Comrade Alex opts for the inglenook


If, 10 years ago, you had been told that a Russian was spending $2.7m (pounds 1.8m) on a manor house in Connecticut, you would have looked askance, I think. Now it still seems odd, but it is no longer gob-smacking.

Alex and Vicki Kirzhnev have commissioned Border Oak of Leominster to build them a mock Tudor mansion. This is no standard mock Tudor jobby. The frame will be made of 130 tons of Scottish oak, pegged together in the traditional way, and the house will include the full Elizabethan monty - medieval galleried hall, oak-panelled library, authentic inglenook fireplace and all. They will probably want a ghost, but I gather they are in short supply this year.

Apparently Mr and Mrs Kirzhnev visited a friend's mock Tudor house in New Jersey, and were so impressed that they decided to get one for themselves. They heard about Border Oak, which has recreated chunks of Stratford-upon- Avon in Japan, and flew over to Britain to have a look. But they found the company's off-the-peg offerings a little small, and asked it to draw up some sensible-sized designs. Something where a man could do bazooka practice in the library without bothering his wife in the living room.

What Bob Dole and Diana Ross, their neighbours in Greenwich, Connecticut, will think is anybody's guess. But if I were them I would be intrigued. All I have discovered for sure about Mr Kirzhnev is that he is 45, his wife is 42, and they have two children. Border Oak says the couple arrived from Russia in 1992, but I wonder if he is the same Alex Kirzhnev described in the New York Times in 1985 as a currency trader for the Union Bank of Switzerland in New York. I will try to find out more.

Meanwhile, it is comforting to know that there are still people around rich enough to continue scattering the world with truly eccentric buildings.

Note in an Edinburgh butcher's shop: "Wanted - customers. No experience necessary."

High climbers

ING Barings has been thinking of ways to stop its traders getting their hands on dangerous things like derivatives. The latest is to knacker them. "The ING Barings 24 Peaks Challenge" involves climbing 24 Lake District mountains, all over 2,400 feet, within 24 hours. Teams from the corporate sector are expected to train to cope with "two long and arduous days". Or sothe blurb says.

Phooey, my sinewy ex-City chum says when he discovers the contestants are allowed a four-hour rest in the middle. "It's peanuts - it's just a doddle. I reckon I could do that in five hours. It's all about the yuppie image of trying to be healthy."

If Barings really wants to keep its staff's paws off the loot, he recommends it send them on the Bob Graham Round, "42 peaks in 24 hours non-stop". That should do us all a favour by bringing the City to a halt. "You can't do this stuff seriously and have a career," he says

An official was wandering through a Network SouthCentral train the other day, displaying a badge declaring he was part of the Customer Action Team. Is this supposed to comfort? - "Ah, good to see those chaps are so dynamic." Or terrify? - "Help, I'd better pay up or he'll karate chop me!" I asked the man what he though of his new team. "I dunno, we're just ticket inspectors," he said.

Tell it like it is

One of the many sterling qualities of the Germans is that they don't believe in euphemisms. They call meat "flesh", and so forth. Even so, I was taken back when abluting at a motorway service station in Bavaria. There was a machine there selling a condom called "Babystop".

Should Bunhill fail to appear in the coming weeks, I must tell you why: I will have been locked up by Mr Plod for failing to pay a non-existent tax.

To explain. The Bunhillmobile is an old lady and therefore, following the estimable Mr Clarke's last Budget, exempt from road tax. Come the spring, I decide to get her out of the garage. I have a note from the DVLC that should enable me to get a tax disc, even though there is a zero rate on it. But because the car has been off the road it is a little while since the last tax disc expired.

The lady in the post office cannot give me a new tax disc, apparently, because the DVLC has not sent me a new registration document saying that my car is no longer "private light goods" but "25-year tax exempt".

Does it really matter if I have no tax disc, given that there is no tax to pay, I ask? "Oh yes," I am told. "You have to have a tax disc even if there is no tax." So will I be pulled over and charged with not paying a tax that doesn't exist? "You will be charged with not displaying a tax disc," she said.

There's a bloke called Heseltine who says he's going to get rid of the unnecessary bureaucracy in government. It seems to me he has a little way to go.

Dope heads

You readers are an ungrateful lot. Chateau Bunhill has been working flat out to produce enough passable champagne to keep the winners of my many competitions happy. Now one such has written to say that as he is a teetotaller: "A bottle of Dettol would have been more use." He continues: "In a more civilised age prizes like this fizzy-liquid version of the drug which befuddles millions, turning them at best into gibbering fools ... will be replaced by more benign herbal substances that enhance the natural appetites."

Which I think means he wants me to hand out cannabis at the very least. It's an idea - but I feel sure we can find better ways of cracking that 5 million circulation barrier.

By the way, Bunhill has made it into Captain Moonlight - that excellent bastion of monarchism - today. I tell you this in the spirit of comradeship with the rest of the paper. Well, someone has to read it.

peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits