A friendly face in the crowd

I had a very welcome telephone call this morning from Dorothy. She is still working on her little film in Edinburgh but tells me she should be back in London by the end of next week. It is quite a relief as I have missed having her about the place.

I have spent the past couple of days catching up with some of the old local families and, despite the ever-present sense that I am on display like some prize horse, I have quite enjoyed myself. And to be fair, there haven’t been as many staged introductions as I had feared. However, there does seem to have been something of a change of focus. Whereas previously I have been introduced to a seemingly endless stream of single young ladies, this week it has been middle-aged widows and divorcees. It’s as if I have passed some kind of generational milestone and I’m no longer considered suitable husband material for the under thirties. I must admit that I am not sure I like that idea. After all, I am not old. I’m not even fifty. And even if I was, that’s nothing. I am still fit and healthy and I have all my own teeth and hair, which is more than some men half my age can say.

It is also more than can be said for some of the middle-aged widows I have met this week. One particular lady had more facial hair than me and I’m pretty sure that my neighbour’s second cousin may have once been a man. That’s not to say they are all unattractive. No, far from it. I have met several women this week who I found very pleasing both to the eye and the ear. One thing I have noticed about the country ladies though is their propensity for gossip, and as a group, they are often quite narrow-minded in their interests and opinions. Now I am sure that there are some who might say the same about me, but I think that you will find that I am actually quite cosmopolitan. One could never really get along in London without being prepared to accept all sorts of people and ideas. I find that people who live their whole lives in the country lack the worldliness of city folk, with their limited society and confined outlook.

Being here at the old homestead always reminds me just how lucky I am to have chosen to live where I do, much against my parent’s wishes I might add. They wanted me to be part of the country set, but I never really felt I fitted in. One has to find one’s own way in the world and should not be constrained by the lack of ambition of mobility of earlier generations.

One thing that I have noticed on this visit is the relatively large number of new faces. It would appear that there have been several new developments in the area that have attracted several new families. I met with some of these whilst taking a spot of lunch at the local hostelry, the Kings Arms, with my estate manager, Mr Rotherby. Now, according to old Rotherby, most of these families are what he calls “the new rich”, his term for those who have acquired their wealth relatively recently with no family history to speak of. Whilst the some of the established families are a little reluctant to welcome them too openly, I find the news quite welcoming. After all, I suppose that there may have been a time when even my own family were considered “the new rich”. I know that on my mother’s side, their wealth and influence stemmed from the Industrial Revolution, prior to which, I believe, they were simple traders. I still have work to do, but I think that Nigel and I are really getting somewhere with all this ancestry research.

Anyway, as I was saying, I have met a couple of the new families and so far I have found most of them to be quite charming and very approachable. One household in particular, the Fletchers, has caught my attention. They live in one of a small collection of new cottages that have appeared about halfway between here and the King’s Arms. They have been built to look like traditional cottages, but the lack of thatch and the plastic window frames put paid to that notion. Mrs Fletcher, Anne, is a very attractive divorcee with three children, all in their late teens. According to the local gossip she left her husband after discovering he was having an affair and, in the words of old Jim (the landlord of the King’s Arms), she took him to the cleaners. I met Anne on one of my lunchtime visits to the King’s Arms and we seemed to get along quite well. She told me she moved to the area after her divorce mainly to get as far away from her ex-husband as possible, but also because she has family in the area. They are not a family I know so presume they are from one or another of the smaller villages or towns here about. Anne herself runs her own business, something to do with interior design or some such. It seems that I am always meeting up with arty types, which is ironic really as I don’t think I have an artistic bone in my body.

Anne and I have enjoyed a couple of unplanned lunchtime meetings this week. It seems she likes the atmosphere of the King’s Arms and is often there, either with a client or, as she was today, her eldest daughter, Stephanie. Now I am no judge of these things, in fact, I have to admit to being absolutely hopeless when it comes to estimating people’s ages, but when they were sat side by side, Anne and Stephanie looked more like sisters than mother and daughter. Of course, that may have been down to the poor lighting and plenty of makeup. As I say, I am no judge of these things and decided not to express what I was thinking as I was not sure if it would be considered too passe, and I didn’t want to copme across as some kind of lethario, scattering compliments in the hope of some kind of return.


Anyway, they were absolutely charming company on what was otherwise a very wet and dreary day. In fact, we remained in the bar for several hours before Anne had to rush home to call a client. I have had no engagements for this evening, which is just as well really as I think I need a break from the seemingly endless round of dinner parties and social gatherings that have fairly monopolised my time. I came out to the country for a break and to help recharge the old batteries, but so far I have hardly stopped, dashing from one engagement to the next. Whilst one has a certain reputation and standing in the community to uphold, there is a limit to how long one can be expected to keep smiling and nodding politely. I don’t know how Lizzie manages it.

My aunt Sara left this morning to spend a couple of days with an old school friend up north somewhere. She’s actually quite a character and has something of a reputation in the county for her forthright opinions and capacity for alcohol. I do enjoy her company, but this week she has been relatively quiet. I don’t expect either her or Nigel to be back before I return to London, which I must do next week.

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