A weekend away

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I have to say what a jolly nice weekend I have just had with the lovely Hope. We had not planned to go away, but after having had a rather bad week I decided that we should pack our bags and head out of town for a couple of days. I originally suggested we go to Brighton and stay with some old family friends with a little house on the coast, but Hope was not all that keen on the idea. So, after a little chat and with the help of young Charlotte, we settled on a lovely little hotel in Kent.

Now, normally when I go away I will either stay with friends or, if I have to stay in a hotel, chose one that I already know or has been recommended. The very idea of booking our stay through the internet was something I had never even considered. But for Charlotte, and most young people I suspect, it seems to be almost second nature. Whilst I am getting much better with the whole cyber surfing thing, I am still very much on the beginner’s slopes. Hope has more experience than I do with with the computer, but even she admits that some things still confuse her.

So, by the time we had finished our first glass of Chablis, the hotel was booked and all we had to do was pack a few bags and then we were on our way to sunny Kent, the garden of England.

Of course, it being a sunny Friday afternoon, the roads out of town were extremely congested and I was very glad I had decided not to drive there myself. Albert was going to drop us off and then make his own way home – I would be using the car myself over the weekend and making the return journey on Sunday afternoon.

I must say that when we arrived at the hotel I was very impressed. One hears so many stories about people being duped by unscrupulous characters using the internet to front their nefarious enterprises. Nigel is always going on at me about the need for security and that I had to be careful about who I might “meet” online. Well, I have told Nigel often enough that I am not that easily fooled and anyone trying to con me would have a very hard time indeed. Non-the-less, I was very relieved when we pulled up outside what was an old stately home but was now our home for the weekend.

As a child, my mother and I were frequent visitors to the Kent countryside, but in recent years I fear I have somewhat neglected it. TWe would often visit family and friends and I have very fond memories of those long hot summers. We were always outdoors and I never remember it raining, although I am sure it did. Kent to me is a county of my childhood and one I very rarely visit these days.  I suppose that the Kent’sm undeniable attractions are better shared, which is why my stay there with Hope was so special. For two days we became tourists, something I am not used to.

I have to say that our accommodation was first class. The service and food were as good as anywhere ion the City, and the room extremely comfortable. I will admit that I can be rather fussy when it comes to hotels, but on this occasion, I found nothing to complain about and plenty to enjoy. The fact that the weather was so good certainly helped to make the whole weekend rather special. When we are in town, I feel I do not get to spend as much time with Hope as I would like. She is obviously a very busy lady with a home and the gallery to run, so I do try not to monopolise her attention. But when we get the opportunity to get away from all the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and relax, I find myself happier that I have been for many a long year.

But as always, all good things must come to an end. I did try to persuade Hope to stay for a few more days, but unfortunately, she had commitments at the Gallery which made that impossible. So, regretfully, we made our way back to town late on Sunday afternoon. Which is just as well actually as shortly after our return I received a telephone call from Aunt Murdock to tell me that poor old Uncle George was back in the hospital with his heart. Of course, that meant jumping straight back into the car and driving across town to see how the dear old thing was getting on.

I am relieved to say that despite the rather frightening array of electronic devices and the miles of tubing that surrounded him, the old fellow was in fairly good spirits. He was obviously rather tired and looked a little pale, but was otherwise showing no signs of being at death’s door. In fact, he was out of the hospital and back home by late Monday afternoon. I paid a quick visit to the house earlier today and can happily report that the old gentleman has quite recovered from his little turn and is already talking about whisking the old Mad Duck off to the Lakes for a long weekend.

Anyway, I must finish there as I have agreed to meet a couple of the chaps at the Club this evening for a few drinks. I don’t seem to get down there quite as much as I used to and there is so much to catch up on.

It was something I said!

I think that the best way to describe the dinner party I attended earlier this week with Hope and Charlotte, is lively. Or at least, it was by the time we left. Now I enjoy a good dinner party as much as the next man, but when one is being introduced into an established grouping where one doesn’t even know the host, there is always the potential for disappointment or, as in this case, trouble.

Now, before anyone gets any ideas about my behaviour, I can state quite categorically and without fear of contradiction that I was the sole of discretion and behaved impeccably throughout. I feel that I have nothing to reproach myself about at all. And, I must add, neither do Hope or Charlotte.

you see, the evening was going frightfully well I thought at first. Hope had introduced me to our hosts and the rest of the guests and we had shared a glass or two of very decent wine before being seated for our meal. In all, there were eight of us and we were getting along quite swimmingly, talking over the really very delicious meal about this and that. The other chaps were all from the City, working in banking and the like. I joined in where I could but all the talk of bonds, securities and fluctuating interest rates rather bored me, as well as going right over my head.

Towards the end of the dessert – I very presentable homemade fruit tart – the discussion turned almost inexorably to Brexit. I say inexorably as it seems that these days one can hardly open a newspaper or tune into the television news without some expert or other prattling on about lack of progress, clarity or policy. Honestly, two years down the line one would have thought they would have had things sorted out, but it seems not, and the infighting within the government is quite frankly, an embarrassment to those of us who put them there.

It is a subject that is brought up again and again at the Club and as far as I am concerned the whole thing is becoming a frightful bore. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of the negotiations, but surely the Leave campaigners must have had some sort of plan. They must have prepared a strategy for disentangling us from all the bureaucracy and red tape that Europe seems intent on burying us under. Well, from what little I have seen and understood since the referendum result was announced, it seems that they did not, at least, not one that the government can work with.

Anyway, as I say, the subject came up and, being used to such things down at the Club, I quite freely voiced my support for leaving Europe and my frustration at the way the government is handling the whole thing. Now, in retrospect, maybe I should have been a little less enthusiastic in coming forward with my opinion. Maybe I should have held back and surveyed the lay of the land before charging in with my size nines. But I didn’t.

It turns out that I was sharing the table with seven very committed and adamant remain supporters. In fact, two of the chaps and one of the ladies had actually worked on the campaign, so my interjection in favour of the result was about as welcome as Donald Trump at a Muslim women’s convention.

From this point on things got a little heated. I am not a natural raconteur, and my understanding of the finer points of European law and such is, I will openly admit, not exactly in-depth, but I feel I held my own fairly well against what I can only describe as a concerted attack on my integrity. But I was seriously outnumbered and poorly equipped but emotionally and intellectually to stand up against their vociferous condemnations of the whole leave campaign.

To be fair to Hope she did stand beside me and attempt to defend me and my honour, but it was no good. It was obvious that she and Charlotte shared the view of their friends, that the country had been let down and would suffer for what the host called the most damaging and ridiculous decision. Now, whilst I have to confess to harbouring some doubts about the way the way things are going at this moment in time, I still believe it was the correct decision and did not take too kindly to the way I was spoken to. Thankfully Hope managed to deflect some of the criticism and did succeed in eventually changing the subject, but it was clear, long before we got to the port and cigars, that the evening had bee spoiled and stood no chance of improving so long as I remained one of the company. So, reluctantly I must add, Hope and I left a little before ten o’clock and made our way back to their little flat.

I had thought that after all that had been said I may not be welcome. I did fully intend to return home once I had seen the ladies to their door, but, to my surprise, Charlotte invited me to stay for a drink. In the end, we stayed up until well after midnight, clearing the air over Brexit and a number of other issues that sprung up. I was a jolly pleasant end to what had been the most disastrous of dates. Hope and I may see some things very differently, but I am incredibly fond of the old girl and would have hated to see something as trivial as a difference of opinion over some political ideology get in the way of what is becoming a very special relationship to me. Charlotte was very vocal in her comments about my stance on the Brexit thing, but I think she understood my position and we have reached an understanding that will allow us to move on.

I suppose that looking back I should have been more cautious about voicing my opinions in new company. I misjudged them quite dramatically. I had assumed they would see things the way I did, but it just goes to show you never can tell. I spent yesterday evening at the Club where, for once, there was no talk of Brexit at all. The big issue there seemed to be the railways, Israel and Saturday’s royal wedding, subjects that I believe we can all agree on.

Good news and wedding bells (sort of)

This week began with some very good news. I had a call from Uncle George late Sunday evening to let me know that he and the old Mad Duck (my words, not his) will be returning to London before the weekend. Apparently, the country air has worked wonders on Aunt Murdock and the old dear is feeling fighting fit and ready to return to town. I have to admit that the past few weeks have been a little worrying. For all my life, or at least as much of it as I can remember, Aunt Murdock has been the rock that has kept the family secure against all of life’s storms and tribulations, particularly since the untimely deaths of my parents. I am looking forward to seeing her back home. I may even let her drag me to one of her little events with only the most minimal of arguments and fuss.

It is strange but when one has known a person for the whole of one’s life, it is difficult to imagine the world without them in it. Aunt Murdock’s ill health has brought home to me just how much I have come to rely on the old bird. So much so that I am not so sure now whether I am worrying for her or for myself. I suppose that is true for most of us really. No matter how compassionate we are or how much we care for the other person, there will always be a selfishness that runs through our emotions. But at least the old dear is on the mend so I can look forward to further interference in my love life.

But no matter how much her health has improved, Aunt Murdock will definitely not be returning to her role running the family business, that mantle has now well a truly fallen on my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure she will still be very much a feature of the office, but in a much-reduced role. I am still not sure about the future of the business or my own role in it so I will be very glad of the opportunity to speak to the old dear about it. Mind you, that will have to wait; Hope and I will be away this weekend at the old homestead so I won’t be here when she and George return to London.

Talking about Hope, I have not seen very much of her since our last little trip to the country. She has been rather tied up with exhibitions and such. She puts so much work into her gallery that I am sure it must be doing very well. I visited the gallery again this morning, just to say hello and see how things were going. I have to admit that I was rather surprised to see young Anne Fletcher there, although I suppose I shouldn’t have been as it was me who introduced them last year. It would appear that Anne has become quite a good client to Hope, purchasing a number of items as part of her new interior design business.

The other piece of good news that came my way this week was from young Dorothy. She called by yesterday evening to tell me that she has secured herself a small part in a production – I can’t recall exactly what it is called – that will be touring the provinces during the summer. Of course, I was delighted with the news, but am not sure that Angela will be too happy. I mean, they have only just moved in together and now Dorothy is planning on spending several months dashing from town to town in her new play. I am not sure how I would feel if I were the one being left behind. I sometimes think this acting lark is not particularly conducive to forming steady relationships. Even when playing in their hometown, the hours do seem to be rather demanding. I can’t imagine having to work every evening. Not forgetting the two performances every Saturday.

Well, good luck to her I say. I am sure the show will be a big hit and they will be back in no time at all with a nice long run in the West End. I am keeping fingers crossed.

I have not heard any more about Dorothy and Angela’s wedding plans. All I know for sure is that they are hoping to have the bash close to Angela’s parent’s place, somewhere in Norfolk I believe. I am still struggling a little with the whole same-sex marriage thing. I mean, I don’t have a problem with their relationship at all. They are a lovely couple. It is just that I was always brought up to believe a marriage is between a man and a woman, primarily to raise a family. But I suppose we all have to accept that times have changed and marriage does not necessarily have the same meaning or purpose that it used to.

From what I have seen with many of my friends and acquaintances, marriage is no longer the life-long commitment it used to be. In fact, when I come to think about it, very few of the couple’s whose weddings I have attended over the years are still together. And of those who have stuck it out, one would hardly call them happy. It is enough to put one off the whole thing. Not that I have any intentions that way. Goodness me no. But I am very pleased for Dorothy and Angela and I hope they will be very happy.

Tomorrow evening I have been invited to join Hope and Charlotte at a dinner party being hosted by one of Hope’s old school friends. I have to admit that I am not particularly comfortable with this kind of event where I am not acquainted with the hosts or the other guests. Whilst I am sure that any friend of Hope’s is going to be good company, there will always be the worry that we will not get along.

 

 

The end of a very busy week

I must say that I have had a rather busy week this week, what with one thing and another. It all started with an absolutely wonderful weekend away with Hope, although I have to admit that it did not look very promising on Friday. Arthur was supposed to be driving us up there in the late afternoon, but he was rather suddenly struck down with some kind of tummy bug, leaving me without a driver. Of course, I am more than capable of driving the car myself, but I had hoped to be free of that particular responsibility. I mean to say, one can’t really make the most of the wine cellar knowing that one has to take to the wheel later on.

Some of my chums are not so diligent when it comes to drinking and driving, but having lost my licence many years ago after a little accident involving a stray dog and a police car, I am a little more cautious these days, particularly when I have a passenger.

I did consider asking young Nigel if he was free but reluctantly decided to step up to the mark and do the honours myself. Now I am not a comfortable town driver at the best of times, but attempting to negotiate the Friday night rush-hour traffic did nothing to calm my nerves. Don’t get me wrong, I love driving my dear old Bentley but not on congested city roads. I much prefer cruising through the countryside, and I am sure the car does too.

Needless to say, by the time we finally arrived in the environs of the old homestead I was feeling rather tired and stressed by the experience. If I hadn’t needed to drink before I picked Hope up, I certainly did by the time I guided the Bentley up the driveway. Although it has to be said that Hope’s presence beside me was a somewhat soothing influence, there is also something soothing about the sound of the Bentley’s tyres crunching over the gravel. It always reminds me of coming home from school for the holidays.

It is funny how certain sounds or smells can trigger childhood memories, even those one has forgotten over the intervening years. Certainly, there are some things that will always remind me of home: the smell of my mother’s perfume, the polish that old Danvers used to use on the woodwork, the sound of the car tyres crunching across the gravel, all evoke such happy emotions.

Hope and I spent the evening at the Royal Oak where we enjoyed a splendid meal and a bottle of their rather fine Chardonnay. It was the first of several visits we made to that esteemed establishment over the course of the weekend. I had planned to have Anne join us there for lunch on Saturday but unfortunately, she found herself somewhat “tied-up” with some client or other so had to postpone our little get together. I do think it is a crying shame when a young lady’s business or career impacts so badly on their social life. I have seen it a number of times with Hope when she cannot meet me or was generally unavailable because she had to see a client or dealer. It really is a bad show.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those chaps that believes a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I would never be so presumptuous as to suggest such a thing. After all, we live in a modern society where such things are simply not acceptable, and rightly so. But none-the-less, one cannot help feeling that society is very much the poorer for their absence in favour of business advancement.

As it turns out were not exactly short of company during our stay in the country. Several of the local families also frequent the King’s Arm’s which was jolly nice, particularly as it gave me a fine opportunity to introduce that who didn’t already know her to Hope who, I must say, seemed very much at home amongst the local bigwigs.

Thankfully these little gatherings in the village meant that when we were at the house we were relatively undisturbed, which was fine by me I can tell you. We had a rather splendid weekend together and it was one of the best birthday’s I can remember. And as it was just the two of us I had the opportunity to show her around the old place, including the gardens which we did not see much of over Christmas. On one of our little perambulations, we saw some signs of work undertaken taken on one of the old barns on a neighbour’s property. It looks as if they may be converting it into a new house. Talking of which, there is still a great deal of chatter locally about predatory property developers putting pressure on the local landowners to sell so they can build new houses and the like.

Hope and I did discuss the pros and cons of all these new developments that are beging to encroach on our beautiful countryside. I had to admit that I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, the chaps in government keep prattling on about the need for more new houses, but on the other hand, why can’t they concentrate their efforts in the towns whjere I am sure most the houses are actually needed. I don’t see the point in trying to inflic these dreary new developments on us poor country folk.

Anyway, Hope and I had such a splendid weekend that we were rather reluctant to head home on Sunday. In the end, we left it so late that by the time I had dropped her off at her flat it was far too late to get to the Club. Which was a shame as I had heard some of the chaps had prepared something of a treat for my birthday? Ah well, it can’t be helped I suppose.

Monday morning started reasonably well. I had received a message from Aunt Murdock inviting me to join her for lunch, which I was only too pleased to accept. We met a little after midday at the Savoy, somewhere I know that the old dear enjoys. I am delighted to say that she is very much on the mend and looks better than she has for quite a few months. I have to admit that I have been rather worried about her, but it seems that right now she is doing very well indeed. In fact, she has invited me to join her and Uncle George for a little get together they are planning at their home on Sunday.

The rest of the week was rather busy, what with silly little meetings at the office, a couple of evenings at the Club and a rather unusual lunch date with my old chum Dorchester. It would appear that he is getting very close to Anne and I suspect that it may not be too long before we hear that they are officially a couple.

For now, I think I will draw this to an end as it is getting quite late and I have a busy day tomorrow. First I am going to visit Dorothy and Angela, then Hope and I will be attending some kind of art event somewhere on the Southbank. I am not entirely sure what it is all about, but Hope assures me that I will enjoy it.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Things are looking up

After several “dates” where things did not go according to plan, Hope and I finally managed to spend a whole afternoon and evening together with no interruptions, disasters or fallings-out. We met as agreed for a light tea before making our way to Westminster for a piano recital Hope had recommended.

Tea was in a wonderful little place Hope has frequented before, close to Covent Garden. Now I have never really understood the current fascination for these so-called afternoon teas where one is expected to nibble on miniature sandwiches and cakes that to me look like they are designed for children rather than adults. I always associate these affairs with genteel old ladies or pretentious young women looking to secure their place on the social ladder. But I suppose that as with many other things in life, it is almost as much about the ambiance and company one keeps than the food itself which I understand is not intended to replace a proper meal. In that sense, tea on Sunday was a very jolly affair and I have to admit that the food was exceptionally nice. Hope was in good spirits and seemed to enjoy hearing of my busy couple of days at Cheltenham races. I was very surprised to hear that she had not been to a race meeting since she was a teenager. I had expected that she and her former husband would have been regulars. I think that I will have to invite her to Ascot this summer as I am sure she should enjoy it.

After tea we made our way through the somewhat cold streets to the recital. I have to admit that although it would not have been my first choice, I enjoyed the performance immensely. There is something incredibly relaxing about listening to good music played well and I very soon found myself totally absorbed in the wonderful melodies. There was something almost magical about the atmosphere and by the midpoint of the performance, I found I had Hope’s hand in mine. I have no recollection of the moment we started holding hands; I can’t even recall which of us made the first move; it just seemed so natural.

Not for the first time with Hope, I felt a little like a schoolboy with his first crush. Holding Hope’s hand like that had such a feeling of intimacy that I am sure I must have been blushing.

We returned to Hope’s flat for supper and drinks once the performance was over. Charlotte was still in Manchester with her sister so we had the place to ourselves. And that is all I am going to say about Sunday evening. A gentleman does not kiss and tell.

I returned home yesterday morning to the news that dear old Aunt Murdock and Uncle George have decided to leave the city for a while and have relocated to their little summer place close to Brighton. It is a house owned by George’s family that they have been known to use on occasion, but not recently. Apparently, the old Mad Duck is none too happy with the social scene of Brighton at the moment, but she obviously needs some time to relax and recharge her batteries, so to speak. I will have to drive down to see them later in the week, should I get the opportunity.

I have to say that aside from my dear Aunt’s ill health life at the moment is looking particularly good. Obviously, the utter madness that the rest of world seems to be descending into is worrying, but I am sure it will all work out. All this talk of nerve agents and spies sounds more like a plot from a very bad book rather than real life. I will have to pop along to the Club tomorrow night and see what the chaps make of it all.