A weekend of capitulation

The chaps and I had a rather heated conversation at the Club last night about fitness clubs and gyms. Now it may surprise you to hear that until recently I had not given such places even the briefest of thoughts. After all, as far I am concerned they are of interest only to the grossly overweight, those with an obsession with their bodies or keen sportsmen. They are certainly not the kind of place you would find respectable chaps such as myself or my friends. But it seems that I may have been a little wide of the mark.

It all began with a chat I had with Dorothy earlier this week. She was on her way to meet her girlfriend Angela, and they were going to a gym. Now I have to admit that this revelation took me quite by surprise. I mean, for one thing, Dorothy is a very slim and attractive young woman, as is Angela. The idea that either of them would need the use of a gym was something I not only hadn’t considered but was openly shocked to discover.

When I asked why on Earth she felt the need to go to a gym, she said it was to keep herself fit for performing and also to keep her shape.

“What shape,” I asked, only to be met with a look that would have done Aunt Murdock proud. Luckily I had enough of my wits about me to keep quiet and say nothing further, other than to wish her an enjoyable afternoon. She left, mumbling something about my shape and suggesting I needed to look in the mirror. What she meant by that I wasn’t certain.

This particular conversation had been all but forgotten until the subject came up again yesterday evening. I had joined some of the chaps for dinner at a rather nice little restaurant that Dasher had told us about close to Sloan Square. It is one of those rather exclusive places that served some really fine food. It is somewhere I hadn’t visited before so I was intrigued to see what they had to offer. I must say that the selection of food and wine were superb; I had a perfectly cooked pigeon washed down with a particularly fine Côte de Beaune. Whilst the presentation was very modern and artistic, over all, it was a very good choice. It is certainly somewhere I would think Hope would enjoy.

Anyway, over dessert (a very fine cheese selection), a couple of the chaps began discussing their experiences of various fitness clubs. Following so soon as did after my conversation with Dorothy, I ventured to say that I saw little point in all that exertion when they were so obviously in fine shape as it was. I mean, what is the point of putting one’s self through the kind of punishment usually reserved for sportsmen or soldiers when it was plainly unnecessary. I have even heard that some doctors have been recommending this kind of thing to their patients. Quite astonishing really when you considered the punishment they will be putting their bodies through for little or no visible benefit.

Well, it seems that, as with Dorothy, such enlightened opinions were not overtly welcome by some of the group. In fact, their replies were quite loud and impassioned. At one point I found myself totally alone in questioning the need for chaps like ourselves to undergo such activities.  By the time we left the restaurant I was beginning to feel a little like a stray rabbit at a greyhound meeting. Even Dasher himself said he was considering joining a club. Apparently, his doctor is concerned about his weight.

“Nonsense,” I said, “you’re slimmer than me.”

It seems that was not the correct thing to have said either as I spent the next half hour resisting suggestions that I needed to join a gym myself.

The whole thing started up again at the Club where, after a further hour of brow beating and comments about my weight and size, I finally agreed that I would “take a look” at one of these places, just to see what it was like. I made no commitment to do anything else, certainly not to join or do any of that exercise stuff. I just can’t see myself leaping about to Kylie Mongue wearing little more than a headband and leotard.

I mentioned this to Dorothy this morning over one of our rare breakfasts together. She seemed delighted with the news and asked me which gym I was going to look at. In all honesty, I hadn’t given the actual place much thought. Apparently, a couple of the chaps go to some place quite close to Hyde Park which is supposedly very nice. I assumed I would go there. This seemed to please Dorothy who appears to know of it. I will check on the details this evening at the Club but don’t expect I will get there this week. I am far too busy, what with work and one of Aunt Murdock’s cultural outings, I just don’t know how I would fit it in.

Before she left for the afternoon, Dorothy also gave me a little of an Aunt Murdock style grilling over my intentions regarding Hope Greenwood. I had to admit that I hadn’t been in touch since our none-date on Monday, which Dorothy seemed quite annoyed at. I mean, Hope and I had made no promises, except that we would keep in touch. I had planned to invite her to join me as my “plus one” (a phrase I particularly dislike – it sounds so common) at a small gathering that Cambridge is holding later this month in aid of some charity or another. He does this kind of thing all the time but I can’t recall which particular good cause will be benefitting from this year’s event.

Whilst that went down well, it appears that it is not enough for my romantically inclined little cousin. Just to keep the peace I agreed that I would call on Hope at her Gallery later this week. Primarily to extend the invitation to Cambridge’s charity event, but also as an opportunity to, maybe, take her out lunch again.

Looking back it looks as if I have had to make quite a few concessions to the whims of those around me this weekend. Quite astonishing really.

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Lord Robery, PI!

holmes

What a week! My days have become so hectic recently I am not sure how I manage to fit everything in.

It was another early start today as I was back in the office again. And what a busy place it is. Miss Drayton, my trusty secretary, has been helping me, going over the details of the various pieces that make up the family business. It is like a huge jigsaw, but without the picture; or one of those you see with a different picture on either side. I am sure I will never get the hang of it all. I am very much in awe of Miss Drayton for managing to keep track of it all. I have not the slightest idea how she manages it.

Of course, Aunt Murdock has always been the one who really knows how all the pieces fit together, but I am beginning to think that Miss Drayton is the only one who has the whole picture. Anyway, I left the office feeling somewhat exhausted at about 1 o’clock and headed down to the club for a spot of lunch. Nothing fancy, just a simple soup, the Beef Wellington and a particularly nice cheesecake, washed down with half a bottle of Chablis.

When I arrived home a little after 3 o’clock, I found my godson Nigel waiting for me. He was already on the computer – he said he had an update of some kind for the family tree software. It is all beyond me which is why it is so good to have someone like Nigel around to help me. Admittedly I was a little confused at first by the documents that Nigel was working on. I was not aware that we had any Russian or Thai connections, but I am sure that Nigel knows what he is doing.

Anyway, we I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some research on my mother’s side of the family. I must say it is jolly good fun searching through old records. I am beginning to feel like one of those private detectives you used to see so much of on the television. Looking for the smallest clues hidden amongst the veritable shoal of red herrings. There’s so much information out there on the internet that it is very easy to get distracted. One never knows where any of the threads you pick up will lead to.

But there is more to this research than simply going through birth, marriage and death records. You see, Nigel has been showing me how to search the whole web thing, and how to work out what is interesting and what is not.

I’ve seen them on the television go through old newspapers and such, so I know we may well have to get out and visit some old libraries and museums at some point. But for now, I am quite happy doing what I can online. Now, that’s something I never thought I would say.

I have to admit that the who ancestry thing has got me hooked, it is quite fascinating and very addictive. Each new nugget of information opens up a whole new avenue of investigation and helps complete the picture. It’s a little like trying to figure out the jigsaw of relationships between the various parts of the family business.

Families are funny things and as I have discovered, not everyone is what they seem. The biggest shock for me so far has been finding out that several members of my mothers family were leading socialists at the turn of the twentieth century. Quite a thing really. I knew her side of the family had built their fortunes and reputation on trade but had not suspected that they were socialists. I must admit that I don’t really know how to feel about that little revelation.

Right now I am feeling a little tired after such a busy day. I can hear Dorothy moving around upstairs so I think I will pop up and say hello before going out. This evening I am meeting a few of the chaps for a few drinks and, hopefully, a bit of supper at the Club.

Under the thumb!

It has been rather busy around here lately, what with Dorothy moving in, Aunt Murdock insisting that I take a more active role in the business and finding the time to look into my family tree. But that does not mean that I have ignored my friends. However, I have noticed that my dear old friend Dorchester has not visited me for quite some time. Of course, I have seen him occasionally at the Club, but he hasn’t even been there as much as he used to.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised really. I have seen this kind of thing happen before on numerous occasions. A chap gets involved with a young lady and they immediately begin to drop out of society. It seems that some ladies can be very demanding and once they have a chap in their grips, they begin to change them, starting with forcing a wedge between the poor chap and his friends. It always reminds me of a show that Aunt Murdock dragged me to a while ago: I love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!

I had thought that Dorchester was above this kind of thing. He has had plenty of lady friends before but they have never come between us, until now. I have to admit that I am not particularly fond of Annabelle, his latest girlfriend. Her being an American is only part of the problem. Whilst we were together at Wimbledon this summer I found her to be a little over powering, as it seems is the nature of most Americans. They appear to have no sense of protocol or even simple good manners.

So it seems that Annabelle has well and truly sunk her claws into poor old Dorchester. A couple of the chaps and myself were discussing this only yesterday evening at the Club. None of us have seen much of him this summer and, according to old George behind the bar, he has not been at the Club for at least a week, maybe more.

I really must ask Dorothy about this tendency by the ladies to want to monopolise their partner’s social life. I can understand they don’t want their beau to be out every night drinking and socialising when they could be spending time with them, but to brow beat the poor chap into giving up all connections from his past is just not on. Is it insecurity, jealousy or some genetically inbuilt drive that compels them to try to keep the man in their life under their control? It really isn’t on keeping a chap away from his friends.

It is all very sad. I hope that poor Dorchester escapes from Annabelle’s clutches before it is too late. The poor chap is so obviously well and truly under her well-manicured thumb!

 

When is a date is not a date?

Yesterday afternoon I met up with Hope Greenwood for lunch. Throughout Sunday, and even Monday morning, Dorothy insisted on calling it a date, which I most vehemently denied. To call the meeting a date implied there are romantic intentions, which, I repeatedly assured my excitable young cousin, was not the case. We are just two old acquaintances meeting up for lunch. Nothing more.

But all my denials and protestations about the nature of the meeting fell on the proverbial deaf ear. She would have her fun I suppose, although why she has to do it at my expense is beyond my understanding.

All that said, I suppose it might be considered a date. An arrangement to meet for an entirely social reason may be called a date, provided it is understood by all, including the likes of Dorothy, that there is no intent other than to have a quiet lunch with an old friend.

Whether it was a “date” or not, we met, as arranged, at a rather nice little bistro I recently discovered on the Southbank. I thought it a suitable venue, with excellent food and wonderful views across the river. It is also extremely convenient for the city itself.

At Dorothy’s insistence I arrived a little early. Not that I would not have done anyway of course; it is just not the done thing to keep a lady waiting. But Dorothy can be very fussy and very forceful and I have already learned that it is often best to go along with her little whims.

As I was early I took a seat in the bar to wait for Hope, which also gave me an opportunity to gather my thoughts and enjoy a rather fine Burgundy. As it was I didn’t have to wait for long; Hope also arrived a little early.

We took our table at a corner of the rather large room that afforded us a particularly fine view of the river. The whole of the Southbank and the Thames itself were teeming with people. This part of the city attracts tourists and day-trippers likes moths to a flame, flocking to the river to bask in the sights and sounds of this unique place. The absolutely glorious weather had encouraged huge numbers of people.

We were seated very quickly. I ordered the foie gras and the fillet, Hope chose the scallops and the lamb, accompanied by a surprisingly good Australian Semillon. Now, white wine is not often my first choice, particularly as I was having the steak, but Hope, it turns out, cannot drink red wine. So, being the gentleman that I am, I joined her in drinking the white. I have to admit it did make a pleasant change and went rather well with the foie gras. Contrary to what some people say, and I now they do, I am not a wine snob. Certainly I know what I like, but I am prepared to try new things, particularly those from the colonies, providing they are not American. One just has to draw the line somewhere.

The food was, as I expected, excellent. As was the service. Hope and I chatted away almost oblivious to the comings and goings around us. And I should point out that she was looking particularly elegant and attractive. When we had last met at the Sweetman’s garden party on Saturday, she had worn  quite a colourful and delicate dress and had her hair all gathered  on the head which gave her a rather sever “school Mame” look. Yesterday, however, she had left her hair down, allowing it to frame her face and give her a much softer, more appealing look. I would go so far as to say it made her look a good ten years younger.

What I hadn’t noticed on Saturday, but was quite obvious yesterday, was that Hope is a redhead. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I only mention it to help give you a fuller picture of the lady.

Over the course of the meal I learned a great deal more about Hope. She told me all about her two daughters, Emily and Charlotte, both of whom she insists I should meet. Apparently Emily is 28 and currently doing something or other with her father’s old firm, whilst Charlotte, still only 17, is a bit of an artist and is studying at Art College at the moment (not sure which one). Hope herself has recently opened her own Gallery in the city. The last time I had seen her, before her husband died, she had just started working in a friends Gallery, but in the meantime he has branched out on her own.

After our lunch Hope suggested we take advantage of the weather and take a walk along the river bank. Although I would normally seek to avoid the tourist areas and the bank holiday crowds, I acquiesced and led her away from the Festival Hall, down towards Westminster. I found myself enjoying her company so much I was somewhat reluctant for the afternoon to end. But, alas, Hope has her family and she had to return home much sooner than I would have liked. We finished the afternoon with drinks at a small bar I know just off Trafalgar Square.

It was undoubtedly one the most pleasant afternoons I have had for quite some time. Hope is nothing at all like I remember her. Being a widow seems to suit her. She is much more ambitious than she was and very obviously much more aware of her appearance.

On my return home, Dorothy and Angela were upon me like two hungry lionesses, eager for any morsel I would throw their way. The biggest question for them, and for me if truth be known, is whether or not I thought there was anything between Hope and I, and was I going to see her again.

Whilst I am sure we will meet again soon, I am not sure about any prospects for this to lead to anything more than a close friendship. I enjoyed her company and, yes, I find her very attractive, but it is far too soon to even think about our relationship being anything more than friends. Only time will tell.

As you might expect, Dorothy sees things slightly differently. I think her relationship with Angela is making her see Austenesque romances blooming everywhere.

I will keep on open mind. This was not a date, but who knows what the future holds.

A new Hope

Now, before I say anything else about yesterday, I must make one thing very clear: attending Sir Arnold Sweetman’s garden party was not my idea. As a rule I enjoy a good garden party. They can, if the weather is kind and the wine properly chilled, be very jolly affairs. They are the type of social gatherings that usually attract the best people and offer a wonderful opportunity to mingle with family and friends.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s soiree was hosted by one of my Aunt Murdock’s business connections. Sir Arnold is a nice enough chap but his wealth is from trade and he is not renowned for his breeding or taste. In fact, he can, at times, be quite crude and vulgar. The guests were, for the most part, business people, and believe me, there is nothing so tedious as a group of businessmen going on about mergers, take overs, stock prices and trade deals. I can’t imagine anything more boring than talking about trade.

Of course, I had to go along for Aunt Murdock’s sake. And for her, the event was a way of killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. You see, she is not only trying to get me back into the business, presumably to take over from her at some point, but she is also more determined than ever to get me married off to one eligible young lady or another.

Yesterday was arranged as another of these blind date opportunities. When we last met she dropped enough hints, so I was pretty sure I knew who to would be. I was right, but more about that later.

Despite my misgivings about our host and the other guests, I have to say it was a fairly lavish affair and the weather was near perfect. By the time Aunt  Murdock and I arrived, the sky had cleared and was a beautiful bright blue. There was a slight breeze; just enough to mess up the odd hair do, but not enough to cause too much trouble with the catering. The house itself is situated just south of the river and is surrounded by huge trees that provided a little shade and some shelter from the breeze.

We had been there for about an hour or so and I hadn’t seen the old dear for quite a while. I had managed to make my escape from a group of stock brokers and had found myself a quite corner of the largest marque. Away from most of the crowd I was enjoying a rather fine Beaujolais when I heard Aunt Murdock’s distinctive and rather loud voice coming towards me from the other side of the tent. I can’t say I had enjoyed the afternoon thus far, but this was the one inevitable moment I had been looking forward to the least.

You see, I was sure  she had set me up to meet someone I already knew, Hope Greenwood, an old friend of my Aunt Margaret’s. I hadn’t seen Hope for a couple of years. We last met at a small gathering about six months prior to her husband Ronald’s accident. Mad Duck and her companion  were approaching me from behind. I could have turned to face them but decided to finish my drink and wait for them to reach me.

Well, imagine my surprise when they crossed in front of the table and there before me stood not the Hope Greenwood I had last seen almost three years ago, but a much slimmer and very much more glamorous Hope. A new Hope, as it were.

You see, Hope was one of those women who had, quite rightly, devoted most of her adult life to being a full-time mother and wife. In the early days of her marriage she had been quite a beauty, but in recent years she had sort of let herself go a bit. The last I heard she had started working for a friend in an art gallery. Not because she needs the money, because she doesn’t.

Anyway, Aunt Murdock made her introduction, physically manhandled Hope into the seat across from me, and then immediately rushed off in the direction or the afternoon’s host on the pretext of arranging a meeting.

So, there we were,  Hope and I, both slightly embarrassed by my mad aunt’s maneuverings and neither of us having the faintest idea of what to say or do next.

It’s strange how even now, in middle age, one finds oneself feeling and behaving like love struck teenagers. Just trying to find the correct words or phrases to get the conversation started seemed beyond the capabilities of either of us. All we could manage were a few meaningless “how have you been” and “how are the children” style questions. Of course, we already knew each other, but put into this strange situation by old Mad Duck seemed to have robbed both of us of the ability to start a coherent conversation.

We were spared too much embarrassment by the unexpected arrival at the table of Martin Oldman, a mutual friend and business acquaintance of Hope’s. The three of us chatted for a short while before Martin made to move on to discuss business with someone who had just arrived, leaving Hope and I to our own devices.

Now that the ice had been broken, as it were, I found it surprisingly easy to talk with Hope about how things have been, and what she is doing since poor Ronald died.

Despite my initial reservations, it turned out to be a very pleasant afternoon. The wine continued to flow freely and the food was excellent too, but the biggest surprise was Hope herself. When we last met she had just started working again and was, well, shall we just say she could have done with losing some weight. She also had a tired and put-upon look.

But yesterday she looked like a new woman. She has lost all the excess weight and has quite a glow about her. Once we got chatting she reminded me of when I first met her over 30 years ago, before her marriage, when she had ambitions to be a lawyer.

All I can say is that Aunt Murdock has really excelled herself this time. Despite the slow start, I found Hope to be a charming and animated companion. We spent a very pleasant afternoon together before she had to leave – something to do with her youngest daughter. We left the party with an arrangement to meet for lunch on Monday.

I spent the evening at the Club. A couple of games of snooker and a few drinks were the perfect end to the day.

All in a day’s work

As planned, I was up and about at the crack of dawn this morning to prepare for work. What a strange sentence that is; not that I am unaccustomed to work you know, it is just that it has been some time since I last attempted a day at the office. Sometimes it is easy to forget that I did actually work for my father for almost a year before he suggested I take a more relaxed view to my career.

And by relaxed, he meant, stay at home and don’t come back!

My father and I had a fairly good relationship. We didn’t always see eye to eye and I know that he was often disappointed with my choices, but on the whole we got along extremely well. He was very supportive of my various little projects, but when it came to business matters he was extremely ruthless. He gave me no special treatment, not that I wanted it of course.

So, anyway, this morning was a little out of the ordinary for me. Mrs Kaczka had prepared a breakfast suitable for a working man: bacon, sausage, eggs and toast. I must admit that most mornings Mrs Kaczka would just prepare me some toast and a pot of coffee, which was usually enough, but to day I needed something a little more substantial. By the time I had finished my breakfast, browsed the newspaper and decided on the most suitable attire, I arrived at the office shortly before 10 o’clock.

The rest of the morning was spent with my secretary going over office politics and the kind of things I might expect to face. I must say that it all sounds jolly straight forward. It seems to be mainly attending meetings, signing papers and, occasionally making decisions. I may not have actually done a great deal today, but it have to admit that by mid day I was more than ready for lunch. It was quite a busy morning, but if they all go like that I am sure I will manage.

I had thought I might bump into Aunt Murdock in the office, but it seems she had other engagements today. However, I am assured that she does very often visit the office at some point during the morning, although not as frequently recently as she had in the past.

I returned home after lunch, around 3 o’clock, feeling quite exhilarated by my day’s exertions. I was even tempted to return to the office for the afternoon, but decided not to put too much pressure on my secretary, Miss Drayton.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the way things went this morning. I often hear some the chaps complaining about how exhausted they get when they have to go into their offices, but I found the whole thing quite exhilarating and I don’t think I am going to have any issues keeping to my promise to dear old Aunt Murdock.

It’s a family affair!

I had lunch with dear old Aunt Murdock today, and what an event that turned out to be. You see, I haven’t seen her for a couple of weeks and so have not had the opportunity, until today, to tell her about Dorothy.

To be quite frank, I had been putting it off. I was rather hoping that someone else would let her know how things stood. Actually, I need not have worried. She may be an old stuck-in-the-mud, but it turns out she was quite alright about the whole thing. Admittedly she was disappointed that her attempt to match me up with Dorothy or her friend Angela was fruitless, but she took it all very well. In fact, she already seems to have another eligible young lady lined up for me to meet.

But today’s meeting was all about business. You see, it seems that the old dear has actually been quite ill recently, not that one would guess from her demeanour, and she wants me to take more of an active interest in the family business. Now, I love the old codger dearly, but she doesn’t seem to understand that I have tried to do the whole running the family business thing and it just didn’t work. In fact, my father practically had me frog-marched out of the building, all over some misunderstanding about some missing paperwork. I mean, it is hardly my fault if one or two contracts had not been filed properly.

Since then I have stayed well away from the business side of my family’s affairs. That is, until now. According to Aunt Murdock, I am going to have to be a little more “hands on” in future as she may not be in a position to give as much time as she has been doing to either the bank or the properties.

I suppose I can see her point. She is getting on a bit and perhaps I do rely on her a little too much. Anyway, the upshot is that I am going to be spending a couple of mornings a week at the office, trying to get to grips with it all. I would like to say that it should be jolly good fun, but I am sure it will be anything but.

And to top it all, she has only gone and arranged another one of her “blind dates” for me this weekend. Apparently, we have both been invited to a small garden party organised by one of the bank’s largest investors. I am sure it will be an interminable bore, but I can’t risk upsetting Aunt Murdock right now. So, I don’t seem to have any choice but to go with her and play along with her latest attempt at matchmaking.

The thing is, I am sure I know the lady she has in mind for me. If I’m right, it is one of my Aunt Margaret’s old friends. Margaret is actually only a year older than me and I have met several of her friends, one of whom I know is currently single (she lost her husband two years ago in a car accident) and on the lookout for groom number two. If I remember rightly she is about 48 and built like a Sherman tank. Of course, I may be wrong and she may have me lined up to meet a supermodel. I wish!

Anyway, I had better have myself an early night tonight if I am going to put in a full morning’s work in the office tomorrow. I will have no more than a couple of drinks at the Club tonight. I would stay at home, but I need to speak to a couple of the chaps and it is the only place I can guarantee seeing them.