Silver linings

I always find January to be quite a depressing month. It is usually wet, often cold, but always dark. It’s dark when I rise in the mornings and dark shortly after lunch. Some days it never really gets much more than a dull grey. It’s hardly the kind of weather to encourage a bright and cheery outlook. Add to that Aunt Murdock’s recent health scare, the damage to my dear old Bentley, and my missed date with Hope and I am sure I can be forgiven for being a little below par right now.

Of course, Aunt Murdock is on the mend and the Bentley is being repaired, but it is none-the-less a dreary and depressing time of year.

Talking of the old Mad Duck, I saw her earlier today and she is looking much better. She gave us quite a stir last week but she is almost back to her old self. Today she was issuing directions and instructions to myself and Uncle George who seems to be almost relieved to be on the receiving end. I was getting quite worried about him last week. For many years I thought that he and my Aunt lived around each other rather than together but over the past few months, I have begun to see a different side to their relationship.

In an uncharacteristically candid moment a few years ago my aunt told me that theirs was very much a marriage of convenience. There had been no passion or romance, simply an acceptance that their union would benefit both families and provide respectability and companionship for herself and George. I have heard rumours that prior to their marriage it was widely suspected that George batted for the other side – as they used to call it – which at the time was considered social and business suicide. Whilst I have never been one for gossip and have never observed anything in his manner that might confirm or deny these suggestions, it did go some way to explaining the distance that seemed to exist between the two of them.

But now I am not so sure. Over the past week, in particular, I have seen just how close they are and the deep affection that exists between them. Far from feeling sorry for their lack of romance I find myself somewhat envious of their relationship. Whilst I myself fiercely resisted all attempts by my parents to arrange my own nuptials, when I look at my Aunt and Uncle I can’t help wondering if maybe I should have just gone along with it.

Talking of matchmakers, it seems that even in her sick bed my dear old Aunt can’t help interfering in my private life. At some point, I must have mentioned my missed date with Hope and my disappointment that she had not replied to my note. I should have known that she would not let this lie but would take up the proverbial batten and run with it. As she did. I had been summoned to visit her this afternoon and lo and behold, who should have also received a summons, but Hope. At first, I felt a little awkward. I had taken her silence over standing her up as a sign of her displeasure and had decided in my own mind that it was probably best if I put a little distance between us. But it seems that I was mistaken. Yes, she was rather upset about being stood up and had for the past week and a half been avoiding my calls, but that was only because she not actually received the note I had written. Its whereabouts remain a mystery that even Arthur, who assures me he posted it through her door, can explain.

Once all that had been cleared up Hope agreed to telephone me later to arrange another lunch date, one that hopefully we would be able to keep. Once she had left I could see Aunt Murdock grinning like the old Cheshire Cat in Wonderland. She was obviously very pleased with herself and for once I found I was actually very grateful for her interference in my private life. Aunt Murdock had reintroduced us with the obvious plan of us becoming a couple and I find that on this occasion I don’t mind at all.

Yesterday evening was spent down at the Club with Uncle George. The decision to take him was as much Aunt Murdock’s as mine. We both felt he needed an evening with the chaps with some good food and drink. I was only too happy to oblige and play host. Now you have to understand that George is not one of life’s great drinkers. A glass of wine or sherry with food and the occasional single malt of an evening are normally his limit. In fact, until last night I had never seen the man even remotely tipsy, let alone raving drunk. He was obviously ready to let down what little hair he has left and made the most of the club’s stock of Highland whiskies. He was in such a state that I decided he should come back home with me. I didn’t want Aunt Murdock to see him in such a sorry state. And I have to say I am very glad I did. The poor chap was quite ill this morning; I don’t think he has had a hangover in over 50 years and it showed. I went back with him to act as his second in the inevitable duel with old Mad Duck, but she was actually very understanding and if I didn’t know better, I would have said she seemed pleased at the way things had worked out. We left George to sleep things off and spent the rest of the afternoon watching old black and white films and reminiscing about family.

Looking back on the week I suppose it hasn’s been so bad in the end. I have still to speak to Hope about or rescheduled lunch date, but I am just pleased to know that any misunderstanding there may have been had been resolved. For once I am happy with Aunt Murdock’s interference. Aunt Murdock herself is looking much better and George has regained a little of his customary pink hue (unlike the pale grey countenance he had this morning!). Dorothy and I are visiting an old friend of hers this evening for supper. She was originally going with Angela, but she has had to pull out at the last minute to deal with some family emergency or other, so I have been called upon to stand in. Although I don’t know these people and am unsure what to expect of the evening, I am rather flattered that Dorothy should think to invite me to join her for such an occasion.

 

Aunt Murdock gives us quite a shock

What a week and a half this has been!

Last Monday I was all set for what promised to be a very good week. Not least of the reasons for this was my impending lunch date with Hope Greenwood on Tuesday. After a busy morning in the office, I took it upon myself to take a short stroll up to Regent Street and treat myself to a haircut and new jacket. Now, those who know me well will probably be wondering why I would choose to do either unprompted. Indeed, I asked myself the very same thing on my way home. All I can say in my defence is that it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. One cannot always give a logical or reasonable explanation for one’s actions, no matter how out of character they may seem.

Everything was going well until the early hours of Tuesday morning when I received an unexpected telephone call from my Uncle George to say that Aunt Murdock had been taken ill during the night and taken into hospital. Poor George sounded so upset and not at a little incoherent so I decided to make my way to the hospital straight away.

By the time I arrived Uncle George had calmed down a little but was still very upset. According to the doctor, Aunt Murdock was rather poorly but not critical so there was no need worry undulyBut you have to admit, it is very easy for these people to say but not so easy to do. When someone one loves is so obviously unwell one can’t help but be worried and concerned. We have all been aware for some time that Aunt Murdock has been slowing down, but I think we had all thought it was simply down to her age. Old Mad Duck may be as tough as old boots, but even she is not invincible. It was quite a shock to see her lying there in the hospital bed with tubes all over the place.

The rest of that morning is something of a blur, what with George fussing and flapping about and me trying to keep him calm and under some kind of control. In the end, I suggested that he would be better off at home as the last thing my aunt needed was to see him cracking up. He refused at first but eventually acquiesced and headed home for a rest. I stayed until mid-afternoon, but which time Aunt Murdock had stabilised and a couple of the tubes had been removed. George returned around 3 o’clock so I made my way home. It had been a rather tiring day because I fell asleep in my chair before I was even halfway through my first glass of single malt.

It was not until much later in the evening as I was relating the story to Dorothy and Angela that I suddenly remembered my date with Hope. I made several attempts to contact her but couldn’t get through. O felt quite wretched – I had been so looking forward to our lunch and should not have forgotten it like I had. In the end, I had Arthur deliver a note from me explaining what had happened and asking her to please contact me so we can meet another day. So far I haven’t heard anything, which I find rather surprising but I suppose there is a kind of inevitability to it. She is a very busy lady who has no reason to keep in touch with the likes of me.

Aunt Murdock was much better by the time I saw her on Wednesday, but she didn’t go home until Friday afternoon, and that was only because she was making such a fuss that some of the nursing staff were refusing to go into her room, a sure sign that she was getting her strength back. Old Mad Duck has no time for what she calls malingerers and has never been very good with sickness. Even when Uncle George broke his leg in a skiing accident she wouldn’t let him rest for more than a couple of days before she sent him back to work. And when I went down with a severe case of gastric flue two years ago she came round to the house and forced me out of bed to attend a meeting with our accountant.

To tell the truth, I have not felt myself this past week. I have hardly been to the Club and have not felt in the mood for writing anything as I was quite worried about the old dear. But I visited Aunt Murdock earlier today and she was looking much better. It is such a relief to see her almost back to her old self again, although she has warned me that I am going to have to take on even more responsibility at the office. I am not sure how I am going to manage that. I already do three mornings a week and I can’t see how she can expect me to do much more.

But obviously, I will do everything I can to make her life a little easier, even if that means working another couple of mornings, at least in the short term. Tomorrow I am going to try to contact Hope again and see if I can’t arrange another date.

A busy start to the new year

After a very poor start to the new year, things have begun to brighten up a little in the Dimbelby-Smyth household. Dorothy has secured herself a small role in a show of some kind due to be staged in London next month. I am not sure exactly what it is but she is quite excited about it. I spoke to Aunt Murdock on Monday and she is sounding much like her old self again. Obviously, she is going to have to slow down a little but she sounds much better than she did at Christmas.

And, to top it all, I have heard back from the insurance company about my poor old Bently. thankfully the old girl is built like a tank so the damage is mainly superficial. That said though, it is still going to take a couple of weeks for the repairs to be completed. But then again, quality and craftsmanship can’t be rushed. I will just have to be patient.

Albert is still rather upset about the whole thing. He has never been involved in an accident before and, despite my constant reassurances that he is in no way to blame, he seems to feel responsible for the damage inflicted on my dear old car. If it is anyone’s fault it is the driver of the delivery vehicle that hit us, although I understand that he is denying this. I personally have no desire to get involved in all the arguments and who is or isn’t to blame, I am only too pleased to leave that in the hands of my brokers. Personally, I just want my old car back.

One of the most unexpected consequences of being involved I what they term a road traffic accident is the pressure to make a claim for injury or losses, even if there aren’t any. I think that most people will agree that I am a fairly tolerant man – there are not many things that really make me angry, but this modern-day obsession with apportioning blame and pursuing ridiculous claims is one of them. I have often heard the phrase “where there is blame, there is a claim” and I never really understood what it meant until now. From what I hear from the chaps down at the Club, this culture for claiming compensation for even the most trivial of incidents is costing insurance companies, and so consequently yours truly, an absolute fortune. And as some of them have business interests in the insurance industry one has to believe what they say. I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If the commpanies are paying out untold thousands of pounds in compensation, that that will mean higher premiums for the rest of us. I do not pretend to understand how the insurance industry works – all that underwriting and so on just confuses me – but even I can see the logic in that.

I believe that several companies have already attempted to make contact with me regarding my “injuries”. It is a good job they didn’t come through directly to me I can tell you. I would have given them a piece of my mind and sent them off with a flea in their ear, make no mistake about that.

Now don’t get me wrong, where there is a genuine case I am all in favour of victims receiving their just compensation, but this idea that one is somehow owed something I find rather offensive. I was pleased to note that many of my chums at the Club are of the same mind. As far as I am concerned, at this moment in time, my most pressing concern is the return of my Bentley.

This week I have spent three mornings in the office making good my promise to be more involved in the family business. And I must say that it is all much more complicated than I had at first thought. Not that I was under an illusion over the complexity of the family’s affairs. Generations of wheeling and dealing have left few avenues for investment untrodden. I am sure that with the help of Miss Drayton and Aunt Murdock I will learn enough to enable to steer this somewhat ponderous ship into a bright and prosperous future. However, I suspect that many of the various managers are expecting my endeavours to fall a little short. I can’t blame them if they do. My record with the firm hasn’t exactly been glittering. Working under my father I made a lot of mistakes, which is why he left the running of the family’s affairs to Aunt Murdock. He never had much faith in me, and looking back I can understand why. I am not a natural when it comes to business and financial affairs, but I am determined to do my best this time around. After all, I am a little older and more determined than I was I was in my twenties.

On Friday I was going to call on Hope again but decided instead to call her on the telephone. I have never been comfortable trying to hold conversations over the telephone; one never knows quite what the other person is doing or who they are with. I know it doesn’t trouble most people, but I always feel much happier when I can actually see the person I am talking to. But since I have had very little success when trying to visit her in person, and since the unfortunate events of my previous visit, I decided that it was much safer to call instead. As it happens, Hope was available and seemed genuinely pleased to hear from me. She could only speak to me briefly but we have agreed to meet for lunch next Tuesday, which is very agreeable to me. I think I will take somewhere quiet and intimate as I have a few things I would like to chat with her about, not least being Simon. I don’t know if she has seen him recently but I feel that if she does have any intentions towards him she needs to be made aware of his track record as far as women and relationships are concerned.

Yesterday I spent the evening with my old pal Dorchester and his family. they have a very nice little house south of the river where I spent many a pleasant weekend in my youth. Having known the family all of my life I find time spent with them much like being with family. One can relax and be one’s self in the company of people who have lived with one through the good times and the bad. We were joined by Dorchester’s two sisters, Clara and Emily. Clara is just getting over a particularly acrimonious divorce whilst Emily is visiting from abroad. At the moment she is living in Germany where she works in some capacity for the European Union. I think she is a researcher, but I may have got that wrong. We had a very pleasant evening, catching up on recent events and reminiscing about some of Mine and Dorchester’s little adventures when we were on holiday from school. Clara reminded me of a time when the four of us decided to take a boat onto the Serpentine, only to capsize the thing after becoming a little too boisterous. I think we all developed nasty colds and Clara insists that she has never been on a boat since. Half in jest I suggested that I take her back to the scene of the crime once the lake reopens in the spring. To my surprise, she said she would love to, providing I agreed to behave myself!

During the evening I asked Dorchester about Anne. He was a little coy, I suspect because he didn’t want to say anything in front of his sisters, but from what he did say, it seems that he has seen her a couple of times since Christmas. I must say that I was delighted with this news. Anne is a really wonderful young lady much more suitable than that American he was seeing until recently. I am not sure his parents are aware f this new relationship; they seem to be under the impression that he can make things up with Annabelle. From my point of view, he is much better off without her and I hope that his new relationship with Anne works out. I am sure his family will all like her.

I have no plans for today other than visiting the Club this evening after dinner here with Dorothy and Angela. In fact, Dorothy is cooking and has told me to “expect the unexpected”, whatever that is supposed to mean. I just hope it is nothing too continental or spicy. I do enjoy Dorothy’s cuisine, but there have been occasions where her dishes have been a little too hot for me. Anyway, I had better go and prepare myself. There should be just enough time for a snifter of the old Scotish firewater and a glance through the newspapers.

Not a very good start to the year

I have to say that 2018 has not begun auspiciously for me. New Year’s Eve itself was much as I’d imagined it would be. I joined the chaps at the Club for a few celebratory drinks and we saw the old year out in good style. Most of the old guard were there, in body if nothing else. From what I saw, most of them were asleep long before midnight and should really have been tucked up in bed with their cocoa. Those who did manage to stay awake joined us at the bar in time to hear Big Ben herald in the new year.

We all have hopes that each new year will bring us better luck, health or prosperity than the one before. Some of the chaps were talking about gym memberships, diets and abstinence, but we all know that they will either have forgotten their resolutions before morning or will have discarded them before the end of January.

Anyway, I left the Club around 1 o’clock, hoping to flag down a taxi. This it turns out was my first mistake. I should have arranged to have old Arthur pick me up but I had given him the night off. Normally taxis are fairly easy to get, even at that time, but on this particular occasions, probably due to it being New Year, there were none to be had. The one thing that there was no shortage of was drunken revellers, tumbling out off every bar and club and making a damned nuisance of themselves. In the end, I had to walk all the way to Piccadilly before I could secure myself a taxi. By the time I arrived home it was almost 2 o’clock and I was not happy at all.

Whether it was due to the inclement weather, the drink or something else entirely, I awoke Monday afternoon feeling more than a little unwell. Now, I am not normally one for letting minor sniffles and colds get the better of me, but for once, it knocked me right out. In fact, I was so ill that I didn’t leave my bedroom for the whole day and only did so on Tuesday because I was getting unimaginably bored of just laying there, staring at the ceiling and feeling sorry for myself. Dorothy tells me that an awful lot of people have been struck down with colds and flu over the festive period, so I am not alone. Not that that is reassuring in any way. When one is unwell, there is little comfort in knowing that others are also suffering.

By Wednesday I was well enough to be out and about, so decided that I would make my way to Hope’s gallery. From previous experience, I knew that there was little chance of me managing to entice her away for lunch, but I did hold out some hope of at least having a little chat. When I last saw her she had been leaving the old country pile with that rogue Simon and I was keen to be reassured that he had not in any way upset her. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it seems that she had in fact made arrangements to meet Simon that very afternoon and could only spare me a few minutes before she had to leave. From what she told me, I gather that he cancelled his prior plans for the new year to spend it with Hope and Charlotte. Needless to say, this was not the news I had wanted to hear. Simon’s reputation is not a good one and I was very surprised that Hope had been taken in by his insincere charms.

Had Charlotte been at the gallery I would have attempted to talk to her, but she was, apparently, at home working on some project or other, so, on leaving the gallery I made my way to the Club for some lunch and a few drinks. At least, that was my plan. What I hadn’t planned for, and indeed never could have imagined happening, was that as we made our way out of Chelsea, Arthur and I were involved in what was a minor accident involving ourselves and a large delivery truck. I say minor only because no one was seriously hurt, but the damage inflicted on my dear old Bentley was not inconsiderable. In the end, both vehicles had to be towed away and I decided at that point to simply return home. I have to say Arthur was rather shaken by the whole affair and I had to send him home. Obviously, I still have the Daimler to get around in, but the Bentley is an old family favourite and I am very anxious about its future.

Yesterday (Thursday) was a rather quiet day. I awoke feeling stiff and rather sorry for myself so remained indoors for the entire day. Dorothy fussed about administering various remedies, even at one point suggesting a massage to ease my aching back. Nigel came round and we did a little more work on the ever-growing family tree, but otherwise, I didn’t do very much at all.

I am still not feeling at my best today but did manage to get to the Club for a very nice lunch with a few of the chaps. It seems that most of them will be returning to work on Monday, so we made the most of having one last afternoon together before we return to the old grindstone. Over lunch, the subject of resolutions came up again. Whilst I have already made my views on such things well known before, I was intrigued to hear what others were planning to start or give up. For most of them, next week will see the beginning of a new health and fitness regime, although I very much doubt that many of them will stick it out for more than a week or two. They have no staying power. When pressed, I suggested that I might give more attention to business matters this year. That at least is something I think I can do and, in many ways, actually, need to do. Aunt Murdock is not getting any younger so no doubt I will have to take on more responsibility over the coming months.

I think that for me it is going to have to be an early night. It has been a long day, and not the best of weeks, what with the crash, feeling ill and Hope’s involvementt with Simon. Hopefully, tomorrow will mark the beginning of something better.