A no show at Ascot!

Some of the chaps seemed a little surprised to see me when I called at the Club earlier today. I had decided to drop by for a spot of dinner and there was quite a crowd at the bar, due I suspect to old George having brought in a fresh selection of wines from his recent trip to the French vineyards. It is something he does now and again, spending his holiday touring the vineyards of France in search of new and interesting wines for the members to sample. Anyway. amongst the small crowd that had gathered to sample his latest selection was my old friend Cambridge who I haven’t seen for a few weeks. It appears he has been spending some time in France himself recently, but in his case, it was the bars of Paris rather than the hillsides of Bordeaux. He was the first to express his surprise at seeing me still in town, wondering why I wasn’t down at Ascot.

One never likes to think of one’s self as being predictable, but I suppose I have become a little set in my ways over the past few years and maybe a little predictable. It has become expected that I will be at these little social events. Not there is anything intrinsically wrong with having routines. Quite the opposite I would say.

Obviously, I could not leave the question of Ascot unanswered and was able to assure those of the chaps who would listen that I was, in fact, making my way down tomorrow evening with Hope. Unfortunately, she can only spare the one day away from the gallery this week so we will just be there for Ladies Day. I had planned to stay longer but decided that as I wanted to take Hope with me, I should limit myself to the time she had available so that I could make the journey there and back with her. When  I first suggested to Hope that we might attend the meet, she surprised me by saying that he had not been herself for over twenty years. I have to say that this admission somewhat surprised me as I had thought it was the kind of event she would enjoy. But it turns out that following an unpleasant incident when she was last there had somewhat spoilt it for her.

I have booked us into a very nice little place I have used many times before when in that part of the country. It is very close to the course and keeps an extremely fine wine cellar. I understand that they have a new chef. There is always a worry when an established chef moves on, but I have from a very reliable source that if anything the food is better than ever. Of course, I will reserve judgement until I have had the opportunity to sample it for myself, but I am sure their high standards will have been maintained.

I have decided that this year I will take the Bentley and drive us there myself. I see no point in dragging old Arnold away from town for this particular little trip. It gives him an opportunity to spend a little extra time with his family and I am quite looking forward to the drive.


And so it begins…

Well, it has started! After months of anticipation, political wrangling and much preparation, the football World Cup has finally kicked off. Not that any of the aforementioned anticipation and preparation are anything to do with me personally you understand. Quite the contrary in fact. Football is one of those sports I have never had much time for. In fact, I do not believe that anyone in my family, with the possible exception of young Nigel, has the slightest interest in the game.

Actually, I don’t think I have ever seen a football match – well, not a whole one. We were occasionally forced to play when I was at school, but generally, the masters preferred rugger or cricket. Soccer was not considered to be a game for young gentlemen. My father was of the opinion that is was a game solely suited for the working classes and that was the end of that. Mother took no interest in any sport that didn’t involve a racquet or a horse, which I can well understand.

I remember when I was in my last year at school we had a new PT teacher who tried to establish a football team. Bless him, it was never going to work. There was just no call for it. I understand that he left the school shortly after we did. Probably for the best; not the right type of chap at all.

Of course, some of the chaps at the Club seem to enjoy the so-called beautiful game, but it is not a subject that has ever been allowed to dominate the conversation at the bar. Mind you, I did hear a rather worrying rumour that a proposal had been made to set up a television in the bar to show some of the tournament matches. Not surprisingly, and to my great relief, the idea was given very short shrift by the trustees. It would have been far too much of an intrusion and would have set a worrying precedent for the future. Heaven knows, once one starts down that particular rocky road there is no turning back. One can only imagine where that kind of thing can lead. Amy anyway, there are a number of establishments happy to offer such facilities, but they have no place at the Club. Never hand, I hope, they never will.

Whilst I have no interest at all in football, one cannot help picking up on some of the stories and characters that surround it. I believe that for a not inconsiderable number of people football is more of a religion than a sport. I have often heard the quotation attributed to one former manager (I cannot recall his name, but I think he had something to do with the city of Liverpool) who said that “football is not a matter of life or death – it is much more important than that!” Nigel would know who said it but football managers all look and sound the same to me.

And that’s another thing – whenever I do see news reports or overhear conversations about football it was only too clear that very few of the names I heard were British. It would seem that the country’s “favourite” sports is owned, managed and, to a large degree, played by foreigners. So, if our national leagues are dominated by players from other countries, where does the national team come from? Not that I am too concerned or have given the matter much thought – if any. But by an unexpected twist of fate, I have found myself involved with the whole silly affair if only in the most peripheral way.

It turns out that Hopes former husband was a bit of a football fan and during their time together, Hope had taken an interest in the game. She did not normally watch matches or anything like that but said that the World Cup was different and she was supporting the England team. Charlotte, however, really does seem to enjoy it all and says she will be watching some chosen matches with her a group of her friends. I, of course, will be avoiding the whole silly thing as much as I can, which will probably mean spending more time either at the Club or at home. Even the office cannot be considered an escape from the damned thing. Only yesterday I noticed several television screens had been set up and were tuned into the tournament.

Anyway, my main goal for today (no pun intended) is to avoid any further encounters with the World Cup, if that is possible. I will pop down to the Club this afternoon, maybe stay for dinner and a frame or two over drinks with the chaps.

A weekend away


I have to say what a jolly nice weekend I have just had with the lovely Hope. We had not planned to go away, but after having had a rather bad week I decided that we should pack our bags and head out of town for a couple of days. I originally suggested we go to Brighton and stay with some old family friends with a little house on the coast, but Hope was not all that keen on the idea. So, after a little chat and with the help of young Charlotte, we settled on a lovely little hotel in Kent.

Now, normally when I go away I will either stay with friends or, if I have to stay in a hotel, chose one that I already know or has been recommended. The very idea of booking our stay through the internet was something I had never even considered. But for Charlotte, and most young people I suspect, it seems to be almost second nature. Whilst I am getting much better with the whole cyber surfing thing, I am still very much on the beginner’s slopes. Hope has more experience than I do with with the computer, but even she admits that some things still confuse her.

So, by the time we had finished our first glass of Chablis, the hotel was booked and all we had to do was pack a few bags and then we were on our way to sunny Kent, the garden of England.

Of course, it being a sunny Friday afternoon, the roads out of town were extremely congested and I was very glad I had decided not to drive there myself. Albert was going to drop us off and then make his own way home – I would be using the car myself over the weekend and making the return journey on Sunday afternoon.

I must say that when we arrived at the hotel I was very impressed. One hears so many stories about people being duped by unscrupulous characters using the internet to front their nefarious enterprises. Nigel is always going on at me about the need for security and that I had to be careful about who I might “meet” online. Well, I have told Nigel often enough that I am not that easily fooled and anyone trying to con me would have a very hard time indeed. Non-the-less, I was very relieved when we pulled up outside what was an old stately home but was now our home for the weekend.

As a child, my mother and I were frequent visitors to the Kent countryside, but in recent years I fear I have somewhat neglected it. We would often visit family and friends and I have very fond memories of those long hot summers. We were always outdoors and I never remember it raining, although I am sure it did. Kent to me is a county of my childhood and one I very rarely visit these days.  I suppose that the Kent’sm undeniable attractions are better shared, which is why my stay there with Hope was so special. For two days we became tourists, something I am not used to.

I have to say that our accommodation was first class. The service and food were as good as anywhere ion the City, and the room extremely comfortable. I will admit that I can be rather fussy when it comes to hotels, but on this occasion, I found nothing to complain about and plenty to enjoy. The fact that the weather was so good certainly helped to make the whole weekend rather special. When we are in town, I feel I do not get to spend as much time with Hope as I would like. She is obviously a very busy lady with a home and the gallery to run, so I do try not to monopolise her attention. But when we get the opportunity to get away from all the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and relax, I find myself happier that I have been for many a long year.

But as always, all good things must come to an end. I did try to persuade Hope to stay for a few more days, but unfortunately, she had commitments at the Gallery which made that impossible. So, regretfully, we made our way back to town late on Sunday afternoon. Which is just as well actually as shortly after our return I received a telephone call from Aunt Murdock to tell me that poor old Uncle George was back in the hospital with his heart. Of course, that meant jumping straight back into the car and driving across town to see how the dear old thing was getting on.

I am relieved to say that despite the rather frightening array of electronic devices and the miles of tubing that surrounded him, the old fellow was in fairly good spirits. He was obviously rather tired and looked a little pale, but was otherwise showing no signs of being at death’s door. In fact, he was out of the hospital and back home by late Monday afternoon. I paid a quick visit to the house earlier today and can happily report that the old gentleman has quite recovered from his little turn and is already talking about whisking the old Mad Duck off to the Lakes for a long weekend.

Anyway, I must finish there as I have agreed to meet a couple of the chaps at the Club this evening for a few drinks. I don’t seem to get down there quite as much as I used to and there is so much to catch up on.

Computer troubles and more

I must say it has been a rather odd few days for little old me. I like to think that I am an easy going sort of chap. I have never seen the point in getting too excited about things I cannot control, and often even those I can. Life is far too short to waste valuable time on the insignificant or uncontrollable elements of life. But this week I have had to face two very different but equally perplexing issues that have caused me worry and stress.

The first occurred on Friday afternoon.  I was sat at my desk, waiting for the computer to start so that I could write up my journal. I had been sat there for a few minutes, thinking about the week I had had and the things I might want to say when it began to dawn on me that the computer was taking an inordinately long time to get going. I sat there for a little longer, watching the little ring of dots going around and around as a message on the screen very politely asked me to please wait.

Now I am a very patient man, but one can only sit staring at a blue screen for so long. My first thought was to contact dear old Nigel. After all, he is the expert on this kind of thing. I am, as they say, totally clueless when it comes to modern technology. Nigel set the whole thing up for me almost a year ago now and I rely on his expertise to keep it working and safe. Unfortunately, he was away and not due back until Sunday, so I was a little stuck. So, I was faced with one of two choices: to leave it alone and wait for Nigel’s return, or to contact someone else for help, but who?

After a little consideration, and a small shot of single malt, I decided that the I would take action myself. After all, what harm could I do? Nigel is always telling me not to be afraid of the computer, that I couldn’t break it. So I did the only thing I could think of doing that might help – I switched it off at the wall. I had seen Nigel do that once when it had stopped working; everything had sort of frozen and no amount of clicking or typing seemed to get us anywhere. It is one of the things that I have often heard the chaps at the Club laugh about – if any piece of technology stops doing what it is supposed to do, all one needs to do is turn it off and on again. So that is what I did, only to find myself right back where I started, watching little white dots run around in circles on a pale blue screen. But now, rather than seeming polite, the “please wait” came across as more of a taunt. It was as if the damned thing was laughing at me.

Of course, it wasn’t, or at least I don’t believe it was. But one thing it certainly was not doing, was starting up. In the end, I left it and went down to the Club to catch up with the chaps and share a drink or three. Repairing the computer would just have to wait until Nigel returned.

Appart from now having a rather large and expensive paperweight cluttering up my study desk, the next few days were thankfully uneventful. Hope and I visited a very nice little bar in deepest Kensington on Saturday and we spent much of Sunday reading newspapers and generally doing very little of consequence. But then came Monday morning and the second shock.

Now, I don’t always visit the office on a Monday. I find struggling into work so soon after the weekend such a bore, but I was feeling unusually bright and breezy as Hope left for the Gallery, so I decided I would pop in and catch up on a few things that Miss Drayton had insisted were urgent and needed my attention. I have to say, most of the paperwork that passes over my desk seems extremely tedious and as far from urgent as it is possible to get. None-the-less, I am trying to be more “hands-on” so decided I would make the effort and see what all the fuss was about..

Well, I hadn’t been at my desk for more than a couple of minutes when Miss Drayton, looking rather sheepish, walked slowly into my office and handed me a single envelope. I looked up at her and smiled, but she lowered her eyes and took a single step backwards as if to put a little distance between us. I have to say that I found her demeanour to be a little disconcerting. Normally any post for me has already been opened and only those that require my personal attention ever make it as far as the desk. It was very unusual for any item of post to be handed to me unopened. I may not be the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer but even I knew at that point that something was not quite right about the scene playing out before me.

Miss Drayton remained silent, still seemingly captivated by the pattern of the carpet. So I opened the envelope, withdrew the single sheet of paper from inside and read the very short letter which it turns out was Miss Drayton’s resignation.

To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. I thought everything was ticking along very nicely and had no idea there was anything wrong. I just can’t imagine the office without her being there. Who was going to deal with all my correspondence and meetings and such? She was very apologetic about the whole thing and was very determined that I was aware that her leaving was nothing personal. It would appear that Miss Drayton’s has, unbeknown to me, be walking out with a young gentleman from the legal department and they have decided to get married and return to his family home in southern Italy. Apparently, they run a successful wine business over there.

It turned out to be a somewhat emotional morning as Miss Drayton set the wheels in motion to find her replacement. I have to say that I had no idea it was going to be quite so complicated. I have had three meetings already this week with a stream of people from Human Resources asking all kinds of silly questions and going over several very dreary and, to my mind, pointless documents. I really don’t understand this whole recruitment thing at all. Apparently, the new Miss Drayton will be a Personal Assistant, not secretary, and might even be a man!

After much discussion, we have agreed that whoever I take on will come from within the compoany rather than bringing someone new into the office. Miss Drayton and I are going to meet with a few eligible candidates next week. I can’t say I am looking forward to it, but I suppose that these things have to be done.

Hope says I need to give Miss Drayton some kind of send-off, which I agree sounds like a jolly good idea. Not that I know anything about organising this sort of thing. Under normal circumstances, I would be asking Miss Drayton to sort things out but that is obviously not as good idea in this instances.

Anyway, earlier today Nigel dropped by and brought back my computer. He had called round yesterday but had to take it away. He did try to explain the problem to me but it was all gobbledygook to me. These computer chaps talk in a foreign language. Mind you, it was no more intelligible than half the waffle Human Resources have put into the job description for my new Miss Drayton.

Well, that’s just about it for now. I am going to make my way down to the Club for an evening with the chaps.