22 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 70

Country life

Bad taste

Leanda de Lisle

They say you don't notice a well-dressed person's clothes. Perhaps the same is true of a well-dressed house. You should think `What a nice room' not 'Coo, yellow walls.' I suppose I should have listened to John Sutcliffe, creator of Fowler and Ball's National Trust range of paints. He told me to use 'Hay', which is described on the colour card as a 'Bright, but not excessively hot yellow'. However, as a friend of his once said, he's cleverly blend- ed 57 shades of brown, and Hay looked excessively dreary to me. It's only now that I accept that an 18th-century house carries with it the dreadful burden of good taste.

The decorator has cut things very fine, leaving the painting until this afternoon, but he did sell me a very nice carpet for 50 quid, so I can't be too annoyed. I just wish he hadn't told me that one of the NSPCC ladies (which one?) threw it out of her house last week. I'm worried she'll be sour when she sees it here. But perhaps she'll be too busy thinking about suffering chil- dren to worry about what my house is wearing this week. Despite what Sir Fred- erick Lawton had to say in this magazine (`The abuse of child abuse', 1 November), I don't think there are nearly enough 'hys- terical outbursts' on the subject of child abuse.

If the Swindon paedophile who took refuge in a Brighton police station had been part of a gang who had murdered several judges, rather than several chil- dren, I doubt he'd be free to wander the streets. And if the camp guards from chil- dren's homes in North Wales and their friends had raped and tortured chaps with knighthoods rather than little boys in the care of the state, they might have been named by now. But there we are. County ladies who worry about such things are expected to focus on making a quiche, or getting the house looking nice for a light luncheon and a little talk about boys like Jason Swift, who died with a tear trickling down his cheek, during a homo- sexual orgy enjoyed by the Swindon pae- dophile and his soon-to-be-released friends.

I'm sorry. It's bad taste to mention such things. I was planning to tell you all about the wonders of flat oil paint (now available from the Dulux Historic Houses range), but something seems to have distracted me. Perhaps it was the word 'yellow'. I can understand why people focused on weeding the garden while their Jewish neighbours were being carted off to concentration camps. But, if you shut your eyes to evil, you can't expect not to be touched by it. One of my oh-so-well-protected sons had to be interviewed by the police and social services last year. He had come into con- tact with a paedophile who is now serving a six-year sentence for abusing three children (and we're not talking about 'fondling' here).

I'm legally restricted from telling you whether the man was a scout-master, a teacher, a shop-keeper, a skiing instructor, a vicar or anything else. If you have chil- dren, you'll just have to hope that they don't meet him when he gets out. And if they do that they are as lucky as my son, whom he chose to leave alone. According to Sir Frederick, children are in no more danger now than they were 50 years ago. Clearly this is a fantastic improvement. And I look forward to hearing the man from the NSPCC tell me exactly what it means for the council estate kids who live next door to a serial child-killer and the nice little boys whose mothers worry about the colour they're painting their drawing- room.