Absent without leave

Just in case anyone has been wondering why I have not been writing recently I would like to clear up a couple of small matters.

Firstly, I have not, as one of the chaps at the Club suggested, been the victim of some kind of honour killing arranged by Hope’s eldest, Emily. Mind you, I can appreciate why he might think that after the rather embarrassing events of last Monday. I have to admit that I am very much still in the dark over why a young lady who, in every other way, seems so normal could have taken against me in so violent a way.  In fact, her latest outburst embarrassed even Hope who seemed as much at a loss as I was to explain Emily’s actions.

One knows that one cannot expect to please all of the people all of the time, as Lincoln once put it, I have never encountered anyone before who I seem to ber s completely unable to please any of the time. I don’t really want to dwell on that last encounter, so let us just leave that one there.

Secondly, and this is a rumour that seems to have also originated in the Club bar, contrary to popular belief, I have not been given any kind of warning or ultimatum by dear Hope. Far from it in fact. Although she has never read my online journal, she is very happy for me to continue doing whatever it is I do.

Lastly, although the past couple of weeks have not been particularly easy for me, I have not been confined to an institution of any kind. Despite that Dasher may have been implying over the bar at the Club, I am very much of sound mind and body.

No, the real reason for my absence is a very simple and relatively boring one. You see my old chum Cambridge called upon me last Tuesday and asked if I would like to join him on a little trip he was planning to his old family estate in the highlands. Now, this time last year I would have hesitated to venture into the wilds of “bonnie” Scotland, but this year I just saw an opportunity to get away from the interminable World Cup that seems to be pervading every corner of one’s life at present. Now, I don’t want anyone to bet the impression in any way that I am some kind of grumpy old spoilsport, but it has to be said that the media’s general assumption that we are all football fanatics is rather annoying. Pages and pages of the daily newspapers have been dedicated to the damned thing and my normal television viewing has been disrupted in an unforgivable way.

So yes, the prospect of a few days at Cambridge’s Scotish country estate was most welcome. Hope and I had no immediate plans that I was aware of so I accepted the offer and very soon was safe aboard the Edinburgh bound train.

We had a wonderful few days in the picturesque highlands. I don’t see as much of old Cambridge as I used to and it was very pleasant indeed to spend a little time with the old chap and catch up on things. Of course, no matter where one goes one can never be totally removed from the humdrum of everyday life and all its cares and woes, but for my money, spending a few days on the banks of Loch Duntelchaig cames very close. The weather was near perfect and I found myself a little homesick – not for my house in town, but for my own little getaway in the heart of Hampshire. In fact, I think I will pay the old place a visit once Wimbledon is out of the way.

Anyway, I arrived back a couple of days ago only to find my absence noticed by far more people than I had expected. I must say I was quite touched by everyone’s concern until I realised that I had left in such haste that I appear to have overlooked the need to tell anyone where I was going.

Whilst for most – the chaps at the Club certainly – my absence would have been of little consequence, it seems to have been felt most keenly by dear Hope who, I am almost embarrassed to admit, I forgot to tell of my last minute plans. She was, as one would expect, extremely annoyed at what she called my thoughtlessness. In my defence, and I accept it may be a poor one, I have become used to doing my own thing and have still to come to terms with the idea that there is someone who might need to be consulted or at the very least be informed of my decisions. Rest assured, that lesson has been well and truly learned.

 

 

Not a Hope-less cause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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