Good to be back

I must say it is rather jolly to be back in my own study, settling down to my old routines. The last couple of weeks have been somewhat unusual, but one cannot dwell on things one cannot change. Onwards and upwards as my old father used to say.

But I have to admit that returning from an evening out to find one’s home simply crawling with police is just not the sort of thing one expects. And as fond as I am of dear Nigel, to discover he has been using my study and computer for some kind of nefarious activities on the internet has left me more than a little upset. I must say though that the young police officers with whom I spent a large part of the evening “helping police with their enquiries” were rather charming. in their way and did seem to accept my total ignorance of what has been going on.

It was all rather a shock and absolutely nothing at all like the crime dramas one sees on the television or in the cinema.

Anyway, I do not want to dwell on that particular episode. Drama like that is so much more interesting on the screen than off. Nigel has explained that it is all a misunderstanding and has apologised most profusely for the inconvenience the whole affair has caused me. Obviously, I couldn’t stay in the house but I was able to secure rooms at the Savoy until things got back to normal.

Being without my computer was a bit of a blow. I am by no means an avid or expert user of all this modern technology, but without my trusty PC I have been unable to keep up with my journal or work on my little family tree project.

So this morning young Charlotte arrived on my doorstep carrying one of those rather smart looking laptop computers. I don’t understand all this Giga this and mega that, but it looks very nice on my desk and it takes up far less room than the one Nigel had acquired for me. Charlotte very kindly set me up on this new machine and even managed to get me back into my journal.

IN fact, Charlotte stayed for most of the day and we had a jolly good chat about her mother and sister and her plans for the future. The one worrying note was her belief that Hope’s beloved gallery is not doing as well financially as she had hoped it would. From what Charlotte says her mother may have to face some difficult decisions very soon about its future. There is the very real possibility that she may have to close. I am sure one can imagine this was something of a surprise and a great disappointment. I know just how much the gallery means to Hope and the very idea she could lose it makes me very sad indeed. But what can one do?

Charlotte is quite clear where the blame for these difficulties lie. She has no hesitation in pointing a very determined and forthright finger at our present government. And whilst I cannot share her certainty, one has to admit that this current climate is not good for business. Even my own business is beginning to feel the pressure. Only last week we had to make some very drastic cuts to help maintain the value of investments. At least that is what I have been told. I don’t really understand it all and rely totally on my managers and fellow board members to steer the Dimbelby-Smyth ship through the stormy waters.

Hope has told me on many occasions that I need to take a greater interest but all that financial and legal waffle goes right over my head. We have discussed some aspects of the business and Hope has offered some very insightful and interesting ideas but so far they have not met with the support of others in the business.

Anyway, I don’t want to spend too long here – I have agreed to meet Cambridge at the CLub so will have to get moving. He has been talking about taking a little trip to the South of France where he has a rather nice little yacht. He persists in asking me to join him but so far have resisted. However, after the events of the last few weeks, I just might take him up on the offer this time around.

Sailing is not something I generally do these days, at least not since my parents’ accident. But Cambridge is a proficient a yachtsman as most and his boat is apparently quite something.

 

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.

 

 

Summer holidays

Well, I have been back at the old homestead for over a week now and I must say I have found it to be a rather jolly and relaxing time. In fact, it has been like taking a little holiday. I feel rejuvenated and relaxed, the old batteries have been well and truly recharged, so to speak. It is strange but until this week I had not realised just how stressed and tired I had become. Life has certainly been rather busy of late and until I chatted to dear Aunt Sarah about it, I had not realised that I haven’t actually had what one might call a proper holiday for well over a year now.

Yes, I have taken myself away for a few days here and there, but they do not really count. Sarah made the suggestion that I whisk Hope away to the South of France (or somewhere similar) and do a little sailing, perhaps. I have to admit that it does sound like a jolly splendid idea, although maybe not the sailing bit. The trouble is that I know Hope is extremely busy with the gallery at the moment so I do not think she would be able to go, even if she were willing.

Of course, I could always go away on my own or with Nigel or some of the chaps from the Club, but it just wouldn’t be the same. The idea of what might be described as a “lads” holiday does not appeal to me right now. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some simply marvellous holidays with some of my old school chums, but one does grow out of that sort of thing as one gets older.

Holidays are a rather strange thing I find. As a child, my parents would regularly drag me off to spend a few weeks on the Côte d’Azur where they had a very nice little villa. Actually, I still own the place but never go there myself anymore. I suppose it has too many memories for me but in truth, I have never really been one for idling in the sun or messing about in boats. Sailing was one of my father’s great passions outside of his work; I sometimes felt that he lavished more affection on his various boats than he did on either my mother or myself. But, that said, as a child I always enjoyed our times away at the villa, probably because, away from the house and the office, these were the few times I felt close to my father.

I know that most of the chaps at the Club take themselves and their families off the increasingly far-flung and exotic places these days. Where once everyone enjoyed visiting the Mediterranean in the summer and the Alps in the winter, now it seems that chosen destinations are becoming more and more exotic. For instance, this year several of the chaps have decamped for the beaches of Mauritius and New Zealand, whilst others have been tempted to try the beaches of the Cook Islands (wherever they are!).

I may not have a great urge to fly halfway around the globe to sit in a beach, but I have made up my mind that I will act on Aunt Sarah’s suggestion and ask Hope to come away with me somewhere warm and relaxing. I will leave the choice of destination to her as I a sure she will have some good ideas. I will speak to her about it next week when she joins me here at chez Dimbelby.

Of course being out here at the old family home does not necessarily mean that I don’t have work to do. Whether it is the estate itself or dealing with queries being sent to me by Miss Drayton in the office there is always something to do. I suppose it is the curse of the modern age, one can never truly get away. I remember, and it wasn’t all that long ago that when one went away it was dashed difficult for anyone to get in touch. Nowadays one can be contacted in so many different and increasingly intrusive ways that one cannot ever guarantee a total break from work.

As you would expect, the estate itself is running like a well-oiled machine and requires very little input from me. I must say though that the weather has rather taken its toll on some of the lawns. Where until recently there had been large expanses of lush and vivid green, there is a new landscape that looks more akin to southern Italy rather leafy Hampshire. I have also been warned that some of our crops may not be doing so well this summer. Admittedly I know very little about the agricultural side of things, but it is a worry non-the-less.

So, I am enjoying my little sojourn in the country and am really looking forward to being joined by Hope for a few days next week. I suspect that Charlotte may very well be accompanying her, but I am sure she will find plenty to keep herself occupied.

Absent without leave

Just in case anyone has been wondering why I have not been writing recently I would like to clear up a couple of small matters.

Firstly, I have not, as one of the chaps at the Club suggested, been the victim of some kind of honour killing arranged by Hope’s eldest, Emily. Mind you, I can appreciate why he might think that after the rather embarrassing events of last Monday. I have to admit that I am very much still in the dark over why a young lady who, in every other way, seems so normal could have taken against me in so violent a way.  In fact, her latest outburst embarrassed even Hope who seemed as much at a loss as I was to explain Emily’s actions.

One knows that one cannot expect to please all of the people all of the time, as Lincoln once put it, I have never encountered anyone before who I seem to ber s completely unable to please any of the time. I don’t really want to dwell on that last encounter, so let us just leave that one there.

Secondly, and this is a rumour that seems to have also originated in the Club bar, contrary to popular belief, I have not been given any kind of warning or ultimatum by dear Hope. Far from it in fact. Although she has never read my online journal, she is very happy for me to continue doing whatever it is I do.

Lastly, although the past couple of weeks have not been particularly easy for me, I have not been confined to an institution of any kind. Despite that Dasher may have been implying over the bar at the Club, I am very much of sound mind and body.

No, the real reason for my absence is a very simple and relatively boring one. You see my old chum Cambridge called upon me last Tuesday and asked if I would like to join him on a little trip he was planning to his old family estate in the highlands. Now, this time last year I would have hesitated to venture into the wilds of “bonnie” Scotland, but this year I just saw an opportunity to get away from the interminable World Cup that seems to be pervading every corner of one’s life at present. Now, I don’t want anyone to bet the impression in any way that I am some kind of grumpy old spoilsport, but it has to be said that the media’s general assumption that we are all football fanatics is rather annoying. Pages and pages of the daily newspapers have been dedicated to the damned thing and my normal television viewing has been disrupted in an unforgivable way.

So yes, the prospect of a few days at Cambridge’s Scotish country estate was most welcome. Hope and I had no immediate plans that I was aware of so I accepted the offer and very soon was safe aboard the Edinburgh bound train.

We had a wonderful few days in the picturesque highlands. I don’t see as much of old Cambridge as I used to and it was very pleasant indeed to spend a little time with the old chap and catch up on things. Of course, no matter where one goes one can never be totally removed from the humdrum of everyday life and all its cares and woes, but for my money, spending a few days on the banks of Loch Duntelchaig cames very close. The weather was near perfect and I found myself a little homesick – not for my house in town, but for my own little getaway in the heart of Hampshire. In fact, I think I will pay the old place a visit once Wimbledon is out of the way.

Anyway, I arrived back a couple of days ago only to find my absence noticed by far more people than I had expected. I must say I was quite touched by everyone’s concern until I realised that I had left in such haste that I appear to have overlooked the need to tell anyone where I was going.

Whilst for most – the chaps at the Club certainly – my absence would have been of little consequence, it seems to have been felt most keenly by dear Hope who, I am almost embarrassed to admit, I forgot to tell of my last minute plans. She was, as one would expect, extremely annoyed at what she called my thoughtlessness. In my defence, and I accept it may be a poor one, I have become used to doing my own thing and have still to come to terms with the idea that there is someone who might need to be consulted or at the very least be informed of my decisions. Rest assured, that lesson has been well and truly learned.

 

 

A weekend away

Kent-Countryside-900x450

I have to say what a jolly nice weekend I have just had with the lovely Hope. We had not planned to go away, but after having had a rather bad week I decided that we should pack our bags and head out of town for a couple of days. I originally suggested we go to Brighton and stay with some old family friends with a little house on the coast, but Hope was not all that keen on the idea. So, after a little chat and with the help of young Charlotte, we settled on a lovely little hotel in Kent.

Now, normally when I go away I will either stay with friends or, if I have to stay in a hotel, chose one that I already know or has been recommended. The very idea of booking our stay through the internet was something I had never even considered. But for Charlotte, and most young people I suspect, it seems to be almost second nature. Whilst I am getting much better with the whole cyber surfing thing, I am still very much on the beginner’s slopes. Hope has more experience than I do with with the computer, but even she admits that some things still confuse her.

So, by the time we had finished our first glass of Chablis, the hotel was booked and all we had to do was pack a few bags and then we were on our way to sunny Kent, the garden of England.

Of course, it being a sunny Friday afternoon, the roads out of town were extremely congested and I was very glad I had decided not to drive there myself. Albert was going to drop us off and then make his own way home – I would be using the car myself over the weekend and making the return journey on Sunday afternoon.

I must say that when we arrived at the hotel I was very impressed. One hears so many stories about people being duped by unscrupulous characters using the internet to front their nefarious enterprises. Nigel is always going on at me about the need for security and that I had to be careful about who I might “meet” online. Well, I have told Nigel often enough that I am not that easily fooled and anyone trying to con me would have a very hard time indeed. Non-the-less, I was very relieved when we pulled up outside what was an old stately home but was now our home for the weekend.

As a child, my mother and I were frequent visitors to the Kent countryside, but in recent years I fear I have somewhat neglected it. We would often visit family and friends and I have very fond memories of those long hot summers. We were always outdoors and I never remember it raining, although I am sure it did. Kent to me is a county of my childhood and one I very rarely visit these days.  I suppose that the Kent’sm undeniable attractions are better shared, which is why my stay there with Hope was so special. For two days we became tourists, something I am not used to.

I have to say that our accommodation was first class. The service and food were as good as anywhere ion the City, and the room extremely comfortable. I will admit that I can be rather fussy when it comes to hotels, but on this occasion, I found nothing to complain about and plenty to enjoy. The fact that the weather was so good certainly helped to make the whole weekend rather special. When we are in town, I feel I do not get to spend as much time with Hope as I would like. She is obviously a very busy lady with a home and the gallery to run, so I do try not to monopolise her attention. But when we get the opportunity to get away from all the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and relax, I find myself happier that I have been for many a long year.

But as always, all good things must come to an end. I did try to persuade Hope to stay for a few more days, but unfortunately, she had commitments at the Gallery which made that impossible. So, regretfully, we made our way back to town late on Sunday afternoon. Which is just as well actually as shortly after our return I received a telephone call from Aunt Murdock to tell me that poor old Uncle George was back in the hospital with his heart. Of course, that meant jumping straight back into the car and driving across town to see how the dear old thing was getting on.

I am relieved to say that despite the rather frightening array of electronic devices and the miles of tubing that surrounded him, the old fellow was in fairly good spirits. He was obviously rather tired and looked a little pale, but was otherwise showing no signs of being at death’s door. In fact, he was out of the hospital and back home by late Monday afternoon. I paid a quick visit to the house earlier today and can happily report that the old gentleman has quite recovered from his little turn and is already talking about whisking the old Mad Duck off to the Lakes for a long weekend.

Anyway, I must finish there as I have agreed to meet a couple of the chaps at the Club this evening for a few drinks. I don’t seem to get down there quite as much as I used to and there is so much to catch up on.

Computer troubles and more

I must say it has been a rather odd few days for little old me. I like to think that I am an easy going sort of chap. I have never seen the point in getting too excited about things I cannot control, and often even those I can. Life is far too short to waste valuable time on the insignificant or uncontrollable elements of life. But this week I have had to face two very different but equally perplexing issues that have caused me worry and stress.

The first occurred on Friday afternoon.  I was sat at my desk, waiting for the computer to start so that I could write up my journal. I had been sat there for a few minutes, thinking about the week I had had and the things I might want to say when it began to dawn on me that the computer was taking an inordinately long time to get going. I sat there for a little longer, watching the little ring of dots going around and around as a message on the screen very politely asked me to please wait.

Now I am a very patient man, but one can only sit staring at a blue screen for so long. My first thought was to contact dear old Nigel. After all, he is the expert on this kind of thing. I am, as they say, totally clueless when it comes to modern technology. Nigel set the whole thing up for me almost a year ago now and I rely on his expertise to keep it working and safe. Unfortunately, he was away and not due back until Sunday, so I was a little stuck. So, I was faced with one of two choices: to leave it alone and wait for Nigel’s return, or to contact someone else for help, but who?

After a little consideration, and a small shot of single malt, I decided that the I would take action myself. After all, what harm could I do? Nigel is always telling me not to be afraid of the computer, that I couldn’t break it. So I did the only thing I could think of doing that might help – I switched it off at the wall. I had seen Nigel do that once when it had stopped working; everything had sort of frozen and no amount of clicking or typing seemed to get us anywhere. It is one of the things that I have often heard the chaps at the Club laugh about – if any piece of technology stops doing what it is supposed to do, all one needs to do is turn it off and on again. So that is what I did, only to find myself right back where I started, watching little white dots run around in circles on a pale blue screen. But now, rather than seeming polite, the “please wait” came across as more of a taunt. It was as if the damned thing was laughing at me.

Of course, it wasn’t, or at least I don’t believe it was. But one thing it certainly was not doing, was starting up. In the end, I left it and went down to the Club to catch up with the chaps and share a drink or three. Repairing the computer would just have to wait until Nigel returned.

Appart from now having a rather large and expensive paperweight cluttering up my study desk, the next few days were thankfully uneventful. Hope and I visited a very nice little bar in deepest Kensington on Saturday and we spent much of Sunday reading newspapers and generally doing very little of consequence. But then came Monday morning and the second shock.

Now, I don’t always visit the office on a Monday. I find struggling into work so soon after the weekend such a bore, but I was feeling unusually bright and breezy as Hope left for the Gallery, so I decided I would pop in and catch up on a few things that Miss Drayton had insisted were urgent and needed my attention. I have to say, most of the paperwork that passes over my desk seems extremely tedious and as far from urgent as it is possible to get. None-the-less, I am trying to be more “hands-on” so decided I would make the effort and see what all the fuss was about..

Well, I hadn’t been at my desk for more than a couple of minutes when Miss Drayton, looking rather sheepish, walked slowly into my office and handed me a single envelope. I looked up at her and smiled, but she lowered her eyes and took a single step backwards as if to put a little distance between us. I have to say that I found her demeanour to be a little disconcerting. Normally any post for me has already been opened and only those that require my personal attention ever make it as far as the desk. It was very unusual for any item of post to be handed to me unopened. I may not be the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer but even I knew at that point that something was not quite right about the scene playing out before me.

Miss Drayton remained silent, still seemingly captivated by the pattern of the carpet. So I opened the envelope, withdrew the single sheet of paper from inside and read the very short letter which it turns out was Miss Drayton’s resignation.

To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. I thought everything was ticking along very nicely and had no idea there was anything wrong. I just can’t imagine the office without her being there. Who was going to deal with all my correspondence and meetings and such? She was very apologetic about the whole thing and was very determined that I was aware that her leaving was nothing personal. It would appear that Miss Drayton’s has, unbeknown to me, be walking out with a young gentleman from the legal department and they have decided to get married and return to his family home in southern Italy. Apparently, they run a successful wine business over there.

It turned out to be a somewhat emotional morning as Miss Drayton set the wheels in motion to find her replacement. I have to say that I had no idea it was going to be quite so complicated. I have had three meetings already this week with a stream of people from Human Resources asking all kinds of silly questions and going over several very dreary and, to my mind, pointless documents. I really don’t understand this whole recruitment thing at all. Apparently, the new Miss Drayton will be a Personal Assistant, not secretary, and might even be a man!

After much discussion, we have agreed that whoever I take on will come from within the compoany rather than bringing someone new into the office. Miss Drayton and I are going to meet with a few eligible candidates next week. I can’t say I am looking forward to it, but I suppose that these things have to be done.

Hope says I need to give Miss Drayton some kind of send-off, which I agree sounds like a jolly good idea. Not that I know anything about organising this sort of thing. Under normal circumstances, I would be asking Miss Drayton to sort things out but that is obviously not as good idea in this instances.

Anyway, earlier today Nigel dropped by and brought back my computer. He had called round yesterday but had to take it away. He did try to explain the problem to me but it was all gobbledygook to me. These computer chaps talk in a foreign language. Mind you, it was no more intelligible than half the waffle Human Resources have put into the job description for my new Miss Drayton.

Well, that’s just about it for now. I am going to make my way down to the Club for an evening with the chaps.

Yet another Bank Holiday

Well, we have just had another of those interminable Bank Holidays and the City has been fairly crawling with tourists. I can imagine that from the air the streets would have looked like a hoard of frantic termites running aimlessly through the streets. Hope and Dorothy were both busy today so I thought I would wander down to the river, as was such a nice day, but I very quickly realised that this had been a mistake. My quiet stroll turned into a nightmare of bustling pavements and indiscriminate music coming at me from all sides. By the time I actually reached the water’s edge, I was completely out of sorts and as far from relaxed as I think it is possible to get without actually blowing a fuse.

I rather bravely wandered down to St James’ but that was even worse. At this point, I decided that enough was enough and made my way to the one place in the City I can rely on for some peace and quiet – the Club. And if I am to be brutally honest, I am beginning to feel that life in the city is not what it used to be.

Living in a city like London, with all its hustle and bustle can be both invigorating and exhausting. The streets are always busy, the bars, theatres and other attractions constantly swarming with inquisitive and noisy tourists. It is truly a city that never seems to sleep. And for those of us lucky enough to call it home, it is almost alive with possibilities. There is certainly no shortage of new and interesting things to see and do. But the seemingly relentless pace brings its own pressures and one can, at times, be left in something of a daze trying to keep up with it all. I count myself very lucky that at such times I have an escape route; the old family homestead. I don’t know if it is that the pace of life in the City is getting too much, even for me, or something else, but this past week or so I have been feeling the draw of the countryside more and more.

The last weekend I spent at home with Hope had made the old place seem much more interesting and comfortable than it had for some time. Whilst I am sure that much of that can probably be put down to the time spent showing her around, I do find that Hope is one of those people who, by their very presence, can bring life and vigour to any surroundings.

As a boy, I so looked forward to returning home from school. My mother was always there to greet me, although my father was, more often than not, busy in the City with business of one sort or another. Although my mother would often join him in town, she always made sure she was there when I first arrived home. Since my parents died the house has felt less and less like a home to me. My visits have become increasingly infrequent, but the old place still has a strange attraction to me, one that seems to be getting stronger.

I suppose that it is the people who make a house a home. For me, it was always my mother who made the old pile worth returning to. Certainly, the old place has a lot of history and is littered with artwork and treasures that my father’s family have collected over the centuries. But it was my mother’s touch that made it somewhere worth being. Without her, it became nothing more than a museum, a shrine to the Dimbelby-Smyth dynasty that I found increasingly less relevant to my own life. Now, one begins to see the merit in the old place. Hope certainly seemed to enjoy being there and has quite openly said she cannot wait to return and “spruce” the place up a little.

I am not sure exactly what she means by that, but some of the chaps at the Club said it sounded ominous and I should be very careful about what I allowed her to do. In all honesty, I don’t believe she is planning to redecorate the whole place. Maybe she will just want to add a few of those “feminine touches” I have heard talk of.

I had not planned to return to the country until later in the summer but as there are one or two items that require my attention I have decided to invite Hope and Charlotte to join me for a few days next week. If the weather holds out they will see the old estate at its best. The English countryside undoubtedly offers some of the finest views one can get anywhere in the world and I look forward to sharing it with them both, if they can make of course. One can’t always assume that they will be free or available.

I am off down to the Club now to meet old Cambridge. I haven’t seen the old fool for a couple of weeks now and there is so much to catch up on. Maybe Dasher will be there as well this evening – he is another one who has been absent rather too much recently.

The end of a very busy week

I must say that I have had a rather busy week this week, what with one thing and another. It all started with an absolutely wonderful weekend away with Hope, although I have to admit that it did not look very promising on Friday. Arthur was supposed to be driving us up there in the late afternoon, but he was rather suddenly struck down with some kind of tummy bug, leaving me without a driver. Of course, I am more than capable of driving the car myself, but I had hoped to be free of that particular responsibility. I mean to say, one can’t really make the most of the wine cellar knowing that one has to take to the wheel later on.

Some of my chums are not so diligent when it comes to drinking and driving, but having lost my licence many years ago after a little accident involving a stray dog and a police car, I am a little more cautious these days, particularly when I have a passenger.

I did consider asking young Nigel if he was free but reluctantly decided to step up to the mark and do the honours myself. Now I am not a comfortable town driver at the best of times, but attempting to negotiate the Friday night rush-hour traffic did nothing to calm my nerves. Don’t get me wrong, I love driving my dear old Bentley but not on congested city roads. I much prefer cruising through the countryside, and I am sure the car does too.

Needless to say, by the time we finally arrived in the environs of the old homestead I was feeling rather tired and stressed by the experience. If I hadn’t needed to drink before I picked Hope up, I certainly did by the time I guided the Bentley up the driveway. Although it has to be said that Hope’s presence beside me was a somewhat soothing influence, there is also something soothing about the sound of the Bentley’s tyres crunching over the gravel. It always reminds me of coming home from school for the holidays.

It is funny how certain sounds or smells can trigger childhood memories, even those one has forgotten over the intervening years. Certainly, there are some things that will always remind me of home: the smell of my mother’s perfume, the polish that old Danvers used to use on the woodwork, the sound of the car tyres crunching across the gravel, all evoke such happy emotions.

Hope and I spent the evening at the Royal Oak where we enjoyed a splendid meal and a bottle of their rather fine Chardonnay. It was the first of several visits we made to that esteemed establishment over the course of the weekend. I had planned to have Anne join us there for lunch on Saturday but unfortunately, she found herself somewhat “tied-up” with some client or other so had to postpone our little get together. I do think it is a crying shame when a young lady’s business or career impacts so badly on their social life. I have seen it a number of times with Hope when she cannot meet me or was generally unavailable because she had to see a client or dealer. It really is a bad show.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those chaps that believes a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I would never be so presumptuous as to suggest such a thing. After all, we live in a modern society where such things are simply not acceptable, and rightly so. But none-the-less, one cannot help feeling that society is very much the poorer for their absence in favour of business advancement.

As it turns out were not exactly short of company during our stay in the country. Several of the local families also frequent the King’s Arm’s which was jolly nice, particularly as it gave me a fine opportunity to introduce that who didn’t already know her to Hope who, I must say, seemed very much at home amongst the local bigwigs.

Thankfully these little gatherings in the village meant that when we were at the house we were relatively undisturbed, which was fine by me I can tell you. We had a rather splendid weekend together and it was one of the best birthday’s I can remember. And as it was just the two of us I had the opportunity to show her around the old place, including the gardens which we did not see much of over Christmas. On one of our little perambulations, we saw some signs of work undertaken taken on one of the old barns on a neighbour’s property. It looks as if they may be converting it into a new house. Talking of which, there is still a great deal of chatter locally about predatory property developers putting pressure on the local landowners to sell so they can build new houses and the like.

Hope and I did discuss the pros and cons of all these new developments that are beging to encroach on our beautiful countryside. I had to admit that I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, the chaps in government keep prattling on about the need for more new houses, but on the other hand, why can’t they concentrate their efforts in the towns whjere I am sure most the houses are actually needed. I don’t see the point in trying to inflic these dreary new developments on us poor country folk.

Anyway, Hope and I had such a splendid weekend that we were rather reluctant to head home on Sunday. In the end, we left it so late that by the time I had dropped her off at her flat it was far too late to get to the Club. Which was a shame as I had heard some of the chaps had prepared something of a treat for my birthday? Ah well, it can’t be helped I suppose.

Monday morning started reasonably well. I had received a message from Aunt Murdock inviting me to join her for lunch, which I was only too pleased to accept. We met a little after midday at the Savoy, somewhere I know that the old dear enjoys. I am delighted to say that she is very much on the mend and looks better than she has for quite a few months. I have to admit that I have been rather worried about her, but it seems that right now she is doing very well indeed. In fact, she has invited me to join her and Uncle George for a little get together they are planning at their home on Sunday.

The rest of the week was rather busy, what with silly little meetings at the office, a couple of evenings at the Club and a rather unusual lunch date with my old chum Dorchester. It would appear that he is getting very close to Anne and I suspect that it may not be too long before we hear that they are officially a couple.

For now, I think I will draw this to an end as it is getting quite late and I have a busy day tomorrow. First I am going to visit Dorothy and Angela, then Hope and I will be attending some kind of art event somewhere on the Southbank. I am not entirely sure what it is all about, but Hope assures me that I will enjoy it.

 

Unexpected pleasures

There has been a lot of talk recently about the unseasonal weather we have been experiencing here in jolly old Blighty. Snow, rain and high winds have been wreaking havoc in various parts of the country for several weeks, despite the arrival of spring. It would seem that someone forgot to tell mother nature that winter is now over!

I have heard it said that we Brits have an unhealthy preoccupation with the weather. Admittedly, for those foreign chappies for whom the weather is predictable and stable, it may seem a little strange, but for those of us who have grown up with our island’s unpredictable and rapidly changing weather, it is a natural topic of conversation.

Well, the bottom line here is that the Easter weekend weather has been appaling. If I had entertained any plans to spend time in the country, then they would have been completely spoilt. Luckily for me, I had made no such plans. To be brutally honest I am not a great one for the Bank Holidays. There are far too many tourists everywhere for my liking, so I usually spend these weekends either at the Club or with friends. I had not made any arrangements for this particular Easter weekend and had thought I might spend it with Hope. However, like so many others who run their own business, she said that she would be opening the gallery on the Friday and Saturday. I was a little disappointed by this, but I do understand. As she has already pointed out to me, she has invested everything in the business and cannot simply shut up shop whenever she feels like it.

So, rather than heading out of the City to escape the hoards, Hope suggested that instead, we join them and spend some time taking in some of the attractions our hometown has to offer. I have to admit that my initial reaction was one of horror. The very idea of becoming part of the herd goes against every instinct for survival and I have studiously avoided the more tourist orientated parts of town for far too many years for me to feel comfortable making a return anytime soon. But, it was what Hope wanted to do, so, being the gentleman that I am, I acquiesced to her wishes with minimal fuss, although to be totally honest I did not have any alternative suggestions to make. I should have been better prepared!

So, as Hope busied herself at the gallery, I spent most of Friday and Saturday with the chaps at the Club. Amongst the topics of conversation was the inclement weather we have been enjoying of late. It seems that I am not alone in believing that our climate was less erratic and wet in the past. Cambridge may well be right in apportioning this to rose-tinted memories, but for those who support the idea of climate change, it is another piece of evidence in the arguments for their cause. Well, whatever the reason, we were all agreed that things were not looking too good for the coming spring. The forecast is for more rain and cold winds, but I have never been convinced that these forecasters know what they are talking about. As I have said before, the British weather is notoriously unpredictable so I usually take their warnings with a pinch of salt. But it did make me a little concerned about Hope’s plans for us to venture forth onto the streets of the city.  Maybe it would not be such a good idea at all.

Anyway, I met joined Hope at her little flat on Saturday evening. It was actually a rather pleasant evening, devoid of both rain and the bitter Arctic winds that had been predicted, so we were able to take a leisurely stroll down towards the river where we stopped off for drinks before making our way to the lovely little brasserie we had previously visited for that rather ill-fated lunch with Emily. We had a lovely meal before making our way back to Hope’s for a nightcap. Shortly after our return, Charlotte arrived, looking rather the worst for drink and announcing that she was going to stay with friends for a few days. As she wobbled rather precariously towards her own room, presumably to pack a bag, Hope switched instantly from pleasant girlfriend to fiercely defensive mother. It was almost like someone had tripped a switch inside, which I suppose someone had – Charlotte. She squeezed my hand, gave me a quick smile then strode off towards Charlotte’s room with a look of steely determination in her eyes that would have made even Aunt Murdock flinch. Realising what was probably about to take place, I retreated to the kitchenette, poured myself a glass of wine and made for the lounge window, ostensibly to take in the view of the street below, but also to position myself as far away from the outbreak of mother-daughter hostilities I could hear brewing across the hall.

That, I suppose, is one of the great drawbacks of living in a flat. No matter how well proportioned or superiorly furnished, one could never get very far from one’s fellow occupants. In some I have visited, even one’s neighbours can be heard quite clearly when in dispute. I have always found these kinds of occasions to be rather embarrassing, and none more so than when one is in the immediate vicinity of the protagonists. I did not hear all that was said, but it was, thankfully, a rather short-lived confrontation that ended with Charlotte falling into the most frightful sulk and locking herself in her room.

It seems that her contretemps with Charlotte had left Hope in a rather black mood, so I left very shortly afterwards, but not before arranging to meet again early Sunday afternoon. The weather was far from ideal for wandering the streets of the capital, but I found it surprisingly enjoyable. During the course of Sunday and Monday, we visited the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery and Covent Garden, as well as taking an unexpectedly enjoyable boat trip down the Thames. I have to say it was one of the most relaxed and interesting weekends I have spent for quite some time. Art may not be something I take a great interest in, but hearing Hope talk with such passion and interest, one could not help gaining some appreciation of the works we saw.

Amongst the things we discussed during our excursions were plans for our little weekend away in the Cotswolds. It’s a party of some kind being hosted by an old family friend and although I had been invited to stay at the house, I had already decided to stay at a nearby hotel. It is one I have stayed at on previous occasions and I am sure that Hope will appreciate it as much as I do. I have already booked her into the room next to mine. We have also discovered that our birthdays are similarly adjacent, mine on the 29th April, hers on the 28th. We have decided that we will celebrate them together by visiting the old family home for the weekend. Obviously, we will also invite Charlotte, should she wish to join us.

Having spent two whole days in Hopes company I was sad to take my leave of her yesterday evening. But alas, we both had work commitments that required our attention today. Personally, I would have been more than happy to have forgone my meeting with the finance chaps who seem to be running things at the office. I find their talk tedious and their manner generally condescending. I am aware that I may not have the firmest of grasps on economics and finance, but I do understand the importance of profits to a large and complex organisation such as ours. One of the things I have learnt from my weekend with Hope is that there is so much more to business and life than making a quick and easy profit. In fact, after this morning’s meeting, I have begun to think that I may need to make some changes to the old family business if only to make it easier for little old me to understand and manage.

But for now, it’s time to visit the Club.

Things are looking up

After several “dates” where things did not go according to plan, Hope and I finally managed to spend a whole afternoon and evening together with no interruptions, disasters or fallings-out. We met as agreed for a light tea before making our way to Westminster for a piano recital Hope had recommended.

Tea was in a wonderful little place Hope has frequented before, close to Covent Garden. Now I have never really understood the current fascination for these so-called afternoon teas where one is expected to nibble on miniature sandwiches and cakes that to me look like they are designed for children rather than adults. I always associate these affairs with genteel old ladies or pretentious young women looking to secure their place on the social ladder. But I suppose that as with many other things in life, it is almost as much about the ambiance and company one keeps than the food itself which I understand is not intended to replace a proper meal. In that sense, tea on Sunday was a very jolly affair and I have to admit that the food was exceptionally nice. Hope was in good spirits and seemed to enjoy hearing of my busy couple of days at Cheltenham races. I was very surprised to hear that she had not been to a race meeting since she was a teenager. I had expected that she and her former husband would have been regulars. I think that I will have to invite her to Ascot this summer as I am sure she should enjoy it.

After tea we made our way through the somewhat cold streets to the recital. I have to admit that although it would not have been my first choice, I enjoyed the performance immensely. There is something incredibly relaxing about listening to good music played well and I very soon found myself totally absorbed in the wonderful melodies. There was something almost magical about the atmosphere and by the midpoint of the performance, I found I had Hope’s hand in mine. I have no recollection of the moment we started holding hands; I can’t even recall which of us made the first move; it just seemed so natural.

Not for the first time with Hope, I felt a little like a schoolboy with his first crush. Holding Hope’s hand like that had such a feeling of intimacy that I am sure I must have been blushing.

We returned to Hope’s flat for supper and drinks once the performance was over. Charlotte was still in Manchester with her sister so we had the place to ourselves. And that is all I am going to say about Sunday evening. A gentleman does not kiss and tell.

I returned home yesterday morning to the news that dear old Aunt Murdock and Uncle George have decided to leave the city for a while and have relocated to their little summer place close to Brighton. It is a house owned by George’s family that they have been known to use on occasion, but not recently. Apparently, the old Mad Duck is none too happy with the social scene of Brighton at the moment, but she obviously needs some time to relax and recharge her batteries, so to speak. I will have to drive down to see them later in the week, should I get the opportunity.

I have to say that aside from my dear Aunt’s ill health life at the moment is looking particularly good. Obviously, the utter madness that the rest of world seems to be descending into is worrying, but I am sure it will all work out. All this talk of nerve agents and spies sounds more like a plot from a very bad book rather than real life. I will have to pop along to the Club tomorrow night and see what the chaps make of it all.