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.

 

 

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A gallery without Hope!

Today I decided to call into Hope Greenwood’s art gallery, mainly to pass on the invitation to Cambridge’s charity bash, but also as it is the only way I am going to stop Dorothy nagging me. But as well as that, I was also extremely curious to see where Hope works and, maybe, to invite her to join me for lunch.

Now, I don’t know much about art galleries. They are not the kind of places I visit as a rule. My taste in art is fairly traditional and I already have far too many old paintings about the place to be buying more. Of course, I have been in one or two, mainly to attend some sort of exhibition or another. Aunt Dorothy is very fond of art and will often drag me along with her, but usually only when she can’t beat some other poor soul into submission. I don’t know if she invites me because she enjoys my company or to try to teach me. To enlighten me or simply as an excuse to introduce me to some very boring people. Art people can be extremely tedious. They get very frustrated if one doesn’t share their interest, and almost apoplectic if one should ever be so foolish as to contradict their opinions or question their knowledge or understanding. I did that once and I can assure you, it was not pretty.

No, in my experience, artists are very much like actors: self-obsessed, ignorant of anything but their art, and extremely dull company. Of course, there are one or two exceptions, Dorothy being one of them. She is anything but dull and actually doesn’t seem to be into all that sycophantic back slapping that goes on.

Anyway, this morning I sauntered on down to Hope’s gallery, which is actually in Chelsea, not an area I frequent very much these days, although I do remember it well from my younger days. Some friends and I use to frequent one or two of the clubs and bars of a Saturday night. I must say that the area has changed very little since I was last there, although the Kings Road itself strikes me as being a lot busier with some very exclusive looking stores.

The gallery turned out to be very easy to find. But as I approached I began to feel surprisingly nervous. I actually had to stop a few yards away just to take some deep breaths. It must have been some sort of anxiety attack, although I can’t recall having one before. It took me a couple of minutes to calm the butterflies that were chasing around my stomach, but once I began to feel more composed and in control, I walked into the gallery’s front door. The building on the outside is rather dull. There is nothing that would make you want to stop and take a look inside. I had expected it to be all glass and steel, but it was actually very warm and welcoming. Space inside had obliviously been created especially to show off the various art pieces in their best light. The upper floor and been partially removed to create a mezzanine floor at the rear of the building, leaving the reception and first part of the gallery very bright and open.

I took all of this in as soon as I walked through the front door. To my immediate left was a small desk that I presumed was the receptionists. At first, I didn’t see anyone else in the building and thought myself quite alone. It was only as I made a move towards the rear of the gallery that I spotted a young lady adjusting some kind of statue.

“Sorry to keep you,” she said, “I’ll be right with you.”

After what could only have been a few seconds, she stopped what she had been doing and turned to face me. I am not very good with such things but she looked to be no more than about 18 or 19 years old and dressed in a way I thought to be a little too casual for working in an art gallery. But she seemed friendly enough.

When I asked if I could see Mrs Greenwood, she looked at me a little quizzically and told me that Hope was, in fact, away for a couple of days, talking to potential clients and artists.

I have to admit that this took the wind right out of my sails. In my head I had prepared for any number of eventualities, but not once did I consider the possibility that she wouldn’t be there. I must have looked a bit of a fool because the young lady then offered me a seat and asked if she could get me anything.

I declined, although if the truth be told, I could have done with a small brandy to steady my nerves. Why had I not considered this possibility? And why hadn’t I called ahead?

Because I don’t like telephones! And I felt it best to extend the invitation personally rather than over the telephone or by post. It is so much more personal that way. I had also wanted to take Hope out to lunch to a nice little bistro I know not far from the gallery itself. I haven’t been there recently but I am assured they still serve a first class Dover Sole and the wine list is still as extensive as ever.

So, there I was, reclining in a leather armchair in a Chelsea art gallery, with absolutely no idea what to do next. I have never felt quite so deflated and unsure of my self, and I can tell you, it is not a nice feeling. The young lady asked if she could take a message, but what should I say?

“If you could ask Mrs Greenwood to call me if you would be so kind,” I replied, handing over one of my calling cards.

The young lady took the card from me, looked at it, then looked back at me and said, “So you’re Lord Robert?  I’ve heard such a lot about you. Why should I say you called?”

I explained that I had an invitation to a charity event and wanted to invite Hope to join me. I mumbled, keeping my eyes away from hers. Despite her somewhat casual attire she was extremely attentive and seemed very interested in my welfare. At my request, she ordered me a cab to get me home.

It’s strange isn’t it, that in my head I had gone over all the possible ways this meeting could have gone. The brusk decline, the flirtatious acceptance, the existing engagements, the family commitment. I had even considered that she may have a medical condition that required treatment that would prevent her being my “plus one”. I had never even considered the idea that she simply would not be in.

The taxi had arrived by this time so I arose from the chair and offered my thanks to the young lady for her help.

Once I was back home I began to regain some of my previous composure. I also ran the events of the previous half-hour through my mind. For one thing, I had not asked either the young girl’s name or where Hope had got to on her business trip. Or even when she would be back. It seems that when the chips are down, yours truly is definitely not the man to send on ahead on reconnaissance. I suppose she is probably in France or Italy, soaking up the culture and using her charms to secure the work she is keen to display and sell.

From what little I saw of the works on display, it looks like Hope specialises in contemporary styles, rather than the more traditional portraits and landscapes that have until now been my only choice for adorning my own walls.

Oh well. I’m sure that the young lady will pass on my card and message when Hope returns. All I can do is wait.

I had planned to pop into the club this evening but I think I will give it a miss tonight. I have a long day tomorrow with an early start – I have a business meeting at 10 o’clock so I need to be in the office earlier than usual. I can’t remember who the meeting is with, except that it is something to do with Human Resources, whatever that means.

 

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.

Lord Robery, PI!

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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!

 

Too much pampering is bad for the skin

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Good evening. I have just arrived back home after a weekend with friends in the country. And what a jolly time we have all had.

Many of the ladies spent their time in the hotel undergoing all manner of beauty treatments, not that I could see much to show for their efforts. It is one of those things that I just don’t understand. Why do women spend so much time and money on these spas and therapies, particularly when there is often little if anything to show for all the effort. It always strikes me as such a waste.

I mean, how can spending most of the day either sweating away in a steam room or soaking in a bath full of bubbles be any good for a body? I even heard that some of the ladies spent a fair portion of yesterday afternoon covered in mud! I am assured that all of these things are good for the skin, but I am of the belief that there is nothing better for the complexion that simple soap and water. It strikes me that the only people who benefit from all this steam, mud, randomly applied vegetation and sweat are the companies that provide it.

Having watched several of my closest acquaintances’ girlfriends and wives undergo two days of of such “treatment” I can categorically state that they are of no value whatsoever. But the ladies seemed to get some form of pleasure out of the whole thing which I suppose is what it is all about.

Personally I find all this pampering and preening more than a little unnecessary. I don’t hold with the notion that ladies need to put themselves through such torture just for the sake of looking good. In my limited experience real ladies look well enough just as they are.

Whilst the ladies were doing their own thing back in the hotel, the chaps and I had a splendid time shooting and playing golf. Not that I am particularly good at either, but I do enjoy taking part. More than anything it is an opportunity to catch up on each other’s news and opinions. And actually, with help from Dasher, I seemed to improve my shooting, hitting more targets than I missed for once. Unfortunately I remain in the bottom half as far as golf is concerned, but in my defence, it is a sport my father despised so it is one I have only come to enjoy quite recently.

Although I didn’t partake myself, a number of the chaps also managed to fit in a spot of fishing in the lakes beside the golf course. Now there is a sport I really don’t understand. I can see the attraction of the solitude and quiet, but sitting by the side of the water in all weathers, rummaging around in a box of worms just so you can jank some poor defenseless fish from the waters seems such a waste of time. Unless, of course, you plan on eating lightle blighter. But from what I can gather, most fishermen throw their catch back into the water!

Anyway, now I am home and can prepare for another of my meetings with Aunt Murdock tomorrow. I know that there are some business matters that need to be attended to, and I really should start to take an interest in them. Some of the chaps seem to think I am mad to leave all my financial affairs in the hands of my aunt, but she really does do such a wonderful job and I know I will make an awful mess of things if I had to deal with it all myself.

Time now for a quick snifter at the Club.

 

Boat on the river

I had something of a treat yesterday evening. It was one of those simple little things that one does that makes a day special and memorable. You see, as a “thank you” for putting her up when she lost her digs, Dorothy and Angela arranged a dining experience on the Thames for us.

I have done similar things before on other rivers and canals (I particularly enjoyed a mea, but floating down the Avon a few years ago) for whatever reason I have never taken such an excursion on the Thames. Maybe it is because it’s in my back yard, so to speak. One very seldom enjoys the tourist side of ones home town. I suppose that I have just taken the fact that they are there for granted. But Dorothy seems to love that side of London, so off we went a little after six to join the boat close to Embankment. The weather was a little less than perfect, but what little rain we had was very slight, and the clouds minimal. Any of my friends will tell you that I am not a particularly good sailor, but the water was very calm, so I had little to worry about there.

We were greeted at the boat by a charming young man who seemed to take an instant shine to young Angela. Indeed, the attention he showed her throughout the evening would, under other circumstances, have almost guaranteed a return; but alas, his flirtations and over zealous attention to her every need, were wasted. Angela is devoted to Dorothy and that is not likely to change any time soon, even for the most eager of suitors.

Anyway, we had arrived in good time and only a couple of other dinners were already seated as we were shown to our table. We were at the prow (that’s the front, if memory serves me right), with a wonderful view across this marvelous waterway. Normally on such occasions I would choose a nice claret to accompany my meal, but yesterday I felt almost rebellious, deciding as I did to start the evening with a long, cool beer. Now, beer is something I do not drink a great deal, but when the mood takes me, I do enjoy a cold continental lager. At this juncture I must point out that I have nothing against English ales, I just find them a little too strong and bitter for my taste.

We had been at our table for little more than five minutes when we were joined, unexpectedly on my part, by a young woman who was introduced to me as Clara. Now I must admit that I thought three an odd number for a dinner such as this, but was hardly in a place to question Dorothy’s planning seeing as it was to be her treat.

Well, it seems that dear old Aunt Murdock is not the only matchmaker in the family! Although the evening was primarily intended as a thank you, Dorothy has never been one to overlook the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and had decided to invite one of her theatrical chums along to make up the numbers.

From my first impression, Clara is never just one to make up the numbers. From her dark, almost Mediterranean complexion and her tall, regal bearing, to the seductive tones of her surprisingly deep voice, Clara was obviously someone who not only expected to me taken notice of, but invariable was. I must have looked a perfect fool, sat there with my mouth slightly open and, making short squeaky noises rather than the coherent greeting my mind was desperately trying to get my mouth to say.

Much of the rest of the evening is a little of a blur. I recall Angela’s amusement at the young crewman’s attentions, and Dorothy’s effusive gratefulness for my hospitality. I seem to remember an exquisite roasted quail and extensive cheeseboard (not both at the same time I must point out), but very little else. I am almost ashamed to admit that for the entire three-hour cruise and meal, almost all of my attention was lavished on Clara, who had been given the seat next to me.

Anyway, at the end of the meal, Clara headed back to her flat somewhere on the South bank, whilst Dorothy, Angela and myself made our way back to Kensington. Once home we settled down for a quiet drink and a chat before bed.

During our conversations I learned that Clara was actually a couple of years older than Dorothy and had been something to a mentor to her at school. I am sure our paths must have crossed previously at one event or another, but I don’t think I had ever spoken to her before.

According to Dorothy, Clara has been widowed twice and has inherited quite small fortune through these untimely deaths. Whilst she is not necessarily looking for husband number three, she felt that we might get along, which I think we did.

From my perspective, Clara is a charming and very interesting lady indeed. I was quite smitten by her smile and her deep green eyes. There is something of the fiery Mediterranean temperament in her manner, coupled with an almost angelic glow that flows across her face when she smiles. Yes, I know how soppy this is all sounding and no doubt there will be words said at the Club tomorrow, but I have just spent the evening in the company of one of the most attractive women of my acquaintance.

But as for a romantic liaison, I fear that is not to be. It was quite obvious almost from the word go, that Clara and I could never be more than friends, and I would like to think that we will be. She is a much more outdoorsy person than me, who enjoys outdoor pursuits and adventure. She also lives most of the year between Switzerland and the South of France, places I could never contemplate setting up a home.

So full marks to Dorothy for her effort. Whilst her matchmaking may not have gone according to plan, we did all enjoy a wonderful evening and I am sure that Clara and I will meet again. She has invited me to stay at either of her villas, which I just may do at some point on the future.