Friday, 22 August 2014

The Australian Heir

"Left alone in the hall with the sun streaming in from the park, I was just reading the family crest on the door, Je vive en espoir, when a tall man in a bush hat loped through it.  'Stradbroke' he said.  'Call me Keith.'
…by luck his Lordship himself was over from Sydney.  He normally costs a thousand quid an hour for interviews, but waived all charges for Punch.

Wild light blue eyes glittered at me over his mug of tea. 'I had a peculiar childhood,  I couldn't read or write till I was about fifteen. Granny wrote to me on my fifth birthday saying, "'Dear Keith, You are now the head of the family, here is one guinea, put it in your war bonds."  Same every birthday, but never enclosed the guinea.  I don't have to keep Henham.  I could sell it tomorrow.'  But he keeps it.  It's a challenge.  He has a fax machine in the corner near the scones,  'I'm a commission man.  I'm about profit.  The thing tells me my Sydney office is making a profit and my English office -- this lot -- isn't.  It's going to. '  He stared moodily out at his pretty, derelict acres.

It is odd, it must be odd, to emerge from a family of alienating inbred weirdness, get kicked out of Harrow, build yourself an uncomplicated fortune in a hot new land --only to be clobbered from across the seas by a chilly, failing estate, a press of merciless taxes and an unsought title, bestowed by a subtle and decadent old country which has the nerve to think that you are the oddity."

Coronet among the Corks  Libby Purves  © Punch Limited

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