply maddening.

DON'T be always on the look out for opportunities of making jokes. For a man, to be constantly straining after witticism is to render himself ridiculous, and to annoy the whole company.

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Ghosts as a symptom of dyspepsia

Frankfort-Moore in his Italian Home

From A Mixed Grill : a Medley in Retrospect / by the author of "A Garden of Peace". London : Hutchinson, [1930.] The anonymous author was, in fact,  Frank Frankfort Moore (1855–1931) an Irish dramatist, biographer, novelist and poet. Born in Limerick, Ireland, Moore worked as a journalist (1876–92) before gaining fame as an author of fiction. The frontispiece of this book shows him in his 'Italian Home' - this was actually a house in St. Leonards called 'The Campanile' filled with Italian artefacts that was on sale  in 2010. On the subject of ghosts he is somewhat sceptical but most subjects, as the title implies, are seen from a slightly  gastronomic viewpoint:

All the great ghost-seers on record have been also eminent dyspeptics - men and women who were deficient in pep or who had ruined their digestions by irregularity in diet or by a wrong diet. The ghost is really a symptom and it is rightly so regarded by the medical profession. We all know the sort of person who is  associated with a ghost story - the ethereal girl like the sister of Sir Galahad who saw the Holy Grail - "I thought she might have risen and floated" - that girl has really risen and floated in innumerable ghost stories - the type of girl on whom that form of rash, known as the stigmata, has from time to time appeared. This may be the ghost of indulgence. In the days of gluttons there was a glut of ghosts, and there are few men of middle age to-day who have not had some experience of the man whose ghosts take the questionable shape of blue monkeys pr black cats, sometimes even of such minor crawling things as spiders or black beetles in natural colours, or, more frequently, snakes of no recognised classification. These are all the result of an over indulgence in the drug known as alcohol. Other drugs such as opium or cloral are productive of more pleasing spectral shapes; but this class of ghost has nothing in common with the phenomena of Spiritualism. Their capacity of self-expression does not go beyond the ordinary gibber. They are not worthy of serious consideration, except, of course, from the standpoint of a medical prognosis.

A humble variant is, of course, the nightmare, a horror due to such a ridiculous accident as a slipped pillow or a superfluous eiderdown, but more frequently to an incautious or a too hasty supper...

More ‘Don’ts’ — Conversation in the Drawing Room

From an undated but late Victorian self-help / etiquette book called Don't: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct & Speech (Ward, Lock, London circa 1900). The author is noted as 'Censor' and some of the advice still holds, e.g. bores, exaggeration etc., as for the 'scandals of the hour' - it would now be considered very dull NOT to be able to discuss them...more to follow.

DON'T talk over-loud, trying to monopolise the conversation.

DON'T talk to one person across another.

DON'T whisper in company. If what you have to say cannot be spoken aloud, reserve it for a suitable occasion.

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Interview – What’s the Big Idea?

  Interview with the jot101 team 

Q. Where did the idea of jot101 and 'jotting' come from?

A. Back in the 1980s I knew a guy called Linus in Bedford Park, London. He was a great collector of esoterica, folklore and myth, writings of mystics and seers. He had made money in stock speculation and lived the life of a Victorian gentleman scholar. He used to write notes and comments about his reading which he referred to as his 'jottings.' They contained much wisdom and knowledge and he kept them in a sort of commonplace the time the web came along he had died and his books and notes had gone to the four winds. They would have been ideal for jot101 and he would have been a great contributor. Knowledge like this is still being lost forever.

Q. So you would like jot101 to be a place where people archive research and notes from their readings?

A. Yes, but also information that they have come across in their work, in travel, from friends, in anecdote, in their family and in old books, periodicals, pamphlets and letters, manuscripts, notebooks and ephemera. Also obscure data synthesised from the web and media, eyewitness reports, documents, photos, snapshots, press cuttings, diaries etc., People are sitting on terabytes of information.

Q. How does it differ from Wikipedia?

A. Much of the material is outside of the scope of an encyclopaedia, and it is not peer reviewed. For example in my trade I come across rare books by authors with Wikipedia entries where the book is not listed in the author's works and I go in there and add it. However there is no good place to record an anecdote about the author from someone who had met them, or a manuscript or letter from an author discussing their life or work and adding to our knowledge and understanding of them. Such items get sold and enter private collections where they are lost for decades, centuries - or for good. This is the kind of thing ideally suited to jot101 and we have recorded  letters, original writings and accounts of meetings.

Rather than Wikipedia, jot101 is nearer to a mix of YouTube and the Victorian journal Notes and Queries. YouTube in the way that people simply upload things they have found which are then in categories and searchable, and Notes and Queries in its dogged curiosity and thirst for knowledge - however abstruse. Mass Observation with its eyewitness reports is another influence. On our home page we have used the original motto of the early issues of N & Q, spoken by Captain Cuttle in Dickens' Dombey & Son - "when found, make a note of..."

Q. Why is jot101 just a blog? Have you considered building a website and attracting contributions?

A. It's early days. Festinare Lente. We already have a few contributors and have been going less than a year. We are feeling our way. The long game etc., I am surprised at the amount of stuff worthy of posting. If I didn't have to make a living I could probably do 30 postings a week. It is inexhaustible. My California based tireless tech support in this enterprise, Soren Wagner, is looking at building a site for people to contribute 'jots'. Where people seamlessly upload new information that they have found without having to create a website or a blog. Back in Europe I am raiding our endless expanding archives for more material. Every posting here is a form of 'jot.'  See our concise definition using actor Terry-Thomas as an example. [Interview to be continued] Nigel Burwood + Soren Wagner

What is a jot? The Terry-Thomas explanation.

Using the much loved British comedy actor Terry-Thomas as an example we show what is, and what is not, a jot.

Terry-Thomas was born in 1911 Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens at 53 Lichfield Grove, Finchley. 

NO. Common knowledge.

Terry-Thomas's favourite drink was champagne. My father had a bar in Majorca and in the early 1960s Terry-Thomas holidayed there. He claims that T-T met Belinda Cunningham his third wife in his bar.It was called El Garito and catered for a louche Bohemian crowd. Terry-Thomas always called for champagne.

YES. Slight, but new information.

Terry-Thomas with his gap toothed smile and permanent cigarette holder always reminds me of my Uncle Derek who was thrown out of the Army in 1955 for stealing the mess takings. He was a 'bounder' too! 

NO. Irrelevant information, adds nothing.

Terry-Thomas who everybody thought was such a 'bounder' and so terribly funny never made me or anyone in my family laugh. I think he was pretty lame.

NO. Opinion, and no new information. Also hard to believe...

I met a guy who had worked on a movie with Terry-Thomas. It was being shot in one of the hardest parts of Glasgow and after filming T-T insisted on dragging him and the crew to an exceptionally thuggish hardcore pub. T-T was in fine form, loud and posh and full of the joys of life and celebrity. He didn't change his style one iota for the local hard nuts. The guy thought there would almost certainly be a punch up but strangely the locals thought he was great and admired him for being exactly who he was and not changing his style. 

YES. Good story, hopefully true and new information. As the Italians say se non è vero, è ben trovato... If it is not true, it is well conceived. A few more facts like the date, the name of the movie and the name of the pub would be even better.

So a jot adds new and original information, it is not totally irrelevant and it is not opinion. Every single posting on jot101 is a jot.

I once met Francis Bacon

Not the essayist and improbable author of Shakespeare's plays, but the artist who yesterday broke the world record for highest sum ever achieved by an artist in auction.$142.2 million.

It must have been in the early 1980s, I had been viewing a book sale at Christies South Kensington ('CSK') in the days when they still had large lots of books in tea-chests and you would find the legendary Roger Elliott ('2 L's, 2 T's') and the writer /bouquiniste Alex Trocchi ploughing through them. I bumped into an old friend and he told me he was going to look at, and possibly buy, some precious stones at a sort of geology shop just off the King's Road. We made our way to his car through Reece Mews a cobbled street opposite the mighty auction rooms. Half way along we were hailed by an oldish but very lively man in what appeared to be a rubber mac, surmounted by a pleasing slightly waxy face - it was none other than the artist Francis Bacon who appeared to have lunched well and was on his way to his studio. We chatted for a moment and he asked us where we were going. We told him that we were off to buy some precious stones. Possibly he was about to invite us into his studio...however he replied 'So you're going abroad are you?' That was it. A slightly enigmatic remark. It seemed curious but it could be that, like Graham Greene, he took valuables with him when he went abroad to exchange or give as gifts - something practiced only by those with very long suits of cash.

Our colleague Martin Stone, guitar musician and book scout, met him a couple of times in Paris when he was working for Shakespeare & Co. He dined with him at the smart restaurant, next to the Whitman bookshop,  called La Bucherie. Martin reports that he was very good company- erudite, worldly and witty. Later at Reece Mews someone

made a fortune clearing a skip (dumpster) placed ouside  full of bits of half finished canvas, palettes and sketches..

See this Fortune article explaining why his tryptych of Lucian Freud made so much. It's basically about the rich getting richer.

Salinger reading Salinger

An auction concluded this August at the august RR Auctions where a credit card receipt signed by the reclusive J. D. Salinger made $450. It was described thus:

Receipt for a purchase of two books at the Dartmouth Bookstore in Hanover, NH, on November 11, 2001, 2.75 x 7.5, signed in black ballpoint, “J. Salinger.” In fine condition, with an area of slight staining at the bottom. Pre-certified PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.

This was spotted by a Jot101 reader (many thanks JK) who saw the salient point in the lot – one of the books was about the writer himself With Love and Squalor: 14 Writers Respond To The Work Of J.D. Salinger.

This writer remembers Catcher in the Rye being confiscated at school in the 1960s and one of the ‘Squalor’ contributors, Walter Kirn, talks of how the book was snatched from his hand and thrown across the floor at college when he was reading it after the murder of John Lennon (it was reported that his assassin had found secret messages in the novel.) It is not uncommon for a writer to buy books about himself – we had a copy of J. Franklin Bruce’s book on Robert Heinlein extensively annotated by Heinlein. Of course being notably litigious JDS may have been looking for something to put his lawyers on to…

I once met….Bryan Forbes

It was in the summer of 1999 that the actor, screenwriter, director (Stepford Wives, Whistle Down the Wind, Séance on a wet Afternoon), turned crime writer, who died last May, had asked me to meet him at his second hand bookshop in Virginia Water.

It was an odd sort of shop—not the type one would come across in most provincial towns or indeed most parts of London. Here were no grubby leather-bound tomes in tottering piles, or cabinet of curiosities. I think it sold new as well as second books and indeed most volumes seemed to be of the twentieth century. I glanced around expecting to find rare books on golf or lawn tennis, classic American hard boiled thrillers or collections of recipes for cocktails.

But there no time to look further as Forbes appeared in person and we were soon speeding along in what was probably his Aston Martin to his home on the ultra- exclusive Wentworth estate. I only caught a glance of its exterior, but it seemed to be a huge and classic twenties film-star mansion, which it was, in the sense that Forbes later told me that as a young budding film star in the fifties he had bought it as a total wreck and had spent  many thousands of pounds doing it up. Something to admire, I thought.

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Too cool names

Found in a HarperCollins paperback Cool Names for Babies (2007 reprinted from Mother & Baby magazine) a list of names that are 'too cool' - in fact it's the last chapter. Have added a few..

What makes a name too cool? Trying so hard that coolness is its main, and maybe its only, merit. Being so aggressively hip that poor little Kool willl bend under the expectations of grooviness created by his name… the line of what constitutes too cool a name seems to get redrawn every day [but] these choices will probably be on the wrong side of it for a long time to come..

Henri Cartier Bresson 1954

I once danced with…Lord Weinstock

We were sent this interesting reminiscence by a jotwatcher (thanks JWB). He points out that our 'I once met' posts depend on one having met a famous person. Many people have never met anyone famous - but almost everybody has met someone with a good story about someone well known that they had met - the 'I danced with a man, who danced with a girl, who danced with the Prince of Wales' phenomenon.* This greatly opens up the field so please  send more in...

I was at university with a guy who became an acclaimed professional cook. At one point in the late 1980s he was cooking for Lord Weinstock at his country mansion in Wiltshire. Lord Weinstock (1925-2002) was a billionaire entrepreneur and built the General Electric Company into one of Britain's leading industrial conglomerates. He remembers Lord W (a sort of Alan Sugar of his time but with much increased  sophistication) leaving for work some days in a private jet and then seeing him on the news addressing politicians in Europe and then seeing him chauffeured back up the drive in time for supper. He had a fine wine cellar and  was especially fond of Cheval Blanc vintages which he would drink with ice. I said this seemed like a faux pas and a waste of wine (red and £600+ a bottle)  but my culinary pal said that in matters of taste there were no rules and he couldn't possibly comment…

*What did he say? 'Topping floor!'