All I got was wet!

Do you ever get the feeling that some things just aren’t meant to be?

Well, for the past week or so I have had to put up with both Aunt Murdock and Dorothy almost constantly going on at me about meeting up with Hope Greenwood again. And they are not the only ones who seem to have an interest in my friendship with her. But, despite all their insistence, and I must say some work on my part, it appears that the chances of any kind of romantic liaison are very slim indeed.

You see, I popped along to the gallery this afternoon – as we had arranged over the telephone – and I must say, it was a jolly difficult journey, what with the terrible weather. Despite my best efforts, by the time I arrived, I was rather wet through. In fact, I don’t think I have been so wet, with my clothes on, since the day I fell into uncle George’s garden pond back in 2002. We had been celebrating dear old Lizzie’s Golden jubilee with some very fine champagne and a selection of single malts, and it is possible that I may have had a little more than I should. During a particularly rowdy rendition of Rule Britania, myself and a couple of the chaps from the Club ventured a little too close to George’s new pond. Needless to say, dear old George wasn’t best pleased, and I think the newly transplanted fish were a little put out as well.

Anyway, as I walked through the door I could see Hope on the far side of the gallery talking to a young lady who I presumed was a client. I stood, dripping by the door for a few moments before Hope spotted me and, excusing herself, came over to greet me. I must admit that the whole greeting thing was a little awkward, not least because I was wet through and dripping all over her shiny floor. Unfortunately, our conversation was very brief as Hope had a meeting with the lady I had seen her talking to, so my plan for lunch had to be postponed again.

However, I did have an opportunity to pass on the invitation to Cambridge’s charity soiree, which she assures me she will be able to attend. Once that was agreed, I left the gallery and made my way back to the Club where I was able to dry off and enjoy a rather pleasant lunch. We have a new chef at the Club who is trying to introduce a wider range of dishes, some of which are proving to be very popular. I forget his name, but he is Italian apparently, which explains the sudden appearance of pasta and pizza on the luncheon menu.

If you haven’t heard, we have a new chef at the Club who is trying to introduce a wider range of dishes, some of which are proving to be very popular. I forget his name, but he is Italian apparently, which explains the sudden appearance of pasta and pizza on the luncheon menu. Now, I don’t have anything against the idea of extending the menu, but I personally have no intention of going continental. I have never been particularly fond of Italian wines, and I don’t suppose the food is much better. Don’t get me wrong, I am partial to a little pasta now and again, and have even had some very nice pizzas, but it is not the sort of food one expects to be eating at a respectable club. I see no reason to change things and will continue to eat the same foods I always have. Today I chose the Rack of Lamb, washed down with a very pleasant Spanish Rioja. If there is one thing you can always rely on at the Club, it is the quality of the wines on offer. Chefs may come and go, but the wine cellar is always stocked with the best.

So, it was not quite the day I had planned, but I have kept my promise to Dorothy and Aunt Murdock in as much as I have been to see Hope. Alright, she was too busy to come out to lunch with me, but she has accepted the invitation so I will definitely see her again soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Am I losing control of my own life?

This morning I had an unexpected, but a very welcome telephone call from Hope Greenwood. She hasn’t returned home yet but is in Edinburgh staying with an old friend. Apparently, she has been having a short break and visiting a few artists in Scotland. She told me that she heard yesterday that I had visited her gallery – it seems that the helpful young lady I spoke to on Wednesday was Hope’s youngest daughter, Charlotte.

It was just a brief call as she had an appointment, but she told me she will be back in London tomorrow. There wasn’t enough time to discuss the invitation to old Cambridge’s soiree but I told her I would call into the gallery again on Wednesday. Maybe this time I can take her out for that lunch I promised myself.

Whilst I was on the phone talking to Hope, Dorothy walked in and did a little eavesdropping. At times she is like an old mother hen, fussing and manoeuvring. I sometimes think she is taking tips from old Mad Duck. She may even be some kind of third columnist, planted by the old dear to spy on me. Nothing would surprise me where Aunt Murdock is concerned.

According to Dorothy, if I’m going to meet Hope for lunch again, I am going to need some new clothes. She told me that my current wardrobe is a little too conservative and old fashioned. I am not sure I agree with her, but she seems to have set her heart on taking me out shopping. Of course, I have said I couldn’t possibly find the time, but I know Dorothy well enough by now to know that she won’t let a simple matter such as being far too busy get in the way of a good plan. I am sure that now she has suggested going clothes shopping, as far she is concerned it is going to happen.

The more I think about it, the more I worry that my life is being controlled by the various women around me. I mean, there is Aunt Murdock trying to get me married off, Dorothy doing her best to “modernise” me, and even Miss Drayton seems to be trying to turn me into a business man. I know they mean well. They all seem to think they are doing what is best for me, and I am sure that in some ways they may even be right, but surely a chap needs to have some control over his own life.

 

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.