When you duck out of the front door of that tiny, one-and-a-half bedroom cottage they rent from the Estate and into the broad, undulating Oxfordshire landscape, there are three walks to choose from. The River Walk, my hostess explains, cuts across the field at the back of the house, through the farm and then along the towpath for a mile or so before looping back through the village. The Peacock Walk, so christened by their six year-old, ploughs straight through the woods, orbits the Orangery (one of those eccentric Victorian initiatives without which England would be so much the poorer), pauses by the incumbent peacocks, and returns home by the same route.
But the Lottery Walk is the finest and most convivial if there’s a gang of three or more, even on a slate-grey, frost-rimed afternoon such as this. Set we off from the rear of the cottage, the gate at the end of the small garden, along the path to the road and then left up the hill till we reached the Gates. Turning into the driveway and then – as if we have no choice in the matter – our thoughts converged: The monumental Jacobean gateposts are worthy of the long and ancient cedar avenue silhouetted against the November sky, but where the house should be – nothing. An idea of a house, a dream of one, a sketch perhaps – but nothing more. Did it burn down? Surely there would be some remains? No - they (whoever they were) simply ran out of money.
And so we start to wonder what we’d do if we won the lottery. We do the Lottery Walk.
After the usual houses-boats-grouse-moors-and-Venetian-palazzo chatter along the line, my hostess speaks at last. ‘I should like to have freshly cut roses every day,’ she says. ‘And I should like never to have to wear the same pair of socks twice.’
We understand the about the flowers but why, the rest of us wonder, the bit about the socks?
‘Putting on a new pair of socks – not a clean pair but a new pair – is the finest feeling I know.’
We think about it for a moment and agree that she has a point.
By the time we’ve crossed the lawns that stretch out behind that non-existent house, passed the church and settled with some finality into a corner of the pub, we’ve concluded that – until our ship comes in – we are more than happy to make do with moleskin.
Heavier that expected, warmer than one would guess and so very, very soft wash after wash, pulling on a pair of moleskin trousers is one of winter’s many small pleasures available to anybody with ninety pounds or so.
At Oliver Brown, we source our moleskin cloth from the world’s leading manufacturer and cut the trousers for a smart, comfortable and classic fit, with slanted hip pockets and welted ones at the rear. They’re available on our website as usual in corn, forest, navy blue and tan, and now also in royal blue, deep green and red: https://goo.gl/e9tKXM