A weekend in the Cotswolds

All things considered, I think I can safely say that the weekend was a very successful one indeed. Not only was the Darnley’s party a truly splendid affair, with some of the best company one can expect outside of town, but Hope and I have, I believe, quite firmly established ourselves as a couple.

We were greeted by our hosts most warmly and it seems that Hope’s family is not unknown amongst the West Country set. It is fair to say that several of my acquaintances there were surprised to see us together, but on the whole I believe that most were pleased for us. And whilst it is still “early days” as they say, sharing the weekend with Hope felt very natural, as if we had been together for years rather than weeks.

But of course, the weekend wasn’t about us. The party was to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of my old school chum Lucas and his lovely wife, Marcia. I can remember the day they met as if it were just yesterday. Lucas, myself and a few of the old gang had decided to spend some of the summer at a little place in Devon owned by a friend of young Dasher’s. I can’t recall exactly where it was, except that it sat perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. We were not far from the moors and a seem to recall several rather drunken nights spent recounting tales of strange beasts and haunted villages. It was all rather jolly fun.

Anyway, young Marcia’s family were the closest neighbours, their rather substantial mock Tudor home being just a mile up the winding path that passed in those parts for a road. We had met the family on the first evening after our arrival down at the local hostilry. I say local but it was actually about three miles away. Lucas spotted Marcia as soon as we walked through the door and didn’t take his eyes off her all evening. After a few drinks, he finally plucked up the nerve to go across and speak to her. After that, the rest of us may as well have not been there. They were engaged with six weeks and married three months later. I admit that I don’t see an awful lot of them these days, but we are still good friends none-the-less.

Hope and I spent the Friday evening at our little hotel. We had a very nice meal and a pleasant time in the bar where we met up with several of the other guests who had, like us, decided not to stay at the house itself. It was actually rather late by the time we left the bar and made our way to our rooms. I had just got myself ready for bed when I heard a quiet knock on the room door. I have to admit that I was a little surprised. I mean, who on Earth would be knocking on my door at two o’clock in the morning? I hoped it was not someone with bad news. My first thought was that something had happened to Aunt Murdock – after all, she has been quite ill these past few weeks. So it was with a little trepidation that I opened the door, only to see Hope standing there, holding two glasses of brandy from a bottle she had, apparently, brought with her. It was quite a relief I must say, and not just because she wasn’t bringing bad news.

Saturday’s party was very enjoyable but brought little of note. I had the opportunity to catch up with a few old friends, many of whom were pleased to be introduced to Hope. I am pleased to say that Hope seemed to enjoy herself, not least because she found herself reintroduced to some old friends of her own she had not seen for some years. By the time we left, shortly before midnight, we were both extremely tired and just a little tipsy.

We returned to good old London on Sunday afternoon. The weather was a little disappointing after we had had such a marvellous spring day on Saturday.

I have not seen Hope since I returned home on Sunday evening. Apparently, she has a lot of work at the gallery before we head off to the old homestead on Friday evening. Of course, I myself have work to do. I have been in the office all day yesterday and today, trying to get to grips with some of the more obscure elements of the business portfolio. And I have to say I am not entirely happy about some of the things I have learnt. I have always known that my father was a man driven by ambition and money, but I hadn’t realised quite how ruthless he could be, until now. Some of the things I discovered today made me rather sad actually, and quite determined that some things are going to have to change if I am going to continue running the show. Maybe I will talk to Hope about it. I am learning to trust her feelings and her instinct.

I had planned to visit the Club tonight as I haven’t been there since last week. The chaps will be wondering what on Earth has happened to me. But in the end, I decided to stay at home. At first, I thought it might be a good idea to invite Dorothy to come down and join me in watching one of her favourite old movies. That was until I remembered that she had left and was now living with Angela in their nice new flat. It is strange how quickly one can become used to having another person around the place, and how difficult it can be to adjust once they have moved out.

I have decided that tomorrow I am going to drive up to see Aunt Murdock and Uncle George. I have not seen them for a few weeks so it will be very nice to catch up. I also want to speak to the old Mad Duck about my concerns and plans for the business. I just hope that she agrees with me. She may not have been in the office so much these days, but she still has a very large share in the business and her approval is essential if I am to make any changes.

For now, I think I will turn in and catch up with a little reading.

 

 

Developments in the country

Well, what an interesting few days this has been. I popped down to the old homestead primarily because of all the rumours I had been hearing recently. Judging by all the gossip the country was beset by marauding property developers, whose sole intent appeared to be to deprive half the county of their land and the other half their livelihoods!

Quite honestly I had half expected to be walking straight into a scene from Les Miserables, with the hard-pressed locals and the City suits each standing firm behind their makeshift barricades. I could almost hear the chorus of “One Day More” ringing in my ears as I approached the Kings Arms.

I was actually a little disappointed to find just one young lady sat on the high street clutching what was obviously a rather hastily produced placard with the slogan “No To New Developments” scrawled across it. This was hardly the raging protest I had been led to expect. As I am sure you can imagine, I don’t have much experience of protests or demonstrations of any kind, but even I could see that such a lacklustre approach was going to little if anything to deter the builders and their backers.

The reason I had stopped off at the King’s Arms first rather than the house was so that I could have a quiet chat with old Jim, the landlord. I was also feeling rather peckish so I could kill two birds with the one stone, so to speak. It was unusually quiet at the bar so I had no trouble securing a good table in the far corner, close to the fire. This not only had the advantage of keeping me warm but also boasted an excellent view of the entrance so I could keep a lookout for any of my friends who may happen to call in.

Anyway, over a couple of glasses of 10-year-old Ardbeg, Jim brought me up to date on recent events. It seems that there are two different companies vying with each other to purchased pockets of land all around the area. And as I am sure you can imagine, many of the local residents are none too happy about it, but local businesses are supporting the proposal. Personally, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. What can possibly be the problem with building a few more houses on what would otherwise be unused and wasted land? That is, providing there is a proven need and that the project is managed in a way that limits inconvenience to the local population.

Jim himself believes that more houses will bring more trade, so he is all for these new developments getting the go ahead. You see, according to Jim, none of the sites so far identified as having the potential for redevelopment had actually received planning permission. The area is largely greenbelt so some of the local country set can get a little hot under the collar about these things. As far as I am concerned, providing they build their new developments away from existing properties and can ensure that they are tastefully designed, then we should be supporting them. Of course, I will not allow any such development on my own property; I have no intention of being the first Dimbelby to had any of the family estates to be sold off.

After sampling the special, which was an absolutely enormous and beautifully cooked  Sea Bass, I made my way to the house to speak to my trusty Estate Manager, Mr Rotherby. When I arrived Mr Rotherby himself was busy in his little office and seemed very pleased to see me. Over drinks in the study, he told me all about one particular company who had been writing and calling every day hoping to secure a fairly large plot of land on the far side of the estate to build some kind of trading estate. Well, I was not going to have that. Putting up a few houses was one thing, but to introduce all that heavy traffic and workmen in overalls to this most beautiful part of the country just isn’t on.

Over the next few days, I spoke to a number of local councillors, some of my fellow landowners and other friends I managed to build a picture of what is really going on. It seems that there are two companies trying to secure several small plots of land suitable for building family homes. What they are proposing seems perfectly fine with me. One can’t afford to stand still in this day and age, otherwise, one will be left behind. On the other hand, there is another developer who is looking specifically to build a small industrial and retail “park”. And I can tell by the conversations I had over the weekend that we are almost unanimous in your objection to having any such things thrust upon the residents of the town.

One resident who did not hesitate to make her feelings known to me was young Anne who joined me on several occasions over the few days I was at the house. It would appear that the young scoundrel Dorchester has been driving across to Anne’s rather frequently of late. It was so good to see how happy she was with Dorchester and was busy trying to mould him into the type of chap who can appreciate the difference between a rose and a carnation. I am extremely pleased for both of them – I am sure they will make a very fine couple.

I had only planned to stay at the house for a couple of days but found I was enjoying my stay so much that I did not come home until late this afternoon. I had thought I would spend a few days visiting old friends, which I did despite the continual protests and placard-waving at strategic points around the town. In the end, I got rather bored talking about builders, developers and all the money they were going make and how many new homes in the area would be a disaster. So I just stayed at the house, chatting to Aunt Sara about family matters and reminiscing over the parties my mother and father often hosted there. Of course, as a child, I was never allowed to attend of these lavish affairs. To be fair to my mother, I was usually at school when these events took place.

As I say, I really enjoyed my short sojourn in the country and am now ready to take on whatever it is Aunt Murdock and Miss Drayton have to throw at me.

 

 

A pleasant evening with friends, old and new

Dinner parties with strangers are a little like a leap into the unknown. One never knows quite what to expect. When Hope asked me to be her partner at this little soiree hosted by a couple of her old school friends I immediately accepted but did have my reservations. After all, I had no idea where we were going, who we would be with, or if we would have anything in common. As it turns out I need not have worried; we actually had a really fun evening.

The big surprise of the evening was discovering that although I did not know our hosts, I was already acquainted with the other guests, Richard and Lianna Bardon-Willis. I knew Dickie from College, he was one of the members of our little debating society; Lianna was one of the young ladies we used to drink with. They became a couple in our last year which was no surprise to anyone. We didn’t really keep in touch a great deal afterwards, but our paths have crossed on several occasions over the intervening years. Seeing them there was such a jolly nice surprise and made the whole affair much more pleasant.

Before I say I anything else I really do have to compliment our hosts – Charles and Helen – for the most amazing meal. A delicious Salmon and Prawn Taurine, Lamb so tender it virtually melted in the mouth, and a truly refreshing Lemon Sorbet to finish. All served with a perfect selection of wine which flowed just as freely as the conversation.

Our hosts seemed to know just the right things to say to keep things chugging along. I had not met them before, but they seemed to know a little about me. Apparently, Charles has some business interests that have brought him into contact with my Aunt Murdock, and my father before her. I don’t know exactly what he does, but it seems to involve property development in some way. Dickie, on the other hand, is in banking and has been since we left college, all those years ago.

The one rather strange thing about the evening was that Hope and I were the only two single people there. Although we have known each other for quite a while, our friendship is actually fairly new. For many years Hope was just someone I knew of but had very little direct contact with beyond family gatherings and social events. Over the past few months though I feel we have become very good friends and I am really rather fond of her. As the drink and conversation continued to flow, more than once I found myself watching her as she laughed, noticing,  not for the first time, that she has a couple of crooked teeth which I found strangely alluring A number of my friends and acquaintances have spent a great deal of time and money on having such things repaired, but there is something about these slight imperfections that I find more attractive and genuine. To my mind, all this tinkering with ones’ looks is often counterproductive. There is nothing so unnatural as a woman of a certain age relying on surgery and drugs to keep her looking like a 20-year-old. There are far too many women of my acquaintance whos looks owe more to a surgeons knife than their own efforts or lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when plastic surgery and like are necessary, but the obsession some people have over tinkering with their own bodies I find quite frightening. I would never consider going under the knife for anything unless it was truly necessary. And I am pleased to see that Hope is not one of those who feel they need to hide their natural look.

I must say we all had a jolly good evening and I was a little disappointed when it came time to take our leave. Charles and Helen were wonderful hosts, it was good to see Dickie and Lianne again, Hope was her usual charming self, and I do believe I did or said nothing to embarrass myself, which is always a bonus.

Arthur collected Hope and me a little before midnight. During the drive back to her house, I asked Hope about Emily and what she thought I had done to offend her. I could tell she was a little reluctant to talk about it, but I eventually persuaded her to tell me.  According to Hope, Emily has worked on a number of cases that have involved one or another of the companies my business is linked with, and her experiences have not been very good. This revelation came as something of a shock to me and I promised Hope that I would look into whatever it was that Emily felt was wrong.

Personally, I am not totally convinced that her business dealings are the whole story, but I am happy to leave things there for now. Undoubtedly we will have other opportunities to clear the air and discuss whatever issues Emily feels she may have with me.

One of the many things that were discussed last night, all be it rather briefly, was Valentine’s Day. Now I am not one for all this sentimental flim-flam so I was rather surprised to hear that both couples were planning something special for today. I found the whole conversation rather embarrassing as, being the two singles at the table, there seemed to be some expectation that Hope and I would be doing something romantic today. Of course, we aren’t and I had to admit to not having given the day a moment’s thought. Thankfully the conversations moved on to other things fairly rapidly.

Why is it that married couples can’t seem to stop themselves interfering with the relationships of their single friends? Well, I for one do not appreciate that kind of thing, no matter well-meaning the plotters may be. As I said, things moved on very quickly so the whole subject was soon forgotten, but I was reminded of it this morning when Dorothy and Angela joined me for a late breakfast. Apparently, there had been flowers, cards and gifts aplenty and they soon turned their attention to me. But not for long. I very quickly appraised them of my view that the whole thing was just another event designed to make as much money as possible out of people. The price that restaurants and clubs charge for tables on Valentine’s Day is almost obscene and as far as I am concerned it is all a complete waste of time and money. As I see it, one should not wait until 14th February to let one’s feelings be known to our loved ones.

My plan for this evening is for a few drinks at the Club and game or two of snooker with not a piece of chocolate or a rose in sight.

 

A change of plan

Things have been quite busy since my last update. My beloved Bentley was returned to me on Monday morning, all ship shape and Bristol fashion. You would never know she had been involved in a prang. Apparently, the insurance companies are still arguing over who was responsible for the accident, but I am keeping right out of it. I have my car back and that is all that matters to me. Well, not all that matters, but I am sure you understand my meaning.

I wasn’t due in the office on Monday so was able to indulge myself and take the old thing for a spin. Arthur came with me; he drove as far as Bromley after which I took the wheel. It was a great feeling, racing down those quiet country lanes of Kent. They really do not make motors like this little gem anymore. I know that there are manufacturers who make similar cars, but there is something detached and sterile about all the computers and gadgets they put in cars these days. It takes the fun out of motoring.

I have to admit that I got quite carried away with myself. Arthur and I stopped for a drink and a bite to eat somewhere in the countryside, I’m not exactly sure where, before heading back. It was almost 2 o’clock by the time we got back to the house and I had just missed a telephone call from Hope. Her message said she would call back again later as she needed to speak to me about our date and she wasn’t at the gallery. This left me very uneasy as I was looking forward to our evening together and I was anxious that she wasn’t going to have to cancel on me.

This, of course, meant that I had to remain at home waiting for the call. Not that I had planned to go anywhere, but knowing that I had to stay in made the wait even more excruciating. I believe we have all gone through this kind of thing at one time or another. I imagine that this is how expectant fathers feel as they pace the hospital corridors waiting for the sound of their baby’s first cry.

In the end, I had to wait until almost 4 o’clock before Hope finally called me back. By that time Dorothy was home and we were in the sitting room where I was telling her about my little drive into the country. I was so on edge that I dropped the telephone, not once, but twice before I could actually say anything. Hope seemed to find my nervousness amusing, which in turn relaxed me. Anyway, once we had got the pleasantries out of the way, Hope got to the purpose of her call. She told me that she was expecting a visit from her eldest daughter, Emily, and was asking if I would mind postponing our date until later in the week. Well, what else could I say? Of course, I agreed despite my great disappointment. Hope was not able to speak for long so there wasn’t time to make any further arrangements.

When I came off the telephone, Dorothy invited me to join herself and Angela at a party that evening, I presume as a way to smooth over my disappointment. Although I was tempted, I decided instead to go to the Club. It was a rather quiet night with just a few of the old guard at the bar. I had a pleasant, but unexciting evening.

This morning I made my usual visit the office where Miss Drayton reminded me that I had a series of meetings that would last until the early afternoon. Taking over some of Aunt Murdock’s responsibilities is placing a heavy burden on my poor shoulders, but I am doing my best to get through it all. In the end, I spent the entire day at the office, not getting home until well after 5 o’clock. I was far too exhausted to go out and actually felt slightly relieved that Hope had cancelled our date.

I had just finished my evening meal and was contemplating another visit to the Club when I received an unexpected visitor – young Nigel. I must say I was a little surprised by his appearance as I was sure I had told him I would be out with Hope, but it was very nice to see him anyway. We spent a little time on the computer where he showed me some little tricks for searching the internet and tried to explain to me about his new business venture. From what I understand it involves moving commodities of one kind or another around the world by using the internet. What he moves, from where and how is beyond me, but I am sure he will do well.

Well, I have another busy day tomorrow so I had better get my beauty sleep. I haven’t heard from Hope yet but I expect she has been busy herself. Maybe she will call tomorrow.

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.

Another unwanted American import

black-friday-shoppers1Anyone reading my journal might be forgiven for thinking I have become obsessed with the Americans. I haven’t. But they do have an annoying habit of sneaking through one’s defences and getting under the skin. I think I have made my feelings about the crackpot President quite plain, and I have no time for their loud, in your face attitude or their belief that money can buy anything.

Of the many things that annoy me about our cousins across the pond, the one that I find the most unforgivable is their propensity for exporting their more inane ideas. And this week we saw probably the worst of the American imports, Black Friday. To me, this one event symbolises all that is wrong with the American culture, if there is such a thing, particularly as it follows immediately after Thanksgiving. The idea behind the Thanksgiving celebration is not new, events to mark the harvest and the good fortunes of the preceding year have been celebrated throughout the world for millenia. I have nothing against this idea and am happy to see our cousins come together in harmony and celebrate their good fortune. But to then follow this inspiring event with the most flagrantly consumerist binge is almost obscene. The founding Pilgrims would be turning in their graves if they could see what their ancestors had done to their original celebration of good fortune.

I should point out that I have no problem with what the American’s chose to do on their own soil. If they want to celebrate the excesses of consumerism as if it were some kind of religion, then they can do, just so long as it stays on their side of the pond. The trouble starts when these blatantly consumerist ideas start trickling over here, contaminating our British values of reserve and moderation. The images and stories one sees in the newspapers are quite frightening. People fighting over a new television or item of clothing is quite obscene and very un-British. Once again we find ourselves imitating the worst behaviour of our American cousins. Yes, I have read the headlines about the boost to the country’s economy, but at what cost?  It is by these small acts that we begin to lose our identity. Do we really want to become a mirror image of the United States?

It wouldn’t surprise me to find that within a year or two we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Not that I have anything against the thing itself, so long as it stays on the right side of the Atlantic. After all, we have already had rock and roll, Black Friday, school proms and baby showers. What next? I ask myself.

And what about all that Trick or Treating we saw last month? Whilst I have never been a fan of Haloween itself, at least when I was a child it was just about bobbing apples and maybe a bit of dressing up and a scary movie or two. Now it is all about greed. Haloween has become big business and just another excuse for excess and spending. And anyway, Haloween is one of those strange days that we really shouldn’t be celebrating at all. All Hallows Eve is a pagan celebration that has no place in a Christian society and the commercialisation of it makes the whole thing even worse.

Not that we are directly affected. It is one of the benefits of living where I do that casual visitors can’t get to us. But I know from what I have heard from others that these trick-or-treaters are a real nuisance, knocking on the door and demanding sweets with menaces! It is a typically American idea and one that we could well do without.

But getting back to imports from America, it is not only celebrations and commercialism that we had adopted. Our TV screens are filled with shows imported from the USA, our language has been infiltrated, and American-styled fast foods dominate our high street. There are some imports we really do not need, and the American culture is by far the most noticeable.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some kind of stigma attached to having a pride in being British. Well, as far I am concerned, I am British and proud of it. I am not some new-fangled, gender-neutral citizen of some imagined a global state. I am British and proud of it. Let the American’s keep their inane consumerist celebrations, we don’t need them and should not be expected to follow them.

 

 

Home is where the heart is

Well, here I am, back in town. I had thought I might return on Tuesday with Anne and take the opportunity to meet with Hope, but in the end, I decided to stay another couple of days and sort out a few issues with the estate. And I am very pleased that I did. I met with Anne for lunch after her return and she told me that her meeting with Hope had gone very well indeed. It sounds like they will be working closely together on a couple of projects. I am so pleased that I have been able to help them both.  Over drinks at the King’s Arms on Friday night, Anne and I were joined by Mr Rotherby who told us that he had just been speaking to a couple of local farmers who said that they had been visited by some developer or other about selling portions of their land.

This very quickly became the focus of a lot of debate around the bar, I can tell you. There is a lot of bad feeling amongst some of the locals about all these new developments, Not everyone is happy about having all these people moving into the area from the cities and cluttering the place with their cars and teenagers. Whilst I don’t share their views, being a city boy myself these days, I can see their point. Many of the small villages around here are like little oases of calm and rural tradition. But it is that very authenticity that draws in their new neighbours. But they also need to accept that these people bring money, jobs and some stability to what are sometimes areas in decline.

But I do have some sympathy for them. It seems that almost everywhere you go these days they are building new homes on what was once good farming land. I know that a lot of people get very angry about it, but so long as they stay away from our old estates and lovely villages, then I don’t see what the problem is. After all, politicians and campaigners keep banging on about the need for more houses, so let them get on with it. But if anyone thinks they are going to get their hands on any of my lands, they can think again. I may not be there very often, but I am determined to keep the estate as well maintained and intact as possible.

You know, I really don’t understand all the fuss about the housing shortage. I see plenty of empty properties almost every day, even in the city. There are whole blocks just sitting there with no one in them. Whilst some of these may not be housing as such, surely they could be converted or knocked down and rebuilt to make something suitable. Then they wouldn’t need to start looking avariciously at our beautiful countryside.

And I don’t understand all this fuss about what they call “affordable” housing. I mean, surely if one has a job one can afford a mortgage or rent. I admit that I am no expert when it comes to the economy or finances, but it doesn’t make sense to me to make house prices too high for people to afford. And if buying is beyond reach, there is always the rental market. A large part of my family business is related to property development and rental, and although I don’t understand it all, it seems to me that there is plenty of property out there.

It’s strange but for most of my life the old family house has just been somewhere I visit occasionally. It has not been a real home to me since I was in my teens. Although, if I am to be totally honest, I am not actually sure it ever was, even then.

My parents sent me away to school when I was very young so that is where I spent most of my time and I think that in many ways, the various schools I attended became home. That was where my friends were, and where I was happiest, which I think is as good a definition of home as any.

I have always been glad to return to the city, but there are times, like now, when something about the country leaves a trace of regret. The country estate may never have felt much like home to me, but family is important, and the family home is as much a part of it as the people themselves. After all, it is the place that holds the family’s memories and treasures. And there are certainly plenty memories in the old place, but not all of them good. And as for being a repository for the family heirlooms and mementoes, it is certainly that, in spades. Most of the walls are lined with portraits of various ancestors on my father’s side. The house shows very little of my mother’s influence, other than some improvements to the kitchens and new greenhouses.

Anyway, I am back in my Kensington abode, which feels much more homely now that Dorothy has returned from her filming job in Edinburgh. I am so relieved to have her around the place again.