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.

Developments in the country

Well, what an interesting few days this has been. I popped down to the old homestead primarily because of all the rumours I had been hearing recently. Judging by all the gossip the country was beset by marauding property developers, whose sole intent appeared to be to deprive half the county of their land and the other half their livelihoods!

Quite honestly I had half expected to be walking straight into a scene from Les Miserables, with the hard-pressed locals and the City suits each standing firm behind their makeshift barricades. I could almost hear the chorus of “One Day More” ringing in my ears as I approached the Kings Arms.

I was actually a little disappointed to find just one young lady sat on the high street clutching what was obviously a rather hastily produced placard with the slogan “No To New Developments” scrawled across it. This was hardly the raging protest I had been led to expect. As I am sure you can imagine, I don’t have much experience of protests or demonstrations of any kind, but even I could see that such a lacklustre approach was going to little if anything to deter the builders and their backers.

The reason I had stopped off at the King’s Arms first rather than the house was so that I could have a quiet chat with old Jim, the landlord. I was also feeling rather peckish so I could kill two birds with the one stone, so to speak. It was unusually quiet at the bar so I had no trouble securing a good table in the far corner, close to the fire. This not only had the advantage of keeping me warm but also boasted an excellent view of the entrance so I could keep a lookout for any of my friends who may happen to call in.

Anyway, over a couple of glasses of 10-year-old Ardbeg, Jim brought me up to date on recent events. It seems that there are two different companies vying with each other to purchased pockets of land all around the area. And as I am sure you can imagine, many of the local residents are none too happy about it, but local businesses are supporting the proposal. Personally, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. What can possibly be the problem with building a few more houses on what would otherwise be unused and wasted land? That is, providing there is a proven need and that the project is managed in a way that limits inconvenience to the local population.

Jim himself believes that more houses will bring more trade, so he is all for these new developments getting the go ahead. You see, according to Jim, none of the sites so far identified as having the potential for redevelopment had actually received planning permission. The area is largely greenbelt so some of the local country set can get a little hot under the collar about these things. As far as I am concerned, providing they build their new developments away from existing properties and can ensure that they are tastefully designed, then we should be supporting them. Of course, I will not allow any such development on my own property; I have no intention of being the first Dimbelby to had any of the family estates to be sold off.

After sampling the special, which was an absolutely enormous and beautifully cooked  Sea Bass, I made my way to the house to speak to my trusty Estate Manager, Mr Rotherby. When I arrived Mr Rotherby himself was busy in his little office and seemed very pleased to see me. Over drinks in the study, he told me all about one particular company who had been writing and calling every day hoping to secure a fairly large plot of land on the far side of the estate to build some kind of trading estate. Well, I was not going to have that. Putting up a few houses was one thing, but to introduce all that heavy traffic and workmen in overalls to this most beautiful part of the country just isn’t on.

Over the next few days, I spoke to a number of local councillors, some of my fellow landowners and other friends I managed to build a picture of what is really going on. It seems that there are two companies trying to secure several small plots of land suitable for building family homes. What they are proposing seems perfectly fine with me. One can’t afford to stand still in this day and age, otherwise, one will be left behind. On the other hand, there is another developer who is looking specifically to build a small industrial and retail “park”. And I can tell by the conversations I had over the weekend that we are almost unanimous in your objection to having any such things thrust upon the residents of the town.

One resident who did not hesitate to make her feelings known to me was young Anne who joined me on several occasions over the few days I was at the house. It would appear that the young scoundrel Dorchester has been driving across to Anne’s rather frequently of late. It was so good to see how happy she was with Dorchester and was busy trying to mould him into the type of chap who can appreciate the difference between a rose and a carnation. I am extremely pleased for both of them – I am sure they will make a very fine couple.

I had only planned to stay at the house for a couple of days but found I was enjoying my stay so much that I did not come home until late this afternoon. I had thought I would spend a few days visiting old friends, which I did despite the continual protests and placard-waving at strategic points around the town. In the end, I got rather bored talking about builders, developers and all the money they were going make and how many new homes in the area would be a disaster. So I just stayed at the house, chatting to Aunt Sara about family matters and reminiscing over the parties my mother and father often hosted there. Of course, as a child, I was never allowed to attend of these lavish affairs. To be fair to my mother, I was usually at school when these events took place.

As I say, I really enjoyed my short sojourn in the country and am now ready to take on whatever it is Aunt Murdock and Miss Drayton have to throw at me.

 

 

What are Sundays for?

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I often have mixed feelings about being back in the countryside. Whilst I do enjoy the break from routine and the beautiful surroundings, I am a city boy at heart and find myself missing the hustle and bustle of London life. I even miss the sound of traffic at all hours. But the one thing I can never get used to is Sundays. Back at home in Kensington, there is always something to do, somewhere to go or someone to see. But out here, in the back of beyond, I often find myself at something of a loose end. If the weather is fine then I can always take a turn around the grounds, maybe even have my old camera with me and try to capture the landscape or the local wildlife, but by and large, I find Sundays in the country a little dreary.

Of course, the churchgoers amongst the local population have their own routines, drifting as they do between the parish church and the local public house before returning home to the traditional Sunday lunch with the family. Of course, life in the City is very different. Whilst there are still plenty of Londoners who regularly make their way to the local churches and watering holes, they do so with a greater sense of urgency whilst battling against a tide of non-believers heading towards the miriad of other venues that offer up Sunday afternoon entertainment of some very different flavours.

I remember my mother was always very involved with the local church, but I don’t think my father ever set foot in the place, except for the obligatory weddings, funerals and occasional christening. Personally, I never been one for organised religion and preferred to spend the time at home with the newspapers or listening to the radio.

Of course, just working one’s way through the Sunday papers can be quite a challenge in itself. I know some chaps who only get the Sundays as it takes them all week to read them. Personally, I like to settle into a comfortable chair, with a large pot of coffee beside me, and work my way through the various sections and magazines, with a little Bach or Mozart playing in the background. And there is almost nothing better than doing this in front of a roaring open fire. Now that is one of the benefits of a house in the country, having a real fire to keep you warm and cosy.

I must just say that yesterday’s little excursion to the local restaurant that Nigel was so keen for me to visit went down very well indeed. I was very pleasantly surprised, not only by the atmosphere and situation of the place but also by the impeccable service and truly wonderful food. The menu is simple and based largely on local produce, with just a hint of the more exotic in their desserts. And Nigel was not exaggerating about the wines. We had a couple of bottles of a particularly exquisite Nuits St Georges that I must say complimented the local steaks extremely well.