Manners and the super-rich

Magnates and oligarchs now spend most of their time on their yachts - hence Roman Abramovich’s stran

So there I was moored off Corfu with Oleg Deripaska and Nat Rothschild. Nat told me that Peter Mandelson says Rupert Murdoch thinks Gordon Brown is a…

But I can’t tell you. In the circles I have been moving in lately, the first law is that what happens on the yacht stays on the yacht. As George Osborne has been brought to understand, gossiping about what you hear in the cabins of the powerful is Simply Not Done.

Being well brought up, you and I know this is just as true of what you hear on a narrow boat on the Shropshire Union. Good manners are good manners, whether you went to Eton, St Paul’s or the Jack Straw Memorial Reform School, Dungeness.

Perhaps it has become a touchier subject with magnates and oligarchs because these days they spend most of their time on the yacht. They have taken the bulk of their lives offshore. You must have noticed Roman Abramovich’s strange rolling gait when he visits Stamford Bridge. And much of the trouble between Russia and Georgia stems from magnates demanding warm-water harbours.

Unless it is the oligarchs. They can be worse.

Yet the world is changing. Soon the masters of the universe will find it hard to come ashore at all. Whenever they show themselves, angry crowds of shareholders, private pensioners and unemployed workers will gather to pelt them with rotting fish and drive them out to sea again.

Like the Flying Dutchman, they will be condemned to roam the oceans. As they eke out their last bottles of champagne, they will at least be consoled by the certainty that what happens on the yacht will stay on the yacht.

For ever.


I’ve got no time for Trick or Treat. It’s just demanding money with menaces and, in the South of England at least, a recent import from America. Worse, paranoid modern parents insist on accompanying their children, trailing behind them with big soppy grins.

A Penny for the Guy was more my style: good, honest begging with a token creative effort thrown in. Children spent hours shivering on street corners before blowing themselves up with fireworks. That sort of thing builds character.

Besides, Halloween has never been big round the Stiperstones. We prefer St Thomas’s Day - 21 December - which boasts the longest night of the year. On that night, local tradition maintains, all the ghosts, witches and assorted bad hats in Shropshire gather at the rocks known as the Devil’s Chair to choose their king.

It makes a pleasant change from Christmas shopping.

There is a lot more local folklore, if you like that sort of thing. My theory is that this region is so remote that the farm labourers did not like to send the bearded Victorians who collected it back to Oxford or Cambridge empty handed.

Thanks to them, you can read endless nonsense about figures like Wild Edric. He was a Saxon lord who led the resistance to the Normans, only to make peace with them in 1070. As punishment he and his followers were entombed alive beneath these very hills. The old lead miners used to hear them knocking, pointing the way to rich new veins of ore.

Occasionally Edric rides out with his retinue to warn that England is in peril, or so the kind-hearted labourers assured out visitors. Such is the power of suggestion that this Wild Hunt was sighted before the Crimean War and again in 1939.

But then I am pretty sure I saw it myself before the Ashes series of 2005.

Jonathan Calder has been a district councillor and contributed to speeches by Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. These days he prefers to poke gentle fun from the sidelines. He blogs at Liberal England