19 October 2001

Bertie – the

challenged aristocrat

BERTIES on good form. Cracking good form actually. Hes back home after a spell in a distant country, where a branch of the family are big landowners. Most branches of Berties family, in fact, are big landowners.

Berties swotting up on the Estate, so hes ready to run the place when his father retires. Theres a resident land agent (well, two actually) but theres always been a member of the family at the helm.

"Im so glad its what you want to do, Archibald," his father said, full of port, late one night in the study of their ancestral home. (His fathers the only person who doesnt use the nickname nannie gave the young Archibald.)

"Absolutely," replied Bertie. Then, not knowing what to say next, added: "Absolutely."

The family are just glad hes decided on a career at last. Academically, well, lets just say Berties never excelled academically. Not that it stopped him getting into a good school or college. Some institutions, after all, look beyond academic qualifications. And Bertie has long-since learnt to write his surname in big letters on his CV.

The family are glad Berties settling down, for hes been a worry in his time. But hes no thug. By jove, no. That business when the police got involved – that was just letting off steam after exams. And as for that car that got written off at his 21st, well, that could have happened to anyone. It jolly well could. Just as well it was only a BMW. Just as well, too, Berties father was on good terms with its owner. Old school chums. They sorted it out like gentlemen.

When he turned 21 – five years ago – he inherited, depending on land valuations and stock market fluctuations, approaching £10m worth of assets.

When his father passes on, Bertie will inherit the estate with its home farm, let farms (plus a jolly good shoot), the woods in Scotland, the property in France and that little flat in Belgravia. That little flat alone was at the last valuation – carried out by one of Berties chums whos a big-shot surveyor – worth £2.5m.

Of course, the world recession could hit asset values. "Its all to do with dotcoms," Bertie tells people, not quite sure precisely what its got to do with the dotcoms.

Berties girlfriend, Arabella, lives in London. Shes stunning and no, before you say it, its not Berties money shes interested in. OK, his hairlines receding and hes a little on the tubby side, but hes such a cutie.

"And hes so interesting," says Arabella. She never tires of hearing him recount the story about how his great, great, great grandfather drank away the estate then won it back in a poker hand. "Golly," she chirps when he tells her. Then, not knowing what to say next, adds: "Golly."

Arabella thinks he needs someone to look after him. And Arabella – who thinks dotcom is a type of carpet – also thinks hell need someone to live in that gorgeous ancestral home one day.

Berties not so sure about getting married, though. He knows, looking at the long paintings of his ancestors hanging on the many walls of the many halls of his home, that many of them, too, were bounders and rogues with women.

Its so hard – having this legacy, this level of expectation, thinks Bertie looking wistfully up at the pictures. No-one understands. His father sees him and asks – in whats the nearest hes come to a display of affection in a decade – if hes bearing up.

"Absolutely," says Bertie. "Absolutely."

If you enjoy reading about country characters then you will love our book Farming Breeds – its packed with 30 of em! Its just whats needed to bring a smile to the face in these trying times and it will make a great Christmas present. To get a copy just send a cheque or postal order (payable to Farmers Weekly) for £5.60 (includes p&p) to Farming Breeds, Farmers Weekly, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS.