A frank exchange of views

One of the things I really enjoy about the Club, aside from the excellent food and extensive wine cellar, is that one never knows who is going to be there and which way conversations will go. There is such a variety of views that discussions are never boring, and can at times become quite heated. However, there is one thing that unites almost all of the members, and that is our concern over the terrible state our country is in at the moment. What we cannot agree on is the cause of the problem and how to fix it.

Quite a few of the chaps, and I include myself in this, are getting just a little impatient with the government over the whole Brexit thing. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to politics and finance, but even I can see that things aren’t going so well. The media is constantly referring to it as a divorce, which I suppose in a way it is, with both sides fighting over the family silver. My worry is that whilst the Union chappies seem fairly united in their approach, we are still fighting amongst ourselves over what we want to get out of the process. We can all see that despite what the Prime Minister says there is very little unanimity even in her own government.

What some of the chaps are saying is that they are more worried about the uncertainty and bickering than they are about Brexit itself. Like any divorce, each side wants to get the best it can for itself. Even the most amicable of separations will inevitably result in some conflict of interests; not that I have much experience of this kind of thing. What most people seem to want is certainty. I know one or two of my friends have business interests in the City and they are the ones most concerned about all the dithering and in-fighting. Apparently, the uncertainty about what is going to happen after Brexit is having an impact on investments and trade. I suppose I am in the same boat having investments of my own in City properties. Which reminds me that I really must talk to Aunt Murdock about this when I see her next.

There is still some disagreement amongst the chaps about how best to go about the Brexit negotiations. On one hand, there are those who want Mrs May to take a very firm stand and refuse any kind of compromise. On the other, and these are mainly the same people who supported the remain argument, there are those who want us to take what they refer to as a more pragmatic and open approach. I am not entirely sure which will be best for the country, but I suspect that it is somewhere in the middle. Even I know that there is never going to be a deal that satisfies the demands of both sides completely so we will have to accept some form of compromise. I am sure the debate will rumble on at the bar and, if the past week is anything to go by, it will only get more heated.

It is not just at the Club that the subject of Brexit rears it’s ugly head from time to time. Dorothy and Angela have been very vociferous in their support of remaining in the EU and are still very angry at the result. Angela has even spoken about getting herself a German passport. It seems that her mother’s family are from Germany so she can claim dual nationality if she wishes. I know that a number of people have done this recently, but to me, it seems a little futile unless one is actually planning to move there. I am not sure Dorothy would be too happy about that, but I am not going to interfere with their relationship or plans. What Dorothy has said on more than one occasion is that she is embarrassed by the whole thing. She has a lot of foreign friends and says that they can’t understand why we would want to leave the European club. I have tried to explain about sovereignty and the British standing in the world, but for some reason, she just can’t seem to understand it. I know that some people have implied it is some form of nostalgia for the days of the old Empire, but, at least as far as I am concerned, it isn’t that. It is just about being in control of our own destiny and our own laws. We should not be dictated to by other people. The rules and regulations we have to accept from Brussels are scandalous. For me, it is all about being able to decide things for ourselves. No one likes to be dictated to by outsiders who don’t understand our history or our customs. The French, Spanish and Germans have all tried to defeat us in war and failed; we can’t let them succeed by the back door.

Another subject that seems to have been creating something of a buzz at the bar this week is that of the Prime Minister’s position. I didn’t follow the events of the Party conferences – far too boring and narcissistic for my liking, all that self-congratulation and pompous self-righteousness does nothing for me – but those who do were very critical of Mrs May’s performance and the way she has been treated by the Party. I have to admit to having a great deal of respect for Mrs May, but even I am beginning to think that maybe she isn’t up to the job of leading us through our current troubles. Not that there seems to be a great deal of choice for replacement at the moment. With the Party so divided over Europe I don’t honestly think that there is anyone else capable of uniting all sides, and as far as I am concerned, unity is far more important than anything else right now.

There is only one subject at the moment that seems to have almost unanimous agreement with the chaps at the bar, and that is our mutual distrust of the American President, Donald Trump. Whilst he may be successful as a businessman – and there seems to be a little disagreement even over that – as a politician and diplomat he is very much out of his depth. The man seems to have absolutely no idea of how the world actually works. Several of the regulars at the Club have financial interests in the aircraft industry and are very angry over Trump’s recent announcements over the imposition of tariffs on Bombardier aircraft. One gets the feeling that he makes these announcements without thinking them through first. I certainly get the feeling that he doesn’t discuss things with his staff before taking to social media to make is pronouncements. I suppose that he is used to having complete control of his businesses and can’t seem to grasp the idea that his decisions have to me about more than just making money. America is not a business, it is a country, and it cannot be run in quite the same way. Having said that, Americans can be a little odd that way, putting financial gain ahead of everything else. I have said it before, they are a nation with no history and no idea of social etiquette. It is unfortunate that they have so much power and influence or we could just ignore them and let them get on with playing their silly games.

Mind you, we do have to be careful when discussing the Americans, and their President in particular, if my old chum Dorchester is around. Apparently, his American girlfriend is a Trump supporter (a Trump-et!) and he is very defensive of her views. According to Annabelle, the President can do no wrong. She fully supports his positions on immigration, North Korea and protecting American businesses. And whilst I can sort of see her point and some of his decisions, I cannot support her misguided view that Donald Trump is the saviour of the western world. The man’s a fruitcake I would hesitate to leave in control of a Sunday School, let alone a country.

Changing the subject completely, I had a call yesterday from Hope about some event or other she is holding at her gallery in a couple of weeks time. Apparently, it is one of those evenings when new artists get to display their work and she has asked me to go along. Of course, I have accepted the invitation, but I am not sure it is really my kind of thing. I have seen some of the work she has on display and it is all far too modern for me. My taste is more conservative I suppose, but she has been kind enough to ask me, so I will definitely have to go. I had thought of inviting Dorothy to join me, but she will be in Edinburgh by then.

 

Dining out

I have been asked by a few of my more casual acquaintances how they might find the best places to dine whilst in town. 

Well, the answer is quite simple really: never eat at a restaurant that has featured on TV, never eat at any establishment that is open for breakfast and never, never, ever eat anywhere with a flashing neon sign. I would also suggest avoiding anywhere with the word “hut” in its name, and give a particularly wide berth to anywhere with a nautical theme. But above all, do not, I repeat do not, at any costs, eat at any restaurant that specialises in Mexica, Moroccan, Asian or Oriental dishes – that is just asking for trouble.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love my food. It is one of life’s little pleasures that I simply will not cut corners on. For me, taste is everything, the presentation just an added bonus. There are some people who can be very snobbish about their food, but not me. Amongst my closest friends, I am considered to be quite cosmopolitan in my approach to cuisine. I have often heard my old chum Cambridge say he would never eat any of that, as he calls it, “foreign muck”! Even I consider that to be quite a narrow-minded view; we all need to broaden our horizons these days. I myself have learnt the benefits of Eastern European cooking, thanks to my housekeeper, Mrs Kaczka, who is a veritable wizard in the kitchen. She often prepares traditional Polish dishes for me, and her cakes and pastries are simply divine.

On the other hand, on several occasions, dear old Nigel has tried to entice me into trying some Indian or oriental dishes, but I am afraid that I just have to draw a line in the proverbial sand over that idea. It is all well and good for those native fellows to eat such things, but for the more refined, civilised palette, I fear all those spices and other very un-European ingredients are just a step too far. Admittedly, Nigel seems to enjoy these hot and spicy dishes, but he is young and I am sure he will learn better eventually.

Indeed, one of my old school friends once tried one of those spicy Indian dishes after a fairly heavy drinking session during our college days. If you had seen the state of him the following morning you would not go anywhere near the stuff. We never got all the stains out of the furniture.

Now, I understand that although some of the towns and cities outside of London do have what might conservatively be considered to be fine dining establishments. However, I regret that I must advise great caution. You really can’t expect the same high standards and levels of culture and civility as you will get here in town.

In the end, there is no real art to choosing the correct place to eat, it is more about knowing which places to avoid. I have often found that personal recommendation is far more reliable than anything else.

Of course, the best places to dine are those where you know the chef or those that are owned by friends. But I have found that quite often having one of those TV chefs can mean dramatically increased prices for very little return in terms of quality or variety.

And one final thought: if the restaurant of your choice is fully booked, then that is the one you actually want. An empty restaurant is usually that way for a very good reason.

Not a Hope-less cause

Yesterday evening Hope accompanied me to Cambridge’s latest charity soiree, and even though I say so myself, it was a great success. Old Cambridge throws these little parties of his from time to time, usually when a particular cause catches his eye, and they are inevitably always well supported, both in terms of numbers and the money raised. It must be two years since his last bash which I remember very well, only because I was ill at the time and on soft drinks all evening, Aunt Dorothy saw to that. That particular event had been to support a hospice or some such somewhere up North. Yesterday we were there for a charity providing schools and educational opportunities for children abroad, in Africa or Asia I think. Wherever it is, I am sure it is a very worthy cause. Cambridge himself is very keen on this kind of thing. He has often lectured me on the futility of raising money to simply feed people. Far better, he says, to educate them or provide ways to help make the self-sufficient. I know he is very supportive of local children’s charities which I find rather odd for a man who has never had any of his own. At least, as far as I know. There are rumours around the Club that he makes regular donations to a children’s hospice on the coast somewhere, but I have never asked him about it. After all, one should not pry into another fellow’s financial affairs.

Anyway, as you would expect, the whole thing was meticulously organised and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. I know I did.

I picked up Hope at a little after 7 o’clock as arranged, and I must say that as I saw her approaching the car the sight of her almost took my breath away. If anything she looked even more attractive than when I had first been reacquainted with her at the Sweetmans’ garden party several weeks ago. Her dress was a sort of shimmering blue with sparkling jewels around the top. It was full length but with a slit up the left that showed off a very shapely leg. I don’t know much about this kind of thing – I can’t tell one style from another – but it certainly looked expensive, and was very flattering. Hope has lost a lot of weight over the last few years and the way she was dressed emphasised her shape to great effect. She may not have the figure of a supermodel, but she is most definitely a very attractive lady.

For most of the evening, Hope and I were seated with several of the chaps from the Club. After the food, Cambridge held one of his popular auctions. I very rarely take part in these things, not because I don’t want to contribute to the cause (I always do that), but because the items themselves never really interest me. On this occasion, however, Hope persuaded me to bid for a weekend break at some healthy club or other out in the country. She told me it was a very expensive establishment with an excellent reputation, and although she had never been herself, she was sure I would enjoy it. Remembering my experience earlier on the week I was not too sure about that but took part in the bidding anyway.

Well, I must admit that once I started I found myself determined to win. No matter what anyone else bid, I was prepared to go higher. With the adrenalin pumping and Hope getting more and more excited, I just kept on going. It was just numbers, and I have never been very good with that sort of thing.

When the bidding finally stopped and we realised I had won, Hope was jumping around like an excited school girl and I must have looked a little like the Cheshire cat. Of course, I have no intention of going there myself, but I offered it to Hope and suggested she should take Charlotte along, make it a girls weekend. The look she gave me was one I think I will remember for quite some time. I hadn’t noticed before, but Hope has a wonderfully warm and inviting smile that seems to light up her whole face. She looked almost youthful and I was quite taken aback when she reached across and kissed me on the cheek.

A little later the dancing started. I had every intention of asking Hope to join me for a spin around the floor, but before I had the opportunity to do so, we were joined by a gentleman who was obviously acquainted with her. We were introduced but I can’t recall his name, only that he was something in the art world and seemed to have some business to discuss. I excused myself and made my way over to speak to Cambridge who was holding court at the far end of the room. Amongst those with him was Dorothy’s old friend Clara West. We had last met several weeks ago when Dorothy and Angela had tried their hand at matchmaking. I hadn’t seen her since and was pleasantly surprised to bump into her again. We chatted for a short while before I thought I had better return to Hope and ask her for that dance.

But when I got back to the table, Hope was not there. Assuming she must have gone to the ladies room, I sat and poured myself another glass of wine. It was only after I had been sat there a while that I spotted Hope at a neighbouring table talking with a group of mainly younger people. I could have joined her of course, but as I did not know any of them and wouldn’t really have anything to say if they were the arty sort, I decided to wait until she returned.

When she eventually did rejoin me I immediately asked her for a dance. It turns out that my assumption that all ladies liked to dance was a little wide of the mark. Apparently, Hope didn’t do what she called “proper dancing”. I must admit that I was a little surprised by this revelation. Within my own circle of friends and family, everyone danced, particularly the ladies. It is just one of those things one is expected to be able to do.

Shortly after this Hope said she was tired and was going to go home. I offered her a lift but she declined, saying that she would get a taxi. She suggested I should stay and enjoy the rest of the evening with my friends. It turns out that she was leaving early in the morning to visit friends in Bath. I spent the rest of the evening with Cambridge and Clara, and even managed a couple of dances before leaving a little after midnight. I was going to go on to the Club with some of the chaps but in the end, I decided against it.

I had a call from Hope around midday today. She was calling from her friend’s house and thanked me for taking her along to the last night’s soiree. Apparently, Charlotte was “over the moon” about the weekend break and Hope apologised for leaving so early and not dancing. I told her that was quite all right and that I had danced with Clara after she had left. The call then came to an abrupt end as she had to join her friends for lunch.

As I say, it had been a very enjoyable evening. It was very nice to spend some time with Hope. I really do enjoy her company. She is only a few years younger than me but there is something almost youthful about her. I find her very easy to talk to and find myself wanting to tell her everything. It was also good to see Clara again. It turns out she is back in London for a few weeks. I know she is planning on visiting Dorothy so no doubt we will meet again.

Never again!

I was due to go to the office this morning, but as I awoke unable to move any part of my body, I have had to give it a miss. When I went to bed last night  I was very tired and a little stiff. This wasn’t surprising considering my visit to the gym in the morning.

But when I tried to get out of bed this morning, stiffness had been replaced by rigor mortis! I couldn’t move any of my limbs, my neck had set and my back felt like someone had strapped me to a pole. I had to get up, if only to go to the bathroom, but try as I might, I couldn’t sit up. In the end, the only way I could get off the bed was to shuffle towards the edge, let my legs swing over the side, and propel myself into an upright position. I managed to wobble to the bathroom, and with some struggle did what I had to do before shuffling my way back to bed.

I have never felt so much physical pain in my life. Every part of my body seemed to be either on strike or in rebellion against me. I decided that the best thing I could do at this point was to go back to sleep in the hope that with a little more rest I would feel better. On the plus side I did sleep some more, but on the negative side, it did nothing to alleviate the stiffness and pain that was making any movement extremely painful, if not impossible.

Eventually, the need for breakfast forced me to once again make the painful journey from quilt to carpet. Once I had managed this I then had to face the Herculean task of putting on my housecoat. Getting my right arm in wasn’t too much of a problem, but then trying to manoeuvre the left resulted in several further expletives and not inconsiderable pain before I was successful. At this point, I was beginning to think I should have stayed horizontal. The thought of trying to get dressed filled me with a terror I had not experienced since I was a small child.

All I had to do then was go downstairs. This did not seem like it was going to be too bad. Or at least, so I thought. Almost as soon as I descended onto the first stair I realised my mistake. This was going to hurt! The only way I was going to make it all the way down was by taking the stairs one at a time. About halfway down the is a full-length mirror. I have often thought of moving it as I find it a little disconcerting at times, but have never got around to it. Why my mother chose to put one there I will never know. As I approached it I made the mistake of watching my painful descent. And I must admit that if it had been anyone else hobbling down the stairs I would have laughed. With both legs locked straight and my back unbending, I looked more like Herman Munster than the suave man-about-town. I have no idea how long the descent took, but it felt like an eternity, and I was very close to shedding a tear along with the colourful language that followed me down.

Once seated at the breakfast table I was able to relax and enjoy a much-needed cup of coffee while Mrs Kaczka fussed over me like I was a sickly child. Now normally her over attentiveness can be somewhat irritating, but for once, I accepted the attention gratefully. By the time I finished my first cup I realised that there was no way I was going to be able to work this morning. I am not even sure I would have been able to make my way to the office, at least not without attracting unwanted attention. Moving about was painful, but eventually, I did manage to loosen up enough to have a shower and get dressed. And all this because I had agreed to try out the gym.

Well, I can tell you now that I am never going back there again. Why on Earth would anyone want to put themselves through this kind of torture every week? As far as I can see it does a lot more harm than good. I have spent the whole day recovering and for what? What possible benefit could there be to justify what I have gone through today?

Dorothy came home shortly after lunch. When I told her how much I had been suffering she just laughed at me. According to her it just goes to prove how much I need the gym. Apparently, the more exercise you do the less painful it gets. She also predicted that it would be a lot worse tomorrow! I am not ashamed to admit that this last little gem of wisdom very nearly brought a further tear to my eye. The thought of going through all this again tomorrow was just too much. I had hoped that Dorothy would be more sympathetic to my plight. I was obviously mistaken.

My big worry at the moment though is how I am going to feel by Saturday. I am taking Hope to Cambridge’s little soiree and I had hoped we might take the floor for a dance or two. But I am feeling anything like as bad as I do today, I will instead be staying at the table and leaving the dancing to others. Which would be a shame as I am rather partial to a good dance. Not the modern jiving and jiggling around; no, I enjoy real dances like the waltz or the foxtrot. That doesn’t in any way imply that I am an expert or anything, but I did learn to dance at college and it is one of those activities I really do enjoy on the rare occasions I get the opportunity. My mother was a very good dancer but my father refused to take part, so I would often partner her at balls and events. I like to think that I cut a rather fine figure on the dance floor. Mind you, I don’t know if Hope is interested in dancing, but most women are, aren’t they? I suppose I will find out on Saturday.

Thinking about Saturday reminds me that I really must visit my barber tomorrow, providing I am physically capable of leaving the house. A good cut and shave will set me up very nicely. One wants to look one’s best for these big social events, and I wouldn’t want to let Hope down.

Down at the gym

Today was the day of my agreed visit to the gym. I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I had given my word so, that was that. But I still maintain that it is all a waste of time and energy. After all, what is so wrong with my body that I should feel the need to improve it?

Now admittedly I don’t have the physique of an athlete, but there is a very good reason for that: I am not an athlete! I play snooker and occasional golf, but that is about all. And I maintain that I am not overweight in any way. One or two comments have been made to the effect that I am getting a little paunch, but that only natural at my age. Certainly, nothing to get worked up about. To my mind, these gyms and clubs are playing on people’s vanity. A brisk walk and sensible diet are all that is really needed.

When I am walking through town I often see individuals who could definitely use some help to get their weight down. From my own observations, I think it is a social thing. Whilst I can think of one or two individuals of my acquaintance who could do with losing a pound or two, generally speaking, we are all fairly trim, we live active and healthy lives and eat the right foods. Those people I do encounter who may be considered obese or overweight are generally not of my social circle. It is all down to too many fatty foods and too much time spent in front of the television if you ask me.

Anyway, Archie collected me just after 10 o’clock and we made our way to his club. Of course, I knew the building but I hadn’t realised it was some kind of health club. I was also very surprised by what I found inside; it was more like a country hotel. I suppose we all have preconceived notions of what people and places will be like, and very often these ideas are quite close to the real thing, but often they are not. In this case, I had expected a room full of sweaty, middle-aged men in shorts and vests, pushing weights around. I did not expect the room full of fairly attractive young ladies riding bicycles and other rather elaborate pieces of equipment.

Once I was changed into my new gym clothes Archie introduced me to a very nice young lady called Sara. Apparently, she was to be my personal trainer who would be in charge if my induction.  I was a little alarmed as I wasn’t sure I wanted to be induced! Isn’t that something they do to pregnant women? But I need not have worried, it was more of an introduction to the facilities and to see what would be best for me.

Now, as I am sure I have already said, I don’t feel I need any of this exercise lark. I’m perfectly fit and have no intention of doing my body any further injury than is necessary. For a little over half an hour, Sara had me doing things that I never imagined I would do. It started with the cycling thing. Now, I’ve ridden a bicycle before, but not for a very long time, and even then, it was just a way of getting around the family estate. I had always used one to get around when I was at college, but since then, I have preferred to use cars. These days, on the rare occasions I visit the old family house, I use one of those electric jobbies they use on golf courses.

I found the cycling machine a little tiring, but not too bad actually. In fact, I felt quite good, even a little elated. I have to admit that at this point I was beginning to believe that it wasn’t so bad after all. I mean, my heart was beating away like some demented woodpecker on drugs and I am sure I was starting to sweat.

But this was just a warm-up, apparently. After that, Sara led me from one device of torture to the next. She had me pulling, pushing, lifting and generally doing things with my arms and legs that were totally unnatural. Whilst the atmosphere and general ambience were not what I had expected, the whole exercise thing pretty much lived up to my expectations.

At Archie’s suggestion, I finished my afternoon with a short session in the sauna and jacuzzi. Neither are new experiences for me, and they were a welcome way to relax after what Sara had put me through. It was while I was sat in the jacuzzi that I saw Hope’s daughter Charlotte come through from the changing rooms and head towards the pool. She was still there when we left, but I don’t think she saw me. Not that would be anything wrong with her seeing me, but I would rather not have to explain what I was doing there. After all, I had no intention of repeating the experience.

Once we had showered and changed, Archie and I went straight to the Club for a quiet lunch and a few drinks. I was a little tired from the morning’s exertions but still felt that strange exhilaration. It was not an unpleasant feeling, just one I am not used to.

Dorothy was pleased to hear about what I had been doing at the gym. She seems to believe that I am going to make a habit of it. I can assure you that I am not. It was interesting, even a little fun, but it just isn’t for me.

I had planned to go to the Club again this evening, but I am feeling tired and my legs are a little stiff. I suppose that is only to be expected after all I went through earlier today. So instead I will take myself off to bed with a good book. I am expected at the office tomorrow morning so it is probably just as well.

When I’m cleaning Windows

A very strange thing happened to me yesterday afternoon. It was one of those rare occasions when I was at home all alone. Normally either Mrs Kaczka or Mr Arnold would be about but as it turns out, they both had things to do in town, and Dorothy was out with Angela somewhere. Anyway, shortly after midday, the telephone rang. Under normal circumstances I would leave it for someone else to answer, but as there wasn’t anyone else about I picked it up myself.

My greeting was answered by a charming young man who introduced himself as Daniel and told me he was calling about my computer. He said he was from Windows and that my computer was reporting it had some kind of virus. Now, I don’t know very much about computers, but I do know that mine is a Windows one, so I knew straight away that he knew what he was talking about.

Now, when I say he was a young man, that was just an assumption. Obviously, I couldn’t actually see him, but he sounded young and I think I detected a hint of an Asian accent, despite his very English sounding name. That is one of the things I mistrust about people you don’t know calling you on the telephone, sometimes voices can be deceptive. I remember once chatting several times to a lady it a local tailors. We spoke a couple of times over the telephone and I had built up a picture in my head of a petite blonde in her early to mid-twenties. When I actually met her on the day I collected my order, it turned out she was a rather well-built brunet of about 40. It was very disappointing. Not that I have anything against brunettes, but when you have a picture of someone in your head you can’t help but be a little disappointed when the reality doesn’t quite live up. You just can’t tell from a voice.

So, back to my Windows man. The first thing he wanted me to do was to turn on my computer. This may seem a simple enough instruction, but as the telephone, I had picked up was in the hallway and the computer in the study, I couldn’t see how I would manage it. There is an extension telephone next to the computer, so Daniel suggested I put down the receiver I was currently using and pick up the one in the study instead. What a jolly good idea, I thought, and proceeded to put the receiver back in the cradle and make my way to the study. But when I picked up the phone, the line was dead. I wasn’t sure what had happened but turned the computer on anyway. Almost immediately the telephone rang again; it was Daniel. He said we must have been cut off so had called me back. They are so conscientious these support chappies.

Once the computer was up and running he said he would need to connect to it to help sort the virus problem. I was a little concerned about this as Nigel had been quite firm about not letting anyone else have access to the computer except him and myself. But as Daniel was calling from Windows, the people who make the computer, I decided that it would be all right, otherwise, how was he going to make my computer healthy again. I know what I am like if I get a virus, and I presume that same sort of thing happens to a computer, otherwise, why call it a virus. Obviously, a computer can’t get a runny nose and sore throat but they can become slow and struggle to do the simplest of tasks. And from what Nigel has told me, some infections can steal your identity and your bank details. It is all very worrying, so it is reassuring to know that so many people are looking out for me.

For the next ten minutes or so poor Daniel tried very hard to talk me through getting him connected to my computer, but no matter what we did it just wouldn’t work. He tried everything and was I think on the verge of giving up when I noticed that the light on my wireless box wasn’t on. When I asked him whether or not it was important he sounded a little frustrated but asked me to switch it on. After that, it all went much more smoothly. Or at least it did at first. I managed to get to the website he told me about and clicked where he said, but we still couldn’t get connected. I think that by this time he was getting a little frustrated and I have to admit that I too was beginning to lose interest in the whole thing. After all, Nigel was due to call round at some point so he could probably sort it.

Having to give up before Daniel had had an opportunity to administer his electronic cure for my virus was very disappointing. Luckily for me Nigel popped round a little later in the evening so I asked him to look into it. You can imagine my surprise when, instead of showing concern for the health of my new computer, he actually laughed. I was a little shocked by this. After all, Daniel and I had spent over an hour trying to fix things and I didn’t see what was so amusing about it. Once he had calmed down a bit, and after a rather large brandy, Nigel explained to me that Daniel was not from Windows (it isn’t a company apparently) and that what he was trying to do was to get access to my details and would probably at some point asked for my credit card details so he could take money from me. It was, it seems, all a scam. A fraud designed to rob me of as much cash as possible.

Well, I felt such a fool. It seems that I still have an awful lot to learn about all this computer stuff. Nigel was very good about it. He said that he had set up the computer so no one could get control of it, so the scam could never have worked the way they wanted it to. Which is good news for me of course.

In the end, no harm was done, except to my pride. So if you should ever get an unsolicited call from someone claiming that your computer is infected or needs a fix of some sort, put the phone down straight away. Do not, whatever you do, let them have access to your computer or bank details. It is frightening to think how easily I fell for this scam. How do these people sleep at night?

I left Nigel to check the computer and retired to the lounge. Dorothy returned home shortly afterwards and we settled down for a quiet evening watching Strictly Come Dancing. Nigel left after an hour or so, declining to join us.

Call off the search

I have said before that I sometimes get the feeling that my life is not my own anymore. This week, in particular, has been something of a roller coaster ride. From my unexpected shopping trip with Dorothy and Angela to yesterday evenings dressing down over my decision to take my secretary for lunch, I have been at the mercy of the women who are playing an increasingly active role in my affairs.

Today has been no exception to that.

Following the events of Wednesday, and particularly the talking to I had from both Dorothy and Aunt Murdock, I set aside a little time this morning to speak to Hope about Cambridge’ charity event next weekend. Having given the situation some thought I have to agree that is was very lax of me to have overlooked the transport side of things.

So, with a coffee and one of Mrs Kaczka’s chruściki cakes to fortify me (her pastries are truly wonderful), I relaxed into my favourite armchair and telephoned the gallery. I don’t know whether it was the caffeine or the sweet pastry, but my first two attempts to call resulted in wrong numbers. The first turned out to be a laundry service, the second some poor chap who thought I was some kind of religious fanatic. I managed to get through on the third attempt, only to be told that Hope was not in the gallery until after lunch as she had meetings all morning. I had a strange feeling of déjà vu – she is obviously a very busy woman.

I made several further attempts to speak to Hope throughout the day, but each time I was unsuccessful. It was as if the Fates themselves were fighting over the thread of my life and had wound up tied in knots. They have certainly been spinning a very strange kind of tale. In fact, the near misses and changes of direction I have seen today were reminiscent of an old-fashioned farce. I can almost see myself as a Brian Rix style character running around the stage in total confusion and disarray.

I spent much of the afternoon at the Club, catching up with a couple of the chaps who have just returned from a trip to the Caribean. Apparently, they got away just before the storms struck and have been recovering in Las Vegas ever since.

By the late afternoon, I was beginning to think I was never going to manage to speak to Hope and had all but decided to leave it until tomorrow. But that was when Aunt Murdock stepped in. I had arrived home a little after 4 o’clock to find her waiting to ambush me in the study.

I had no time to compose myself, or even to pour a drink before she was upon me like an enraged tiger. It took a little while to explain to her that I had been trying to contact Hope all day, but had so far failed totally. I could tell that this was not the answer she was expecting or wanted. The look of disappointment on her face told me everything I needed to know.

At that stage I was somewhat at a loss as to why she was getting so impatient and, it has to be said, angry over the whole thing. Yes, she was right about getting me to arrange to pick Hope up on the way to the ball (or whatever it is), but her reaction to my inability to actually speak to Hope about it seemed more than a little excessive to me.

At Aunt Murdocks direct instruction and under her watchful eyes, I made what I was determined would be my last attempt for the day. It was a little before 9 o’clock and as far as I am concerned you only contact anyone after this in cases of dire emergency. The only exception I make to that as when offering invitations to meet friends for drinks. It is not unknown for me to be contacting some of the chaps well beyond my 9 o’clock watershed.

Anyway, I made the call which was answered by young Charlotte, Hope’s youngest daughter who I had met at the gallery couple of weeks ago. At least, I think that’s who it was. It certainly sounded like her. But with a sense of deja vu, she told me that Hope had been called back to the gallery as the alarm was going off. She is almost as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel and I was beginning to wonder if she was, in fact, ignoring me.

But I needn’t have worried. At about half-past nine the telephone rang. It was so unexpected that I almost dropped my glass of Brandy. Fortunately, I recovered from the shock very quickly and was able to save the glass before it hit the floor. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky with the contents which have left a small stain on the carpet by the television.

“Call off the search” she laughed by way of greeting. I was then able to make arrangements to collect her from her flat on the way to the ball, so it all worked out in the end. Although our conversation was brief, it was very nice to speak to her again. Hope has one of those husky voices that many men find so attractive, and I could picture the smile on her face as she laughed at me about my numerous successful attempts to contact her. Anyway, I now have her mobile telephone number so I shouldn’t have the same problems in future, should we continue to be friends.

She asked me for my mobile number and was shocked when I told her I didn’t have one. I did have one a couple of years ago but had never bothered to replace it after it was damaged when I dropped it down the stairs one morning whilst still under the influence of alcohol.

Despite everything, I think the day ended fairly well. I think Aunt Murdock is still a little bit upset with me lover yesterday’s lunch with Miss Drayton, but I am sure she will get over it.