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.

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