A busy start to the new year

After a very poor start to the new year, things have begun to brighten up a little in the Dimbelby-Smyth household. Dorothy has secured herself a small role in a show of some kind due to be staged in London next month. I am not sure exactly what it is but she is quite excited about it. I spoke to Aunt Murdock on Monday and she is sounding much like her old self again. Obviously, she is going to have to slow down a little but she sounds much better than she did at Christmas.

And, to top it all, I have heard back from the insurance company about my poor old Bently. thankfully the old girl is built like a tank so the damage is mainly superficial. That said though, it is still going to take a couple of weeks for the repairs to be completed. But then again, quality and craftsmanship can’t be rushed. I will just have to be patient.

Albert is still rather upset about the whole thing. He has never been involved in an accident before and, despite my constant reassurances that he is in no way to blame, he seems to feel responsible for the damage inflicted on my dear old car. If it is anyone’s fault it is the driver of the delivery vehicle that hit us, although I understand that he is denying this. I personally have no desire to get involved in all the arguments and who is or isn’t to blame, I am only too pleased to leave that in the hands of my brokers. Personally, I just want my old car back.

One of the most unexpected consequences of being involved I what they term a road traffic accident is the pressure to make a claim for injury or losses, even if there aren’t any. I think that most people will agree that I am a fairly tolerant man – there are not many things that really make me angry, but this modern-day obsession with apportioning blame and pursuing ridiculous claims is one of them. I have often heard the phrase “where there is blame, there is a claim” and I never really understood what it meant until now. From what I hear from the chaps down at the Club, this culture for claiming compensation for even the most trivial of incidents is costing insurance companies, and so consequently yours truly, an absolute fortune. And as some of them have business interests in the insurance industry one has to believe what they say. I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If the commpanies are paying out untold thousands of pounds in compensation, that that will mean higher premiums for the rest of us. I do not pretend to understand how the insurance industry works – all that underwriting and so on just confuses me – but even I can see the logic in that.

I believe that several companies have already attempted to make contact with me regarding my “injuries”. It is a good job they didn’t come through directly to me I can tell you. I would have given them a piece of my mind and sent them off with a flea in their ear, make no mistake about that.

Now don’t get me wrong, where there is a genuine case I am all in favour of victims receiving their just compensation, but this idea that one is somehow owed something I find rather offensive. I was pleased to note that many of my chums at the Club are of the same mind. As far as I am concerned, at this moment in time, my most pressing concern is the return of my Bentley.

This week I have spent three mornings in the office making good my promise to be more involved in the family business. And I must say that it is all much more complicated than I had at first thought. Not that I was under an illusion over the complexity of the family’s affairs. Generations of wheeling and dealing have left few avenues for investment untrodden. I am sure that with the help of Miss Drayton and Aunt Murdock I will learn enough to enable to steer this somewhat ponderous ship into a bright and prosperous future. However, I suspect that many of the various managers are expecting my endeavours to fall a little short. I can’t blame them if they do. My record with the firm hasn’t exactly been glittering. Working under my father I made a lot of mistakes, which is why he left the running of the family’s affairs to Aunt Murdock. He never had much faith in me, and looking back I can understand why. I am not a natural when it comes to business and financial affairs, but I am determined to do my best this time around. After all, I am a little older and more determined than I was I was in my twenties.

On Friday I was going to call on Hope again but decided instead to call her on the telephone. I have never been comfortable trying to hold conversations over the telephone; one never knows quite what the other person is doing or who they are with. I know it doesn’t trouble most people, but I always feel much happier when I can actually see the person I am talking to. But since I have had very little success when trying to visit her in person, and since the unfortunate events of my previous visit, I decided that it was much safer to call instead. As it happens, Hope was available and seemed genuinely pleased to hear from me. She could only speak to me briefly but we have agreed to meet for lunch next Tuesday, which is very agreeable to me. I think I will take somewhere quiet and intimate as I have a few things I would like to chat with her about, not least being Simon. I don’t know if she has seen him recently but I feel that if she does have any intentions towards him she needs to be made aware of his track record as far as women and relationships are concerned.

Yesterday I spent the evening with my old pal Dorchester and his family. they have a very nice little house south of the river where I spent many a pleasant weekend in my youth. Having known the family all of my life I find time spent with them much like being with family. One can relax and be one’s self in the company of people who have lived with one through the good times and the bad. We were joined by Dorchester’s two sisters, Clara and Emily. Clara is just getting over a particularly acrimonious divorce whilst Emily is visiting from abroad. At the moment she is living in Germany where she works in some capacity for the European Union. I think she is a researcher, but I may have got that wrong. We had a very pleasant evening, catching up on recent events and reminiscing about some of Mine and Dorchester’s little adventures when we were on holiday from school. Clara reminded me of a time when the four of us decided to take a boat onto the Serpentine, only to capsize the thing after becoming a little too boisterous. I think we all developed nasty colds and Clara insists that she has never been on a boat since. Half in jest I suggested that I take her back to the scene of the crime once the lake reopens in the spring. To my surprise, she said she would love to, providing I agreed to behave myself!

During the evening I asked Dorchester about Anne. He was a little coy, I suspect because he didn’t want to say anything in front of his sisters, but from what he did say, it seems that he has seen her a couple of times since Christmas. I must say that I was delighted with this news. Anne is a really wonderful young lady much more suitable than that American he was seeing until recently. I am not sure his parents are aware f this new relationship; they seem to be under the impression that he can make things up with Annabelle. From my point of view, he is much better off without her and I hope that his new relationship with Anne works out. I am sure his family will all like her.

I have no plans for today other than visiting the Club this evening after dinner here with Dorothy and Angela. In fact, Dorothy is cooking and has told me to “expect the unexpected”, whatever that is supposed to mean. I just hope it is nothing too continental or spicy. I do enjoy Dorothy’s cuisine, but there have been occasions where her dishes have been a little too hot for me. Anyway, I had better go and prepare myself. There should be just enough time for a snifter of the old Scotish firewater and a glance through the newspapers.

Not a very good start to the year

I have to say that 2018 has not begun auspiciously for me. New Year’s Eve itself was much as I’d imagined it would be. I joined the chaps at the Club for a few celebratory drinks and we saw the old year out in good style. Most of the old guard were there, in body if nothing else. From what I saw, most of them were asleep long before midnight and should really have been tucked up in bed with their cocoa. Those who did manage to stay awake joined us at the bar in time to hear Big Ben herald in the new year.

We all have hopes that each new year will bring us better luck, health or prosperity than the one before. Some of the chaps were talking about gym memberships, diets and abstinence, but we all know that they will either have forgotten their resolutions before morning or will have discarded them before the end of January.

Anyway, I left the Club around 1 o’clock, hoping to flag down a taxi. This it turns out was my first mistake. I should have arranged to have old Arthur pick me up but I had given him the night off. Normally taxis are fairly easy to get, even at that time, but on this particular occasions, probably due to it being New Year, there were none to be had. The one thing that there was no shortage of was drunken revellers, tumbling out off every bar and club and making a damned nuisance of themselves. In the end, I had to walk all the way to Piccadilly before I could secure myself a taxi. By the time I arrived home it was almost 2 o’clock and I was not happy at all.

Whether it was due to the inclement weather, the drink or something else entirely, I awoke Monday afternoon feeling more than a little unwell. Now, I am not normally one for letting minor sniffles and colds get the better of me, but for once, it knocked me right out. In fact, I was so ill that I didn’t leave my bedroom for the whole day and only did so on Tuesday because I was getting unimaginably bored of just laying there, staring at the ceiling and feeling sorry for myself. Dorothy tells me that an awful lot of people have been struck down with colds and flu over the festive period, so I am not alone. Not that that is reassuring in any way. When one is unwell, there is little comfort in knowing that others are also suffering.

By Wednesday I was well enough to be out and about, so decided that I would make my way to Hope’s gallery. From previous experience, I knew that there was little chance of me managing to entice her away for lunch, but I did hold out some hope of at least having a little chat. When I last saw her she had been leaving the old country pile with that rogue Simon and I was keen to be reassured that he had not in any way upset her. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it seems that she had in fact made arrangements to meet Simon that very afternoon and could only spare me a few minutes before she had to leave. From what she told me, I gather that he cancelled his prior plans for the new year to spend it with Hope and Charlotte. Needless to say, this was not the news I had wanted to hear. Simon’s reputation is not a good one and I was very surprised that Hope had been taken in by his insincere charms.

Had Charlotte been at the gallery I would have attempted to talk to her, but she was, apparently, at home working on some project or other, so, on leaving the gallery I made my way to the Club for some lunch and a few drinks. At least, that was my plan. What I hadn’t planned for, and indeed never could have imagined happening, was that as we made our way out of Chelsea, Arthur and I were involved in what was a minor accident involving ourselves and a large delivery truck. I say minor only because no one was seriously hurt, but the damage inflicted on my dear old Bentley was not inconsiderable. In the end, both vehicles had to be towed away and I decided at that point to simply return home. I have to say Arthur was rather shaken by the whole affair and I had to send him home. Obviously, I still have the Daimler to get around in, but the Bentley is an old family favourite and I am very anxious about its future.

Yesterday (Thursday) was a rather quiet day. I awoke feeling stiff and rather sorry for myself so remained indoors for the entire day. Dorothy fussed about administering various remedies, even at one point suggesting a massage to ease my aching back. Nigel came round and we did a little more work on the ever-growing family tree, but otherwise, I didn’t do very much at all.

I am still not feeling at my best today but did manage to get to the Club for a very nice lunch with a few of the chaps. It seems that most of them will be returning to work on Monday, so we made the most of having one last afternoon together before we return to the old grindstone. Over lunch, the subject of resolutions came up again. Whilst I have already made my views on such things well known before, I was intrigued to hear what others were planning to start or give up. For most of them, next week will see the beginning of a new health and fitness regime, although I very much doubt that many of them will stick it out for more than a week or two. They have no staying power. When pressed, I suggested that I might give more attention to business matters this year. That at least is something I think I can do and, in many ways, actually, need to do. Aunt Murdock is not getting any younger so no doubt I will have to take on more responsibility over the coming months.

I think that for me it is going to have to be an early night. It has been a long day, and not the best of weeks, what with the crash, feeling ill and Hope’s involvementt with Simon. Hopefully, tomorrow will mark the beginning of something better.

 

 

No time for resolutions

It is that time of year when one is expected to make a resolution, things one wants to give up or to start. If I am being totally honest I have to say that I have never held with the whole new year resolution thing and I don’t understand why people bother. After all, the majority of resolutions made tonight will be broken by the end of February.

My mother was always very keen on this kind of thing. She would often press me to either give up something she saw as a bad habit or to take on some new project or other. It goes without saying that I have never kept any of them. But then again, neither did she.

I can’t help thinking that the middle of the winter is probably not the best time to be thinking of making fresh starts. New Year is just a fluke of the calendar; it lands in the middle of winter with two very cold and wet months still to come. As far as I can see January is a very bad time to be making life-changing decisions. If one is going to make big decisions then maybe the best time for doing it is the spring. At least then there are the warmer summer months to help brighten one’s outlook.

This evening I am going down to the Club to join the chaps for our regular New Year celebrations. I had hoped that Hope would join me as my guest but since she left the house with Simon I haven’t been able to speak to her. As it is I am sure I will have a great evening, as usual, enjoying a drink or three with friends. There are worse ways to see out the old year.

A Yuletide to remember

Well, that is it. Christmas is now over for another year. From what I see and read the shops are very busy and the roads appalling! Here at the country house, things are still relatively quiet and thankfully free of snow and ice. we have all had a jolly good time of it. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is one the best Christmases I have had for quite some time. I have spent the past few days with some of the people closest to me which have made it rather special. And after all, that is what Christmas is supposed to be about. I know that some people get a little too caught up in the whole gift thing, but for us this year it has all been about the company and friendship.

The surprising thing is just how quickly the time has passed by. I can hardly believe it is Thursday already. When you look at it we spend days, weeks even, preparing for the one day and it is over before you know it. All that food, the presents and anticipation pile up, just to disappear almost in a flash.

Dorothy took on the role of hostess and, with the help of Angela and Aunt Murdock, served up the most amazing Christmas dinner. I knew she was a good cook, having had the pleasure of eating several of her meals over the past few months, but Monday’s spread was something quite different from the suppers we have shared in Kensington. It goes without saying that we all ate and drank far too much and spent most of the afternoon and evening immobile in the sitting room. Even Dorchester seemed to forget his troubles and really seemed to enjoy himself.

I was delighted when Anne joined us on Boxing Day. Her children had been picked up by their father to spend a few days with him, leaving her free to join us. I must say that she was a very welcome addition to the party and she made a particular impression on Aunt Murdock who seemed quite drawn to her. More than once I saw them deep in conversation. I only hope it was about colour schemes rather than romantic ones! Anne herself seemed happy to chat with the old Mad Duck so I was happy to leave them to it.

But Aunt Murdock wasn’t the only one to take an interest in Anne. I have often been told that I am not very good at picking up on other people’s feelings or thoughts, but even I had noticed that dear old Dorchester has been paying Anne a great deal of attention this week. I think that he is really taken with Anne and I could not have been more pleased.

Things were going swimmingly until Wednesday afternoon until the arrival of my old school chum Simon. I am not sure what possessed me to invite him down here and I am only grateful that he didn’t arrive any sooner. At school Simon was a bit of a loose cannon at times and as an adult has gained quite a reputation for his drinking and womanising. I had obviously had a little too much to drink myself when I invited him.

Anyway, almost as soon as he arrived I noticed that Simon was paying particular attention to Anne who was still with us. In fact, she had been with us almost permanently since Tuesday. I had suggested she stay over for the next few days, but she decided against it as there seemed to be a large enough party as it was. Which was probably just as well as Simon’s attention did not seem to go down to well with her. Not that this seemed to deter him at all, even when she made a point of staying close to Dorchester. It seems that Simon is rather more thick-skinned than I had realised and even after it was made very clear to him that Anne was not interested, the only thing that seemed to distract him was Hope’s arrival in the early evening.

Hope had decided to accept my invitation to stay with us for a couple of days. I was particularly pleased that she brought Charlotte with her but disappointed that her elder daughter, Emily, had chosen to return to her home up north. I had thought this would have been an ideal opportunity to met her at last. But anyway, it was good to have Hope and Charlotte with us.

No sooner had Hope and Charlotte divested themselves of their luggage and coats than the old rogue virtually pounced on the poor pair. I am pleased to say that Charlotte gave him very short shrift, sending him away with the veritable flea in his ear. She may be only seventeen, but she is already quite a formidable young lady and is obviously more than a match for the likes of Simon Fullerton.

Yesterday morning, however, saw Simon return to form and even before we had finished breakfast he was making eyes at Hope. I must say that I found his manner most disagreeable and felt compelled to say something to stop him upsetting my guests. But before I had an opportunity to formulate any kind of plan I noticed that far from being annoyed by Simon’s attentions, Hope seemed to be encouraging him. At one point during the meal, I saw her place her hand on his arm as she laughed at something he had said. Seated beside her mother, Charlotte looked as surprised as I was by this turn of events.

In fact, Hope and Simon remained thick as thieves for the rest of the morning. I could see both Charlotte and Aunt Murdock were not happy about their closeness and made no attempt to hide their feelings. I can’t explain why, but seeing Hope with Simon made me quite angry.

 

The afternoon and evening were rather taken up with playing host to a number of the local families who I had invited for drinks and nibbles. I was kept fairly busy so had little time to ponder on this odd turn of events, but I was a little distracted non-the-less.

The biggest disappointment was when, late on Thursday evening, Hope announced that she would be returning to London on Friday morning with Simon. He had offered her a ride as he was joining friends in town for the New Year and she had already stated that she needed to return to work in the gallery to ready it for a New Year exhibition. I had hoped that she would return with Dorothy, Angela and myself on Saturday morning, although to be fair to both of them, I had not actually asked her as yet, so I can’t really blame her for accepting the offer.

I know that Hope is a grown woman and make her own decisions, but one can’t help feeling protective when one’s close friends are quite obviously making the wrong decisions with regards to their relationships. Simon is a great conversationalist and has added a brighter dimension to our little gathering, but his reputation with the ladies worries me. The way he switched his attention from Anne to Hope is an indication of just how fickle his feelings are. Charlotte is obviously taken in by his charms and I can only hope that she has some influence on her mother, particularly as I believe he has already invited her to join him for the New Year celebrations. I was going to ask Hope and Charlotte to join me for a little New Year soiree being organised by my chum Cambridge, but it seems this may not be possible now.

Charlotte and Hope set off for London with Simon a little before midday and I got the distinct impression that Charlotte was not too happy about the arrangement. I did suggest that she might like to stay another day but she said she felt she ought to stay with her mother, particularly as they had so much work to do at the gallery. I have to admit that I felt a little relief that she would be there as her presence may prevent Simon from making any undue advances on her mother.

We have a small party arranged for this evening but I have to say that at the moment I am not really in the party mood. On the whole, it has been a jolly good Christmas, just slightly marred by Hope’s early departure from our little company. But however the rest of the day progresses, it can not distract from the fact that this has been a very special holiday for me. Aunt Murdock has been uncharacteristically quiet, but that is hardly surprising – she is not getting any younger and it has been a particularly busy year for her. Dorchester seems have got over the loss of Annabelle thanks to the help of Anne who does seem rather taken with him. Dorothy has been in her element acting as hostess and cook and even I can see just how close she and Angela have become. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they decide to live together come the new year. My only concern there would be that Angela’s flat is much too far from the city for my liking.

When not cosying up to Sara, Nigel has spent a great deal of time working on some new business plan. I am worried that he works too hard sometimes, but he assures me he is fine and that his plans should mean he can give up working for the bank and instead be his own boss. I can’t deny that the idea of his making his own way makes me very proud and I have already offered him whatever support he needs.

For now, I must go and prepare for this evening’s little “do” and for our return to London tomorrow. Nigel is staying behind to spend the new year at the house, but the rest of us should be back home in time for lunch.

Christmas is just around the corner

Christmas is a special time of year, whether one is religious or not. It is a time for family and friends, for celebrating our bonds and our good fortune. It is also a time for reflection. As we approach the end of another year, we get an opportunity to pause and look back at the things we have to be grateful for. It is also to give a thought to those who are not so fortunate. There are lots of people who have no family, few friends and little to be joyful about. I may not be able to do anything to help these poor people, but I will spare a thought and a prayer for them.

I for one have had a very good year and as we make our final preparations for the big day tomorrow, I can’t help but feel blessed to be sharing it with some of my closest and dearest friends and family. In deciding to spend Christmas at the old family home I wanted to rekindle some of the spirit that made my childhood Christmases so special. My mother was always so excited about this time of year and always put so much effort into making it special. Although my parents died in the summer months, it is at Christmas that I remember my mother the most. This year I have decided to make a special effort, but it would not have been possible without the help of dear Dorothy who seems to know exactly what needs to be done. Not only has she taken on the cooking duties, she has organised a party for the estate staff later this afternoon that I am sure will go down very well. And with a little help from myself and Angela, she has made a wonderful job of decorating the main part of the house. We even have the most enormous Christmas tree in the hall. I have no idea where it came from but I have long since learned not to question Dorothy, just to let her get on with things. The house looks almost as good as I remember it as a child.

Talking of great friends, I had lunch yesterday with Anne and she has accepted my invitation to join us on Boxing Day. She is spending Christmas Day at home with her children, but they are going to their father’s on Boxing Day so she is free to spend the day with us. That will be nice. I do find Anne to be not only very attractive but also very good company. She is very easy to talk to and seems genuinely interested in the things I have to say. She is also very keen on preserving the local heritage and has become active in the local campaign to stip proposed housing developments in the immediate area.

Almost everyone is here: Aunt Murdock and Uncle George, Dorchester, Dorothy and Angela, young Nigel and my Aunt Sara. My old school chum Simon may be joining us at some point and I am hoping that Hope will also be here, but for now, we have a splendid gathering and I am really looking forward to tomorrow.  Dasher has also said he will make an appearance some time during the week, but as is usual with him, he couldn’t be more specific.

Merry Christmas.

 

Festive thoughts and reflections

With so many members heading out of town for the festive season it has been remarkably quiet at the Club. But I shouldn’t complain as I am off into the country myself tomorrow for my own Christmas holiday and I must say that I am beginning to feel great anticipation for what promises to be a jolly fine gathering. I am not given to great introspection and seldom spend too much time pondering over the past. I have heard it said that the past is a foreign country and the future one as yet undiscovered. Now, that’s all a little too profound for me, I am actually a very simple sort of chap, but at this time of year, most people seem to take time to reflect on the previous year and make plans for the one to come, and I suppose that I am feeling in that kind of mood myself.

The reason for this untypical behaviour is probably down to Dorothy and her suggestion that we have a sort of movie night last night. Angela is out of town for a couple of days and we were both at a loose end, so I thought “why not?” We watched two Christmas films, both black and white’s from the 1940s: “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”.  Obviously, I have seen both films before; who hasn’t? I have to admit that on previous viewings I found both to be rather too sentimental for my taste and, if I am being totally honest, I am not a great fan of either James Stewart or precocious child actors. But last night, mainly I think because of Dorothy’s enthusiasm and her passion for the meanings behind the stories, I saw both films in something of a new light.

That doesn’t mean to say I find them any less sentimental or indulgent, but I found myself giving some thought to the meanings behind the corny dialogue. Not that these two films are any different to all the others made during this period. Don’t get me wrong, many of these old black and white films are wonderful, they typify the best of Hollywood. But I don’t think anyone would deny that the scripts were very often slow and contrived. And they really don’t get much worse than It’s a WonderfulLife. But behind that banality and bad acting, Dorothy introduced me to a meaning I hadn’t really considered before. Both films opened a window on the past and offer hope for a better future.

And that is what got me thinking about the past year and what a busy and interesting one it has been. Obviously, it isn’t over yet and the way things are going at the moment almost anything could happen before the new year starts. But whatever happens over the next couple of weeks this year has been one of change and inspiration. For one thing, I have started writing. That much is obvious or you wouldn’t be reading this. For another, I now have Dorothy living with me, and although it may not have worked out the way Aunt Murdock intended when she reintroduced us, she has become an inspiration and a great support to me over the past few months.

For the moment though my thoughts are all on my Christmas in the country. It promises to be a particularly good one this year. On a number of previous occasions, the whole thing has flashed by me in a blur leaving me little in the way of memories, other than lingering reminders of intense hangovers. This year promises to be one of those that I remember for the right reasons.

This afternoon I took myself into town to make a few last-minute purchases before setting off tomorrow. With the help of my secretary, Miss Drayton, I have sorted most of my gifts but there are just a few things I need to pick up. I am anticipating that Hope will make it down to the house at some point over the holiday and I need to make sure I get her a little something special. Dorothy has made a couple of suggestions so I made my way to Mayfair. I had it in mind to buy her some kind of jewellery, but I have never been very good at that sort of thing. After perusing several very fine establishments I settled on what I consider to be a quite modern design. Of course, it is always a risk buying a lady jewellery, but I am quietly confident I have found something she will like. I know that Hope is a very “arty” person, but on Dorothy’s recommendation, rather than going for big and colourful, I have chosen something simple and elegant. Or at least, that is what I believe it is. I just hope now that she does make it to the house.

I am now going to pop down to the Club for once last drink or two before heading into wildest Hampshire. I am not expecting it to be particularly busy this evening, but hopefully one or two of the usual crowd will be there.

 

Surprise party

It has been quite a busy weekend here at the Dimbelby-Smyth residence. I had no plans other than visiting the Club, but all that changed yesterday morning when I received an unexpected telephone call from my old chum Dasher. He had heard from one of our old school friends, the old rogue Simon Fullerton, inviting us both to a small soiree he had arranged at his home in deepest, darkest Cambridgeshire. I have to admit to being more than a little surprised as I have not seen Simon since our ill-advised school reunion back in 2012. I had always thought it a bad idea and the events of that awful night proved that I was right. So to get an invitation to his family home was very surprising and I was not all that sure I was happy with the idea.

Dasher was quick to allay my years, saying that it was a much more formal affair and we were the only two friends from his school days that had been invited. I can’t say that I found this too reassuring and I couldn’t help feeling a little suspicious about Simon’s motives in inviting us, particularly at such short notice. Of course, Dasher knew I had no other plans so, in the end, I agreed to drive us both up there.  I thought, at least it will give me an opportunity to give the old Bentley a runout, and a party in the country might be fun.

The traffic out of London was appaling. I had forgotten just how bad the roads can be on a Saturday. I must say that the standard of driving these days is just not what it used to be. No one seems to have any consideration for anyone else. Whatever happened to common courtesy and the idea of giving way to lot other drivers through? Needless to say, I was quite stressed by the time we reached the quieter roads of Cambridgeshire itself, although even there we encountered far more traffic than I had anticipated. Added to this, I had forgotten that Dasher is hopeless and reading maps. He has never learned to drive himself and seems to have only the vaguest notion of directions. Consequently, we found ourselves heading in the wrong direction on more than one occasion, which didn’t do much to calm my already rather frayed nerves.

Simon’s family home is one of those old rambling halls with more chimneys than is really necessary and enough bedrooms to billet a small army. The house was built by one of  Simon’s ancestors back in the 1700s but the estate is much older. I believe the family has lived in one hall or another on this land for over 500 years. I have only visited the place on about three occasions in the past and each time it reminds me of something from gothic horror movies. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that it had been used as the setting for one of those ghastly Hammer Horror films that used to feature the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I was reminded of this particularly as we approached the house in the fading light of dusk. The only thing missing was the full moon and mist!

We were greeted at the door by Simon himself who insisted on showing us to our rooms. I was still none the wiser as to why we had been invited, and on such short notice, but Simon, with his usual bonhomie and charm, soon had us unpacked, changed and ready to mingle, as it where.

In fact, despite my trepidations and suspicions, Dasher and I had a wonderful evening. The drink flowed, the food was delicious and the other guests quite charming. Simon always was one for parties and never seemed to take anything too seriously. He used to get into all kinds of scrapes at school and from what I hear, he has been much the same as an adult. He already has two marriages behind him and is currently on the lookout for wife number three. Indeed, he spent an awfully large part of the evening with one particular young lady who, to my mind, is much too young for him. Not that he was exclusive at all in his flirtations. During the course of the evening, I came across him a number of occasions getting up close with several different women.

As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Although I didn’t know many of the other guests personally, many were known to me either by reputation or as members of families with which I am acquainted. There were a couple of arty types, a few businessmen, several thespians and a fair smattering of local aristocracy, nit that I could name any of them by the time I arose this morning. And I must pay a compliment to Simon’s extensive cellar. There were several interesting Highland malts available together with some particularly fine wines. Needless to say, I had more than my fair share of both, which left me just a little tipsy. And it was whilst in this state that I seem to have invited Simon to join my little party at the house over Christmas. I don’t actually recall offering the invitation, but Simon reminded me of it this morning just as Dasher and I were about to leave. Had I been sober, I probably would not have been so rash, but in the words of Doris Day: Que sera sera. The invitation has been made and I can’t withdraw it.

We had a much better journey home, although I have to admit that my overindulgence of Saturday night left me feeling a little fragile. By the time we arrived back in town I was in desperate need food and drink so we wasted no time making our way to the Club. It can be quite quiet on a Sunday afternoon, but for some reason, it was extremely busy today. I came home a little after six, leaving Dasher at the bar.

Although I had felt my invitation to Simon was both rash and ill-advised, I have had time to reflect on it and I now do not feel quite as concerned about it as I did this morning. Knowing Simon there is a very good chance he won’t turn up anyway, and if he does, I am sure he will get along with my other guests.