Call off the search

I have said before that I sometimes get the feeling that my life is not my own anymore. This week, in particular, has been something of a roller coaster ride. From my unexpected shopping trip with Dorothy and Angela to yesterday evenings dressing down over my decision to take my secretary for lunch, I have been at the mercy of the women who are playing an increasingly active role in my affairs.

Today has been no exception to that.

Following the events of Wednesday, and particularly the talking to I had from both Dorothy and Aunt Murdock, I set aside a little time this morning to speak to Hope about Cambridge’ charity event next weekend. Having given the situation some thought I have to agree that is was very lax of me to have overlooked the transport side of things.

So, with a coffee and one of Mrs Kaczka’s chruściki cakes to fortify me (her pastries are truly wonderful), I relaxed into my favourite armchair and telephoned the gallery. I don’t know whether it was the caffeine or the sweet pastry, but my first two attempts to call resulted in wrong numbers. The first turned out to be a laundry service, the second some poor chap who thought I was some kind of religious fanatic. I managed to get through on the third attempt, only to be told that Hope was not in the gallery until after lunch as she had meetings all morning. I had a strange feeling of déjà vu – she is obviously a very busy woman.

I made several further attempts to speak to Hope throughout the day, but each time I was unsuccessful. It was as if the Fates themselves were fighting over the thread of my life and had wound up tied in knots. They have certainly been spinning a very strange kind of tale. In fact, the near misses and changes of direction I have seen today were reminiscent of an old-fashioned farce. I can almost see myself as a Brian Rix style character running around the stage in total confusion and disarray.

I spent much of the afternoon at the Club, catching up with a couple of the chaps who have just returned from a trip to the Caribean. Apparently, they got away just before the storms struck and have been recovering in Las Vegas ever since.

By the late afternoon, I was beginning to think I was never going to manage to speak to Hope and had all but decided to leave it until tomorrow. But that was when Aunt Murdock stepped in. I had arrived home a little after 4 o’clock to find her waiting to ambush me in the study.

I had no time to compose myself, or even to pour a drink before she was upon me like an enraged tiger. It took a little while to explain to her that I had been trying to contact Hope all day, but had so far failed totally. I could tell that this was not the answer she was expecting or wanted. The look of disappointment on her face told me everything I needed to know.

At that stage I was somewhat at a loss as to why she was getting so impatient and, it has to be said, angry over the whole thing. Yes, she was right about getting me to arrange to pick Hope up on the way to the ball (or whatever it is), but her reaction to my inability to actually speak to Hope about it seemed more than a little excessive to me.

At Aunt Murdocks direct instruction and under her watchful eyes, I made what I was determined would be my last attempt for the day. It was a little before 9 o’clock and as far as I am concerned you only contact anyone after this in cases of dire emergency. The only exception I make to that as when offering invitations to meet friends for drinks. It is not unknown for me to be contacting some of the chaps well beyond my 9 o’clock watershed.

Anyway, I made the call which was answered by young Charlotte, Hope’s youngest daughter who I had met at the gallery couple of weeks ago. At least, I think that’s who it was. It certainly sounded like her. But with a sense of deja vu, she told me that Hope had been called back to the gallery as the alarm was going off. She is almost as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel and I was beginning to wonder if she was, in fact, ignoring me.

But I needn’t have worried. At about half-past nine the telephone rang. It was so unexpected that I almost dropped my glass of Brandy. Fortunately, I recovered from the shock very quickly and was able to save the glass before it hit the floor. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky with the contents which have left a small stain on the carpet by the television.

“Call off the search” she laughed by way of greeting. I was then able to make arrangements to collect her from her flat on the way to the ball, so it all worked out in the end. Although our conversation was brief, it was very nice to speak to her again. Hope has one of those husky voices that many men find so attractive, and I could picture the smile on her face as she laughed at me about my numerous successful attempts to contact her. Anyway, I now have her mobile telephone number so I shouldn’t have the same problems in future, should we continue to be friends.

She asked me for my mobile number and was shocked when I told her I didn’t have one. I did have one a couple of years ago but had never bothered to replace it after it was damaged when I dropped it down the stairs one morning whilst still under the influence of alcohol.

Despite everything, I think the day ended fairly well. I think Aunt Murdock is still a little bit upset with me lover yesterday’s lunch with Miss Drayton, but I am sure she will get over it.

I think I am in trouble now

Argh! I think I am in trouble now!

At all started so well. This morning I went into the office for a meeting with some manager or other. I wasn’t entirely certain was he was the manager of, and after speaking to him for almost an hour, I am still none the wiser. I know it had something to do with logistics, but he lost me about 5 minutes in and I never managed to re-engage with him. He was so enthusiastic about his department and his job, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had no idea what he was wittering on about.

Anyway, as soon as the meeting was over I decided to take Miss Drayton out for lunch. Now, Miss Drayton has been my secretary for about two years, but as I have only been to the office very infrequently over that time I haven’t got to know her very well. So, I decided that today was as good a day as any to take her for a spot of lunch and to find out a little more about her and her understanding of the business.

There is actually a very acceptable little bistro not far from the office. It is one of those places that looks very modern but is actually very quaint and serves a more traditional English menu. It is often frequented by staff from the office and is a regular lunchtime venue for my Aunt Murdock. It is usually very busy but luckily there was a table for two available close to the bar. Miss Drayton seemed a little nervous about being there at first, but I ordered a very palatable Chablis and she soon relaxed.

As we enjoyed our drinks, Laura, as she insisted I called her, told me a little about her work experiences and her personal life. I was not prying, I was just curious. After all, she is my right-hand man at the office and I felt it only right that I should know more about her and what makes her tick. And I must say that I was very impressed on hearing about her career so far but very surprised to learn that she does not have a boyfriend. She is a very attractive woman and still quite young I think. I have to admit that I don’t actually know her age; it is very impolite to ask a lady that kind of thing. My best guess is that she is about 30, give or take 5 years or so.

Anyway, as we were just finishing our main course (we had both chosen the rather splendid sea bass that I have enjoyed there before) when who should walk into the bistro but my dear old Aunt Murdock. I was sitting facing the door so I saw her arrive over Miss Drayton’s shoulder. She didn’t see us at first and I watched her she was shown to a table close to the window. Once settled I made my way over to say hello. She was obviously pleased to see me and asked me to join her, but when I pointed out that I was there with Miss Drayton, her manner changed. I got the feeling that she didn’t approve. In fact, if I didn’t know better I would say that was actually quite angry.

I must say I was a little put out by my aunt’s reaction. After all, what can be more natural than a man taking his secretary for lunch? I know a few of the chaps at the Club do the same thing quite regularly, even treating their secretaries to trips away in some rather nice hotels. Mad Duck’s reaction was not what I would have expected. Anyone would have thought she had caught me in flagrante.

I returned to my table a little out of sorts but was soon cheered up by the prospect of ordering our dessert; a cheesecake for Miss Drayton, and a rather nice cheese selection for myself. At this point, I saw Aunt Murdock stand to greet someone who had just walked through the door. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I saw her step out to greet her sister-in-law, my Aunt Margaret. I haven’t seen Margaret for quite some time, and not since my recent reacquaintance with her old friend Hope. I was just about to excuse myself and walk over to speak to her when our desserts arrived, so I decided to wait until I had finished what was a very fine selection of cheeses. I am particularly partial to the Stilton, and their homemade chutney is one of the tastiest I know.

Once we had finished, Miss Drayton (I know she asked me to call her Laura, but one has to keep some degree of formality with one’s staff) left to return to the office and I made my way over to Aunt Murdock’s table. As they were eating their main course I was only able to offer the briefest of greetings before I was obliged to leave, but I was again surprised by my aunt’s very cold reception. Margaret’s “hello” was equally frosty.

On my return home I had a chat with Dorothy and told her about Aunt Murdock’s rather icy behaviour over lunch. I must say that I had rather hoped that she would be more supportive of me than she was. It seems that my taking Miss Drayton out to lunch was some kind of faux pas on my part. I can’t say I understand why; it was just a lunch to help me get to know her a little better. But apparently, being seen out with my young and rather attractive secretary goes against some unwritten social etiquette of which I was previously unaware. When I told her that many of the chaps at the Club did this kind of thing all the time, her reply was quite unladylike and certainly not something to repeat here.

Later this afternoon, I received a telephone call from Aunt Murdock which was pretty much a repeat of Dorothy’s dressing down. It seems that a number of people at the bistro also noticed me with Miss Drayton and have been making all kinds of assumptions about our relationship, particularly Aunt Margaret who she is in no doubt will say something similar to Hope.

Before ending the call, Aunt Murdock asked me about my arrangements for Cambridge’s charity function. I told her I had passed on the invitation to Hope, but for the second time today, I was met with an icy response – I could feel that look, even down the telephone wire. Apparently, I should have also made arrangements for taking Hope to the function itself; passing on the invitation wasn’t enough. I have to admit that this had not occurred to me, I just assumed she would meet me there. But according to my dear aunt, and Dorothy, who was listening to my side of the conversation from the study doorway, a gentleman is expected to transport his lady to an event to which they are invited.

It seems that my life is really not my own these days, but I suppose that the ladies know best about this kind of thing. I have agreed that I will call Hope tomorrow morning and make the necessary arrangements.

Hopefully, the news of my lunch with Miss Drayton and the subsequent misunderstanding about my motives will not have reached Hope before then. For now, I am going to get ready to go to the Club where I believe I can expect a more sympathetic ear.


Our streets are a battleground

Living in a city like London has almost as many advantages as there are drawbacks. For me, it is home. I have lived in the country – I still have a house there – but it doesn’t really suite me and I never visit, except for family occasions and the like. No, to me London is home and I am rather proud of the city and its people.

But every now and then I hear something in the news that makes me sad and angry, both at the same time. This is how I felt this morning when I heard about one of these so-called “acid attacks” at the Stratford Centre in East London. I don’t actually know the place, the East End is not somewhere I frequent on anything like a regular basis, but I assume it is much like the shopping areas we have in other parts of the city, vibrant and busy.

According to the reports I heard, a number of youths were involved, with at least one throwing acid into the faces of his victims. It is horrifying the think that such things are going on here, so close to home. I cannot understand why anyone would want to hurt another human being so badly, and leave them scarred for life. Dorothy tells me this kind of thing is on the increase and I am not afraid to admit that it worries me a great deal. Throwing any kind of liquid is rather inaccurate, you can’t exactly aim it, so I suppose that many of those hit by these substances will be innocent bystanders, people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thinking about it makes me so angry, and I can’t help but be concerned for my friends who I know frequent some of the busier areas of town. People like Dorothy and Hope. To think that either of them could fall victim to such an indiscriminate act just makes my blood boil.

And what do the perpetrators get out of it? I hear that the only arrest in yesterday’s attack is a 15-year-old. A teenager for heaven’s sake. What on Earth is a 15-year-old doing with acid, and why would they do such a thing? When I was 15 all I had on my mind was girls and sports cars (not necessarily in that order). The very idea of getting involved with any kind of conflicts or gangs just didn’t occur. For me and my school friends, it was all about exams, getting one-up on the masters, and how to avoid family gatherings in the holidays.

I know that not all young people are members of gangs, and they certainly don’t go around throwing acid into innocent people’s faces, but as is so often the case, the actions of the few tarnish the reputation of the many. Any small gathering of youngsters these days attracts mistrust and fear, as do groups of Muslims, or any other ethnic group for that matter. It saddens me very much that one cannot walk down the streets of our fair city without being constantly on the lookout for threats.

As I said, I am both angry at those responsible, and sad for the rest of us whose lives are impacted, either in reality or just through fear. London is and always will be my home. No one is going to change my love for the city, not least those who chose to turn its streets into their own battlegrounds. What we need are more bobbies on the beat. And maybe a return to the kind of punishments that worked so effectively when my own parents were children. A good clip round the ear-hole never did anyone any real harm, and might just be the shock some of these louts need. Let’s not let a silly minority spoil our beautiful city.


Are you being served?


I suppose I should have anticipated how yesterday was going to go, but I didn’t. I walked straight into Dorothy’s little trap like a lamb to the slaughter. The twinkle in her eye on Friday when she suggested she wanted to spend some time with me on Saturday should have been a warning about what was to come, but it didn’t.

No, all the signs were there, written in large letters all over the place, but I missed them all. With her going away for a few weeks, Dorothy had decided that she needed to take me in hand and, in her words, sort out my wardrobe. Would you believe, she actually rubbed her hands together when she said this after breakfast, giving me my first indication that this was not going to be the kind of Saturday I had hoped for.

“What’s wrong with my wardrobe?” I asked her; after all, my clothes are all purchased from one of the finest men’s tailors in London. My father used them, and I have been dressed by them for as long as I can remember. Admittedly, it is hardly the height of modern fashion, but that has always been fine with me. As far as I’m concerned clothes need to be comfortable, hard wearing and, if possible, British made. And that is what I buy.

Dorothy, it seems, has a very different view of the role or function of clothing. I had always thought that this is very much a woman sort of thing, but y experience today was a real eye-opener in this regard.

She stood in front of me, hands on hips and her head tilted slightly to the left, Dorothy fixed me with a look that actually made me squirm a little. The only other person who has given me that look is Aunt Murdock. I knew there and then that this was not going to go too well for me. The women have completely taken over my life and I never saw it coming. One moment I was a single man about town without a care in the world, the next I found myself in the process of “being improved”.

I suppose it is a man’s lot to have his affairs managed and manipulated by the women his life. We can always take comfort from knowing that they have our best interest at heart, and it does indicate a degree of affection that should make us flattered.

Anyway, back to yesterday morning. As a prepared myself for the ordeal to come, believing that it would all be over by lunchtime and I could sneak back to the Club, Angela arrived. It was obvious now that Dorothy meant business and had called in reinforcements to ensure I did as I was told.

What followed was something out of a really bad dream. Within twenty minutes of Angela’s arrival we were on Oxford Street with Dorothy and Angela steering me through the raging sea of shoppers, heading towards our first port of call with a degree of determination and confidence I found quite disconcerting. For the next hour or so – time had become something I no longer seemed able to grasp fully – I found myself in a world totally alien to me, a world in which colours and shape took on a whole new meaning. It is a world so comfortable and familiar to Dorothy and Angela that the best I could do by way of contribution was mutter the occasional yea or nay, and stand still as a variety of shirts, trousers and other garments were hung off me as if I were a tailors dummy.

You can imagine my relief when, eventually, having failed to come to a decision on a new winter coat, Dorothy proposed that we stopped for some lunch. Now normally, at this point, I would have a number of suggestions as this is definitely my area of expertise. I may not know much about shopping, but I do know where best to eat. But no, even this decision was taken out of my hands as the girls led me up yet another set of escalators to some kind of cafe on the top floor or the shop we were in at the time. I was somewhat aghast at the idea of taking my lunch in a shop! I was, as you would expect, somewhat reluctant, but the decision was made and my part in it inevitable.

Despite my initial protestations and misgivings about the choice, I have to admit that the surroundings and food were actually very pleasant. It seems that the girls really do know what they are doing. I was still convinced that we would be going our separate ways after having something to eat. I had already spent much longer choosing clothes than I had ever done before and felt that was quite enough. But, according to Dorothy, we had only just begun! At this point, I think I was beginning to feel that I was on the cusp of descending into one of Dante’s seven levels of hell. The thought of being manhandled through even more stores was almost more than I could take.

I pointed out to Dorothy that despite spending most of the morning as a mannequin, we had yet to actually buy anything more than a few pairs of socks and a rather fetching fedora.

“Oh, you never buy the first thing you see,” she said. “That’s the whole idea. Now we can go back and purchase the items we actually want.”

So, for the next lifetime, we retraced our steps and before long all three of us were laden with bags and packages containing my new wardrobe. Some items we left behind for collection or delivery, but by the time we reached what I discovered was to be our final stop, I was beginning to understand what a pack horse must feel like. I was so distracted by the shifting weight that I hadn’t noticed where we were until Angela presented me with a lime green vest and rather large looking navy blue shorts. It was then I took in my surroundings and realised that we were in some kind of sportswear store. At first, the reason behind this eluded me. I had never partaken in any kind of sport that required specialist clothing, at least not since leaving school, I could not understand why I was being asked to model these particular items.

Dorothy’s answer to my enquiry shocked me to the bone: “They are for when you go to the gym.”

Nine simple words that almost floored me. Then I remembered the conversations I had had recently with Dorothy, Dorchester and the chaps at the Club. I had agreed to go along to Dorchester’s health club, and Dorothy was making sure I didn’t have any excuses. All I could do was acquiesce, purchase the clothes and new footwear, and smile.

By the time we returned home I was exhausted, and not a little depressed by the whole affair. Angela helped with the unpacking of the day’s purchases while Dorothy went down to the kitchen to prepare some food – it was Mrs Kaczka’s day off. By the time we had eaten and the girls had retired to Dorothy’s rooms, I was too tired to go to the Club. Instead, I settled down to watch Strictly Come Dancing with a fine single malt. Dorothy and Angela went out a little after 9 o’clock. They did invite me to go with them, but I declined as politely as I could.

It had been a very busy day.

I’ll soon be home alone

I had some good news today. Well, strictly speaking, it’s not my good news, it’s Dorothy’s. She went for an audition yesterday for a part in some kind of short film. Well, this morning she received a call to tell her that she had got the part she wanted. I haven’t seen her so excited before. Apparently, it is her first part in any kind of film – she has always worked on the stage before. Anyway, filming starts next month in Scotland so she will be away for about three or four weeks. She did tell me what the film was about, but to be honest, it sounded very “arty” and I didn’t really understand it all. Dorothy will be playing a ghost of some sort, but I am not even sure about that. I am sure it will be very good and no doubt I will see it eventually.

Over a simple lunch at home, Dorothy and I had a very pleasant chat about what she would be up to in Bonnie Scotland. She tells me filming will be around Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland I have actually been to. My parents dragged me along to the Festival a couple of times when I was a small child, but I never really took to it. There were always far too many people around, and all doing all kinds of strange things I didn’t understand. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy theatre, but some of the arty-farty stuff that goes on in Edinburgh during the summer was all too much for an impressionable young man like myself.

When I think of those visits it all seems very odd. For one thing, neither of my parents were particularly keen on theatre or the arts when we were in London. We would occasionally go to see one of the bigger shows, but that was fairly infrequent and never more than a couple of times a year. But in Edinburgh, it was one shown or party after another. I suspect it was actually more about what people today call networking.

I haven’t been back to Edinburgh for many years now, although Dorchester and I did spend a few days there shortly after my parents’ accident. He had decided that I needed cheering up so he dragged me up there to spend a couple of days taking in the culture and sampling whiskies. I am not sure we saw much of what I would call culture, but we certainly did enjoy the most extensive range of single malts I have ever seen in one place. Maybe I ought to go back soon. Talking to Dorothy reminded me that Hope was in Edinburgh last weekend. What a small world.

Anyway, Dorothy will be heading North of the Border in a couple of weeks. She made it very clear that before she goes she wants to “sort me out” as she put it. I am a not sure what this entails or what she has in store for me, but if there is one thing I have learned in the few weeks she has been staying with me is that when she gets an idea into he head, it is best to just go along with it. I have tried resisting her little urges and ideas, but one way or another young Dorothy always seems to get her away. She is like Aunt Murdock in so many ways. Younger, obviously, but almost as fearfully determined.

The only hint I have had of her plans for me is her insistence I keep tomorrow free. What for, I can’t say, but I suspect it will not involve drinks or food. Needless to say, I have agreed to go along with whatever she has planned for me. I only hope it doesn’t involve shopping or anything sporty.

After lunch, while Dorothy went off to meet with Angela to give her the news, I popped along to the Club for a game or two of snooker. And I am so glad I did because Dorchester was there. I haven’t seen him for a couple of weeks so it was really great to catch up. More so because he was on his own without that awful American woman, Annabellelurking in the background. According to Dorchester, they are planning on visiting her family in the States next month. If you ask me it is getting far too serious between them. I mean, we hardly ever see Dorchester at the Club these days, and when we do, all he can talk about is Annabelle.

According to Dorchester, they are planning on visiting her family in the States next month. If you ask me it is getting far too serious between them. I mean, we hardly ever see Dorchester at the Club these days, and when we do, all he can talk about is Annabelle. I have known him for more years than I care to remember, and I have never seen him behave this way before. He has had relationships before, plenty of them. One or two of them have lasted several months at a time. But he has never missed so many snooker nights at the Club or flown halfway around the world to meet the family.

It is starting to feel like everyone is deserting me. First Hope goes to Scotland, quickly followed by Dorothy. Now Dorchester is flying out to America. Who will be next? Aunt Murdock off on an African safari? Cambridge cruising along the Nile? Maybe not!

One interesting thing I did learn between breaks is that Dorchester has recently joined one of those health clubs the chaps and I were discussing a couple of weeks back. He has suggested that I join him there tomorrow; he seems to think it would do me good. Of course, Dorothy already has plans so that little treat is going to have to wait.


Let battle commence

It’s an old adage that when in company you should never discuss politics or religion. And it’s a little bit of well-worn wisdom that I try to adhere to as much as I can. We all know that these are subjects that will inevitably cause friction and dissent, even amongst friends and family. I have seen more that one gathering descend into chaos as those with opposing views draw up their battle lines.

From the sidelines, these confrontations between people who are otherwise quite close can be rather amusing. But I have seen such disagreements lead to long-lasting breakups, which is not so funny.

I was reminded of this earlier today when I met with my Aunt Murdock and Uncle George. I had invited them to join me for lunch at a little place that we are all rather fond of on Parliament Square. Aunt Murdock has said more than once that it is her favourite London restaurant, and it is one I am rather fond of myself, although neither of us tends to frequent it too regularly. My choice of Partridge, followed by Cumbrian Beef, were a perfect reminder of why we enjoy it so much.

Anyway, today’s lunch was my treat. I have always been very close to the Murdocks and although I see quite a lot of old Mad Duck, I don’t get to spend much time with Uncle George these days. Since he retired from running his business he spends a lot of time playing golf, very often abroad, so I have to take these opportunities to get together whenever I can. I really like George and he is one of the few people I know I can talk to about politics and religion without causing a family feud. I could always talk to George in ways I never could with my own father. We have always seen eye to eye on most things, even the dreaded Brexit.

I find there is no better way to catch up on recent events than over a good meal. One can truly relax and savour the best in food and company if you chose your venue with care. Once seated George and I were very soon making observations, recommendations and comments about all kinds of things, from how to deal with North Korea, to the best ways to reduce terrorism and immigration. George’s immense experience travelling around the world gives him a wonderful insight into the way foreigners think and work. I have always taken his advice on political matters and very rarely do I find the need to disagree with him.

It was as we were waiting for our main courses I began to notice that conversation at the next table seemed to be getting a little heated. It was obvious from what was being said they were discussing the ramifications of leaving the EU, and I can tell you, there was little or no common ground between the two primary antagonists. I assumed they were two couples; the men were quietly battling it out while the women tried to come between them and broker some kind of peace. Things calmed down with the arrival of their desserts, which gave the ladies an opportunity to change the subject to families, children and last night’s television.

But the ceasefire didn’t last, and it wasn’t long before I heard mention of Boris Johnson, after which things began to get very heated. Mind you, it’s not the first time I have seen people fall out over their opinion of dear old Boris. I have to admit that I do like the chap, despite the silly things he sometimes does or says. I was almost tempted to leap to his defence, but a quick glance from Uncle George dissuaded me from that particular course of action.

In the end, it all got a little too loud and they were encouraged to leave the restaurant. It must have been frightfully embarrassing for the two young ladies who really need to learn to take a firmer hand. Aunt Murdock would never have allowed that kind of thing to happen at her table.

Once all the excitement was over we were able to enjoy the rest of our meal, which was as good as anticipated, as was the company. George and I were able to put the world to rights without coming to blows and Aunt Murdock got to enjoy her favourite Raspberry Souffle. For the three of us, it was a particularly enjoyable lunch. I only hope that the four young people who ignored the advice on avoiding politics and religion have made up their differences.



Does our ancestry define us?

I managed to do a little more sleuthing over the weekend, trying to trace my mother’s family tree. What jolly good fun it can be. I have found some very interesting sounding individuals, including a barrister and two military types.

Looking into the family’s fortunes, from what I can gather, one of my mother’s ancestors made some very shrewd investments in the early stages of the railways. It is a kind of rags to riches tale, almost literally as I believe they were mainly connected to textiles at about that time.

I suppose that all families have their interesting characters, and on my mother’s side that seems to be one Robert Hurley. From the documents that Nigel and I have been able to find, he was a bit of a scoundrel, probably what we would call a conman or trickster, back in the mid-1800s. I have read several newspaper cuttings that chronicle his various court appearances, although he also seems to have managed to wangle his way into society, appearing in more than one society journal. I have to admit that I rather like the rogue. Unfortunately, he did meet a rather gruesome end, getting himself killed in a bar brawl in Birmingham of all places.

Like all established trees, the family variety has far too many roots and branches for one to investigate them all. Consequently, I am having to be selective about whose path I follow and who I research. But the further back one goes, the more difficult it gets to find anything useful. But I suppose that is where the fun is. If it was too easy we would soon get bored. At some point, I am going to have to return to my mother’s more direct descendants and start looking into the family’s more recent history. I am sure there will be a few surprises there as well. After all, every family has its skeletons.

Nigel himself is doing a little bit of research into his own family, as well as helping me with mine. Maybe that is where the Russian and Thia links come from, although I was not previously aware of any. But that just goes to show you that one never knows what is lurking behind other people’s closed doors.

One of the reasons I find all this ancestry research to be so fascinating is because heritage is so important, especially to families such as mine. Like so many families with long histories, we feel that it has established us as an important and well-respected part of society. In many ways our heritage defines us. Whether you believe in nature or nurture, each generation has a profound influence on the one that follows. I am who I am because of those who went before me, or despite them!

I mean, can one bad apple in the family’s past taint future generations? I would think not, but there is a stigma attached to the direct descendants of any criminal or low born individual. But that is not really a case of the individual being influenced by their relative, but more of society making a link and branding the individual by such association.

I have to be honest and say that this whole ancestry thing is something that until recently I hadn’t given a great deal of thought to, I have just taken it all for granted. As a child, my history lessons often featured relatives, and I just accepted that. It never occurred to me that other families weren’t the same. But the more I learn of my mother’s side of things, the more I see how much different their lives were to those of my father’s family at the same time. It gives me a certain amount of pride to think of how hard her family has worked to get to the position they are in now. It can’t have been easy, and I would like to think that some of the strength of character and determination to succeed has found its way into me.





All I got was wet!

Do you ever get the feeling that some things just aren’t meant to be?

Well, for the past week or so I have had to put up with both Aunt Murdock and Dorothy almost constantly going on at me about meeting up with Hope Greenwood again. And they are not the only ones who seem to have an interest in my friendship with her. But, despite all their insistence, and I must say some work on my part, it appears that the chances of any kind of romantic liaison are very slim indeed.

You see, I popped along to the gallery this afternoon – as we had arranged over the telephone – and I must say, it was a jolly difficult journey, what with the terrible weather. Despite my best efforts, by the time I arrived, I was rather wet through. In fact, I don’t think I have been so wet, with my clothes on, since the day I fell into uncle George’s garden pond back in 2002. We had been celebrating dear old Lizzie’s Golden jubilee with some very fine champagne and a selection of single malts, and it is possible that I may have had a little more than I should. During a particularly rowdy rendition of Rule Britania, myself and a couple of the chaps from the Club ventured a little too close to George’s new pond. Needless to say, dear old George wasn’t best pleased, and I think the newly transplanted fish were a little put out as well.

Anyway, as I walked through the door I could see Hope on the far side of the gallery talking to a young lady who I presumed was a client. I stood, dripping by the door for a few moments before Hope spotted me and, excusing herself, came over to greet me. I must admit that the whole greeting thing was a little awkward, not least because I was wet through and dripping all over her shiny floor. Unfortunately, our conversation was very brief as Hope had a meeting with the lady I had seen her talking to, so my plan for lunch had to be postponed again.

However, I did have an opportunity to pass on the invitation to Cambridge’s charity soiree, which she assures me she will be able to attend. Once that was agreed, I left the gallery and made my way back to the Club where I was able to dry off and enjoy a rather pleasant lunch. We have a new chef at the Club who is trying to introduce a wider range of dishes, some of which are proving to be very popular. I forget his name, but he is Italian apparently, which explains the sudden appearance of pasta and pizza on the luncheon menu.

If you haven’t heard, we have a new chef at the Club who is trying to introduce a wider range of dishes, some of which are proving to be very popular. I forget his name, but he is Italian apparently, which explains the sudden appearance of pasta and pizza on the luncheon menu. Now, I don’t have anything against the idea of extending the menu, but I personally have no intention of going continental. I have never been particularly fond of Italian wines, and I don’t suppose the food is much better. Don’t get me wrong, I am partial to a little pasta now and again, and have even had some very nice pizzas, but it is not the sort of food one expects to be eating at a respectable club. I see no reason to change things and will continue to eat the same foods I always have. Today I chose the Rack of Lamb, washed down with a very pleasant Spanish Rioja. If there is one thing you can always rely on at the Club, it is the quality of the wines on offer. Chefs may come and go, but the wine cellar is always stocked with the best.

So, it was not quite the day I had planned, but I have kept my promise to Dorothy and Aunt Murdock in as much as I have been to see Hope. Alright, she was too busy to come out to lunch with me, but she has accepted the invitation so I will definitely see her again soon.










Am I losing control of my own life?

This morning I had an unexpected, but a very welcome telephone call from Hope Greenwood. She hasn’t returned home yet but is in Edinburgh staying with an old friend. Apparently, she has been having a short break and visiting a few artists in Scotland. She told me that she heard yesterday that I had visited her gallery – it seems that the helpful young lady I spoke to on Wednesday was Hope’s youngest daughter, Charlotte.

It was just a brief call as she had an appointment, but she told me she will be back in London tomorrow. There wasn’t enough time to discuss the invitation to old Cambridge’s soiree but I told her I would call into the gallery again on Wednesday. Maybe this time I can take her out for that lunch I promised myself.

Whilst I was on the phone talking to Hope, Dorothy walked in and did a little eavesdropping. At times she is like an old mother hen, fussing and manoeuvring. I sometimes think she is taking tips from old Mad Duck. She may even be some kind of third columnist, planted by the old dear to spy on me. Nothing would surprise me where Aunt Murdock is concerned.

According to Dorothy, if I’m going to meet Hope for lunch again, I am going to need some new clothes. She told me that my current wardrobe is a little too conservative and old fashioned. I am not sure I agree with her, but she seems to have set her heart on taking me out shopping. Of course, I have said I couldn’t possibly find the time, but I know Dorothy well enough by now to know that she won’t let a simple matter such as being far too busy get in the way of a good plan. I am sure that now she has suggested going clothes shopping, as far she is concerned it is going to happen.

The more I think about it, the more I worry that my life is being controlled by the various women around me. I mean, there is Aunt Murdock trying to get me married off, Dorothy doing her best to “modernise” me, and even Miss Drayton seems to be trying to turn me into a business man. I know they mean well. They all seem to think they are doing what is best for me, and I am sure that in some ways they may even be right, but surely a chap needs to have some control over his own life.


Calling a spade a manual earth extraction tool

It has been such a busy couple of days that I have hardly had time to think, let alone write a blog! What with meetings, lunches and visiting the Club, my days have been jolly full. But one has to find time to relax, to unwind and recharge the proverbial batteries, which is why it has taken me a couple of days to get around to doing anything on my computer. I know that Nigel has been working on something but I just haven’t had the time. Those two mornings a week at the office have really made a difference to my flexibility.

But aside from my failed attempt to meet with Hope on Wednesday, the only other event that seems to warrant a particular mention is my meeting on Thursday with the business’s Director of Human Resources. When Miss Drayton first told me about the meeting, my first reaction was one of confusion. I mean, I understand the words themselves. I know what a human is and I know what resources are. What I couldn’t work out at first was what it means when these two words are bolted together. I suspected that it was going to be about people and jobs, but aside from that, I was totally in the dark.

Anyway, at 10 o’clock, I found myself ensconced in a small room with a very large man. Now I don’t want anyone to misunderstand my meaning. I am not saying that he was fat because he wasn’t, he was just very large. He must have been well over 6 feet tall with the widest shoulders I think I have ever seen outside of a wrestling bout. He was actually jolly intimidating, looming over me as he did with a glistening of sweat on his brow. This, apparently, was my Director of Human Resources, Mr Scott. It seems that the purpose of this particular meeting was simply to introduce me to him and to bring me up to date on staff issues through all the various companies the business has an interest in. However, I found that far from feeling informed, my only certainty when I left was that I was going to need to invest in a brand new dictionary.

Thankfully, the meeting was brief. Throughout it, he talked about “rationalising the human element of the balance sheet” and “streamlining the low productivity salary stream.” I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Apparently, according to Mr Scott, we need to “facilitate some blue sky thinking” over staffing levels. Once Miss Drayton had translated this nonsense, I understood that he was talking about redundancies. Now, it is not my place to question the decisions of those who know so much more than I about running a business, but I did express some concern over the idea of sacking people simply to save a few pounds here and there. Mr Scott – I simply cannot remember his first name – assured me that anyone who was “disproportionately disadvantaged by having their role delimited or negatively restructured” would be adequately compensated.

But it wasn’t just the way he spoke that left me all at sea. Whilst discussing various roles and departments within the myriad of companies that make up the family’s business interests, I was struck by the absurdity of some of the job titles themselves. I mean, exactly when did a cleaner become an Environmental Maintenace Office? These days it seems that everyone is some form of engineer, technician or officer. What is the point of making a job sound grander than it is? I simply can’t see who benefits from these changes. Certainly not the individuals who actually do the jobs. After all, a cleaner is a cleaner, whatever you decide to call them.

Actually, I remember reading a piece about this sort of thing no so long ago in the Daily Mail. The article talked about these aggrandised job titles and I must admit that at the time I thought it was just some kind of prank. But apparently not. I know it is a long time since I was last involved in the business on anything like a regular basis, but I am sure that back then my father would have kept such things under control. He would never have stood for all this “blue sky thinking” and “touching base”. But then I suppose that everything changes over time, even language, although I don’t see the point of creating a new business language that nobody understands!

Talking to Mr Scott reminded me a little of the first time I worked for my father, just after I finished at college. My role at that time seemed to involve moving things from one place to another.  Sometimes it was money, sometimes it was goods, sometimes even people. I never really understood the rationale behind it all, but it seemed to please my father and I thought I was getting quite good at it. Unfortunately, not every movement went as planned. The good ship Robert sank without trace following a particularly disastrous episode involving a half-full van, three Norwegian tourists and a Traffic Warden. I still have occasional nightmares about it even now, all these years later. I still get a Christmas card from the poor old Traffic Warden who retired on health grounds shortly afterwards.

I mentioned the whole job description and business-speak matter with the chaps at the Club last night. Some of them have been involved running their businesses for quite a while so I was intrigued to hear what they had to say on the subject. I can say with some relief that they all to a man shared my feelings that things have gone a little too far in recent years. And it seems that there is more frustrating them than a change in language. Some of the chaps got quite hot under the collar about red tape, health and safety and interference from Brussels. I have to admit that much of the conversation went way over my head. There were a lot of references to needless bureaucracy and unnecessary costs, as well as the need for a firm hand when dealing with unions and local council officials, both of which came in for particularly vehement criticism.

I left the Club a little after midnight feeling relieved that I was not alone in my thoughts about political correctness and the pandering to absurd and unnecessary dictates from those interfering eurocrats in the Europe. The sooner we can get back to managing our own affairs and do away with all this red tape and pussy-footing about the better as far as I can see.

I’m not sure I will ever get the hang of this business thing but I am determined that now I have started working again I am going to make a much better job of it than I did in the past.