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.

On the road to Brighton

brighton_pierWell,  what a day yesterday was. I had arranged with my godson Nigel that we would take the Bentley for an airing and visit an old family friend in Brighton. It was something of a last minute decision, partly as an excuse to get out of the house, but also to get some more information for my family tree research.

Nigel arrived a little after 9 o’clock which was much too early for me; I was still finishing my breakfast. So, whilst I got myself ready, Nigel did a little work on the computer. I presume he was doing some research in preparation for our little chat later on with old Mrs Dalton. Whatever it was, he was very quick because he was switching off just as I entered the room.

The drive down to Brighton was the usual mix of frustration and boredom. I find that driving just isn’t any fun anymore. In fact, I refuse to get behind the wheel in the city these days. Which is a shame because I used to really love driving, particularly in the old Bentley. It was my father’s car and it was the first car I ever drove on the open road on my own. When I first started learning to drive my parents bought me a very nice little car, a Ford Escort. It was fine for learning in, but once I had passed my test I wanted something a little more substantial. Rather reluctantly my father allowed me to take his Bentley out for a spin, and it was an eye-opening experience. Cruising around the open country roads gave me a sense of power and freedom I have not found doing anything else. This freedom was the one advantage of living on the family estate, a million miles from civilization.

When I moved permanently to London I bought myself the Daimler for getting around town. I know it’s a little on the large side, and definitely not the most fuel efficient of cars, but for comfort and, let’s be honest, prestige, it is hard to beat. But driving through the busy city streets is about as far removed from those early drives through the country roads as you can get. I became increasingly frustrated by the traffic, the endless road works and the poor standard of driving I encountered. The city is full of incredibly bad drivers and they appear to be getting worse. Not only do they seem to meander about aimlessly, changing lanes in a seemingly random fashion, but more and more drivers are seemingly intent on committing hari-kari. And what is it with all the changes to the roads? Hardly a week seems to go by without something changing. It seems like they are creating new one-way streets and installing new traffic lights on an almost weekly basis. I just can’t keep up with it all. Mr Arnold has in effect become my chauffeur, getting me to and from wherever I need to be.

And now, even out of town, things are getting much worse, particularly the standard of driving. The roads between London and Brighton are fairly good these days, but for me, the journey was far from fun. Obviously, the Bentley is the type of car that is capable of great speed and does command some respect from other road users, but there are a growing number of people who have very little respect for anyone else, and none at all for the rules of the highway. I lost count of the number of times much smaller cars fairly whizzed passed me, even though I was driving an exactly the speed limit. Maybe it is the car itself that encourages people to want to turn every journey into a competition. I must admit that in my younger days I may have been tempted to join the race, but I learned my lesson long ago. Losing one’s licence once may be considered slightly careless, but by the third time, one has to consider it time for a change.

Despite the horrendous traffic, we arrived in Brighton in good time, stopping for lunch at a little Bistro close to the promenade that I have visited several times before. I often find that dining out in places such as Brighton can be very tricky unless you know what to look for. In that way, I have been lucky to find a couple of very fine establishments that serve a respectable selection of dishes. Yesterday we settled for seafood, something of a speciality for the area. I know that Brighton has a bad reputation in some circles. Certainly, it can be a little rowdy at times, but I find that lunch in the right places can be a very acceptable way to pass a congenial hour or two.

We met with Mrs Dalton in her home close to the seafront where she regaled us with her memories of my mother’s family. I hadn’t seen the old dear for almost 30 years and I was surprised by how old-looking she had become. Old and frail she may be, but Mrs Dalton’s mind is still as sharp as a knife. She was able to provide a wealth of information about my mother and her family, things that I hadn’t known or had any interest in before now.

But before we left to come home, Mrs Dalton hinted that there was something else I needed to know, but that I would need to ask my Aunt Murdock about it. It sounded all very mysterious and a little exciting. Nigel tried to press her into telling us more, but she wouldn’t, just saying that it wasn’t her place.

Thankfully, the journey back was uneventful and I was able to make it to the Club early enough for several frames and a drink or three.