The Weasel

The supernatural events in our house are not limited to our ghostly pal who fiddles with pottery. Unbeknown to me, Weasel Villas is widely regarded as Spook Central
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If you happened to pop into Weasel Villas recently, it would have been obvious that all was not well with the paterfamilias of the household. His manner might have seemed a trifle distrait, his opinions lacking their customary wit and pungency. I must admit that my attention has been elsewhere. I have become obsessed by one corner of the dining room. It is not the pile of unironed laundry, leaning like Tatlin's Constructivist tower, which draws my gaze. My unblinking scrutiny has, in fact, been directed towards a row of mugs hanging on hooks in a glass-fronted cupboard. To be precise, the penultimate mug on the right-hand side.

Let me spill the beans. A fortnight ago, when I was alone in the house, my eye was caught by this piece of crockery because it - and it alone - was swinging on its hook. The motion wasn't a gentle tremble, but a full-blown 90-degree oscillation. Now, I'm certain as I can be that I'd been nowhere near the cupboard - and, even if I had, why should I have touched one of the mugs? Crumbs, I thought, we've got spooks. The item in question showed no sign of relenting its merry jig, so, summoning up my reserves of courage, I reached inside and brought it to a halt. Conjecturing that a stray vibration from the floorboards might have been the cause, I jumped up and down for a bit. Not a quiver. There were no stray draughts or hammering from next door which might have explained the activity. In any case, the whole row of mugs would have been disturbed, not just one. And there the mystery remained, until Mrs Weasel returned home.

I got no further than "A funny thing happened in the cupboard...", when she interrupted me. "Was it a mug swinging?" she asked airily. "Oh, that often happens." It transpired that Mrs W adopts the same brisk approach to pesky poltergeists as she does to erring husbands. "Usually I say `That's not in the least amusing. Shut up!' - and it does." My dear partner explained that she never pointed out such phenomena to me because "You'd just huff and puff and bang on about the irrationality of the modern mind". She explained that the supernatural events in our house are not limited to our ghostly pal who chooses to while away eternity by fiddling with pottery. Unbeknown to me, Weasel Villas is widely regarded as the Spook Central of south London.

Unfortunately, the evidence adduced by Mrs W turned out to be flawed in various respects. She described how inexplicable "cold patches" had been felt by several visitors, but, curiously, this always occurred in the depths of winter. Similarly, the "spectral figure hanging from the attic window" was seen by a former neighbour who happened to be a notorious lush. "You know they used to hang people here," she continued unabashed. "The pub at the back of the garden was also the local courthouse." A trip to the local library revealed that there was a speck of truth in this. Petty Sessions had indeed been regularly held in the pub until the end of the last century, but there was no indication that any serious crimes were ever tried here. No hangings, I'm pleased to say, unless you count beer-mugs.

The arbiters of the art world were out in force for the press view of the Royal Academy's big spring show "Braque: the late works". I almost bumped into Nick Serota, the Tsar of the Tate, who was coming out as I went in. Hard on my heels tripped Susan Sontag, the grand fromage from the Big Apple.

Since this absorbing exhibition is limited in size - some 46 painting dating from 1941 to 1959 - I was slightly surprised that neither Mr Serota nor Ms Sontag stopped to take in the second Braque show at the RA's shop, where I counted 24 different items (excluding posters and postcards). The Academy's merchandisers have displayed remarkable ingenuity in converting the motifs of this somewhat austere artist into saleable form. Aside from four designs of tee-shirt (pounds 25), the Braque claque can adorn themselves with silk tie, cufflinks, earrings and chiffon scarf (pounds 49.95). They can dine from a Braque dinner plate (pounds 19.95), bowl and mug, while peering into a resin mirror (pounds 75). Their homes may be enhanced by a Braque mobile, cushions (two sizes), calendar, picture frame, screen prints and wall- hanging (pounds 95). When outside, they can put their back into a Braque ("natural beech-frame" deck chair at pounds 79.95) with matching beach towel and umbrella (pounds 24.95).

An unexpected expression of support for this consumer's cornucopia comes from the great man himself, who is quoted in the catalogue: "Objects don't exist for me except in so far as rapport exists ... between them and myself."

I'm sure it will come as no small gratification to those aesthetic souls who choose to invest in Braque souvenirs that their new possessions actually exist.

In the wake of this magazine's excellent suggestion of night-lights as Christmas presents, the February issue of Vogue has also seen the light. But, as you might guess, its two-page spread on candles (under the up- to-the-minute headline "Burn, baby, burn") is devoted to slightly more exotic wicks, such as the "sculptural candles" created by Anne Severine Liotard at a mere pounds 900 apiece. Similarly, it sounds as if Anouska Hempel could save a bob or two in her modestly-titled hotel, The Hempel, by buying night-lights instead of "black-and-white, `architectural' candles which are as wide (1 metre) as they are tall, and handmade in Italy and Turkey". This upmarket landlady is also developing her own range of candles which she promises "will smell quite curious - ginger and lily with cigar smoke".

Unfortunately, unless you happen to move in the charmed world for which Vogue acts as the house magazine, the article is less than illuminating. For most of us, it is slightly mystifying to be informed that "Solange Azagury lights two rose candles every day in her shop" or "Isaac Mizrahi is never without a Diptyque candle in his Manhattan apartment". (Apparently, they "make any house smell like an old library", which, if the libraries in south London are anything to go by, is something of a mixed blessing). After directing readers who seek more idiosyncratic candles to a Manhattan shop called Heretics R Us ("hitherto catering for New York's white witches"), the feature ends by recommending an innovation by Donna Karan, "travel candles, tiny tins of scented wax that slip into your handbag". Sounds familiar? They're almost given away at a paltry pounds 29 for four.

When Gordon Kennedy - not a figure known to me but apparently he is an "ex-Lottery presenter and Scot-about-town" - introduced his favourite scotches in last week's Time Out, readers were warned that his "reactions are highly subjective". So, unfortunately, are his facts. Many a whisky- lover's blood will have boiled at Kennedy's bizarre statement that 18- year-old Glenmorangie is "An Islay malt. It's very distinctive because the water they make it with drains from peat bogs... very earthy tasting." As even a gin-swilling Sassenach could tell you, Glenmorangie is a light highland malt distilled at Tain on Scotland's east coast. Having once toured the distilleries of Scotland - the world's most arduous journalistic assignment - I have seen the fairy tale pond called Tarlogie Spring where Glenmorangie draws its water. Edged by white picket fencing, it is in the middle of a small wood. In the sandy bottom of the crystal-clear pool, you can see tiny eruptions caused by the spring. Far from being "very earthy", it was one of the most heavenly spots I've ever seen.

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