Alexander Waugh

To battle with Sir Baldwin

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Bearing Up: The Long View

Francis Fulford

Timewell Press, pp. 270, £

With a little genealogical effort over three million people in this country can trace their ancestry back to a 15th- century hero called Sir Baldwin Fulford, and his luscious wife, Elizabeth Bozom, daughter of Sir John Bozom of Bozom-zeal. According to our old books of blazons Sir Baldwin was ‘a great soldier and a traveller of so undaunted resolution that for the honour and liberty of a royal lady he fought a combat with a Saracen (for bulk and bigness an unequal match) whom yet he vanquished’. In 1461 he was executed at Bristol, but Sir Baldwin’s spirit lives on, a little in all of us, and a great deal in his male heir representative of the 17th generation, the baggy landed gent and TV personality, Francis ‘Fucker’ Fulford.

Fucker earned his nickname from the extraordinary cussing performance he gave on a recent Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary about his family called The F***cking Fulfords. This programme so excited the urban proletariat that he has now been bribed with £250,000 to make another one just the same, but I don’t suppose many of the three and half million jealous, sneering viewers who watched it will be rushing out to buy his new book, for Bearing Up is aimed only at the tiny target market of 1,200 people in Britain who still own a house and landed estate. In essence the book (a recension of a version published several years ago) is a practical guide to maintaining and nurturing your estate, how to step around the ‘unsporting’ taxman, how to avoid being ripped off by ‘fat’ professional trustees, ‘pariahs … dregs of humanity’, land agents, tenants, the Forestry Commis- sion, English Nature, the National Trust, the tree preservation people, and all those flabby-handed busybodies and power maniacs who wish to claim your home as part of their own ‘national heritage’.

At the heart of the author’s thesis is the hard-to-grasp notion that people like him are not at all rich. Yes, he owns a magnificent house with park, antiques, paintings, outlying cottages and 3,000 acres of agricultural land, but that does not, in his view, make him a rich man, since under no circumstances would he ever sell any of it. He sees himself as a caretaker only, whose sacred duty it is to pass the estate on, preserved if not improved, to his elder son. He must realise that at some time in the future someone of his line will sell up, but it is certainly not going to be Fucker who does it, and the longer Great Fulford stays in his family the harder it becomes for any Fulford to betray the line by bailing out. When Sir Baldwin inherited the place in 1420 he was already the ninth unbroken generation from William de Fulford who was enjoying the same estate 250 years earlier in the reign of Richard I. It is only by sympathising with this scenario and the rare siege mentality that it breeds that one can begin to grasp the notion of Fucker’s ‘virtual poverty’, and only once this has been accepted does the book become fun — more than fun, I should say — a spectacular alpha-male, armour-suited full-scale assault on all the blood- suckers and barbarians that hover round the castle gate.

Fucker has a ready wit and a natural, fluent style of writing. You do not need to own a stately home and a Capability Brown park to rally round his cry. His hatred of government bureaucracy is something we all feel from time to time. His fear of wives who spend too much is also a common concern, though most of us never dare to mention it. ‘There are qualities you should look for in a wife and traits you should avoid,’ he advises the besieged modern stately home owner.

One of the prime characteristics to be wary of is if the girl comes from bad breeding stock and could bring bad blood into your family, resulting in a string of thick, idle spendthrifts, wastrels or gamblers, or maybe a mixture of the lot, or even — perish the thought — a queer, which will effectively mean the end of your line.

No doubt there are many who will not be encouraged by this sort of sentiment. Perhaps it is a little brash, but Fucker’s bold, honest and opinionated optimism makes for a very refreshing read. He is both knowledgeable and persuasive in matters of history, politics and business; he is a confident rabble-rouser and, I suspect, a natural leader of men — just what the English rural classes need right now to stoke their anger and lead them through the bureaucratic pall of Tony’s modern Britain. Perhaps one day he might consider running for office with Bearing Up as his manifesto. I sincerely hope he does, for with Sir Baldwin as our progenitor and Fucker as our leader things may yet turn out all right.

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