Computer troubles and more

I must say it has been a rather odd few days for little old me. I like to think that I am an easy going sort of chap. I have never seen the point in getting too excited about things I cannot control, and often even those I can. Life is far too short to waste valuable time on the insignificant or uncontrollable elements of life. But this week I have had to face two very different but equally perplexing issues that have caused me worry and stress.

The first occurred on Friday afternoon.  I was sat at my desk, waiting for the computer to start so that I could write up my journal. I had been sat there for a few minutes, thinking about the week I had had and the things I might want to say when it began to dawn on me that the computer was taking an inordinately long time to get going. I sat there for a little longer, watching the little ring of dots going around and around as a message on the screen very politely asked me to please wait.

Now I am a very patient man, but one can only sit staring at a blue screen for so long. My first thought was to contact dear old Nigel. After all, he is the expert on this kind of thing. I am, as they say, totally clueless when it comes to modern technology. Nigel set the whole thing up for me almost a year ago now and I rely on his expertise to keep it working and safe. Unfortunately, he was away and not due back until Sunday, so I was a little stuck. So, I was faced with one of two choices: to leave it alone and wait for Nigel’s return, or to contact someone else for help, but who?

After a little consideration, and a small shot of single malt, I decided that the I would take action myself. After all, what harm could I do? Nigel is always telling me not to be afraid of the computer, that I couldn’t break it. So I did the only thing I could think of doing that might help – I switched it off at the wall. I had seen Nigel do that once when it had stopped working; everything had sort of frozen and no amount of clicking or typing seemed to get us anywhere. It is one of the things that I have often heard the chaps at the Club laugh about – if any piece of technology stops doing what it is supposed to do, all one needs to do is turn it off and on again. So that is what I did, only to find myself right back where I started, watching little white dots run around in circles on a pale blue screen. But now, rather than seeming polite, the “please wait” came across as more of a taunt. It was as if the damned thing was laughing at me.

Of course, it wasn’t, or at least I don’t believe it was. But one thing it certainly was not doing, was starting up. In the end, I left it and went down to the Club to catch up with the chaps and share a drink or three. Repairing the computer would just have to wait until Nigel returned.

Appart from now having a rather large and expensive paperweight cluttering up my study desk, the next few days were thankfully uneventful. Hope and I visited a very nice little bar in deepest Kensington on Saturday and we spent much of Sunday reading newspapers and generally doing very little of consequence. But then came Monday morning and the second shock.

Now, I don’t always visit the office on a Monday. I find struggling into work so soon after the weekend such a bore, but I was feeling unusually bright and breezy as Hope left for the Gallery, so I decided I would pop in and catch up on a few things that Miss Drayton had insisted were urgent and needed my attention. I have to say, most of the paperwork that passes over my desk seems extremely tedious and as far from urgent as it is possible to get. None-the-less, I am trying to be more “hands-on” so decided I would make the effort and see what all the fuss was about..

Well, I hadn’t been at my desk for more than a couple of minutes when Miss Drayton, looking rather sheepish, walked slowly into my office and handed me a single envelope. I looked up at her and smiled, but she lowered her eyes and took a single step backwards as if to put a little distance between us. I have to say that I found her demeanour to be a little disconcerting. Normally any post for me has already been opened and only those that require my personal attention ever make it as far as the desk. It was very unusual for any item of post to be handed to me unopened. I may not be the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer but even I knew at that point that something was not quite right about the scene playing out before me.

Miss Drayton remained silent, still seemingly captivated by the pattern of the carpet. So I opened the envelope, withdrew the single sheet of paper from inside and read the very short letter which it turns out was Miss Drayton’s resignation.

To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. I thought everything was ticking along very nicely and had no idea there was anything wrong. I just can’t imagine the office without her being there. Who was going to deal with all my correspondence and meetings and such? She was very apologetic about the whole thing and was very determined that I was aware that her leaving was nothing personal. It would appear that Miss Drayton’s has, unbeknown to me, be walking out with a young gentleman from the legal department and they have decided to get married and return to his family home in southern Italy. Apparently, they run a successful wine business over there.

It turned out to be a somewhat emotional morning as Miss Drayton set the wheels in motion to find her replacement. I have to say that I had no idea it was going to be quite so complicated. I have had three meetings already this week with a stream of people from Human Resources asking all kinds of silly questions and going over several very dreary and, to my mind, pointless documents. I really don’t understand this whole recruitment thing at all. Apparently, the new Miss Drayton will be a Personal Assistant, not secretary, and might even be a man!

After much discussion, we have agreed that whoever I take on will come from within the compoany rather than bringing someone new into the office. Miss Drayton and I are going to meet with a few eligible candidates next week. I can’t say I am looking forward to it, but I suppose that these things have to be done.

Hope says I need to give Miss Drayton some kind of send-off, which I agree sounds like a jolly good idea. Not that I know anything about organising this sort of thing. Under normal circumstances, I would be asking Miss Drayton to sort things out but that is obviously not as good idea in this instances.

Anyway, earlier today Nigel dropped by and brought back my computer. He had called round yesterday but had to take it away. He did try to explain the problem to me but it was all gobbledygook to me. These computer chaps talk in a foreign language. Mind you, it was no more intelligible than half the waffle Human Resources have put into the job description for my new Miss Drayton.

Well, that’s just about it for now. I am going to make my way down to the Club for an evening with the chaps.

Yet another Bank Holiday

Well, we have just had another of those interminable Bank Holidays and the City has been fairly crawling with tourists. I can imagine that from the air the streets would have looked like a hoard of frantic termites running aimlessly through the streets. Hope and Dorothy were both busy today so I thought I would wander down to the river, as was such a nice day, but I very quickly realised that this had been a mistake. My quiet stroll turned into a nightmare of bustling pavements and indiscriminate music coming at me from all sides. By the time I actually reached the water’s edge, I was completely out of sorts and as far from relaxed as I think it is possible to get without actually blowing a fuse.

I rather bravely wandered down to St James’ but that was even worse. At this point, I decided that enough was enough and made my way to the one place in the City I can rely on for some peace and quiet – the Club. And if I am to be brutally honest, I am beginning to feel that life in the city is not what it used to be.

Living in a city like London, with all its hustle and bustle can be both invigorating and exhausting. The streets are always busy, the bars, theatres and other attractions constantly swarming with inquisitive and noisy tourists. It is truly a city that never seems to sleep. And for those of us lucky enough to call it home, it is almost alive with possibilities. There is certainly no shortage of new and interesting things to see and do. But the seemingly relentless pace brings its own pressures and one can, at times, be left in something of a daze trying to keep up with it all. I count myself very lucky that at such times I have an escape route; the old family homestead. I don’t know if it is that the pace of life in the City is getting too much, even for me, or something else, but this past week or so I have been feeling the draw of the countryside more and more.

The last weekend I spent at home with Hope had made the old place seem much more interesting and comfortable than it had for some time. Whilst I am sure that much of that can probably be put down to the time spent showing her around, I do find that Hope is one of those people who, by their very presence, can bring life and vigour to any surroundings.

As a boy, I so looked forward to returning home from school. My mother was always there to greet me, although my father was, more often than not, busy in the City with business of one sort or another. Although my mother would often join him in town, she always made sure she was there when I first arrived home. Since my parents died the house has felt less and less like a home to me. My visits have become increasingly infrequent, but the old place still has a strange attraction to me, one that seems to be getting stronger.

I suppose that it is the people who make a house a home. For me, it was always my mother who made the old pile worth returning to. Certainly, the old place has a lot of history and is littered with artwork and treasures that my father’s family have collected over the centuries. But it was my mother’s touch that made it somewhere worth being. Without her, it became nothing more than a museum, a shrine to the Dimbelby-Smyth dynasty that I found increasingly less relevant to my own life. Now, one begins to see the merit in the old place. Hope certainly seemed to enjoy being there and has quite openly said she cannot wait to return and “spruce” the place up a little.

I am not sure exactly what she means by that, but some of the chaps at the Club said it sounded ominous and I should be very careful about what I allowed her to do. In all honesty, I don’t believe she is planning to redecorate the whole place. Maybe she will just want to add a few of those “feminine touches” I have heard talk of.

I had not planned to return to the country until later in the summer but as there are one or two items that require my attention I have decided to invite Hope and Charlotte to join me for a few days next week. If the weather holds out they will see the old estate at its best. The English countryside undoubtedly offers some of the finest views one can get anywhere in the world and I look forward to sharing it with them both, if they can make of course. One can’t always assume that they will be free or available.

I am off down to the Club now to meet old Cambridge. I haven’t seen the old fool for a couple of weeks now and there is so much to catch up on. Maybe Dasher will be there as well this evening – he is another one who has been absent rather too much recently.

Let’s keep it together

Earlier this week I was reminded of that wonderful old poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

It was one of my father’s favourite pieces of literature and one he lived his life by.  We live in a very difficult and complicated world and it very easy to find one’s self lost in the chaos of recriminations, strife and anger that surround us every day. I think that sometimes my father handled his business affairs a little like a military campaign. He would strategize to the n-th degree, trying to second guess the competition and doing everything he could to put his competitors (or enemies as he often called them) off their stride. But whatever his competitors were doing, however much pressure the business put on him, he remained always stoical and I never saw him lose his temper over a business matter. I remember him saying to me once when I had first started working with him at the office.

Don’t get me wrong, my father had quite a temper on him and he could fly into the most alarming and frightening rages, but never over the big issues. One felt that the world could be facing imminent doom and my father would remain the calm and reassuring rock that we all could cling to. If he had been on board the Titanic, he would have simply poured himself another gin and listened to the band play on. But should he find anything out of place in his study, or muddy footprints across the hall, woe betide the culprit (usually a much younger me!).

I think I must have inherited that from him, that very English ability to remain calm in the face of adversity. I like to think of myself as a relatively calm sort of chap;  I don’t get angry easily or very often. But there are times when one can see that final straw approaching and one knows that the proverbial stack is about to blow.

Like my father, the bigger worries of the world do not bother me too much. After all, there is very little point in getting worked up about something you can do nothing about. What would be the point in that? But what I do find is that frustration over seemingly insignificant things or some form of injustice can, and often will, lead me to lose my temper.

But not everyone shares this view of life. There are a number of the chaps at the Club who would do well to read and take heed of Mr Kipling’s inspiring words. But I suppose that in this day and age where there is so much pressure to conform and succeed, it is very easy to be pushed off track by events. Just yesterday I dropped into the Club for a quiet lunch when I found myself caught up in what I thought was a lively conversation, but turned out to be a slowly simmering argument. Two of the chaps – both very pleasant normally – it turns out were business rivals and had had a falling out over some kind of deal or other. Now, I didn’t get all the details, to be honest, it was difficult to follow exactly what they were saying after a while, but it was obvious that they would need to be separated before heated words turned into something a little more substantial.

I felt a little like one of those UN peacekeepers that you used to see much of on the television, positioning myself between the two combatants. All I needed was the blue beret. I have never, in all the years I have been a member of the Club, seen any of the chaps lose their composure in such a spectacular fashion. That is not to say that there haven’t been arguments and the occasional small fracas in the bar, but yesterday’s incident was by far the worst I have witnessed. And not just witnessed! There I was, arms outstretched, keeping the two of them apart, only find myself at the receiving end of a powerful left hook. It took me rather by surprised I can tell you. One moment I was standing there between them, seeking calm and consideration, the next I was sitting on the damp floor (it seems that one of the chaps had spilt his drink at the onset of hostilities) with my back to the bar and a throbbing left cheek.

I am a little unsure about what happened next. There was a flurry of activity, a little more shouting and quite a few pairs of legs passing in front of my eyes, then it was all over. The warring businessmen had been separated, calm restored, and a first aid kit secured to tend my wounds.

I cannot imagine what it was that had brought these two normally relaxed chaps to such a point of bitterness and recrimination. As my father said to me, there is nothing that can’t be resolved by a little calm consideration and a quiet word. I wholeheartedly agree with his approach and only wish that others would do the same. So much more can be achieved when we keep it together rather than losing control.

This is an adage that the current incumbent of the White House should take note of too. There is no point in his antagonising the likes of the North Koreans and then expect them to take notice of what one has to say. Diplomacy doesn’t work that way.

By the time I visited Hope later in the evening my cheek had come up in a gloriously colourful bruise that demanded some explanation. She was as appalled as I was at the behaviour of the two gentlemen in question, but relieved that I had not received any further injuries. In fact, Hope made feel like something of a hero which I suppose I am really.

Worrying unduly over matters that you cannot change or the inherent dishonesty of business seems so pointless to me. One could spend one’s life getting worked up about this and that, but it would be short and not too happy life. I for one prefer to keep calm and carry on, as the old war posters used to say.

I have kept something of a low profile today but will be out and about tomorrow with Hope. With a little luck, the bruising will have gone down a little.

And for those out there who are not familiar with Kipling’s “If”, you can read the full poem here.

A very modern royal wedding

Well, one way or another it has been quite a weekend. One would have to be living in a particularly large and thick bubble to have avoided seeing something about Saturday’s Royal Wedding, although one could be forgiven for forgetting the FA Cup Final. I count myself amongst the latter, but the wedding has been a large part of the news for the past week or so. As always, there was much speculation about the dress and the names on the guest list. I am sure no one will be surprised to hear, I have taken no interest in either of these things.

As far as I am concerned, weddings are very personal. They are significant to those involved, either as guests or participants, but for those not directly involved, I just can’t see the attraction. I have been a part of many of my friends and family’s nuptials over the years – I have even been Best Man on a number of occasions (some of which are best forgotten) and generally found them to be very jolly affairs. But the idea of watching someone one does not know personally take their vows on the television I find extremely tedious. The ladies do tend to take much of an interest in this kind of thing. Speculation about “the dress” and not so restrained critiques of the hats and dresses of the varied guests seem to form a large part of the entertainment. Us chaps tend to be less worried about that kind of thing. I can’t say I have ever given a moment’s thought to the attire of others, unless, of course, one finds one’s self faced with one of the more extreme items of haute couture that one or two of the younger generation seem to favour on these special occasions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a great supporter of the Windsors and everything they stand for. I know a number of the family personally and had I been invited I would certainly have been there enjoying the event along with the rest of them. But I do not know the couple and therefore have no personal link to their big day. My intention on Saturday was to make my way to the Club for a light lunch, drinks and a frame or two with some of the Chaps. We had been assured that they would not have the newly installed television on until later in the afternoon when some of the chaps wanted to see the Cup final.

But, as so often seems to happen these days, the best-laid plans can go awry remarkably quickly and for the most unexpected reasons.

But everything changed when shortly before I was about to leave Dorothy and Angela arrived on my doorstep, carrying several bottles of wine and the largest picnic hamper I have seen outside of Harrods. It transpires that they had planned to spend the day at a small party with friends somewhere in Chelsea. But the hostess had rather unexpectedly gone into early labour so they had been forced t make alternative plans. Hence their sudden arrival on my doorstep. My initial reaction was to invite them in, offer them the free use of the house and set off for the Club. I saw no reason to change my own plans. But Dorothy had her own ideas and I soon found myself holding a glass of chilled white wine as the girls sorted through the contents of the hamper. During the time Dorothy lived with me I learned that once she has got an idea into her head it is best to acquiesce and do one’s best to enjoy whatever it is she has planned.

There is no denying that Britain is a great country with a fine and enviable history. And whilst some may contest that our influence on the world stage is in decline, there is still one undeniable truth, one thing that no one else can match us for, or even come close. No one, and I mean no one, can come close to the British when it comes to putting on a show of pomp and agentry. It is part of our heritage and something that we take very seriously. And although I would not normally have chosen to sit and suffer the interminable speculation and pointless interviews, I have to admit that seeing the processions, hearing the fanfares and the wonderful music did make me feel proud to be British. This kind of events does a lot to bolster patriotism and raise our esteem in the eyes of the world. Despite my reservations and a natural disinclination to got caught up in the media frenzy surrounding these events, I found I actually enjoyed the whole thing. Although, I have to confess that this was probably as much to do with the rather fine Chablis and the company as it was the event itself.

During the build up the big event, there was a lot of chatter in the media idea as well as the Club about the new addition to the housWindsorindsr. Not too long ago the very idea of a divorced American actress of mixed race marrying into the royal family would have been unthinkable. Now, I have no love for the Americans as a people but have nothing against the young lady herself. From what I have seen and heard she is very pleasant and has a real concern for others. There have been a few quiet mutterings of objection from one or two of the old guard down at the Club, but I think that by and large the public, and it seems the Windsors themselves, have been very supportive of Harry’s choice and been supportive and inviting. After all, there is virtually no chance of her ever becoming queen so no real harm done.

Dorothy and Angela stayed until just after 3 o’clock, by which time we had finished the wine and consumed most of the contents of the hamper. I was feeling rather tipsy and decided that what I needed most right then was a quiet lie down before making my second attempt to get to the Club. I had no sooner closed my eyes that I heard the arrival of another unexpected visitor – Hope. Apparently, trade had been rather slow all day so she decided to close the gallery early and, thanks to the female bush telegraph, knew I was at home. Of course, I was delighted to see her, particularly as I had not expected to see her at all on Saturday. She had seen the wedding on one of those tablet things Charlotte had taken to work, so I opened another bottle of Chable and we sat and discussed the finer points of the day’s events.

The Sunday newspapers were dominated by the wedding with just about every front page featuring a picture of the Prince and his bride. I have to admit that they do make a charming couple.

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.