RADIO : How I learnt to stop worrying and love the Trust

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GUESTS visiting the Kiplings at home in Sussex were encouraged to sign the visitors' book. After some names, Rudyard would later write the letters "FIP". You can imagine earnest scholars searching for a link between the people thus selected - were they Friends In Peril, Famous Important People, members of the Free India Party? - but the pleasingly banal truth is that these were the ones who, for whatever reason, Fell In Pond.

Today's visitors to Bateman's are more decorous. My daughter donned a mob cap and heaved trays of rough pottery around in the steaming tea- shop last summer, and she knows. For every old India hand or literary pilgrim she observed, there were half-a-dozen quietly investigating some dimly perceived link between Mr Kipling and the cakes they ate, and at least one surly teenager whose furious mother was snarling: "No. It is not boring. This is not boring. Lying around watching Neighbours is boring." Not one, all summer long, FIP.

Bateman's is one of 200 houses owned by the National Trust, whose centenary was marked by an excellent programme on Tuesday. Radio 2 has been presenting merry roadshows from various Trust properties for some weeks now, but, for Taken in Trust, John Dunn dared to lift the edge of the Aubusson and ask - well, is the Trust boring? Does it preserve or merely fossilise? Busily flogging the myth of an idyllic rural England, does it lie about history? Is it smug, obsessive and as bogus as Disneyland? In short, is it trustworthy?

Supporters ranged from Penelope Keith raving about the camellias at Nyman's to the loyal, but less lyrical curator at Canons Ashby grumbling about his faulty burglar alarm. Wisely, Dunn steered clear of Bateman's, but two less familiar houses were cited as breaking free from deadening "tradition". One is a semi- in Worksop; the other a Tudor mansion in Hackney, reborn as a kind of social centre. A critic condemned the rebuilding of Uppark, gutted by fire, as a bogus recreation of the bogus, but the counter-arguments were better. After all, the insurance money could be used for nothing else, and the active employment of such creative craftsmen was surely worthwhile in itself. I was finally convinced by the arguments of Martin Drury quoting Octavia Hill, a founding member. She urged the importance of change, saying that it is the spirit, not the dead form that must be perpetuated. I think we can trust them to do that.

That is, unless the whole country is covered in golf courses. Sporting Partnerships (R5) examined the link - no, the marriage - between golfer and caddy. It proves to be extraordinarily close. Colin Montgomerie would be quite useless without Alister McLean, who makes sure that his concentration is undisturbed, who chooses his clubs, who employs advanced physics to advise him of each shot, who props up his morale should it become limp. McLean may see himself as a kind of sheepdog on a long lead, but if I were Mrs Montgomerie - or Mrs McLean - I'd be seriously grumpy about the passionate intensity of their mutual devotion.

Perhaps they are spiritual twins. Or perhaps not. The "Kaleidoscope Feature" this week was a muddled load of verbiage called Mixed Doubles - The Art of Twins (R4). Beginning with Romulus and Remus, about whose characters little - well actually, nothing - is known, it attempted to persuade us that every Jekyll barely restrains a Hyde and that "the whole quest of art is an endless search for various aspects of the twin". The fat, druggy Elvis was presented as the inevitable disintegration of his youthful, virile beauty because, aha, he had been one of twins. Like a Pushme-Pullyou, the programme went simultaneously in opposite directions, suggesting both that we are all an uneasy fusion of opposites, and that it's all due to so many of us having once shared a womb with a "vanishing twin".

Actors with plural surnames impersonating themselves began to appear, but it was not very clever to quote soundtracks from films starring a pair of Hayley Mills or a double Jeremy Irons (however much a caddy might long for such an implement). Radio is a marvellous medium, but it is not best suited to trick photography. So we returned to horrid reality, learning of the pantomime tricks the Krays used to impersonate each other, and finally to the lurid truth about the original Siamese twins. Chang and Eng could easily have been separated at any time, but chose to stick together: they married sisters, fathered 22 children and retired on a fortune made in freak shows. The imagination shies rapidly away from picturing the details, but one confused listener found herself wondering if they ever visited Kipling. That would have been some splash.

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