Drugs shocker

I had a little bit of a shock earlier this week. I was at the Club. Thursday I think it was. Yes, it must have been because I was in the office that morning and had been talking to my invaluable secretary, Miss Drayton about ideas for a gift for Hope’s birthday next weekend. I pride myself on the quality of my gifts which Miss Drayton is always so very helpful with procuring. Unfortunately, on this occasion, neither one of us had felt entirely confident that any of our ideas were entirely suitable. In the end, Miss Drayton said she would give the matter further consideration over the weekend and we agreed to discuss the matter again on Monday. I do not normally visit the office on Mondays, but I will make an exception this week as I feel this is such an important matter.

So, it was definitely Thursday evening when I visit the Club. I had arrived in time to join a few of the chaps for a rather fine dinner before retiring to the bar for a frame or two over drinks. Now, I am not renowned amongst my friends as the most observant of chaps, but I did notice that one of the usual gang, young Harper, was absent and when I thought about it, I had to admit that I had not seen him for a week or more. Whilst it was not unusual for some of the chaps to be away for long periods as they joined various family and friends in exotic locations, Harper was not considered to be one of the globe-trotting set. In fact, he rarely left town at all, and then only during the summer to holiday with his family in a little villa they kept in Italy. I know he has recently broken up with his latest girlfriend which in normal circumstances would have led to a more frequent presence at the Club, seeking solace from his friends.

Anyway, I mentioned Harper’s absence from the bar to one of his regular drinking companions, Richardson. I had expected a simple “he’s taken himself off to”, so imagine my surprise when Richardson put his arm around my should and led me to one side of the group, whispering conspiratorially in my ear. It seems that unbeknown to many of us at the Club, Harper has for some time been having drug issues.

When Richardson first said this I immediately thought of anti-depressants or painkillers. I have often heard how addictive these can be, although I could not imagine why he would be taking such things in the first place. He has always seemed a very cheery and healthy chap. When I said this to Richardson he led me a little further away from the bar where he told me that in fact, Harper has been taking other non-prescription drugs and had been admitted to a clinic for treatment to break his habit. Well, I was more than a little surprised by this revelation. Young Harper a drug addict! The very idea of such a thing seemed so out of character and really not the sort of thing one expects of respectable Club members.

Not surprisingly I have no experience of such things. I have always considered that drug taking was one of those things that only celebrities and jobless young men did. To think that one of my own friends could be caught up in that rather seedy world came as a real shock I can tell you. I mean, I have read the papers and seen the news stories about all the drug-related crime and violence that plagues our society these days. From what I have read, most of the criminal activity in the City is linked to the drug trade. One only has to walk the streets of the city of an evening to see evidence of the damage it does to people’s lives.

I have to say that I really do not understand it all. Personally, the nearest I have been is when I started smoking back at school, but that didn’t last long. I only did it to be one of the gang, but I can’t say I ever really enjoyed it. Admittedly there was a certain frisson of excitement as we sneaked off to share our illicit cigarettes, but the act itself did nothing for me, other than induce a niggling cough and make my hair smell. The whole episode came to a rather abrupt end when my mother caught me smoking in one of the downstairs bathrooms. I have never seen her so angry as she launched into a lecture on the damage I was doing to my health. Since that day I have stayed well clear.

On reflection, that is one of the surprising things about the Harper affair. I have always associated drug taking with smoking, assuming that one leads to another. But Harper does not smoke and as far as I know, he never has. I suppose that this is one of those misguided preconceptions one often has regarding issues one has no direct experience of.

For me it was all about fitting in, being one of the gang. And I suppose that this is often the case with drugs. If those are one are taking them, then one would feel compelled to participate if only to ensure you can remain part of the group. No one wants to be seen as the outsider and not many of us have the strength of character to step back and say no, I am not doing that. I think it is safe to say that we all face these challenges at some point in our lives, it unfortunate that for some, it leads down a very dark and dangerous path.

Richardson did not want to say too much about Harper’s problems, but he did say he was doing well and should be back in circulation pretty soon. It would seem that he has been dabbling in drugs of one kind or another for quite a few years, but the breakdown of his most recent relationship had tipped him over the edge, as they say. Although Harper and I are not particularly close, I have to admit that hearing about his problems has been rather a shock. One does not expect to discover that one of one’s friends has a secret life that one knows nothing about. I believe that only a small number of people are fully aware of the reason for Harper’s absence from town, so I must be sure to keep the secret.

Talking of secrets, Dorothy rang me yesterday to tell me that she has proposed to young Angeal and they are going to get married! Of course, it is wonderful news, but I have to admit that I am still a little shocked by the idea that two women can, in fact, get married. It is still very much an alien concept to me. Anyway, I am going to their new flat to see them later this afternoon and I am sure they will be only too happy to tell me everything.

 

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.

 

 

Difficult decisions

I found myself in the horns of a little dilemma earlier this week. You see, I had made arrangements with Hope to accompany me to a little soiree up in Cheltenham. It is one of those family affairs that one finds oneself attending from time to time. One of my cousins is celebrating his silver wedding and has invited just about the whole clan to join in the merriment. I had already booked us a couple of rooms and everything was set when, out of the blue, Dasher popped round and reminded me that we had planned to visit Aintree for the weekend’s racing. It is one of those events that we get to every other year or so, but I have to admit that our little arrangement had gone completely out of my head.

And that was my dilemma. To cancel the long-standing arrangement with one of my oldest friends, or tell my new girlfriend that I had made a mistake and cancel our weekend in the country? I know what Dorothy would have said if she had still been here, but she is in her own place now and I am going to have to get used to making my own decisions again.

I have to say that it wasn’t easy to tell Dasher I couldn’t make it, but faced with the same choices, I am sure he would have done the same thing. I really hate to disappoint one of my oldest friends like this but I could hardly renege on my arrangements with Hope. Whilst I am sure Hope would have understood if I had chosen to make my biennial pilgrimage to the Grand National, I am equally certain it would have put an indelible black mark against her opinion of my character.

I suppose that we all face this kind of thing from time to time, having to make difficult decisions that can have a profound impact on our futures. It is like approaching a fork in the road with no clear signposts. There is no telling where either path leads, so one just has to make the best choices one can based on the information to hand. In my case, it was fairly easy: the risk of upsetting Hope just when our relationship was starting down its own new path or change plans with one of my oldest chums. Hope’s reaction I could not predict, but I knew Dasher would be fine with it. I have often found that us chaps are so much more predictable than the ladies.

So tomorrow I will pick up Hope and drive us up the Cotswolds for what I am sure will be a very pleasant weekend. I am a little disappointed to be missing one of the great racing events of the year, but it can’t be helped. We all have to make sacrifices, and this is one of mine.

 

Rattling closets

Yesterday I attended a small supper party at the home of old family friends. What I expected to be a rather dull evening very quickly turned into a somewhat enlightening affair.

The who thing was a send-off for young Charles who is going away travelling for a year before taking up a job in his family firm. I have known Charles since he was a small child, but we became quite close during his colourful college days. He stayed with me for almost a year whilst his parents did some travelling of their own.

As far as I was concerned, Charles’ family has always been one of the most stable of my acquaintance. I have never known his parents to disagree over anything and they are very rarely seen apart. Charles and his three sisters are the kinds of young people that give one hope for the future. But it seems that every family has its little secrets; the skeleton in the cupboard that rattles away quietly, waiting for its opportunity to burst forth and spill the beans, so to speak. It was only the excess of alcohol, the atmosphere of bonhomie and the conversation about Dorothy and Angela that finally let this particular skeleton out for a bit of an airing.

Well, last night, with the drinks flowing rather too freely, the conversation drifted to my housemate and her girlfriend.

You see, I was asked, quite innocently I believe, about the arrangement I had made with Dorothy and her lodging with me. I think that more than one person in the room had assumed that we were “an item”, so to speak. Obviously, I promptly dissuaded every one of that particular notion fairly quickly. But in so doing I revealed her relationship with Angela, a revelation that some of the guests were not too happy about, and once that particular avenue of discussion was opened up, things began to take a very interesting, if somewhat surprising, turn.

I can’t recall exactly who said what to whom, but at this point in the proceedings, things began to get rather heated. Several of the older members of the party were showing open hostility towards Dorothy and her relationship. Whilst I was well prepared to defend her honour, it was, in fact, Charles’ mother, Mary, who sprang to Dorothy’s immediate defence with a fervour and depth of understanding that quite took me back.

I have never seen Mary get so angry and animated before. I have known her for more years than either of us care to remember and in all that time I don’t think I have ever heard her raise her voice to anyone, not even me. Well, last night the drink must have got to her because she really let rip. Denouncing those who had been critical of Dorothy’s sexual choices as bigots, she went on to identify several members of her own family circle, alive and dead, who had been gay. For some of her guests, including myself, these revelations came as something of a shock, particularly as two of those mentioned were in the room at the time.

At one point, just before we finally gave up on the dessert (a rather fine looking trifle), Mary actually had hold of one chap by the lapels. It was so out of character that I found myself unable to do anything but stand and stare. Quite honestly by this point, I had begun to feel like I had wandered inadvertently into the filming of a reality TV show. I was almost tempted to search for the hidden cameras because I could not think of any other reason for normally mild and meek Mary to behave like someone possessed.

I think it is safe to say that at that particular point in proceedings the party came to a very abrupt end. Obviously, it is not my place to tell everybody about their little secret, but let’s just say,  I didn’t see that one coming. I mean, who would have thought that a man with four children could have been hiding such a thing.

It has to be said that as supper parties go, last night’s was one of the most memorable of the year. It is certainly an evening that those of us who attended will remember for quite some time. I stayed behind until everyone else had gone, primarily to keep an eye on Mary. Her husband, Ian, had been very shaken by the events of the evening and was about as much use at this point as a bicycle in a flood.

Surprisingly Charles seemed quite upbeat about everything. Maybe it was the excitement about his impending world tour, or maybe it was because he was roaring drunk, but he seemed to hardly notice the state his mother was in as he stood amongst the ruins of the party. I believe he was the only one to get any of the trifle, and that was only because he helped himself.

In the end, I didn’t get home until sometime just after 2 o’clock, so I didn’t see Dorothy until this morning as she was packing to leave – she and Angela move into their own little flat today. When I told her about what had gone on she was quite shocked, but also I think a little amused. I like Dorothy very much, but she does have a mischevious side and I think it is just as well that she was not there herself. I can only guess at how Mary and her family are feeling today. I had intended to call on them to say my goodbyes to Charles, but I think, for my own safety, I am better staying away. I can imagine there are going to be some bad heads and recriminations.

The who affair got me to thinking about my own family and the skeletons that may be lurking in our old a battered closets. It goes without saying that any family that has managed to hold on to a particular place in society has to have its own secrets, those misjudgements, misdemeanours and malpractices that no one really wants to see brought forth to face the light of day. My own research into my family tree has raised a number of questions, but so far, very few answers other than those one would expect. There have been one or two black sheep, individuals who, for one reason or another, have found themselves ostracised by the family, cast out and stripped of their inheritances.

Nigel is convinced that if we dig deep enough we will find something juicy, which would not surprise me in the slightest. I suppose that in a way I have a few of my own, but nothing worth getting excited or anxious about. I am sure Nigel has a few. His latest business venture has a ring of the unsavoury about it, although I could not say why I get that feeling. And what little secrets does Hope have, I wonder?

Unexpected pleasures

There has been a lot of talk recently about the unseasonal weather we have been experiencing here in jolly old Blighty. Snow, rain and high winds have been wreaking havoc in various parts of the country for several weeks, despite the arrival of spring. It would seem that someone forgot to tell mother nature that winter is now over!

I have heard it said that we Brits have an unhealthy preoccupation with the weather. Admittedly, for those foreign chappies for whom the weather is predictable and stable, it may seem a little strange, but for those of us who have grown up with our island’s unpredictable and rapidly changing weather, it is a natural topic of conversation.

Well, the bottom line here is that the Easter weekend weather has been appaling. If I had entertained any plans to spend time in the country, then they would have been completely spoilt. Luckily for me, I had made no such plans. To be brutally honest I am not a great one for the Bank Holidays. There are far too many tourists everywhere for my liking, so I usually spend these weekends either at the Club or with friends. I had not made any arrangements for this particular Easter weekend and had thought I might spend it with Hope. However, like so many others who run their own business, she said that she would be opening the gallery on the Friday and Saturday. I was a little disappointed by this, but I do understand. As she has already pointed out to me, she has invested everything in the business and cannot simply shut up shop whenever she feels like it.

So, rather than heading out of the City to escape the hoards, Hope suggested that instead, we join them and spend some time taking in some of the attractions our hometown has to offer. I have to admit that my initial reaction was one of horror. The very idea of becoming part of the herd goes against every instinct for survival and I have studiously avoided the more tourist orientated parts of town for far too many years for me to feel comfortable making a return anytime soon. But, it was what Hope wanted to do, so, being the gentleman that I am, I acquiesced to her wishes with minimal fuss, although to be totally honest I did not have any alternative suggestions to make. I should have been better prepared!

So, as Hope busied herself at the gallery, I spent most of Friday and Saturday with the chaps at the Club. Amongst the topics of conversation was the inclement weather we have been enjoying of late. It seems that I am not alone in believing that our climate was less erratic and wet in the past. Cambridge may well be right in apportioning this to rose-tinted memories, but for those who support the idea of climate change, it is another piece of evidence in the arguments for their cause. Well, whatever the reason, we were all agreed that things were not looking too good for the coming spring. The forecast is for more rain and cold winds, but I have never been convinced that these forecasters know what they are talking about. As I have said before, the British weather is notoriously unpredictable so I usually take their warnings with a pinch of salt. But it did make me a little concerned about Hope’s plans for us to venture forth onto the streets of the city.  Maybe it would not be such a good idea at all.

Anyway, I met joined Hope at her little flat on Saturday evening. It was actually a rather pleasant evening, devoid of both rain and the bitter Arctic winds that had been predicted, so we were able to take a leisurely stroll down towards the river where we stopped off for drinks before making our way to the lovely little brasserie we had previously visited for that rather ill-fated lunch with Emily. We had a lovely meal before making our way back to Hope’s for a nightcap. Shortly after our return, Charlotte arrived, looking rather the worst for drink and announcing that she was going to stay with friends for a few days. As she wobbled rather precariously towards her own room, presumably to pack a bag, Hope switched instantly from pleasant girlfriend to fiercely defensive mother. It was almost like someone had tripped a switch inside, which I suppose someone had – Charlotte. She squeezed my hand, gave me a quick smile then strode off towards Charlotte’s room with a look of steely determination in her eyes that would have made even Aunt Murdock flinch. Realising what was probably about to take place, I retreated to the kitchenette, poured myself a glass of wine and made for the lounge window, ostensibly to take in the view of the street below, but also to position myself as far away from the outbreak of mother-daughter hostilities I could hear brewing across the hall.

That, I suppose, is one of the great drawbacks of living in a flat. No matter how well proportioned or superiorly furnished, one could never get very far from one’s fellow occupants. In some I have visited, even one’s neighbours can be heard quite clearly when in dispute. I have always found these kinds of occasions to be rather embarrassing, and none more so than when one is in the immediate vicinity of the protagonists. I did not hear all that was said, but it was, thankfully, a rather short-lived confrontation that ended with Charlotte falling into the most frightful sulk and locking herself in her room.

It seems that her contretemps with Charlotte had left Hope in a rather black mood, so I left very shortly afterwards, but not before arranging to meet again early Sunday afternoon. The weather was far from ideal for wandering the streets of the capital, but I found it surprisingly enjoyable. During the course of Sunday and Monday, we visited the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery and Covent Garden, as well as taking an unexpectedly enjoyable boat trip down the Thames. I have to say it was one of the most relaxed and interesting weekends I have spent for quite some time. Art may not be something I take a great interest in, but hearing Hope talk with such passion and interest, one could not help gaining some appreciation of the works we saw.

Amongst the things we discussed during our excursions were plans for our little weekend away in the Cotswolds. It’s a party of some kind being hosted by an old family friend and although I had been invited to stay at the house, I had already decided to stay at a nearby hotel. It is one I have stayed at on previous occasions and I am sure that Hope will appreciate it as much as I do. I have already booked her into the room next to mine. We have also discovered that our birthdays are similarly adjacent, mine on the 29th April, hers on the 28th. We have decided that we will celebrate them together by visiting the old family home for the weekend. Obviously, we will also invite Charlotte, should she wish to join us.

Having spent two whole days in Hopes company I was sad to take my leave of her yesterday evening. But alas, we both had work commitments that required our attention today. Personally, I would have been more than happy to have forgone my meeting with the finance chaps who seem to be running things at the office. I find their talk tedious and their manner generally condescending. I am aware that I may not have the firmest of grasps on economics and finance, but I do understand the importance of profits to a large and complex organisation such as ours. One of the things I have learnt from my weekend with Hope is that there is so much more to business and life than making a quick and easy profit. In fact, after this morning’s meeting, I have begun to think that I may need to make some changes to the old family business if only to make it easier for little old me to understand and manage.

But for now, it’s time to visit the Club.

Revelations

This has been a week of interesting revelations and insights, for me at least. You see, it seems that I was very probably the only person in the whole of London who was completely in the dark over the relationship between Hope, Charlotte and Emily. I had no idea that their relationships were anything other than they appeared, but as is so often the case, what lies under the surface is often quite different from one’s expectations.

I met with Hope on Friday afternoon for dinner and drinks at a little place I know out towards Richmond. The weather was almost spring-like and after eating we were able to sit outside and take in the hustle and bustle of life on the river. Whilst I am not a particularly nautical person, I am often drawn to its banks, fascinated and awed by its cosmopolitan qualities. Most visitors tend to see just the bustling highway as it weaves its way through the city, transporting tourists from one point of call to another. But there is so much more to it. Just a few short miles from Westminster and its environs, the banks begin to clear of the historic and industrial and instead embrace the more tranquil.

Mind you, on the eve of the boat race, things could hardly be described as tranquil. This annual event attracts an awful lot of visitors, making the evening slightly less intimate than I had planned. It was, of course, my own fault really. I should have realised just how busy it was going to be anywhere on the Thames this weekend. Not that Hope seemed to mind. She said it was rather exciting, being amongst all the boating fraternity again. I had forgotten she was an old Oxford girl so had been a part of all this rowing nonsense.

Anyway, as we enjoyed our drinks she said something that at first I found rather odd. I was saying how different Charlotte and Emily were, presuming that Emily was more like her father. To which Hope replied that she thought Emily was actually more like her mother whilst Charlotte was like herself. At first, I thought I had misheard, but when I asked her to repeat the statement, I realised I hadn’t. My puzzlement must have shown on my face because she looked at me and said: “You don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?” I replied.

Well, it seems that Hope is not Emily’s mother. I suppose that I should have worked it out before from her age but I had honestly not given it any real thought. I just assumed that they were mother and daughter and have never questioned how young Hope would have had to have been or the age gap between the two girls. It had never been mentioned before as Hope had believed I already knew as Emily’s parentage had never been a secret. I was a little shocked at first, but looking back it does sort of explain a few things, not least of which is how Charlotte and Emily can be so wildly different from each other. Charlotte really is so much like her mother in both looks and temperament, but Emily, not surprisingly, is not.

According to Hope, Emily’s mother was something of a troubled soul. Her relationship with Emily’s father had been a short but tempestuous one, rather like the lady’s character. It would seem that after Emily’s birth, she went off the rails, started drinking heavily and, if what the family say is true, was negligent and abusive towards her young daughter. Anyway, it all came to a head when Richard announced he was marrying Hope and very soon after the wedding, Emily’s mother was killed in a car crash. She was very drunk apparently she drove her car into a tree one some road or other out in the country. Luckily Emily was not in the car at the time but was staying with her grandparents.

Emily had come to live with Hope and Richard soon after they were married. It can’t have been easy for Hope, taking on someone else’s daughter like that, but she has obviously done an amazing job. The most surprising thing about all of this was not the story itself, but that I had not heard any of it before. I have known Hope for many years and met her more than once over this period so I can not believe I  had not heard any of this.

I had hoped that we could spend some time together over the weekend but Hope is planning another exhibition early next month so had quite a lot to do. I am delighted to know that her little gallery os doing so well, but it does seem to take up far too much of her time. I suppose that if one wants to make a success of any business one needs to be prepared to make sacrifices. I suppose that is why she never felt able to do anything like it when Richard was still alive. Supporting him in his career would not have left her with the time she needed to devote to making the gallery work.

So I have had a rather quiet weekend really. Dorothy was out with Angela most of the time making essential purchases for their new flat. I cannot believe that she will be moving out next weekend. The old place is going to seem very quiet and dull without her.

Nigel dropped by earlier today to help me with my ancestry research. I have to admit to being a little lax on that front recently – Nigel has been away a lot, working to establish his new business and I have had a few other things on my mind. It was very nice to get back to tracking down the various branches of the old family tree. Nigel reminded me of our visit to Brighton last year to speak to an old family friend, Mrs Dalton. I have to admit that I had completely forgotten about old Mrs Dalton and her rather cryptic suggestion that I needed to speak to Aunt Murdock about something in my mother’s past. Now that I have been reminded if it I will make an effort to chat with the Old Mad Duck later this week to see if she knows what the old dear was alluding to.

Before we went our separate ways – Nigel to his parents and me to the Club – Nigel asked if I would like to invest a little money in his new business. He said that although he had most of the capital he needed, he was looking for some additional funds to secure better offices and, as he put it “oil a few wheels”. Of course, I agreed straight away. He is my godson after all and I am happy to help him in any way that I can. Whilst I don’t understand exactly what it is he is doing, I know that it involves some international dealings and I can only begin to guess at just how much “oiling” some of these foreign chappies require.

 

Back from the races

I have just returned from the races and what a jolly couple of days it has been. Initially, I had not planned to go this year, what with one thing and another. Then, on Thursday I thought, dash it, Cheltenham is always such a splendid affair, I really ought to go. So I did. Rather luckily I was able to find a room with my old chum Ashworth. He has a rather fine little place almost next door to the course which is jolly convenient. I have stayed with him before and I was more than happy to bunk up in one of his spare rooms.

As I had left it rather late to make the arrangements I was not able to make use of my usual room overlooking the magnificent lawns but had to settle for a view towards the trees and fields to the rear. Not that I spend much time in the room itself for anything other than sleeping, but it is rather nice great the morning with a fine view. But then again, back home in Kensington, my view is hardly scenic. At the front, we do have some trees that partly obscure the view of the High Street, but to the rear, it is all roof tops and tower blocks. Hardly inspiring I know, but it is home.

Ashworth’s place is always busy during the festival week, but this year there was actually quite a crowd, with any number of the old school gang popping in and out for drinks and a chat. Ashworth has a splendid little snooker room and a very well-stocked cellar. His family have been in the wine trade for generations and Ashworth himself has always been the person to call if drinks were needed, even at school.

So it has been a very pleasant and, I must say, rather profitable few days down at Cheltenham. Not only did I enjoy some very good company and sample some extremely fine new wines, I also had some luck on the old gee-gees. Thanks to some good advice from a few of the chaps in the know, I finished the event almost twenty-thousand pounds the richer. Now, this may not be a fortune, but it is probably the best result I have ever had at a race meeting. Not being a pundit myself, I generally consider myself lucky to come away having broken even. Last year at Aintree, after following some rather dubious tips, I ended the day several thousand down so this weekend’s good fortune more than makes up for it.

I am not a natural gambler, unlike my father. He was the type who would often spend large sums chasing the odds, either at the races or in the casino. But I have to admit that he was very good at it and although he was often on the losing end of a bet, on the whole, his losses were outweighed by his gains. I think it was that tendency to take risks against the chances of high returns that made him such a good businessman. He seemed to thrive on the uncertainty, a trait that I have not inherited. In that way, I am more like my mother, a little reserved and with a preference for small returns on certainties rather than venturing into the unknown.

Gambling is deeply embedded in our culture. It is something that we all do at some point, be it with a small bet on the Grand National or with one’s future when choosing one job or lover over another. But, like many other things we do, it can in many cases become a real problem. The excitement one feels when collecting the rewards of an unexpected win can be addictive. Whilst I have always been cautious about where and when I take risks, some of the chaps I know have not. I have seen more than one of my old school chums gamble away entire family fortunes, always in the certainty that they can win it all back on the next turn of the card or the next race. But the odds are always against the gambler and the end result is so often inevitable. In fact, one of my oldest friends got involved with some very unsavoury characters not so long ago in his desperation to fund what had become an addiction. It was so sad to see the state he got himself into. A couple of the chaps and I did our best to help him but in the end he got himself in too deep and wound up taking his own life. It was all very sad and is a reminder of how easy all that we have can be taken away from us.

Although he was a gambler, my father always followed his own rule, stop when you are winning and never try to reverse a losing streak. It served him well, and I have always tried to follow his example in that regard.

When I arrived back in town earlier today there was a message for me from Hope. It seems that I had overlooked to tell her about my little trip. It would appear that she had wanted me to join her for dinner yesterday evening as Charlotte was away for the weekend visiting her sister and she thought we could spend the weekend together. Obviously, I would have jumped at the chance had I been at home, but I wasn’t. I telephoned Hope as soon as I received the message and apologised for my tardiness in not telling her I had gone away. I have to say that I had expected a much colder response to my call, but she seemed quite relaxed about the whole thing and said that she had already heard about my little jaunt from Dorothy. My apologies duly accepted, we have arranged to meet later this afternoon for a spot of tea and a piano recital at some hall or other in Westminster. Now normally, I would have to say that these kind of events are not really my sort of thing, but I do enjoy a little Tchaikovsky every now and then, and I did want to see Hope, so of course, I agreed.

For now I really just get back to the dining room. Dorothy has decided to make us both a full English for breakfast and I dare not be late. I am going to miss these Sunday morning treats when she and Angela do finally get their own place. It is amazing how quickly one becomes used to this kind of thing.