An end to the special relationship

I had a surprise visitor this morning when who should turn up on my doorstep but dear old Dorchester. When he was shown into the drawing room, where I was at that time enjoying and very fine Lagavulin single malt, I was immediately struck by his dishevelled and rather unkempt appearance. I have known Dorchester for most of my life and for all that time he has always been the most fastidious of people when it comes to his clothes and general appearance. Personally, I have, until very recently, and under the strict guidance of Dorothy and Angela, ever really given my appearance much of a thought. But for Dorchester, outward appearance has always been very important. So, to see him unshaven and wearing a suit that looked like it had been slept in, left me rather taken aback.

It was obvious even to me that something was very wrong.

Once I had furnished him with a glass of Lagavulin, which he looked like he needed, and sat him by the fire (it’s a large wood burner actually), I just had to inquire what was troubling him. Normally I wouldn’t ask outright like this; it is one of those things that a fellow just doesn’t do. But on this occasion, I felt it was appropriate as it was only too plain that the poor chap was in some distress. So, with a glass of single malt clutched tightly in his hands, Dorchester told me everything.

It seems that Annabelle, his American girlfriend, had sent him an email late yesterday saying that she had decided to remain in the United States and was ending their relationship.

I have to admit that I didn’t know what to say at this point. It is the kind of thing that women do much better than men, the whole empathy what-not. I suppose if I had ever been in the same position I might have been able to offer some words of wisdom or platitudes, but I don’t believe I have ever found myself so low following the end of a relationship. Quite the opposite actually. That is not to say I have not been sad or disappointed, but it was obvious from Dorchester’s whole demeanour that his feelings were far greater than mine have ever been for any particular young lady.

What does one say to a friend in such obvious emotional distress? Whilst it is tempting to suggest that there may be plenty more fish in the sea, or that she wasn’t good enough for him anyway, neither approach seemed quite right just now. I mean, I have to be totally honest and say that I never liked the woman anyway and really do think he is better off without her. But I really didn’t believe that this was the moment to say that. Instead, I settled for refilling his glass.

Relationships can be such a minefield. Personally, I have never really got the hang of the whole dating thing. I have had a few relationships over the years, but none have ever lasted very long. I did once get engaged, but that was more a case of trying to please my parents and was the only way I could get them to stop pestering me. Luckily nothing came of it. My mother was well into her stride making arrangements for the wedding when her and my father died. I ended the relationship pretty quickly after that as there seemed little point continuing when we both knew it was never going to work. I believe she was just as relieved as I was. I won’t name names, but she is now happily married to a Human Rights lawyer with two small children. We still see each other from time to time and have remained good friends.

In Dorchester’s case, he was obviously besotted by Annabelle and her bombshell decision to end things has hit the poor chap pretty hard. But that is very much par for the course with Dorchester. He doesn’t do things by half, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart. He does tend to go diving in head first and has been let down quite badly a few times over the years. But even so, I have never seen him quite so upset as he was this morning. I would have asked Dorothy to help provide some moral support, but she was out auditioning for another stage show, so I was very much on my own, and very much out of my depth.

In the end, I decided that the only practical thing we could do that might take his mind off Annabelle was to make our way to the Club and try a frame or two of snooker. I suppose that there may have been better ways of handling the situation, but to be honest I was hoping that some of the other chaps might be able to offer some help and advice. As it turns out, the Club was practically empty, with just a small group of the old guard dozing in the far corner. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long, just long enough for a couple of drinks. We then made our way to one of Dorchester’s favourite bars in the West End where we met with a group of his friends from the City. I am ashamed to admit that I was quite relieved as I was able to make my excuses and leave him in their capable hands.

I didn’t return to the Club but made my way home instead. I was quite shaken up by the whole experience I can tell you. I am not very comfortable dealing with other people’s emotional issues. It is probably down to the way I was brought up, but I have never been very good at coping with distress or upset. I remember as a child how disappointed my father would be if I ever started to cry. Whilst mother was much more understanding and would often get upset herself, I never once saw my father cry, not even at my grandma’s funeral. Well, we are what we are and nothing is going to change that.

Home on the range

I have been at the old family home now for a couple of days and I must say I am quite enjoying the change of scenery. They say there is no place like home, and that may very well be true, but I have very mixed feelings about the old family home. I have lived in London since my early twenties and my visits here have been regular but infrequent, especially since my parents’ deaths. I wouldn’t say it holds particularly bad memories or even particularly good ones; I just think that I am more at home in the city than the country.

Having said that, being here, surrounded by all the family nick-nacks is often a comfort to me when life begins to feel a little too intense. Although my visits have been infrequent, I do find that when I am here it gives me an opportunity to relax and put my city woes and stresses into some kind of perspective.

I will be the first to admit that it is a grand old place. The main parts of the house are about two hundred years old, but some of the out-buildings and surrounding cottages go back almost four hundred years. It is quite an impressive structure, although maybe in need of a little work here and there – a little like myself really.

For most of the year, my Aunt Sara lives at the house. Sara is my Uncle Adams’ widowed second wife and is actually younger than me. She married the old sod when she was barely sixteen and according to most of the family, she did it just for the money. But we have always got along quite well and I let her stay at the house whenever she wants. Otherwise, the old place would be unoccupied so in that way she is actually doing me a bit of a favour.

Often when I am at the house it can feel a little like stepping into a Jane Austen novel, all plotting matriarchs and houses bursting with sisters. It’s actually quite amazing when you get right down to it how little has changed in the country. Marriages continue to be arranged for convenience, family connections and money. The country set might not have the kind of balls that Miss Austen would recognise, but family parties and dinners are generally organised with the same ulterior motive – matchmaking. I generally try to avoid them if I can, although Aunt Murdock has a totally different view of things. In fact, she only ever makes an appearance when there is a party to attend, and will often as not try to force me to go along with her.

Most of the families around here have been part of the county set for generations; my own family have been here for a very long time. There is a long-standing expectation amongst many people that your’s truly will cement the local ties by marrying one of the more eligible single ladies that frequent the various parties and dinners around here. It’s not that I have anything against any of the young ladies themselves. Many of them are nice enough, in a country sort of way, but they are not really my type. Not that I am sure what my type really is anymore. I can think of two women of my current acquaintance who I will admit to thinking of in a more than casual way. Unfortunately, one is my gay cousin, whilst the other seems to be avoiding me.

Anyway, Nigel came round this afternoon and got me set up on the computer so that I could keep up with my journal. Mind you, I also have a sneaking suspicion he comes here to see Sara, but that is up to him. This evening he is taking me out to try a new restaurant that he assures me is every bit as good as any in London. Whilst I find that hard to believe, I am prepared to go along with him.

 

Not a Hope-less cause

Yesterday evening Hope accompanied me to Cambridge’s latest charity soiree, and even though I say so myself, it was a great success. Old Cambridge throws these little parties of his from time to time, usually when a particular cause catches his eye, and they are inevitably always well supported, both in terms of numbers and the money raised. It must be two years since his last bash which I remember very well, only because I was ill at the time and on soft drinks all evening, Aunt Dorothy saw to that. That particular event had been to support a hospice or some such somewhere up North. Yesterday we were there for a charity providing schools and educational opportunities for children abroad, in Africa or Asia I think. Wherever it is, I am sure it is a very worthy cause. Cambridge himself is very keen on this kind of thing. He has often lectured me on the futility of raising money to simply feed people. Far better, he says, to educate them or provide ways to help make the self-sufficient. I know he is very supportive of local children’s charities which I find rather odd for a man who has never had any of his own. At least, as far as I know. There are rumours around the Club that he makes regular donations to a children’s hospice on the coast somewhere, but I have never asked him about it. After all, one should not pry into another fellow’s financial affairs.

Anyway, as you would expect, the whole thing was meticulously organised and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. I know I did.

I picked up Hope at a little after 7 o’clock as arranged, and I must say that as I saw her approaching the car the sight of her almost took my breath away. If anything she looked even more attractive than when I had first been reacquainted with her at the Sweetmans’ garden party several weeks ago. Her dress was a sort of shimmering blue with sparkling jewels around the top. It was full length but with a slit up the left that showed off a very shapely leg. I don’t know much about this kind of thing – I can’t tell one style from another – but it certainly looked expensive, and was very flattering. Hope has lost a lot of weight over the last few years and the way she was dressed emphasised her shape to great effect. She may not have the figure of a supermodel, but she is most definitely a very attractive lady.

For most of the evening, Hope and I were seated with several of the chaps from the Club. After the food, Cambridge held one of his popular auctions. I very rarely take part in these things, not because I don’t want to contribute to the cause (I always do that), but because the items themselves never really interest me. On this occasion, however, Hope persuaded me to bid for a weekend break at some healthy club or other out in the country. She told me it was a very expensive establishment with an excellent reputation, and although she had never been herself, she was sure I would enjoy it. Remembering my experience earlier on the week I was not too sure about that but took part in the bidding anyway.

Well, I must admit that once I started I found myself determined to win. No matter what anyone else bid, I was prepared to go higher. With the adrenalin pumping and Hope getting more and more excited, I just kept on going. It was just numbers, and I have never been very good with that sort of thing.

When the bidding finally stopped and we realised I had won, Hope was jumping around like an excited school girl and I must have looked a little like the Cheshire cat. Of course, I have no intention of going there myself, but I offered it to Hope and suggested she should take Charlotte along, make it a girls weekend. The look she gave me was one I think I will remember for quite some time. I hadn’t noticed before, but Hope has a wonderfully warm and inviting smile that seems to light up her whole face. She looked almost youthful and I was quite taken aback when she reached across and kissed me on the cheek.

A little later the dancing started. I had every intention of asking Hope to join me for a spin around the floor, but before I had the opportunity to do so, we were joined by a gentleman who was obviously acquainted with her. We were introduced but I can’t recall his name, only that he was something in the art world and seemed to have some business to discuss. I excused myself and made my way over to speak to Cambridge who was holding court at the far end of the room. Amongst those with him was Dorothy’s old friend Clara West. We had last met several weeks ago when Dorothy and Angela had tried their hand at matchmaking. I hadn’t seen her since and was pleasantly surprised to bump into her again. We chatted for a short while before I thought I had better return to Hope and ask her for that dance.

But when I got back to the table, Hope was not there. Assuming she must have gone to the ladies room, I sat and poured myself another glass of wine. It was only after I had been sat there a while that I spotted Hope at a neighbouring table talking with a group of mainly younger people. I could have joined her of course, but as I did not know any of them and wouldn’t really have anything to say if they were the arty sort, I decided to wait until she returned.

When she eventually did rejoin me I immediately asked her for a dance. It turns out that my assumption that all ladies liked to dance was a little wide of the mark. Apparently, Hope didn’t do what she called “proper dancing”. I must admit that I was a little surprised by this revelation. Within my own circle of friends and family, everyone danced, particularly the ladies. It is just one of those things one is expected to be able to do.

Shortly after this Hope said she was tired and was going to go home. I offered her a lift but she declined, saying that she would get a taxi. She suggested I should stay and enjoy the rest of the evening with my friends. It turns out that she was leaving early in the morning to visit friends in Bath. I spent the rest of the evening with Cambridge and Clara, and even managed a couple of dances before leaving a little after midnight. I was going to go on to the Club with some of the chaps but in the end, I decided against it.

I had a call from Hope around midday today. She was calling from her friend’s house and thanked me for taking her along to the last night’s soiree. Apparently, Charlotte was “over the moon” about the weekend break and Hope apologised for leaving so early and not dancing. I told her that was quite all right and that I had danced with Clara after she had left. The call then came to an abrupt end as she had to join her friends for lunch.

As I say, it had been a very enjoyable evening. It was very nice to spend some time with Hope. I really do enjoy her company. She is only a few years younger than me but there is something almost youthful about her. I find her very easy to talk to and find myself wanting to tell her everything. It was also good to see Clara again. It turns out she is back in London for a few weeks. I know she is planning on visiting Dorothy so no doubt we will meet again.

Call off the search

I have said before that I sometimes get the feeling that my life is not my own anymore. This week, in particular, has been something of a roller coaster ride. From my unexpected shopping trip with Dorothy and Angela to yesterday evenings dressing down over my decision to take my secretary for lunch, I have been at the mercy of the women who are playing an increasingly active role in my affairs.

Today has been no exception to that.

Following the events of Wednesday, and particularly the talking to I had from both Dorothy and Aunt Murdock, I set aside a little time this morning to speak to Hope about Cambridge’ charity event next weekend. Having given the situation some thought I have to agree that is was very lax of me to have overlooked the transport side of things.

So, with a coffee and one of Mrs Kaczka’s chruściki cakes to fortify me (her pastries are truly wonderful), I relaxed into my favourite armchair and telephoned the gallery. I don’t know whether it was the caffeine or the sweet pastry, but my first two attempts to call resulted in wrong numbers. The first turned out to be a laundry service, the second some poor chap who thought I was some kind of religious fanatic. I managed to get through on the third attempt, only to be told that Hope was not in the gallery until after lunch as she had meetings all morning. I had a strange feeling of déjà vu – she is obviously a very busy woman.

I made several further attempts to speak to Hope throughout the day, but each time I was unsuccessful. It was as if the Fates themselves were fighting over the thread of my life and had wound up tied in knots. They have certainly been spinning a very strange kind of tale. In fact, the near misses and changes of direction I have seen today were reminiscent of an old-fashioned farce. I can almost see myself as a Brian Rix style character running around the stage in total confusion and disarray.

I spent much of the afternoon at the Club, catching up with a couple of the chaps who have just returned from a trip to the Caribean. Apparently, they got away just before the storms struck and have been recovering in Las Vegas ever since.

By the late afternoon, I was beginning to think I was never going to manage to speak to Hope and had all but decided to leave it until tomorrow. But that was when Aunt Murdock stepped in. I had arrived home a little after 4 o’clock to find her waiting to ambush me in the study.

I had no time to compose myself, or even to pour a drink before she was upon me like an enraged tiger. It took a little while to explain to her that I had been trying to contact Hope all day, but had so far failed totally. I could tell that this was not the answer she was expecting or wanted. The look of disappointment on her face told me everything I needed to know.

At that stage I was somewhat at a loss as to why she was getting so impatient and, it has to be said, angry over the whole thing. Yes, she was right about getting me to arrange to pick Hope up on the way to the ball (or whatever it is), but her reaction to my inability to actually speak to Hope about it seemed more than a little excessive to me.

At Aunt Murdocks direct instruction and under her watchful eyes, I made what I was determined would be my last attempt for the day. It was a little before 9 o’clock and as far as I am concerned you only contact anyone after this in cases of dire emergency. The only exception I make to that as when offering invitations to meet friends for drinks. It is not unknown for me to be contacting some of the chaps well beyond my 9 o’clock watershed.

Anyway, I made the call which was answered by young Charlotte, Hope’s youngest daughter who I had met at the gallery couple of weeks ago. At least, I think that’s who it was. It certainly sounded like her. But with a sense of deja vu, she told me that Hope had been called back to the gallery as the alarm was going off. She is almost as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel and I was beginning to wonder if she was, in fact, ignoring me.

But I needn’t have worried. At about half-past nine the telephone rang. It was so unexpected that I almost dropped my glass of Brandy. Fortunately, I recovered from the shock very quickly and was able to save the glass before it hit the floor. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky with the contents which have left a small stain on the carpet by the television.

“Call off the search” she laughed by way of greeting. I was then able to make arrangements to collect her from her flat on the way to the ball, so it all worked out in the end. Although our conversation was brief, it was very nice to speak to her again. Hope has one of those husky voices that many men find so attractive, and I could picture the smile on her face as she laughed at me about my numerous successful attempts to contact her. Anyway, I now have her mobile telephone number so I shouldn’t have the same problems in future, should we continue to be friends.

She asked me for my mobile number and was shocked when I told her I didn’t have one. I did have one a couple of years ago but had never bothered to replace it after it was damaged when I dropped it down the stairs one morning whilst still under the influence of alcohol.

Despite everything, I think the day ended fairly well. I think Aunt Murdock is still a little bit upset with me lover yesterday’s lunch with Miss Drayton, but I am sure she will get over it.

I’ll soon be home alone

I had some good news today. Well, strictly speaking, it’s not my good news, it’s Dorothy’s. She went for an audition yesterday for a part in some kind of short film. Well, this morning she received a call to tell her that she had got the part she wanted. I haven’t seen her so excited before. Apparently, it is her first part in any kind of film – she has always worked on the stage before. Anyway, filming starts next month in Scotland so she will be away for about three or four weeks. She did tell me what the film was about, but to be honest, it sounded very “arty” and I didn’t really understand it all. Dorothy will be playing a ghost of some sort, but I am not even sure about that. I am sure it will be very good and no doubt I will see it eventually.

Over a simple lunch at home, Dorothy and I had a very pleasant chat about what she would be up to in Bonnie Scotland. She tells me filming will be around Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland I have actually been to. My parents dragged me along to the Festival a couple of times when I was a small child, but I never really took to it. There were always far too many people around, and all doing all kinds of strange things I didn’t understand. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy theatre, but some of the arty-farty stuff that goes on in Edinburgh during the summer was all too much for an impressionable young man like myself.

When I think of those visits it all seems very odd. For one thing, neither of my parents were particularly keen on theatre or the arts when we were in London. We would occasionally go to see one of the bigger shows, but that was fairly infrequent and never more than a couple of times a year. But in Edinburgh, it was one shown or party after another. I suspect it was actually more about what people today call networking.

I haven’t been back to Edinburgh for many years now, although Dorchester and I did spend a few days there shortly after my parents’ accident. He had decided that I needed cheering up so he dragged me up there to spend a couple of days taking in the culture and sampling whiskies. I am not sure we saw much of what I would call culture, but we certainly did enjoy the most extensive range of single malts I have ever seen in one place. Maybe I ought to go back soon. Talking to Dorothy reminded me that Hope was in Edinburgh last weekend. What a small world.

Anyway, Dorothy will be heading North of the Border in a couple of weeks. She made it very clear that before she goes she wants to “sort me out” as she put it. I am a not sure what this entails or what she has in store for me, but if there is one thing I have learned in the few weeks she has been staying with me is that when she gets an idea into he head, it is best to just go along with it. I have tried resisting her little urges and ideas, but one way or another young Dorothy always seems to get her away. She is like Aunt Murdock in so many ways. Younger, obviously, but almost as fearfully determined.

The only hint I have had of her plans for me is her insistence I keep tomorrow free. What for, I can’t say, but I suspect it will not involve drinks or food. Needless to say, I have agreed to go along with whatever she has planned for me. I only hope it doesn’t involve shopping or anything sporty.

After lunch, while Dorothy went off to meet with Angela to give her the news, I popped along to the Club for a game or two of snooker. And I am so glad I did because Dorchester was there. I haven’t seen him for a couple of weeks so it was really great to catch up. More so because he was on his own without that awful American woman, Annabellelurking in the background. According to Dorchester, they are planning on visiting her family in the States next month. If you ask me it is getting far too serious between them. I mean, we hardly ever see Dorchester at the Club these days, and when we do, all he can talk about is Annabelle.

According to Dorchester, they are planning on visiting her family in the States next month. If you ask me it is getting far too serious between them. I mean, we hardly ever see Dorchester at the Club these days, and when we do, all he can talk about is Annabelle. I have known him for more years than I care to remember, and I have never seen him behave this way before. He has had relationships before, plenty of them. One or two of them have lasted several months at a time. But he has never missed so many snooker nights at the Club or flown halfway around the world to meet the family.

It is starting to feel like everyone is deserting me. First Hope goes to Scotland, quickly followed by Dorothy. Now Dorchester is flying out to America. Who will be next? Aunt Murdock off on an African safari? Cambridge cruising along the Nile? Maybe not!

One interesting thing I did learn between breaks is that Dorchester has recently joined one of those health clubs the chaps and I were discussing a couple of weeks back. He has suggested that I join him there tomorrow; he seems to think it would do me good. Of course, Dorothy already has plans so that little treat is going to have to wait.