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.

Boat on the river

I had something of a treat yesterday evening. It was one of those simple little things that one does that makes a day special and memorable. You see, as a “thank you” for putting her up when she lost her digs, Dorothy and Angela arranged a dining experience on the Thames for us.

I have done similar things before on other rivers and canals (I particularly enjoyed a mea, but floating down the Avon a few years ago) for whatever reason I have never taken such an excursion on the Thames. Maybe it is because it’s in my back yard, so to speak. One very seldom enjoys the tourist side of ones home town. I suppose that I have just taken the fact that they are there for granted. But Dorothy seems to love that side of London, so off we went a little after six to join the boat close to Embankment. The weather was a little less than perfect, but what little rain we had was very slight, and the clouds minimal. Any of my friends will tell you that I am not a particularly good sailor, but the water was very calm, so I had little to worry about there.

We were greeted at the boat by a charming young man who seemed to take an instant shine to young Angela. Indeed, the attention he showed her throughout the evening would, under other circumstances, have almost guaranteed a return; but alas, his flirtations and over zealous attention to her every need, were wasted. Angela is devoted to Dorothy and that is not likely to change any time soon, even for the most eager of suitors.

Anyway, we had arrived in good time and only a couple of other dinners were already seated as we were shown to our table. We were at the prow (that’s the front, if memory serves me right), with a wonderful view across this marvelous waterway. Normally on such occasions I would choose a nice claret to accompany my meal, but yesterday I felt almost rebellious, deciding as I did to start the evening with a long, cool beer. Now, beer is something I do not drink a great deal, but when the mood takes me, I do enjoy a cold continental lager. At this juncture I must point out that I have nothing against English ales, I just find them a little too strong and bitter for my taste.

We had been at our table for little more than five minutes when we were joined, unexpectedly on my part, by a young woman who was introduced to me as Clara. Now I must admit that I thought three an odd number for a dinner such as this, but was hardly in a place to question Dorothy’s planning seeing as it was to be her treat.

Well, it seems that dear old Aunt Murdock is not the only matchmaker in the family! Although the evening was primarily intended as a thank you, Dorothy has never been one to overlook the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and had decided to invite one of her theatrical chums along to make up the numbers.

From my first impression, Clara is never just one to make up the numbers. From her dark, almost Mediterranean complexion and her tall, regal bearing, to the seductive tones of her surprisingly deep voice, Clara was obviously someone who not only expected to me taken notice of, but invariable was. I must have looked a perfect fool, sat there with my mouth slightly open and, making short squeaky noises rather than the coherent greeting my mind was desperately trying to get my mouth to say.

Much of the rest of the evening is a little of a blur. I recall Angela’s amusement at the young crewman’s attentions, and Dorothy’s effusive gratefulness for my hospitality. I seem to remember an exquisite roasted quail and extensive cheeseboard (not both at the same time I must point out), but very little else. I am almost ashamed to admit that for the entire three-hour cruise and meal, almost all of my attention was lavished on Clara, who had been given the seat next to me.

Anyway, at the end of the meal, Clara headed back to her flat somewhere on the South bank, whilst Dorothy, Angela and myself made our way back to Kensington. Once home we settled down for a quiet drink and a chat before bed.

During our conversations I learned that Clara was actually a couple of years older than Dorothy and had been something to a mentor to her at school. I am sure our paths must have crossed previously at one event or another, but I don’t think I had ever spoken to her before.

According to Dorothy, Clara has been widowed twice and has inherited quite small fortune through these untimely deaths. Whilst she is not necessarily looking for husband number three, she felt that we might get along, which I think we did.

From my perspective, Clara is a charming and very interesting lady indeed. I was quite smitten by her smile and her deep green eyes. There is something of the fiery Mediterranean temperament in her manner, coupled with an almost angelic glow that flows across her face when she smiles. Yes, I know how soppy this is all sounding and no doubt there will be words said at the Club tomorrow, but I have just spent the evening in the company of one of the most attractive women of my acquaintance.

But as for a romantic liaison, I fear that is not to be. It was quite obvious almost from the word go, that Clara and I could never be more than friends, and I would like to think that we will be. She is a much more outdoorsy person than me, who enjoys outdoor pursuits and adventure. She also lives most of the year between Switzerland and the South of France, places I could never contemplate setting up a home.

So full marks to Dorothy for her effort. Whilst her matchmaking may not have gone according to plan, we did all enjoy a wonderful evening and I am sure that Clara and I will meet again. She has invited me to stay at either of her villas, which I just may do at some point on the future.