Fate does a u-turn

It never ceases to amaze me just how much one’s fortunes can change even during the course of a single day. And I don’t mean from the big events or disasters but from the most simple and unexpected of circumstances. I have never been much of a believer in fate or predestination, but there are times when I wonder if there isn’t some grand design to our lives. The old adage that people get what they deserve implies some form of plan or oversight; we all want good things to happen to good people and get quite upset when they don’t.

Anyway, it turns out that yesterday was one of those days when my own fortunes took a sharp about-face. It started well enough. I had arranged to meet Clara for a spot of lunch before she headed off to spend a couple of months with family in New Zealand. We met at a wonderful little restaurant I have recently discovered in Mayfair. It’s one of those places that produce simple but extremely delicious food. There is an air of ostentation about the place that I thought would quite suit Clara. We had a very pleasant couple of hours talking about common friends, including Dorothy and Hope. I was surprised to learn that Clara and Hope were acquainted, albeit only recently. It seems that Clara has visited Hope’s gallery a couple of times recently and purchased several pieces of art for her flat in Paris. By the time we went our separate ways it was getting quite late so I skipped visiting the Club and returned home to get ready for the evening.

I arrived at the gallery a little after 8 o’clock to find the place surprisingly busy. That is not to say I thought it would be poorly attended, just that there were a lot more people there than I had expected. I was greeted at the door by young Charlotte who recognised me straight away and insisted on leading me into the throng to see her mother. As it turned out, Hope was deep in conversation with a couple of potential clients, so I drifted towards the bar that had been set up at the back of the gallery.

Once I had secured my second glass of wine (a rather nice Rioja) I decided to take a look at the art on display. Now, I have to admit that art, particularly the modern stuff, is not really my thing. I like a good landscape and am quite fond of photography, but the rest of it tends to leave me a little bewildered. I think that I must have been showing my feelings as I was soon joined by Charlotte who took it upon herself to act as my guide for the evening. And a rather pleasant time we had. I didn’t care much for the work on display, but I did enjoy Charlotte’s enthusiasm and passion. She explained that the work on display was all from three separate young artists who Hope was attempting to bring to the attention of both collectors and other galleries. She obviously knows much more about the subject than I do and had an opinion on every piece on display. I asked if any of the work was hers, but she just laughed and said no, it was much too soon for her to be exhibiting.

Towards the end of the evening, once a large number of the guests had left, I had an opportunity to share a few minutes with Hope. All went well until she asked me what I thought of the exhibition. I felt I had to be honest but also didn’t want to cause any offence. I must have looked like a real idiot, standing there, unable to say anything for fear of it being the wrong thing. There were so many things going through my head, so many conflicting answers to this very simple question, but I just couldn’t work out what to actually say. If I was honest and said I didn’t really like this kind of art, I would sound ignorant and ungrateful. But I have never been any good at lying, so that wouldn’t work either. In the end, I admitted that I was a bit old-fashioned in my tastes and didn’t really understand the works on display. That seemed to work.

Hope and I spoke for a while about our different views about art. It is obviously something of a passion for Hope and Charlotte, and I enjoyed listening to what she had to say. We were getting along really well and I was beginning to appreciate her company. That is until I mentioned my lunch earlier that day with Clara West. Without warning, our conversation came to an abrupt end, Hope made her excuses and left to join her daughter. I remained at the gallery for a further ten minutes or so but did not get a further opportunity to speak to her. 

In fact, when I came to leave she was too busy for me to say my farewells; it was Charlotte who saw me out. It seems that just when I am beginning to feel that Hope and I are getting close, something happens to spoil it. I am sure it must be something I have said or done, I just don’t know what.

As I am sure you can imagine, I was a little disappointed with the way the evening ended, even more so for not having Dorothy to talk to about it. I had planned to invite Hope for lunch with me one day next week, but now I am not so sure it is such a good idea. She does seem rather temperamental and I cannot fathom her change of moods. Maybe I will speak to Charlotte.

 

 

On the road to Brighton

brighton_pierWell,  what a day yesterday was. I had arranged with my godson Nigel that we would take the Bentley for an airing and visit an old family friend in Brighton. It was something of a last minute decision, partly as an excuse to get out of the house, but also to get some more information for my family tree research.

Nigel arrived a little after 9 o’clock which was much too early for me; I was still finishing my breakfast. So, whilst I got myself ready, Nigel did a little work on the computer. I presume he was doing some research in preparation for our little chat later on with old Mrs Dalton. Whatever it was, he was very quick because he was switching off just as I entered the room.

The drive down to Brighton was the usual mix of frustration and boredom. I find that driving just isn’t any fun anymore. In fact, I refuse to get behind the wheel in the city these days. Which is a shame because I used to really love driving, particularly in the old Bentley. It was my father’s car and it was the first car I ever drove on the open road on my own. When I first started learning to drive my parents bought me a very nice little car, a Ford Escort. It was fine for learning in, but once I had passed my test I wanted something a little more substantial. Rather reluctantly my father allowed me to take his Bentley out for a spin, and it was an eye-opening experience. Cruising around the open country roads gave me a sense of power and freedom I have not found doing anything else. This freedom was the one advantage of living on the family estate, a million miles from civilization.

When I moved permanently to London I bought myself the Daimler for getting around town. I know it’s a little on the large side, and definitely not the most fuel efficient of cars, but for comfort and, let’s be honest, prestige, it is hard to beat. But driving through the busy city streets is about as far removed from those early drives through the country roads as you can get. I became increasingly frustrated by the traffic, the endless road works and the poor standard of driving I encountered. The city is full of incredibly bad drivers and they appear to be getting worse. Not only do they seem to meander about aimlessly, changing lanes in a seemingly random fashion, but more and more drivers are seemingly intent on committing hari-kari. And what is it with all the changes to the roads? Hardly a week seems to go by without something changing. It seems like they are creating new one-way streets and installing new traffic lights on an almost weekly basis. I just can’t keep up with it all. Mr Arnold has in effect become my chauffeur, getting me to and from wherever I need to be.

And now, even out of town, things are getting much worse, particularly the standard of driving. The roads between London and Brighton are fairly good these days, but for me, the journey was far from fun. Obviously, the Bentley is the type of car that is capable of great speed and does command some respect from other road users, but there are a growing number of people who have very little respect for anyone else, and none at all for the rules of the highway. I lost count of the number of times much smaller cars fairly whizzed passed me, even though I was driving an exactly the speed limit. Maybe it is the car itself that encourages people to want to turn every journey into a competition. I must admit that in my younger days I may have been tempted to join the race, but I learned my lesson long ago. Losing one’s licence once may be considered slightly careless, but by the third time, one has to consider it time for a change.

Despite the horrendous traffic, we arrived in Brighton in good time, stopping for lunch at a little Bistro close to the promenade that I have visited several times before. I often find that dining out in places such as Brighton can be very tricky unless you know what to look for. In that way, I have been lucky to find a couple of very fine establishments that serve a respectable selection of dishes. Yesterday we settled for seafood, something of a speciality for the area. I know that Brighton has a bad reputation in some circles. Certainly, it can be a little rowdy at times, but I find that lunch in the right places can be a very acceptable way to pass a congenial hour or two.

We met with Mrs Dalton in her home close to the seafront where she regaled us with her memories of my mother’s family. I hadn’t seen the old dear for almost 30 years and I was surprised by how old-looking she had become. Old and frail she may be, but Mrs Dalton’s mind is still as sharp as a knife. She was able to provide a wealth of information about my mother and her family, things that I hadn’t known or had any interest in before now.

But before we left to come home, Mrs Dalton hinted that there was something else I needed to know, but that I would need to ask my Aunt Murdock about it. It sounded all very mysterious and a little exciting. Nigel tried to press her into telling us more, but she wouldn’t, just saying that it wasn’t her place.

Thankfully, the journey back was uneventful and I was able to make it to the Club early enough for several frames and a drink or three.

 

The missing link

Although it has only been a couple of days since Dorothy left for Edinburgh, I am already beginning to feel her absence around the house. It is rather strange how quickly one becomes accustomed to another person’s presence. That is not to say she is any way obtrusive, she always respects my privacy and never intrudes, but her very presence makes a difference to the atmosphere of the place. In just three days the house has changed from a vibrant welcoming place to a cold and far too quiet one.

When I first offered Dorothy a room here I must admit that I did wonder if I was doing the right thing. I have, after all, lived alone for quite a while and by the time she actually moved in, I was beginning to regret having made the offer. But in the weeks since her arrival, Dorothy has become such an important part of my everyday routine that the last couple of days have felt very strange indeed.

Of course, Dorothy has been leading her own life and is not always around, but her very presence, the sound of her moving about, the almost audible thump of her music ensures that her presence could never be ignored. I hadn’t realised just how much I have come to accept these things as part of the everyday pattern of life.

But there is one particular area in which Dorothy has become invaluable to me. You see, almost as soon as she moved in she started changing the way I dress and the way I behaved towards other people. It was almost imperceptible at first; in fact, I didn’t realise what was happening until we had that shopping trip where she changed almost my entire wardrobe. If I am going out to meet anyone special, such as Hope, she will stop me before I leave the house and either make minor adjustments or send me back upstairs to change one item or another. No one has done this since I was a child when my mother would often send me back to my room because I wasn’t looking smart enough. Now it’s the other way round. Dorothy will “suggest” I need to be a little more casual and recommend the clothes to wear for each occasion.

Now I have this exhibition event coming up at Hope’s gallery and I had been expecting to get some help from Dorothy. Obviously, her being in bonny Scotland means that I will not get the benefit of her advice. Oh well, I suppose I will just have to rely on my own adjusted sense of style. I can almost here Dorothy laughing at that statement which I think she would consider an oxymoron.

Dorothy’s presence has also made me question one of the main arguments I have always maintained for remaining single. The very idea of someone else being so integrated into my life has always been something I considered to be unacceptable. That is why my friends were so surprised when I offered Dorothy the room here. You see, I am quite a private person really, and I think I have become a little staid in my ways. Dear old Aunt Murdock has been telling me for years that I need to find a nice young lady and settle down. In fact, she has made it her goal to in life to find me such a lady. I have lost count of the number of women that she has introduced me to over the last few years, parading me like a prize bull. But whether it’s because I haven’t met the right person yet, or because I don’t want to lose my precious freedom, all her efforts have so far been in vain. I think that when she reacquainted me with my cousin Dorothy she had considered we might hit it off, so to speak, and in many ways we have, just not in the way that Aunt Murdock had wanted.

I am extremely fond of Dorothy and, if things were different, maybe we could have made a good couple. But as it is she has become one of my closest friends and something of a confidante and relationship advisor. Admittedly she can be a little too emotional and get a little carried away at times, but she talks a lot of common sense and I have learned better than to ignore her advice. Obviously, the whole gym incident may be considered something of a misadventure, but I believe she had my best interests at heart, despite the two days of pain I suffered as a consequence.

That is enough for now I think. I am off down to the Club for a quick snifter or three with the chaps. A little bird tells me that Dorchester will be there this evening so it is a good opportunity to see what he has been up to lately – that confounded Annabelle woman never seems to let him out of her sight these days. I am not sure how he managed to wrangle an evening at the Club, so I am not going to waste the opportunity to see my old chum.

Tomorrow Nigel and I are taking the Bentley out for a spin. It hasn’t been out of the garage since we came back from Ascot so could do with a run to blow away the cobwebs. We are going to drive down to Brighton to visit an old family friend. I am hoping that we can learn something to add to my family tree as her family and my mother’s have been closely linked for many years.

 

People watching – a new hobby

Euston_station_concourseWell, it was all hands on deck this morning as we prepared for Dorothy’s departure for Edinburgh. She will be north of the border for about four weeks, but the number of cases and bags we had to manhandle onto the 10:43 at Euston you would have thought she was going for six months at least. I was exhausted carrying it all from the car to the platform. Thankfully First Class is at the beginning of the train so we didn’t have to drag it all down the full length of the platform.

I am not particularly good at farewells. I never know what to say or what to do. Once you have said the usual “I’ll miss you” and “hope you have a good time”, what else is there to say? I always find it difficult finding the rights words in that kind of situation.

And the whole hugging thing always makes me feel rather awkward. I see other people wrapping their arms around each other, all their emotions on public display and I just find it all somewhat embarrassing, particularly when it is happening on the platform of a busy mainline railway station.

Anyway, we said our goodbyes. The girls were both in tears, obviously rather upset about the separation, even though Angela is going up there next weekend. This kind of thing is always difficult; I never know what to do when grown women cry. I thought about putting my arms around Angela but didn’t want to upset anyone, particularly Dorothy, so I walked away a little and left them to it.

Once Dorothy’s train had left, Angela and I returned to the station concourse where she asked if I would like to join her for a coffee. Now, I don’t normally make use of the facilities at railway stations. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about this. My reticence about railway station refreshments has nothing to do with the surroundings or my fellow passengers; it is all about the quality of the food and drink. Not that I have ever eaten or drunk anything from those little outlets that line the concourse, but I can see enough to tell me that it is just not my kind of food. However, with Angela standing beside me, her eyes still wet from crying, I felt sorry for her and so agreed to sit with her for a while. I was pleasantly surprised when she led me not to one of those fast food stalls but a small and very pleasant bar overlooking the concourse.

Strangely enough, this was the first time that Angela and I had been alone together for any length of time. I found it slightly awkward at first, trying to make conversation with cousin’s girlfriend – the only thing I knew we had in common was Dorothy. As it was, I found Angela to be very pleasant company. From our seats in the bar, we had a good view of the station and very soon found ourselves discussing the mass of humanity we saw passing before the window. Apparently, this is something that she and Dorothy do a lot, quite often making up stories about the people they see. I can see the attraction of this harmless pastime, but I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. I did try, but it seems I lack the imagination required.

Whilst we were talking I thought I saw Hope and Charlotte walking towards one of the platforms, but I couldn’t be certain. Everybody is rushing so much, desperate not to miss their train, that it is very difficult to follow an individual. Angela has never met either of them so she couldn’t say.

We stayed in the bar for a little over half an hour before Angela left to return to her flat and I made my way to the Club. It had been quite a busy morning so I felt I deserved a good lunch and some fine wine. And if there is one place I can guarantee both, it’s the Club. The new chef is a veritable culinary wizard; what that man can do with the simplest of ingredients is nothing short of amazing. A couple of the chaps asked if Dorothy had arrived safely in Edinburgh and I had to admit that I had no idea. One fellow even suggested that I telephone her, which would be well and good if I had a note of her number on me. Which I didn’t. So I called her when I got home and it seems that all is well north of the border. Her train had arrived almost on time and the hotel she was staying in was comfortable and clean. I was happy with this and will pass the information on the fellows at the Club tomorrow.

In the meantime, I settled in for an evening of Strictly Come Dancing and some family tree research.

Divided by a common language

Today I had another of those tedious meetings with one of my managers. This time I had the dubious pleasure of meeting the head of PR and Marketing, Miss Langdon. Whilst I openly admit that talking to my heads of Logistics and Human Resources had left me underwhelmed and a little baffled, today’s little chat was in a league of its own.  Where Human Resources mangle the Queen’s English in a manner that makes it almost unintelligible, the language of PR and Marketing is about as easy to follow as Esperanto, and twice as incomprehensible.

Not only did I not understand two-thirds of the things she said, I am convinced that she was making some of the words and phrases up as she went along. I mean, what is all this about “blue sky thinking”? Does she expect me to stare at the clouds and daydream? And who came up with the phrase “white eye time”? I am all too familiar with the red-eye but was totally at a loss to understand this particular direction of our conversation. And when did it become accepted practice to speak in abbreviations? On several occasions, Miss Langdon would prefix a sentence with “FYI”. It wasn’t until afterwards when I asked my secretary about it that I understood what it meant. Needless to say, I was decidedly unimpressed by what I heard, or at least by the little I understood.

I think that anyone who knows me will accept that whilst I am not always the most on the ball when it comes to current affairs and business, I am not stupid. My parents spent a great deal of money on my education and I am pretty sure it can’t have been all wasted. So why do I feel so out of my depth and confused following these meetings? Is it too much to ask to expect people to talk in plain, simple English? I am sure my father would not have put up with all this gobbledygook.

I mean to say, English is such a beautiful language. It is the language of romance, of poetry and music. It can be so lyrical and magical, a joy to read and to hear. Whilst I can understand why the chaps from the colonies, particularly the Americans and West Indies, have manipulated it to make it their own, there can be no excuse for educated people from the City to try to do the same thing.

And it’s not just in the office I see examples of our wonderful language being murdered. I hear plenty of conversations in bars and restaurants where the phrases and words used seem to be designed to confuse rather than enlighten. At least at the Club, the Queen’s English is very much the language of choice. You won’t hear anyone dropping the term  “blue skies” into a conversation unless of course, they are talking about the weather.

Of course, I appreciate that language changes with time. Like everything else, it evolves. Anyone who has read Shakespear or Chaucer will acknowledge that. Even the words of the great Charles Dickens can seem a little odd these days. But from what I recall from my school days, evolution is a slow and natural process, and I don’t feel there is anything at all natural about blue sky thinking and FYI! It seems to me that insecure managers have collaborated together to create a linguistic barrier to anyone else encroaching on their territory. It seems nothing more than a device to secure their own positions whilst excluding those they perceive to be outsiders. One needs to learn the lingo, so to speak, if one wants to join the club.

Well, I am not going to play their games. In future, it is plain old Queens English or nothing. I am going to make it my mission to rid the company of business gobbledygook once and for all.

Once I had finished my chat with Miss Langdon I spent the rest of the morning with my secretary Miss Drayton. I wanted to get her view on the people who run the various departments. After all, she deals with all of them and I have learned to trust her instincts. I have also often found that women tend to be better judges of character than men. I don’t know whether it’s the hormones or part of the mother instinct, but they do seem to be able to see beyond the facade that some people manage to build for themselves. Miss Drayton is particularly astute at spotting those who have things to hide, or who are not quite as they seem. Actually, it makes me wonder why our head of Personel (or Human Resources as they like to call it) is a man. Surely this is a role better suited to a woman? Anyway, according to Miss Drayton, all the various department heads are very reliable and loyal. That doesn’t mean to say she trusts them all, but she says she knows how to handle them, and when they can be trusted and when they can’t.

I did consider taking Miss Drayton to lunch, but after what happened last time, I decided against it. It seems that it is not just our language that has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. These days a man can’t take his secretary out to lunch without his intentions being misconstrued. My father often took his secretaries out for meals and such like and no one thought anything of it. Or at least, if they did nothing was ever said to me. Ah well, I suppose that is the modern world for you. Maybe it is time I returned to the old family homestead in the country for a short while. I do love living in the city, but sometimes I like to return to the old estate, just to recharge the batteries and regain my perspective on life. Perhaps once Dorothy has left for Edinburgh on Saturday I could take myself away for a couple of days. I can’t be away for too long of course as I am attending an event at Hope’s gallery next week.

Anyway, I must dash, I am meeting Dorothy and Angela for a farewell dinner. I believe that we are being joined by a couple of her friends. I just hope they aren’t those theatrical types. I have had a stressful enough day without having to deal with a room full of lovies!

 

 

 

A frank exchange of views

One of the things I really enjoy about the Club, aside from the excellent food and extensive wine cellar, is that one never knows who is going to be there and which way conversations will go. There is such a variety of views that discussions are never boring, and can at times become quite heated. However, there is one thing that unites almost all of the members, and that is our concern over the terrible state our country is in at the moment. What we cannot agree on is the cause of the problem and how to fix it.

Quite a few of the chaps, and I include myself in this, are getting just a little impatient with the government over the whole Brexit thing. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to politics and finance, but even I can see that things aren’t going so well. The media is constantly referring to it as a divorce, which I suppose in a way it is, with both sides fighting over the family silver. My worry is that whilst the Union chappies seem fairly united in their approach, we are still fighting amongst ourselves over what we want to get out of the process. We can all see that despite what the Prime Minister says there is very little unanimity even in her own government.

What some of the chaps are saying is that they are more worried about the uncertainty and bickering than they are about Brexit itself. Like any divorce, each side wants to get the best it can for itself. Even the most amicable of separations will inevitably result in some conflict of interests; not that I have much experience of this kind of thing. What most people seem to want is certainty. I know one or two of my friends have business interests in the City and they are the ones most concerned about all the dithering and in-fighting. Apparently, the uncertainty about what is going to happen after Brexit is having an impact on investments and trade. I suppose I am in the same boat having investments of my own in City properties. Which reminds me that I really must talk to Aunt Murdock about this when I see her next.

There is still some disagreement amongst the chaps about how best to go about the Brexit negotiations. On one hand, there are those who want Mrs May to take a very firm stand and refuse any kind of compromise. On the other, and these are mainly the same people who supported the remain argument, there are those who want us to take what they refer to as a more pragmatic and open approach. I am not entirely sure which will be best for the country, but I suspect that it is somewhere in the middle. Even I know that there is never going to be a deal that satisfies the demands of both sides completely so we will have to accept some form of compromise. I am sure the debate will rumble on at the bar and, if the past week is anything to go by, it will only get more heated.

It is not just at the Club that the subject of Brexit rears it’s ugly head from time to time. Dorothy and Angela have been very vociferous in their support of remaining in the EU and are still very angry at the result. Angela has even spoken about getting herself a German passport. It seems that her mother’s family are from Germany so she can claim dual nationality if she wishes. I know that a number of people have done this recently, but to me, it seems a little futile unless one is actually planning to move there. I am not sure Dorothy would be too happy about that, but I am not going to interfere with their relationship or plans. What Dorothy has said on more than one occasion is that she is embarrassed by the whole thing. She has a lot of foreign friends and says that they can’t understand why we would want to leave the European club. I have tried to explain about sovereignty and the British standing in the world, but for some reason, she just can’t seem to understand it. I know that some people have implied it is some form of nostalgia for the days of the old Empire, but, at least as far as I am concerned, it isn’t that. It is just about being in control of our own destiny and our own laws. We should not be dictated to by other people. The rules and regulations we have to accept from Brussels are scandalous. For me, it is all about being able to decide things for ourselves. No one likes to be dictated to by outsiders who don’t understand our history or our customs. The French, Spanish and Germans have all tried to defeat us in war and failed; we can’t let them succeed by the back door.

Another subject that seems to have been creating something of a buzz at the bar this week is that of the Prime Minister’s position. I didn’t follow the events of the Party conferences – far too boring and narcissistic for my liking, all that self-congratulation and pompous self-righteousness does nothing for me – but those who do were very critical of Mrs May’s performance and the way she has been treated by the Party. I have to admit to having a great deal of respect for Mrs May, but even I am beginning to think that maybe she isn’t up to the job of leading us through our current troubles. Not that there seems to be a great deal of choice for replacement at the moment. With the Party so divided over Europe I don’t honestly think that there is anyone else capable of uniting all sides, and as far as I am concerned, unity is far more important than anything else right now.

There is only one subject at the moment that seems to have almost unanimous agreement with the chaps at the bar, and that is our mutual distrust of the American President, Donald Trump. Whilst he may be successful as a businessman – and there seems to be a little disagreement even over that – as a politician and diplomat he is very much out of his depth. The man seems to have absolutely no idea of how the world actually works. Several of the regulars at the Club have financial interests in the aircraft industry and are very angry over Trump’s recent announcements over the imposition of tariffs on Bombardier aircraft. One gets the feeling that he makes these announcements without thinking them through first. I certainly get the feeling that he doesn’t discuss things with his staff before taking to social media to make is pronouncements. I suppose that he is used to having complete control of his businesses and can’t seem to grasp the idea that his decisions have to me about more than just making money. America is not a business, it is a country, and it cannot be run in quite the same way. Having said that, Americans can be a little odd that way, putting financial gain ahead of everything else. I have said it before, they are a nation with no history and no idea of social etiquette. It is unfortunate that they have so much power and influence or we could just ignore them and let them get on with playing their silly games.

Mind you, we do have to be careful when discussing the Americans, and their President in particular, if my old chum Dorchester is around. Apparently, his American girlfriend is a Trump supporter (a Trump-et!) and he is very defensive of her views. According to Annabelle, the President can do no wrong. She fully supports his positions on immigration, North Korea and protecting American businesses. And whilst I can sort of see her point and some of his decisions, I cannot support her misguided view that Donald Trump is the saviour of the western world. The man’s a fruitcake I would hesitate to leave in control of a Sunday School, let alone a country.

Changing the subject completely, I had a call yesterday from Hope about some event or other she is holding at her gallery in a couple of weeks time. Apparently, it is one of those evenings when new artists get to display their work and she has asked me to go along. Of course, I have accepted the invitation, but I am not sure it is really my kind of thing. I have seen some of the work she has on display and it is all far too modern for me. My taste is more conservative I suppose, but she has been kind enough to ask me, so I will definitely have to go. I had thought of inviting Dorothy to join me, but she will be in Edinburgh by then.

 

Dining out

I have been asked by a few of my more casual acquaintances how they might find the best places to dine whilst in town. 

Well, the answer is quite simple really: never eat at a restaurant that has featured on TV, never eat at any establishment that is open for breakfast and never, never, ever eat anywhere with a flashing neon sign. I would also suggest avoiding anywhere with the word “hut” in its name, and give a particularly wide berth to anywhere with a nautical theme. But above all, do not, I repeat do not, at any costs, eat at any restaurant that specialises in Mexica, Moroccan, Asian or Oriental dishes – that is just asking for trouble.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love my food. It is one of life’s little pleasures that I simply will not cut corners on. For me, taste is everything, the presentation just an added bonus. There are some people who can be very snobbish about their food, but not me. Amongst my closest friends, I am considered to be quite cosmopolitan in my approach to cuisine. I have often heard my old chum Cambridge say he would never eat any of that, as he calls it, “foreign muck”! Even I consider that to be quite a narrow-minded view; we all need to broaden our horizons these days. I myself have learnt the benefits of Eastern European cooking, thanks to my housekeeper, Mrs Kaczka, who is a veritable wizard in the kitchen. She often prepares traditional Polish dishes for me, and her cakes and pastries are simply divine.

On the other hand, on several occasions, dear old Nigel has tried to entice me into trying some Indian or oriental dishes, but I am afraid that I just have to draw a line in the proverbial sand over that idea. It is all well and good for those native fellows to eat such things, but for the more refined, civilised palette, I fear all those spices and other very un-European ingredients are just a step too far. Admittedly, Nigel seems to enjoy these hot and spicy dishes, but he is young and I am sure he will learn better eventually.

Indeed, one of my old school friends once tried one of those spicy Indian dishes after a fairly heavy drinking session during our college days. If you had seen the state of him the following morning you would not go anywhere near the stuff. We never got all the stains out of the furniture.

Now, I understand that although some of the towns and cities outside of London do have what might conservatively be considered to be fine dining establishments. However, I regret that I must advise great caution. You really can’t expect the same high standards and levels of culture and civility as you will get here in town.

In the end, there is no real art to choosing the correct place to eat, it is more about knowing which places to avoid. I have often found that personal recommendation is far more reliable than anything else.

Of course, the best places to dine are those where you know the chef or those that are owned by friends. But I have found that quite often having one of those TV chefs can mean dramatically increased prices for very little return in terms of quality or variety.

And one final thought: if the restaurant of your choice is fully booked, then that is the one you actually want. An empty restaurant is usually that way for a very good reason.