Today I decided to call into Hope Greenwood’s art gallery, mainly to pass on the invitation to Cambridge’s charity bash, but also as it is the only way I am going to stop Dorothy nagging me. But as well as that, I was also extremely curious to see where Hope works and, maybe, to invite her to join me for lunch.
Now, I don’t know much about art galleries. They are not the kind of places I visit as a rule. My taste in art is fairly traditional and I already have far too many old paintings about the place to be buying more. Of course, I have been in one or two, mainly to attend some sort of exhibition or another. Aunt Dorothy is very fond of art and will often drag me along with her, but usually only when she can’t beat some other poor soul into submission. I don’t know if she invites me because she enjoys my company or to try to teach me. To enlighten me or simply as an excuse to introduce me to some very boring people. Art people can be extremely tedious. They get very frustrated if one doesn’t share their interest, and almost apoplectic if one should ever be so foolish as to contradict their opinions or question their knowledge or understanding. I did that once and I can assure you, it was not pretty.
No, in my experience, artists are very much like actors: self-obsessed, ignorant of anything but their art, and extremely dull company. Of course, there are one or two exceptions, Dorothy being one of them. She is anything but dull and actually doesn’t seem to be into all that sycophantic back slapping that goes on.
Anyway, this morning I sauntered on down to Hope’s gallery, which is actually in Chelsea, not an area I frequent very much these days, although I do remember it well from my younger days. Some friends and I use to frequent one or two of the clubs and bars of a Saturday night. I must say that the area has changed very little since I was last there, although the Kings Road itself strikes me as being a lot busier with some very exclusive looking stores.
The gallery turned out to be very easy to find. But as I approached I began to feel surprisingly nervous. I actually had to stop a few yards away just to take some deep breaths. It must have been some sort of anxiety attack, although I can’t recall having one before. It took me a couple of minutes to calm the butterflies that were chasing around my stomach, but once I began to feel more composed and in control, I walked into the gallery’s front door. The building on the outside is rather dull. There is nothing that would make you want to stop and take a look inside. I had expected it to be all glass and steel, but it was actually very warm and welcoming. Space inside had obliviously been created especially to show off the various art pieces in their best light. The upper floor and been partially removed to create a mezzanine floor at the rear of the building, leaving the reception and first part of the gallery very bright and open.
I took all of this in as soon as I walked through the front door. To my immediate left was a small desk that I presumed was the receptionists. At first, I didn’t see anyone else in the building and thought myself quite alone. It was only as I made a move towards the rear of the gallery that I spotted a young lady adjusting some kind of statue.
“Sorry to keep you,” she said, “I’ll be right with you.”
After what could only have been a few seconds, she stopped what she had been doing and turned to face me. I am not very good with such things but she looked to be no more than about 18 or 19 years old and dressed in a way I thought to be a little too casual for working in an art gallery. But she seemed friendly enough.
When I asked if I could see Mrs Greenwood, she looked at me a little quizzically and told me that Hope was, in fact, away for a couple of days, talking to potential clients and artists.
I have to admit that this took the wind right out of my sails. In my head I had prepared for any number of eventualities, but not once did I consider the possibility that she wouldn’t be there. I must have looked a bit of a fool because the young lady then offered me a seat and asked if she could get me anything.
I declined, although if the truth be told, I could have done with a small brandy to steady my nerves. Why had I not considered this possibility? And why hadn’t I called ahead?
Because I don’t like telephones! And I felt it best to extend the invitation personally rather than over the telephone or by post. It is so much more personal that way. I had also wanted to take Hope out to lunch to a nice little bistro I know not far from the gallery itself. I haven’t been there recently but I am assured they still serve a first class Dover Sole and the wine list is still as extensive as ever.
So, there I was, reclining in a leather armchair in a Chelsea art gallery, with absolutely no idea what to do next. I have never felt quite so deflated and unsure of my self, and I can tell you, it is not a nice feeling. The young lady asked if she could take a message, but what should I say?
“If you could ask Mrs Greenwood to call me if you would be so kind,” I replied, handing over one of my calling cards.
The young lady took the card from me, looked at it, then looked back at me and said, “So you’re Lord Robert? I’ve heard such a lot about you. Why should I say you called?”
I explained that I had an invitation to a charity event and wanted to invite Hope to join me. I mumbled, keeping my eyes away from hers. Despite her somewhat casual attire she was extremely attentive and seemed very interested in my welfare. At my request, she ordered me a cab to get me home.
It’s strange isn’t it, that in my head I had gone over all the possible ways this meeting could have gone. The brusk decline, the flirtatious acceptance, the existing engagements, the family commitment. I had even considered that she may have a medical condition that required treatment that would prevent her being my “plus one”. I had never even considered the idea that she simply would not be in.
The taxi had arrived by this time so I arose from the chair and offered my thanks to the young lady for her help.
Once I was back home I began to regain some of my previous composure. I also ran the events of the previous half-hour through my mind. For one thing, I had not asked either the young girl’s name or where Hope had got to on her business trip. Or even when she would be back. It seems that when the chips are down, yours truly is definitely not the man to send on ahead on reconnaissance. I suppose she is probably in France or Italy, soaking up the culture and using her charms to secure the work she is keen to display and sell.
From what little I saw of the works on display, it looks like Hope specialises in contemporary styles, rather than the more traditional portraits and landscapes that have until now been my only choice for adorning my own walls.
Oh well. I’m sure that the young lady will pass on my card and message when Hope returns. All I can do is wait.
I had planned to pop into the club this evening but I think I will give it a miss tonight. I have a long day tomorrow with an early start – I have a business meeting at 10 o’clock so I need to be in the office earlier than usual. I can’t remember who the meeting is with, except that it is something to do with Human Resources, whatever that means.