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.

 

 

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?

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.

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.

If music be the food of love…

To say that the last couple of days have been enlightening is actually a little of an understatement. Any of my friends would attest to the fact that I am a man of simple tastes and am not inclined towards taking unnecessary risks. When I decide to try a new restaurant, I tend to do so based on either a recommendation or because of the reputation of the owner or the chef. I like to be as sure as I can be that I am not going to be too disappointed. And whilst I enjoy sampling some types of foreign cuisine, I do draw the line at all that spicy Eastern cooking.

I was well aware that by leaving the choice of venue for our dinner date to Hope I was taking an uncharacteristic risk. Whilst I was sure she would not choose something too outlandish, I was still a little apprehensive about what she had planned for the evening. After all, I had also agreed to accompany her to the theatre and again, I had no idea what she might have booked to see. Hope had arranged to pick me up in a taxi so I did not even get a clue to the location.

I suppose that I should have had a little more confidence in her understanding of me and the things that I like. She took me to a little place that I had heard of but never visited, possibly because of it’s proximity to the National Theatre and the clientele that such an establishment can attract. But good food is good food, no matter where one finds it, and I have to admit that Hopes choice of venue turned out to be an excellent one. The decor and atmosphere were clean and inviting and the menu simple but varied.It was all fairly traditional fayre, but fairly well cooked and presented. I chose a steak and a rather fine Château La Croix Fourney to go with it. Hope settled for Sea Bass which she assured me was very nice indeed.

Being the early evening I had thought that wherever we went would be fairly quiet, but in that I was wrong – it was a very busy service, due I believe to the majority of the clientele being on their way to the theatre itself. Which should have given me a clue to where we were going, but this didn’t actually occur to me until we were waiting for our deserts.

Over the course of the meal, Hope and I discussed our families, work and a little about our desires for the future. It seems that each time we meet I learn a little more about this fascinating woman. She was quite candid about her marriage which seems to have had some difficult times. Not that this is anything unusual; many of my friends have dealt with rocky relationships. I myself have experienced something similar but admittedly not to the same degree as poor Hope. I had not known Hope’s husband particularly well but he always seemed to me to be a decent sort of chap. Not exactly the sort one would expect to meet down at the Club, but decent enough for that. From what Hope told me, he was a good father and pleasant enough man, but he could also be a little domineering. He did not approve of her art ambitions which is why she did not open the gallery until after he had died.

Anyway, when we finished our meal and it came to settling the bill, I was in for another surprise. Not the bill itself which Hope told me was reasonable, but the fact that Hope herself insisted on paying it. Now, it has always been my contention that when one is taking a lady out for the evening, it is the man’s place to pay. That is what my mother always taught me and it is something I have always stood by. I suppose I should have expected something like that; Hope is, after all, a very independent woman who is used to doing things for herself. But none-the-less, it went against the grain a little to have a lady such as Hope pay for the meal.

My next surprise came after we left the restaurant as we made our way to the National Theatre. There is no mistaking the building itself; it has to be one of the ugliest buildings of its type in the world. I don’t think anyone in their right mind could ever consider this concrete monstrosity as anything other than what the Prince of Wales would call, a carbuncle. I cannot for the life of me imagine why the architects of what was supposed to be a prestigious centre for the arts should design such an eyesore.

Anyway, it turns out that Hope had purchased tickets for the current production of Twelfth Night. Now I am sure that most people who know me are aware that I am not exactly the bard’s greatest fan and ordinarily the thought of being subjected to an evening of one of his plays would leave me somewhat cold. But on this occasion, I was with Hope so was assured of good company at least.

As it turns out, despite the usual issues I had with Shakespeare’s language, I found I really enjoyed the performance. Before it started Hope told me to expect something unusual but at first, I didn’t realise what she meant. I have seen this particular play before – it was one that my mother took me to see once – but my recollection was a little vague so I did not immediately see what she meant. Of course, once she pointed it out to me it was obvious. You see, in this particular production, the part of Malvolio, written as a male character, was being played by a woman. From what Hope told me, the actress Tamsin Grieg is very popular. I had not actually seen her before myself, but she was frightfully good and highly amusing.

After the show I had Arthur pick us up and drop Hope off at her flat in Chelsea. She asked if I would like to join her for a nightcap, but I declined. It had been a wonderful evening full of surprises, but I was a little anxious not to spoil things. I can’t pretend to be a particularly romantic type and I don’t fool myself that I am any kind of catch. I know that Hope likes me, otherwise she would not have planned the evening we had just had, but I did not want to put myself in a position where I may say or do something embarrassing. Before we parted Hope invited me to join her on Saturday evening for dinner at her flat. Of course, I did not need to think twice, accepting the invitation with probably a little too much enthusiasm.

This morning I had a telephone call from my Uncle George to say that dear old Aunt Murdock was back in the hospital. Nothing to worry about apparently, but he thinks she will be there for a couple of days. It is obvious now that I am going to have to get used to managing the firm’s affairs on my own as she is definitely going to have to slow down. At the office, my secretary, Miss Drayton informed me that she was going on holiday for a couple of weeks with her boyfriend but had secured a temp to manage my affairs, such as they are. I have to admit that it had never occurred to me that Miss Drayton might have a boyfriend. In fact, I had never even considered her life outside of the office at all. I really must take more of an interest in future.

 

Thinking the unthinkable!

I spoke to Hope on Monday evening and she agreed to join me on my little trip to the Cotswolds next month. I have also arranged to meet her tomorrow evening for dinner and theatre. I have no idea what we are going to see – I have left that up to Hope – but I have asked that it isn’t one of those high brow arty things. I am not a regular theatregoer by any means but I do enjoy a comedy or a murder mystery. My dear old Aunt Murdock has often coerced me into going with her to see all kinds of shows, some of which I enjoyed, but most I found either infuriatingly self-absorbed or interminably boring.

Even at school, I had trouble concentrating when it came to literature and plays. Shakespeare was the worst. Now, I know that by saying this I am going to offend some people, but I can only say things as I see them. After all, we can’t all like the same things, can we? I mean, it would be a pretty tedious world if we were all the same. Dorothy is always telling me I need to broaden my horizons a little, take in some of what she calls “serious” theatre. Aunt Murdock has been saying the same thing for years, even going so far as to hoodwink me into attending some of these shows.

Now, I am well aware of the importance of William Shakespeare and his role in English literature. I have visited Stratford-upon-Avon several times and know how important a figure he is. I just don’t enjoy his plays. There are actually quite a few literary figures whose work I find either boring or unintelligible. I clearly remember my father insisting that I read works by writers such as Jules Verne, but they never really appealed to me. Each to his own, as they say.

I have to say I am really looking forward to tomorrow evening. Hope has told me she has somewhere special in mind for our meal. She has even said she will pick me up in a taxi so I will not even get any clues as to whereabouts we are going. It is all very cloak and dagger and quite exciting. I just hope that her choice of show is something suitable. A nice comedy would be good. Or perhaps an old-fashioned murder mystery. I have to admit that I have a bit of a soft spot for Agatha Christie type stories. There is a sort of comfortable familiarity with these types of plays. They don’t challenge ones intellect or expect one to look for hidden meanings. I just want to be entertained and the idea of having to decipher what is almost a foreign language makes the likes of Shakespeare more of a chore than a pleasure.

I had another busy day at the office today dealing with the property side of the family business. Aunt Murdock tells me it is the most profitable side our work, after the banking interests. Mind you, that term “interests” is one I use very loosely. Where I can see something tangible in the property portfolio, the whole banking side of things leaves me a little lost. It doesn’t seem to matter how many ways the banking chappies explain the way it all works, I just can’t seem to follow it. Fluctuating markets, CIFs, DTIs, Reverse Mortgages or Escrow Funds – all make no sense to me at all. I am finding dealing with the property and development side of things quite interesting. That is not to say I understand or agree with all the decisions made by others on my behalf, but I am much more comfortable with land and buildings than I am with money or people.

With Aunt Murdock’s current ill health I am having to consider my role in the business. It is obvious I am going to have to take on more responsibility, but I have to admit that the thought frightens me a little.