What do mothers really want?

Attention all feckless males; Mothering Sunday is hoving into view and according to an authoritative new survey, most men don't care and a significant minority think its "commercialised rubbish."

A Mori poll sponsored by Midland Bank drew a withering response yesterday from one matriarch in our office: "Men are hopeless." Be that as it may, the survey found that 64 per cent of females - but only 47 per cent of males -always treated their mother and did something to celebrate Mothering Sunday.

Fully 17 per cent of males thought the tradition was a capitalist plot to rip them off. After all, people in the UK spend pounds 50m more than usual on flowers and plants for Mothering Sunday, and send 33 million cards, which costs us around pounds 35m. Almost a quarter of males would celebrate the day if they "realised it made their mother happy".

As for the mums themselves, their favourite gift would be either flowers or a phone call from their children - both were chosen by 31 per cent. Chocolates only got 4 per cent of the vote, which suggests a lot of fibbing. Our own office matriarch was easily satisfied: "Champagne," she said.

Bloody but not wholly bowed, Jeremy Lancaster yesterday presented his last set of figures at the helm of Wolseley after 22 years in which he has turned a company once famous for sheep clippers into the world's biggest plumber's merchant.

The normally ebullient chairman was rather sotto, clearly disappointed that he was bowing out after a half-year which represented a break in the group's recent unbroken growth record. But his trademark old buffer image was in evidence when he was asked if he thought the business - ranging from television aerials to plumbing and photographic equipment - was unfocused.

Dismissing the current trend for "focus" as just the latest fashion, he said: "Our core business was engineering when I joined in 1961 and distribution was regarded as the light cavalry. We still have our core business, but the light cavalry have done rather well in the interim." Given the choice, "we prefer to be out of focus".

One of the richest men in the world was yesterday awarded a grant of pounds 7,500 to save an early 19th century Yorkshire Dales' smithy, Crackpot Hall.

Robert Miller, the billionaire American-born businessman who paid Lord Peel pounds 10m for the Gunnerside estate in Upper Swaledale two years ago, wants to restore Crackpot Hall along lines recommended by English Heritage.

Miller, 63, who owns a 40 per cent share of Duty Free Shoppers Group -with sales of $2.5bn a year - is unlikely to oversee the repair work personally. Although he visits Gunnerside as often as possible, especially during the grouse season, he lives in Hong Kong, as well as having a house in New York.

David Kern, NatWest's chief economic guru, can now stand shoulder to shoulder with John Maynard Keynes in the aphorism stakes.

Keynes once said, famously; "In the long run, we're all dead." Recently Kern was asked if inflation was dead. He replied: "It depends what you mean by dead." Does this remind you of a Python sketch?