Under pressure

This afternoon’s lunch date with my dear old Aunt Mad Duck was pretty much as I expected. There was no sign of any papers to sign, so I was quite confident it wasn’t going to be a business meeting. I know there are some things she wants me to agree to regarding our mutual business interests, but I usually need a good stiff drink or two before I can cope with that kind of meeting.

No, today was all about her rekindled interest in my marital status. I know she means well, and she has my interests at heart, but she also has one eye on the family name and inheritance. The real problem is that her idea of a suitable young lady and mine are not always in the same ball park. For her, any female of good family capable of bearing children will do. Obviously I am a little more selective. Her own marriage to my uncle is one of convenience and although on the surface they seem to be happy. I know that they are actually living entirely separate lives. Whilst they are very fond of each other, there is no intimacy or affection between them.

On the other hand, those of my friends who have married for “love” have often found themselves embroiled in endless confrontations, disputes over money and in many cases, divorce. This relationship game is a veritable mine field. Whichever way you turn there are traps awaiting the unwary traveler. And whilst I am not expecting a whirlwind romance, if I am going to marry, I would like to to be to someone whose company I enjoy and I can have some regard for.

So, with all this at the back of my mind, I joined dear old Mad Duck at a little bistro she likes to frequent, just of the Brompton Road. As is her custom she was early and waiting for me when I arrived. Punctuality is one of her little foibles. Apparently, she has never been late for an appointment in her life.

Anyway, once we had ordered our food and started on a particularly fine Chateau Lagrange, the conversation took the expected turn as my dear old aunt introduced the subject of matrimony. It started innocently enough, with an update on the impending nuptials of my cousin Charles. It seems that what had started as a small family affair has blossomed into a full scale society wedding. I know Charles well enough to know that this escalation is not his idea, and will definitely not be to his liking. I have only met his bride to be once, and I must admit that she didn’t strike me as the ostentatious sort. This is just the sort of thing that can happen to chaps like us. All we really want is a quiet and simple life.

Inevitably, as we discussed Charles’ future, my own came slowly and inexorably into focus. Didn’t I think it was about time I too got married? Wasn’t it about time I started thinking about an heir? And then, as if on cue, who should “just happen” to pass by our table but my cousin Dorothy with one of her friends, a petite young lady called Angela. Of course, this may have just been coincidence, but knowing Mad Duck, a very much doubt it.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Mad Duck dropped so many hints about Angela’s eligibility and, rather embarrassingly, her family’s reputation for having lots and lots of children, that in the end I decided to bite the bullet, so to speak, and suggest that she and Dorothy join me for supper later in the week. By the time we had finished our lunch (and a third bottle of Claret), it had all been arranged, much to the delight of Aunt Murdock.

It came out during our conversations that Dorothy’s play is about to close. I can’t say I am surprised as it was particularly awful, not that I would ever say that to her you understand. She is a rather sensitive sort. Well, as she had expected a longer run, she has nothing else planned and has also had to give notice on her flat. Being the chivalrous chap that I am I have offered her a room at my house, just until she can secure another job. Needless to say she was delighted at my philanthropy and will be joining me in my Kensington abode this coming weekend.

Thinking about it now I am not sure how this is going to work out. I am used to having my own space and have never had a young lady living in like this. And what Aunt Murdock will make of the arrangement I can only guess.

Anyway, I must be off now. I have agreed to meet a couple of the chaps from the Club for a small party on the river. It was one of those impromptu sort of things that seemed like a jolly good idea after a few snifters of single malt. Let us just hope the weather is kind – I am not too good on the water when it gets a little choppy.

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No job for a woman

Thankfully it has been a quiet day today, one of those rare Sundays when no one calls or is expecting me to be anywhere. I have made the most of the opportunity to catch up with some correspondence and television programmes that I have recorded recently. Which has reminded me of a conversation myself and some of the chaps had in the Club on Friday evening.

We generally meet up on a Friday for a spot of snooker and a few drinks. I have to be honest and admit that I am not a particularly good player, but it is sport I enjoy participating in. At least it doesn’t involve too much physical exertion or training. However, this week I did rather well, winning two frames against old Cambridge. It was quite a jolly evening on the whole, and I found myself more than happy to stay behind for a drink or three afterwards.

Old George on the bar had discovered a very fine 18-year-old Edradour in the Club’s cellar. George has a keen nose for a good whiskey and this particular bottle is certainly one of his better finds.

Anyway, whilst we sampled the delights of this rather fine highland single malt, conversation settled on the recent news stories about women on the BBC. The reports were all about how much some of the corporation’s stars are being paid for their services, but things have inevitably focused on the differential between how much women receive compared to men. I think I can safely say that as far as most of the chaps were concerned, this focus should not be on how much less the women on our screen are paid, rather that the men on the list are paid far too much. To a man they are paid far beyond their worth. I mean, I have met most of these so-called stars on a number of occasions over the years, mainly at parties and other events, and have been singularly unimpressed by them. Of course, in the main I don’t actually know who they are what they do as I don’t watch the kind of programmes that most of them make. I prefer documentaries and dramas. I am particularly fond of murder mysteries which is where I have a problem with the way things are going with TV these days.

Regardless of who is paid the most, there are some things about casting that have changed far too much recently. As I said, I am quite fond of a good crime drama or murder mystery, and settled down this afternoon to catch up on one or two recent productions. Now, I don’t want anyone thinking that I am chauvinistic in any way. I will be the first to agree that there should be more good parts for women on the television, but it seems that the PC brigade have gone a little too far. The trouble now is that almost all the leading parts in the most recent dramas are played by women, with men playing either the villains or in supporting roles.

Of course, to even think such a thing will be seen by some people as proof that I am old fashioned and out of touch, which anyone who knows me will attest that I most certainly am not. Not at all. I am a very modern man. But there are some roles suitable for men and some for women. As far as I am concerned, the part of the detective is a male one. I know that more women are moving up the employment ladder in all kinds of occupations, but I am sure that not many real-life detectives are female. On the screen however, virtually all of them are these days.

And it is not just the detective stories that have been hijacked by the political correctness brigade. Almost everything you see on film or television these days has a female in the main part. Personally, I am getting rather tired of this messing about with traditional roles and would like to see a return to the gender balance we had before.

Bring back Morse, Poirot and Barnaby, and let’s have a little less of these women please. And I’m not the only one who thinks thing have gone too far. All the chaps feel the same.

And talking about women, dear old Aunt Murdock wants to meet me again tomorrow afternoon for a spot of lunch. This time I know it isn’t about business. I am sure she has plans to set me up with one of her chosen suitable young potential brides. Wish me luck…

Aunt Murdock sets out her plans

After a busy fortnight at Wimbledon and Royal Birkdale it is back to business, at least as far as my dear old Aunt Murdock is concerned. I received one of her summonses on my return from the Open, and it would be a braver man than I to ignore such a request (I use that word in the loosest possible way).

Anyway, old Mad Duck had something of an agenda when I met up with her yesterday in the rather fine surroundings of the Dorchester. The Dorchester is one my favourite meeting places, I am rather fond of their lunches and they keep the most amazing wine cellar. After some pleasantries and half a bottle of a very fine Claret, conversation naturally turned to family matters. I say naturally, but in truth it was Aunt Murdock gently steering things that way. She has an uncanny knack for getting people to talk about things they really don’t want to.

Now, I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t want to talk about my family. I am actually rather fond of some of them, but once Aunt Murdock starts driving conversation down that particular avenue, it can only go one way. And despite my best efforts and a bottle of claret, there was no way to derail this particular verbal juggernaut.

Lady Murdock has several bees in her bonnet that she likes to harangue me with on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s about my life style, sometimes about money, but most often she gets all maternal on me and starts pestering me about marriage. She believes that the one thing I need above all else is a nice young wife who can push out a couple of children. Personally, I can’t think of any more dreary or off putting than having a brood of children getting under my feet all day.

Anyway, it seems that the old dear has been giving my nuptials rather more thought than I have and she has drawn up a short-list of eligible ladies she wants me to meet. I must admit that I was rather aghast at the notion that I should prepare to meet each of the ladies on her list over the coming months. Would you believe she has even arranged to have me invited to a number of social events so as to maximise my opportunities.

I can tell you I was rather angry at all this interference. I mean, a chap has a right to decide for himself where he goes to and who he sees. No woman has the right to make those decisions for me. That is just not on.

Of course, I am not foolish enough to actually say this out loud. Good heavens no, I am not that silly. I will just have to go along with her plans and hope that this time I somehow manage to find the next Lady Dimbelby-Smyth. After all, being married doesn’t have to mean I have to make any substantial changes, and it might actually be rather fun.

Anyway, my first engagement, so to speak, is a little soirée being organised by some old school pals of mine in a couple of weeks. Mad Duck says it is some kind of charity fundraiser on the Thames. Sounds frightful, but at least it’s close to home. In the meantime, it is, hopefully, all back to normal at Chez Dimbelby-Smyth. Tomorrow I need to go out and re-stock my wine cellar. I think I will invite Dasher to join me – he has great taste.

Back from the north

What a wonderful weekend I had up in Southport for the Open. I only ever visit the Open when it’s at Royal Birkdale, largely because I find the combination of world class golf, splendid company and a lovely little town irresistible.

In the past I had stayed with friends in the area, but as they moved further away I prefer not to stay at one or another of the town’s fine hotels. This year I had a wonderful little room overlooking the lake – I could even see Blackpool, Tower which is about as close to that particular landmark as I want to get.

The weather this year was so changeable that I had trouble deciding what to wear. I mean, when the sun is shining as you set out in the morning you naturally want to dress accordingly. What you don’t anticipate – but probably should – is that the Mediterranean heatwave that greets you over breakfast will become a tropical monsoon by lunch time. The wind was so bad on the Friday that I had trouble staying upright on a couple of the more exposed holes. How those chaps kept their shots in play is beyond me. The course itself is infamously difficult, but throw in high winds, thunder and a heatwave and it is surprising some of the chaps were able to play at all.

Beyond the golf, Southport has always enjoyed a traditional seaside atmosphere and it boasts some very fine hostelries and restaurants. Although I do find that the clientele has not always kept pace with the improved quality of the food and service at some of the better establishments. I was able to enjoy a couple of very pleasant evenings in the company of old and new friends.

The journey there and back was thankfully uneventful, although I was concerned to read that there are plans to do away with some of the first-class coaches. This is a very worrying development indeed. First class travel has to be maintained or travelling to events such as the Open would be unbearable. If anything, they need to make it more exclusive. Some people can appreciate the benefits of luxury travel and have a respect for their fellow travellers, whilst others clearly cannot and shouldn’t be allowed on in the first place.

Anyway, here I am, back at home. Old Mad Duck left a message to say she is going to call on me tomorrow morning which can only mean one of two things. Either she has more paperwork for me to sign, or she is back with the matchmaking. I think the latter is the firm favourite, in which case I think I am going to need a drinkie or three to help prepare for the confrontation ahead.

What a week!

I may have only been away for a week watching Wimbledon, but it is starting to feel so much longer. Apparently, last week the chaps at the Club persuaded old Neighsmith to see a doctor, and it seems that his only problem is his hearing. Otherwise he is as sound as a bell – a rather rusty and battered old bell – but you get my meaning.

It was a relief to get the news that he will be with us for a while yet, all-be-it sporting a fine pair of hearing aids. The chaps had an impromptu collection at the bar and raised enough to afford him a pair of these new-fangled digital aids that you can hide inside your ear. It is truly amazing what they can do these days. Indeed, during our chat I discovered that a number of the members were also wearing similar devices, and I had never noticed! And everyone knows how observant I am.

With one thing and another it has been quite a busy couple of weeks for me. First, we had Ascot, then Wimbledon, and tomorrow I am off to Southport for the Open Golf. I am beginning to feel that I am spending too much time away from home and my friends. Not that I don’t see people at these events, but I have never been comfortable being outside of my own environment for too long. One the other hand, last week I spent a great deal of time in the company of Dorchester and his lady friend. I saw a lot more of that young lady than I would have liked. Dorchester himself has always been great company, taking part in all our japes, but with Annabel in tow, he was quite a different chap. It is enough to put a gentleman off relationships. Not that I have that much experience of these things myself, but from what I have seen of my friends, I am best avoiding it until I really must.

But I am not the only one who has had problems with their friends recently. I was devastated to read in the newspapers about Mrs May’s problems with her friends in the Cabinet. Now I really do like our Prime Minister. She is one of us, and deserves more support from her colleagues. It is just a shame that she doesn’t seem to command the same respect amongst her peers as the late Lady Thatcher did. What a wonderful woman she was; she knew she was right and would not let anyone divert her from her vision. She changed this country for the better. I only wish I had been around to see her at her best, but alas, I was born a little too late.

As for Theresa May, she has the right ideas, but just can’t seem to keep those beneath her under control. I had always thought than men like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson were men of vision and integrity, but their actions since the European vote had been somewhat below the standard I would expect from men of integrity. And just when I believed that everything was running smoothly, last weekend saw various members of the Cabinet rocking the boat, with the question of Mrs May’s leadership raising its ugly head once again. I do wish that these people would stop playing silly games and focus on doing what we elected them to do, put an end to that left-wing troublemaker Corbyn.

Anyway, tomorrow I am off to “sunny” Southport to catch the Open. Last time I was there I stayed with friends, but this year I have a small apartment in a promenade hotel. It will be a pleasant change to have a little time to myself. I am rather fond of a round or two of golf and enjoy watching the Open when it’s at Royal Birkdale. It is a lovely course and I do like Southport itself. I will be back on Sunday and I am not planning any further excursions for the time being.

Back from Wimbledon

Good evening everyone. I am back now from my week at Wimbledon and it’s time to catch up a little. Now, Wimbledon is one of those quintessentially British events that no one else can match. There are plenty of tournaments on the “tour” but none have the prestige and glamour of Wimbledon, and to be there, to be part of it, is something special. And this year we had the benefit of some excellent tennis. It was a shame to see dear old Andy Murray fall by the wayside before the semi-finals, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

It was also delightful to see that fine young lady Johanna Konta play so well. I hope that this time next year I will be celebrating a new British ladies champion. Such a lovely young lady.

It was a delight to meet up with the usual crowd. I had more than one interesting afternoon in the company of Sir Cliff and the wonderful Mrs May. Cliff is looking his age these days, I think the events if the past year have really taken their toll on the poor man. I have to admit to being slightly in awe of Mrs May. She has also been through quite a lot over the past twelve months or so, so it was a relief to see her so relaxed.

I do enjoy my time at Wimbledon, but this year it was spoilt more than a little by the presence of a very loud and even more opinionated American. I made the mistake of inviting my good friend Dorchester and his new lady friend, Annabel. Whilst Dorchester and I have known each other for many years, I only met his latest conquest last Saturday. Spending so much time in close proximity to a friend and his lady love is not something I would advise. It has been a frightful experience that I have no intention of repeating any time soon.

Spending the week with an American has done nothing to change my opinion of them. If anything, it has strengthened my views. Not only are they loud and opinionated, they have also managed to butcher our beautiful language. Not only have they changed the spelling of perfectly good words, they have started inventing some of their own. Annabel got rather upset when I pointed these things out to her, especially after she had told me her family were in Real Estate. I mean, what on earth is “real estate”? Do we have any unreal estates? And where did the job title Realter come from? What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned Estate Agent? Annabel took exception to my criticism of her fellow Americans and refused to speak to for the rest of the evening.

Americans are a strange breed. I have heard it said that we are two nations separated by a common language, and I can honestly say from my own experience this week just how true that is.

But, aside from problems with my guest, it turned out to be a very good week. The weather was very kind to us this year with beautiful sunshine for virtually the whole week. Despite going out early, I did see Murray play some wonderful tennis. And to watch Federer win a record breaking eighth Wimbledon title was a real privilege.

Once again, I am glad to be home. I have a couple of days before I travel north to catch the final two days of the Open. Time now to catch up on what has been happening down at the Club.

Anyone for tennis?

Good evening. While I type this my man is packing my things for a week at Wimbledon. Now, as you know, I would normally have been there already but unfortunately, we had a slight problem over my accommodation. This year I was planning to stay with my old school chum Archie Mercer. Unfortunately, due to what we might refer to as a “domestic dispute” between him and his good lady wife, that particular arrangement had to be cancelled at the last minute.

I have noticed before that married friends often have to cancel or change arrangements. It can be very frustrating but I suppose it is one of those things you just have to put up with. From what I have seen from my own experience of friends, once married you are no longer the master of your own destiny. Although that is not the reason I have not yet taken a wife of my own, it is certainly one of the consequences of matrimony that must be considered before taking the proverbial plunge.

Anyway, luckily for me I have now been offered the loan of a house not 10 minutes from the club by dear old Cambridge. Apparently, he has been called away on business rather suddenly so he offered me the use of his very fine home, and his seats for centre court. Of course, I have my own ticket, so rather than let them go to waste, I have invited Dorchester and his lady friend to join me. She was delighted to accept as it seems she has never been to Wimbledon before and is a great tennis fan. They will be staying with me in Cambridge’s rather fine and almost palatial home.

We will be joined at the club by my friend Dasher who has just arrived back from a golfing holiday in Scotland. I say golfing holiday but I suspect that he spent more time at the 19th than all the other holes combined. Now, don’t misunderstand me, he is a fine golfer and will undoubtedly have played some good rounds, but I know him too well to believe the trip was all about sport. And a week in the heart of whiskey country will have been far too tempting.

Dasher and I have been to Wimbledon together before a number of times before and we always have an enjoyable time. The last time was two years ago when we were honoured to see a British winner hold aloft the trophy. Maybe we will see Sir Andrew do the same thing again this year. Whether we do or not it looks like being a very exciting week.

Changing the subject, earlier today I had a brief meeting with my dear old Aunt, Lady “Mad Duck” Murdock. We met up at the Savoy over tea and cakes to discuss some business matters. I don’t know why she feels the need to go through things with me when all she needs is my signature on a few boring documents. IO mean, if I can’t trust old Mad Duck with my affairs, who can I trust?

I do enjoy meeting at the Savoy. It is so much more civilised that her office, and the scones and cream are simply divine. We did one have one of our meetings in what was supposed to be my office, but it just didn’t work for me. The caterers we hired were as good as you could expect, but they simply couldn’t complete with the quality of food and service at the Savoy.

Anyway, I must make a quick visit to the Club before turning in. I want to see Neighsmith before I go away for the week. Someone should talk with him about the mix up last week and it looks like it is going to have to be me. A few of us had a chat last night and we are all concerned about Neighsmith’s health, particularly his hearing. When I get back we are going to make arrangements for him to see someone.