Well, it seems that the jungle drums have been hard at work with the news that I am back home again. My return has been greeted in almost Austenesque style with several invitations to dine with some of the local families received already. In fact, if I spend enough time here, I begin to feel like a character from one of Miss Austen’s novels. Not that I have read them myself – I don’t go for all that romantic nonsense – but one seems to have an instinctive understanding of the characters and plots of such books. They are as much a part of our culture as Shakespeare and Dickens, and consequently one just knows what they are all about without the need to actually read any.
Actually, I have never read any Dickens either, except at school where we spent several terms battling with the intricacies and somewhat dark and dreary lives described in Bleak House. Once we had finished the book I vowed never to read Dicken’s again, and so far I have managed to keep that pledge. Moreover, I find that I can’t even watch the televised dramatisations without being overcome by a creeping sense of foreboding.
Anyway, I had only planned to stay here for a few days, maybe a week at most, but it has become obvious that I am now going to have to extend that a little. After all, one can’t be seen to be avoiding people, especially those who have been connected to my family for generations. Although this kind of socialising can be a little tedious, I have to admit, having been away for so long, the prospect of meeting with some old friends is actually quite exciting, in a way.
Nigel is staying here for a further few days and we are going to do some more digging into my family history. Our recent little chat with Mrs Dalton has opened up some interesting new avenues of investigation for us and Nigel, in particular, is very keen to do some more ancestral sleuthing. He says he also has some business of his own to attend to. Apparently, he is talking to one or two of our neighbours about some kind of new business venture. He was rather cagey when I asked him about it, and wouldn’t give me any details. He said it is to do with computers and the internet and I wouldn’t understand. Admittedly, my technical know-how is a little lacking, but I am getting better. I mean, here I am, keeping up to date with my journal on a computer I haven’t used before. That may not seem much to the youngsters out there, but it is quite an accomplishment for me.
Yesterday I took a tour of the grounds with my estate manager, Mr Rotherby. He has been with the family, running the affairs of the estate for longer than either of us care to remember. Mr Rotherby is a fine fellow; his family have been connected to the house for several generations and I suppose he is as much part of the fixtures and fittings as anyone could be. He must be due to retire soon, but it is something neither of us wants to discuss right now. Old retainers like Mr Rotherby have a tendency to just keep going and I don’t really know who will replace him. Anyway, everything seems ship-shape and Bristol fashion, as I knew it would be.
During our walk around the estate, Mr Rotherby told me that there has been some interest from a property developer in some of the outlying land. So far they have not made any formal approaches, but he says that he is sure they will in time. I must say I am not happy to think that some shady builder types have been discussing my property like this. I have had dealings with some of these developer chappies and I must say I have not been impressed by them. This is obviously something I need to keep an eye on.
I am visiting one of my neighbours this evening after accepting an invitation to join them for supper and drinks. They are one of the oldest families in the county and, thankfully, do not have a daughter they might be trying to foist on me. I am not sure who will be there, but I am certain that there will be more than just the immediate family. There always is. It will be the first of several such outings this week so I had better prepare myself.
I am not really looking forward to being paraded around the various homes of the county, but it comes with the territory I suppose. I just wish Dorothy were here to help; I am sure she would know how to handle these events, and her presence might have acted as a deterrent for those matriarchs who are still trying to marry me off to their daughters. Of course, if Dorothy or Hope were here I am sure I wouldn’t get so many invitations.
Talking about Hope, I am still pondering our last conversation. It seems that the more I think about it the more confused I get. Not just about Hope’s behaviour, but also why it bothers me so much. I mean, I hardly really know her and she certainly doesn’t owe me any explanations. That said, she did invite me to her gallery event and we did seem to be getting along so well before she turned away from me at the end of the evening. I am happy to admit that I have never really understood what makes women tick, but the last few weeks have highlighted just how lacking I am in the female empathy department.