In need of a map

This week I have found myself in something of a quandary. I suppose that we all face these little dilemmas in our lives – reaching a crossroads where it appears that whatever direction one chooses to go is going to turn out bad, either for one’s self or one’s friends. If one could only see the full picture are were furnished with a map then maybe the choices one makes would be easier, but life is not like that and this wee I fond myself not only lacking the picture but did not even have the vaguest idea that I needed one. After all, one only needs a guide if one knows one is lost.

You see, having recently made the decision to decamp to the old family home for the rest of the summer, I have taken a keen interest in the goings on around the estate and village. I suppose that in some people’s eyes I am equivalent to the old Lord of the Manor, even though that distinction does not really exist any more. My father was a very hands-on local, throwing himself into the local politics and taking a lively interest in the local families and their affairs. Although he spent a great deal of his time in London, my mother tended to stay behind, and when he was at home he acted his part with great enthusiasm and flair. It is a role I never wanted and I admit that I have not made much effort to fill the old man’s rather large shoes.

Most of my visits are short and generally speaking I try to avoid getting too involved with the gossip and petty feuds that seem to be the mainstay of rural life. Most evenings you will find any number of the local fellows propping up the bar in one of the local hostelries, freely discussing each other’s business and ruminating over small time concerns.

I have several reasons for choosing to stay down here for an extended period and part of that is that I feel I need to take some interest in the threat to the local area from developers who seem intent on buying up land so that they can build more of their unsightly and clearly unwanted new housing estates. Like most people, I have read the reports of housing shortages and the like, but surely this is a problem for the big town and cities, not our lovely country villages? More houses bring more people which mean more traffic, and the last thing we need right now is an increase in traffic. One or two of the local businesses seem quietly keen on the idea, saying it will bring more trade, but other than a few extra faces around the public bar of an evening, I doubt that any of the kind of people these new houses attract will be spending any of their money locally. After all, don’t these people normally shop at either the big supermarkets or online? I can not see that doing the local business people any good at all.

We really do not need all the trouble that these extra, unwanted residents will bring, not to mention the disruption that will be caused by the building work itself. It is all so unnecessary and pointless.

Which brings me to my own dilemma. Hope came down last week to spend a few days with me, accompanied by young Charlotte who wanted a couple of days away. Everything was going well until we visited the King’s Arms on the Tuesday evening for a light supper and a few drinks with some of the locals. Talk invariably turned, as it does, to those pesky developers. Charlotte, in particular, took a very keen interest in the discussion and began asking some rather pointed and relevant questions. There is something of the snoop about Charlotte, in that way she a lot like her sister Emily who, from experience, can be like a dog with a bone when her interest has been piqued.

Anyway, during the course of the discussions, a name cropped up that seemed vaguely familiar to me. At first, I could not place it but didn’t give it too much thought at the time. To be totally honest, at this point in the evening I was losing interest, distracted somewhat by another conversation further down the bar about the problems local farmers were having due to the dry weather. Not that I know the first thing about agricultural issues.

However, by the time we had returned to the house, it came to me where I knew the name from – it is one of the companies I have heard mentioned in relation to my family business. Now, whilst one cannot be held responsible for the activities of every element of one’s business interests, one is also aware that by admitting any connection to these people at all will undoubtedly reflect rather badly.

So that is the quandary I find myself in right now. It is a couple over a week now since Hope and Charlotte were here, but I still cannot decide whether or not I should tell them about my connections with the developers. One the one hand, if I do not tell them and they find out later I am sure they will be upset and angry. On the other hand, if I do tell them of this connection, they will probably be upset and angry and demand I do something about it. Either way I believe I will have two angry women on my tail.

So far I have not told any of the locals about my connection to the developers and I am not sure it would be very helpful if I did. I have already made my opposition to the planned development quite clear so I have to be seen to do something, but I don’t know what I can do.

After giving it some thought I have decided that I will cut short my stay here and tomorrow I will visit dear old Aunt Murdock and ask her advice. If anyone knows what is going on she will.



Lunch with a bitter taste

It’s strange how life has a way of turning sour just when one believes that things are looking sweet.

I received a telephone call from Hope last night asking if I would like to join her, Charlotte and Emily for lunch today. Of course, I was only too delighted to accept the invitation, particularly as it would be the first opportunity I have had to meet Emily. I had heard a few things about her, some of it a little frightening if the truth be known, so I was really looking forward to getting to know her.

We agreed that I would meet them at the bistro Hope had chosen, a little place I had been to myself not very long ago. It is one of those places with an open grill in the centre of the restaurant where they prepare the food. On the previous occasion, I was with some of the chaps from the Club and one or two of them caused some trouble after drinking a little too much of the very fine Beaujolais. It all started when that buffoon Richards took a shine to a particular young lady at the table beside ours. It was obvious to everyone except him that she was not interested, but that has never stopped him before. Well, he became more insistent, she and her companions got very angry and in the end, I had to manhandle the man out of the building and into a taxi. It was all rather embarrassing so I was pleased to have an opportunity to pay a return visit in what I hoped would be less troublesome circumstances.

The way things have gone so far this year I suppose I should know better than to expect a silver lining. It would seem that for every ray of sunshine there have been at least two dark clouds rushing in to blot it out.

I left home early but thanks to some unexpected congestion and the almost obligatory roadworks I arrived almost ten minutes late. Now most people who know me will attest to the fact that I can be very relaxed about most things, but one thing I do expect from myself and others is punctuality, particularly as I was hoping to make a good impression. I spotted the girls as soon as I walked through the door, seated at a table close to the grill area. I have to say that I was a little surprised at first as I did not recognise Charlotte at all. It has only been a few days since I last saw her but in that time she has coloured her hair. Where she previously sported wavy auburn locks she now had straight, bright red hair. I have seen this type of thing many times before but had not expected young Charlotte to follow in that particular fashion. I am pleased to say that Hope had not undergone any such transformation and was looking her usual bright and cheerful self.

As I approached the table Hope rose to greet me and introduced me to Emily.

My first impression was one of surprise. I had expected Hope’s eldest daughter to look at least a little like her (in the way Charlotte did, sans red hair!), but I could see no resemblance whatsoever. Where Hope and Charlotte are relatively short and dark with what my mother would have described as cherubic features, Emily was very tall and slim with short blonde hair. And where Hope and Charlotte kept makeup and jewellery to a minimum, Emily looked a little like a walking advertisement for a cosmetics retailer. Several things struck me at once as she introduced herself; the first being that the smile on her lips did not seem to reach her eyes which seemed rather preoccupied with sizing me up. She is also much taller than her mother or sister. I do vaguely remember her father and although I could not state categorically that she was very like him, by my recollection he certainly had that Arian look that Emily seemed to favour.

Once the introductions were over and I had taken my seat beside Hope, we went through the usual routine of discussing the options on the menu and comparing previous meals at similar locations. I repeated the tale of my previous visit to this particular establishment which I was pleased to see Hope and Charlotte found amusing, but Emily did not. Where I had hoped the story might provide a lighthearted opener to our lunchtime conversation, Emily wanted to pick at the events to discover more about my companion and the young lady. I had been told that she could be a little serious, but I had not expected her to miss the point of my little tale so completely. I decided at that point that I needed to be a little more wary about the things I said.

But of course, once the wine and food arrived, and I began to relax, I dropped my guard. Now I am not saying that I set out to deliberately antagonise her, but I found that she took offence at almost everything I had to say, particularly when it came to politics and the law. I am not saying that I am particularly well versed in either discipline, but like most people, I have my own opinions on the state of the country and the world at large and I am used to being able to express these views at the Club without fear of too much contradiction or hostility. Emily however, seemed in no mood to listen to anything I had to say. This is not to say we were arguing as such; rather, she had a way of putting down any opinion I wished to express with a look or seemingly mild reproach that by the time we had come to the end of the main course I was feeling rather like a naughty child being constantly chastised by an angry parent. Hope did try several times to move the conversation on, but with little success. At one point Charlotte seemed to get quite angry with her sister over some remark she made.

As we finished our desserts Hope asked if I would like to join them for coffee at home, but I decided that under the circumstances it was best to decline the offer. It was obvious that Emily has some kind of issue with me but I cannot for the life of me understand what I may have said or done to make her behave the way she did. I think that under the circumstances I was extremely restrained.

I really could not have imagined two more different young ladies than Charlotte and Emily. One would have thought that being some kind of Human Rights specialist she would be a compassionate and understanding person, but what I saw today was an angry and confrontational one. I like to think of myself as a fairly easy going sort of chap, but even I found it very difficult to find common ground with young Emily. I understand that she will be at her mother’s until Sunday so I will wait until next week to try to speak to Hope again to reschedule our evening date. I just hope that the events of today haven’t spoilt anything.

In the meantime, this evening I am going to join my old chum Cambridge for a few drinks at his club. I don’t go there very often – it’s my father’s old club and I find the place a little too quiet and solemn most of the time. It will just be a light dinner for me, but I am looking forward to tasting some the excellent new vintages that Cambridge has told me about.