It never ceases to amaze me just how much one’s fortunes can change even during the course of a single day. And I don’t mean from the big events or disasters but from the most simple and unexpected of circumstances. I have never been much of a believer in fate or predestination, but there are times when I wonder if there isn’t some grand design to our lives. The old adage that people get what they deserve implies some form of plan or oversight; we all want good things to happen to good people and get quite upset when they don’t.
Anyway, it turns out that yesterday was one of those days when my own fortunes took a sharp about-face. It started well enough. I had arranged to meet Clara for a spot of lunch before she headed off to spend a couple of months with family in New Zealand. We met at a wonderful little restaurant I have recently discovered in Mayfair. It’s one of those places that produce simple but extremely delicious food. There is an air of ostentation about the place that I thought would quite suit Clara. We had a very pleasant couple of hours talking about common friends, including Dorothy and Hope. I was surprised to learn that Clara and Hope were acquainted, albeit only recently. It seems that Clara has visited Hope’s gallery a couple of times recently and purchased several pieces of art for her flat in Paris. By the time we went our separate ways it was getting quite late so I skipped visiting the Club and returned home to get ready for the evening.
I arrived at the gallery a little after 8 o’clock to find the place surprisingly busy. That is not to say I thought it would be poorly attended, just that there were a lot more people there than I had expected. I was greeted at the door by young Charlotte who recognised me straight away and insisted on leading me into the throng to see her mother. As it turned out, Hope was deep in conversation with a couple of potential clients, so I drifted towards the bar that had been set up at the back of the gallery.
Once I had secured my second glass of wine (a rather nice Rioja) I decided to take a look at the art on display. Now, I have to admit that art, particularly the modern stuff, is not really my thing. I like a good landscape and am quite fond of photography, but the rest of it tends to leave me a little bewildered. I think that I must have been showing my feelings as I was soon joined by Charlotte who took it upon herself to act as my guide for the evening. And a rather pleasant time we had. I didn’t care much for the work on display, but I did enjoy Charlotte’s enthusiasm and passion. She explained that the work on display was all from three separate young artists who Hope was attempting to bring to the attention of both collectors and other galleries. She obviously knows much more about the subject than I do and had an opinion on every piece on display. I asked if any of the work was hers, but she just laughed and said no, it was much too soon for her to be exhibiting.
Towards the end of the evening, once a large number of the guests had left, I had an opportunity to share a few minutes with Hope. All went well until she asked me what I thought of the exhibition. I felt I had to be honest but also didn’t want to cause any offence. I must have looked like a real idiot, standing there, unable to say anything for fear of it being the wrong thing. There were so many things going through my head, so many conflicting answers to this very simple question, but I just couldn’t work out what to actually say. If I was honest and said I didn’t really like this kind of art, I would sound ignorant and ungrateful. But I have never been any good at lying, so that wouldn’t work either. In the end, I admitted that I was a bit old-fashioned in my tastes and didn’t really understand the works on display. That seemed to work.
Hope and I spoke for a while about our different views about art. It is obviously something of a passion for Hope and Charlotte, and I enjoyed listening to what she had to say. We were getting along really well and I was beginning to appreciate her company. That is until I mentioned my lunch earlier that day with Clara West. Without warning, our conversation came to an abrupt end, Hope made her excuses and left to join her daughter. I remained at the gallery for a further ten minutes or so but did not get a further opportunity to speak to her.
In fact, when I came to leave she was too busy for me to say my farewells; it was Charlotte who saw me out. It seems that just when I am beginning to feel that Hope and I are getting close, something happens to spoil it. I am sure it must be something I have said or done, I just don’t know what.
As I am sure you can imagine, I was a little disappointed with the way the evening ended, even more so for not having Dorothy to talk to about it. I had planned to invite Hope for lunch with me one day next week, but now I am not so sure it is such a good idea. She does seem rather temperamental and I cannot fathom her change of moods. Maybe I will speak to Charlotte.