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.

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Home again

I arrived back from Ascot late this afternoon so I am still a little the worst for wear, as they say. Whilst I really do look forward to this trip every year, this was a particularly lucrative one financially. As you know I am not the most horsey of people, but some of my close friends are, and this year they persuaded me to back several of the riders. I am not averse to a little gambling, particularly at an event such as this, so I went along with their suggestions. I am not sure exactly how much I came away with in the end, but I believe it was in the region of a couple of thousand or so.

Ascot is one of those events in the social calendar that is more than it seems to be. With dear old Lizzie taking such a keen interest and being actively involved, it has a certain cache. And although I can’t pretend to know too much about the horses, riders and all that, I enjoy the society of friends and the atmosphere that goes with it.

This year we had perfect weather and we managed in impromptu picnic in the grounds. It was a rather splendid affair, all top hats and tails. What a lark!

But I can’t talk about Ascot without saying something about the insane preoccupation that the ladies seem to have with their dresses and hats. I mean, what do they think they look like? I am surprised some of them can even walk about. I don’t really hold with all this over the top flamboyance, but I suppose it has become part of the spectacle and what people have come to expect.

As much as I enjoy being at events like Ascot, meeting old chums and enjoying wonderful food and drink, it is always comforting to return home, to get back to my own surroundings and the peace and quiet of the city. I find the country to be far too busy and noisy. I don’t think those damned birds ever go to sleep.

Anyway, I am back home now and everything seems to be in order. I can see that Nigel has been working on my computer again to make it safe for me. I really do appreciate the time he devotes to keeping me safe from all those nasty infections and things that can attack your computer when you are not looking. I mentioned my new-found interest on the internet to some of my horsey friends who have all promised to tune into my blog, so “hello” to you all.

It has been a long day so I think I’ll just pop along to the Club for a night cap or three. It is good to be home.

Welcome to the Internet

Some time ago, I can’t recall exactly when, except that it was a Monday and it was raining. I know it was a Monday because Dora, my cleaning lady was there and she always comes on a Monday. And it was definitely raining because I remember that Dora was wet when she came in.

Anyway, it was a Monday morning and Dasher Robeson had called round for our usual pre-lunch drinkies. Of course, Dasher isn’t his real name. He acquired that nickname at school following a rather memorable incident in the girl’s dorm. Dasher often calls by, unannounced, just in time for drinks, but on this particular day – this wet Monday – he was all abuzz about something he had seen on the internet. Now, at the time I knew nothing about this new fangled world wide interweb thingy and quite frankly, I didn’t really want to know. But after a couple of single malts – a particularly good Edradour – and a rather large brandy, I gave in and agreed to go with him to the local “cyber café” so we could do a spot of what he called “browsing”.

Now, to be fair to Dasher, he didn’t actually say the café had a bar, but darn it, every café I had ever been to before served proper drinks; but not this one. Oh no, when we arrived, soaking wet through, I had at least expected somewhere dry and hospitable. Whilst it was certainly dry – not a drop of decent spirit in the place, I was offered tea, but as they only served one type – and I suspect that came out of a bag – I declined, preferring to take a nip or two from my own flask. That is something my father taught me, never go anywhere with an empty flask.

Once I had got over the shock, not only of the surroundings but also the rather shady nature of the rest of the clientele, I must admit that my interest was tweaked by what Dasher showed me. Besides all the videos of cats and people falling over, there was an awful lot of interesting things to be found on the internet.

I mentioned my visit to the cyber café with my nephew Nigel when he visited me later that week. I call him my nephew, but Nigel is in fact my godson. He has always called me Uncle Robert so it always seemed natural to call him my nephew, and as I have no brothers or sisters, I suppose he is the nearest I will get. Now, Nigel is one of those young chappies who takes an interest in computers and such like.

Anyway, Nigel was delighted at my new-found interest in the digital world and the very next day he turned up with a brand-new computer. Not one of those portable lap things but a big tower one. I am still learning how to use it but Nigel is being very patient and supportive. In fact, he is here most days tweaking and cleaning the system for me. He has warned me of the dangers of the internet and spends quite a bit of time making sure I am safe.

It was one evening whilst chatting to Dasher and Nigel that we hit on the idea of me writing a sort of online diary. Admittedly we were all a little tipsy, but it did seem a clever idea and so, voila! Here I am doing just that.

Well, it is not exactly a diary. I have one of those and can’t see what interest it would be to anyone else. Nigel calls it a blog but I don’t really understand what that means.

I already write a lot of letters to my friends and family so Nigel said I could use the internet to keep in touch and I would only have to write things once. How amazing!

Of course, for now Nigel is going to have to help me with the technical stuff, which he assures me he is only too happy to do.

Hello world. It’s me!

Hello and welcome to my latest adventure. Unlike my previous forays into the unknown, this time I get to stay at home and don’t have to deal with bolshie natives or unseasonable weather. This internet thingy is all new to me so anyone reading this who doesn’t already know me will have to be patient I’m afraid. I am sure I will get the hang of it all very soon, particularly as my wiz-kid nephew Nigel is helping to get me started.

I would write some more but Nigel is keen to finish setting up my new computer and I am already late for drinks with Dasher and Cambridge at the club. So I will say au revoir for now.