Country mouse has a cookery lesson

The splash of rain that finally came last week answered the prayers of the farmers, who had become despondent, even by their standards, by the dry spring.

One described it to me as watching £10 notes fall out of the sky. However, in contrast, gamekeepers and racegoers will be praying for a dry week, with Royal Ascot now under way, as this is when the partridge chicks hatch. Rain is a killer for both chicks and high heels. Last week, I had my first cookery lesson with some of Hampshire’s grander ladies.

We sat like children on our first day of term at Newlyns Farm Shop, near Hook, as Marco Pierre White wielded his knife, tapping it on the table to bring us to hushed attention. He then proceeded to conjure three delicious dishes with the minimum of fuss, at the same time as enthusing us with passion and fervour for seasonal goods. By the end, the ladies andI were confirmed zealots for a new, simpler cooking.

Back home, Mrs Hedges absorbed my latest enthusiasm with her customary patience before suggesting that I cook the next dinner party, adding: ‘The proof will be in the pudding.’ Sadly, Marco didn’t teach me one of those.