Another date with Hope

I must say that had a jolly splendid weekend. Saturday itself started out a little dull but then I had my dinner date with Hope at her flat near Chelsea. I had decided to take some wine and flowers with me; my mother had always insisted that I never arrive for any kind of date empty-handed. Dorothy recommended the flowers – she even purchased them for me from a little florist she knows close the Kensington High Street. I am not one for flowers and indoor fauna, but they did look rather nice to me. I also decided to take along some wine. I chose a particularly fine 2012, Chateauneuf du Pape I had been saving for a special occasion. Not knowing what we were to eat I also took along a Chablis Grand Cry Les Preuses 2015, one of those pleasant wines that go with almost anything.

I had thought that Charlotte may have been there but she had already left for an evening out with friends so we had the flat to ourselves. I am not sure why but I had not up until that point considered that she might be as accomplished in the kitchen as she so obviously is with her art. She had prepared for us a truly amazing 3-course meal that would not have been out of place in one of the finer restaurants we have visited during our renewed acquaintance. The starter of Sea Bass on some sort of salad and avocado base was followed by a Chicken Chasseur that would have put any Michelin starred chef to shame. Apparently, it was made to her mother’s recipe and is something of an old family favourite. I can certainly see why. Desert was a very sweet but delicious Creme Brulee.

We had a jolly pleasant evening talking about anything and everything. I found myself talking quite candidly about things I have never told anyone else before. Things about my relationship with my parents and some of the less salubrious tales of my time at college. I am not sure whether it was the wine, the food or the company, but I felt more relaxed than I have done for quite some time. I left a little before midnight, shortly after Charlotte returned from her evening on the town. I might have stayed a little longer, but Charlotte was very distressed when she returned. It would seem that she had been at some kind of party for most of the evening at which she had met and then fallen out with some young chap she knows from college. I don’t think he is her boyfriend or anything like that, but I am not really very sure and in the end, decided that I ought to make myself scarce and let mother and daughter sort it out.

I had had a very nice evening indeed and was just telling Dorothy all about it over a coffee on Sunday morning. Now, Dorothy is a bit of an old romantic and as far as she was concerned Hope and I are now what she called “an item”. Whilst I am not sure that is entirely true, our evening together had certainly been both enlightening and enjoyable. We have not made any plans to meet again but I think I will call her tomorrow. I know she likes the theatre so I will get tickets for a show or something. I am sure Dorothy will be able to suggest something suitable.

This morning Dorothy informed me that she and Angela have found a suitable flat and are planning to move in over the Easter weekend. It goes without saying that I am very pleased for them both, I am sure they will be very happy.

A change of plan

Things have been quite busy since my last update. My beloved Bentley was returned to me on Monday morning, all ship shape and Bristol fashion. You would never know she had been involved in a prang. Apparently, the insurance companies are still arguing over who was responsible for the accident, but I am keeping right out of it. I have my car back and that is all that matters to me. Well, not all that matters, but I am sure you understand my meaning.

I wasn’t due in the office on Monday so was able to indulge myself and take the old thing for a spin. Arthur came with me; he drove as far as Bromley after which I took the wheel. It was a great feeling, racing down those quiet country lanes of Kent. They really do not make motors like this little gem anymore. I know that there are manufacturers who make similar cars, but there is something detached and sterile about all the computers and gadgets they put in cars these days. It takes the fun out of motoring.

I have to admit that I got quite carried away with myself. Arthur and I stopped for a drink and a bite to eat somewhere in the countryside, I’m not exactly sure where, before heading back. It was almost 2 o’clock by the time we got back to the house and I had just missed a telephone call from Hope. Her message said she would call back again later as she needed to speak to me about our date and she wasn’t at the gallery. This left me very uneasy as I was looking forward to our evening together and I was anxious that she wasn’t going to have to cancel on me.

This, of course, meant that I had to remain at home waiting for the call. Not that I had planned to go anywhere, but knowing that I had to stay in made the wait even more excruciating. I believe we have all gone through this kind of thing at one time or another. I imagine that this is how expectant fathers feel as they pace the hospital corridors waiting for the sound of their baby’s first cry.

In the end, I had to wait until almost 4 o’clock before Hope finally called me back. By that time Dorothy was home and we were in the sitting room where I was telling her about my little drive into the country. I was so on edge that I dropped the telephone, not once, but twice before I could actually say anything. Hope seemed to find my nervousness amusing, which in turn relaxed me. Anyway, once we had got the pleasantries out of the way, Hope got to the purpose of her call. She told me that she was expecting a visit from her eldest daughter, Emily, and was asking if I would mind postponing our date until later in the week. Well, what else could I say? Of course, I agreed despite my great disappointment. Hope was not able to speak for long so there wasn’t time to make any further arrangements.

When I came off the telephone, Dorothy invited me to join herself and Angela at a party that evening, I presume as a way to smooth over my disappointment. Although I was tempted, I decided instead to go to the Club. It was a rather quiet night with just a few of the old guard at the bar. I had a pleasant, but unexciting evening.

This morning I made my usual visit the office where Miss Drayton reminded me that I had a series of meetings that would last until the early afternoon. Taking over some of Aunt Murdock’s responsibilities is placing a heavy burden on my poor shoulders, but I am doing my best to get through it all. In the end, I spent the entire day at the office, not getting home until well after 5 o’clock. I was far too exhausted to go out and actually felt slightly relieved that Hope had cancelled our date.

I had just finished my evening meal and was contemplating another visit to the Club when I received an unexpected visitor – young Nigel. I must say I was a little surprised by his appearance as I was sure I had told him I would be out with Hope, but it was very nice to see him anyway. We spent a little time on the computer where he showed me some little tricks for searching the internet and tried to explain to me about his new business venture. From what I understand it involves moving commodities of one kind or another around the world by using the internet. What he moves, from where and how is beyond me, but I am sure he will do well.

Well, I have another busy day tomorrow so I had better get my beauty sleep. I haven’t heard from Hope yet but I expect she has been busy herself. Maybe she will call tomorrow.

When is a date is not a date?

Yesterday afternoon I met up with Hope Greenwood for lunch. Throughout Sunday, and even Monday morning, Dorothy insisted on calling it a date, which I most vehemently denied. To call the meeting a date implied there are romantic intentions, which, I repeatedly assured my excitable young cousin, was not the case. We are just two old acquaintances meeting up for lunch. Nothing more.

But all my denials and protestations about the nature of the meeting fell on the proverbial deaf ear. She would have her fun I suppose, although why she has to do it at my expense is beyond my understanding.

All that said, I suppose it might be considered a date. An arrangement to meet for an entirely social reason may be called a date, provided it is understood by all, including the likes of Dorothy, that there is no intent other than to have a quiet lunch with an old friend.

Whether it was a “date” or not, we met, as arranged, at a rather nice little bistro I recently discovered on the Southbank. I thought it a suitable venue, with excellent food and wonderful views across the river. It is also extremely convenient for the city itself.

At Dorothy’s insistence I arrived a little early. Not that I would not have done anyway of course; it is just not the done thing to keep a lady waiting. But Dorothy can be very fussy and very forceful and I have already learned that it is often best to go along with her little whims.

As I was early I took a seat in the bar to wait for Hope, which also gave me an opportunity to gather my thoughts and enjoy a rather fine Burgundy. As it was I didn’t have to wait for long; Hope also arrived a little early.

We took our table at a corner of the rather large room that afforded us a particularly fine view of the river. The whole of the Southbank and the Thames itself were teeming with people. This part of the city attracts tourists and day-trippers likes moths to a flame, flocking to the river to bask in the sights and sounds of this unique place. The absolutely glorious weather had encouraged huge numbers of people.

We were seated very quickly. I ordered the foie gras and the fillet, Hope chose the scallops and the lamb, accompanied by a surprisingly good Australian Semillon. Now, white wine is not often my first choice, particularly as I was having the steak, but Hope, it turns out, cannot drink red wine. So, being the gentleman that I am, I joined her in drinking the white. I have to admit it did make a pleasant change and went rather well with the foie gras. Contrary to what some people say, and I now they do, I am not a wine snob. Certainly I know what I like, but I am prepared to try new things, particularly those from the colonies, providing they are not American. One just has to draw the line somewhere.

The food was, as I expected, excellent. As was the service. Hope and I chatted away almost oblivious to the comings and goings around us. And I should point out that she was looking particularly elegant and attractive. When we had last met at the Sweetman’s garden party on Saturday, she had worn  quite a colourful and delicate dress and had her hair all gathered  on the head which gave her a rather sever “school Mame” look. Yesterday, however, she had left her hair down, allowing it to frame her face and give her a much softer, more appealing look. I would go so far as to say it made her look a good ten years younger.

What I hadn’t noticed on Saturday, but was quite obvious yesterday, was that Hope is a redhead. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I only mention it to help give you a fuller picture of the lady.

Over the course of the meal I learned a great deal more about Hope. She told me all about her two daughters, Emily and Charlotte, both of whom she insists I should meet. Apparently Emily is 28 and currently doing something or other with her father’s old firm, whilst Charlotte, still only 17, is a bit of an artist and is studying at Art College at the moment (not sure which one). Hope herself has recently opened her own Gallery in the city. The last time I had seen her, before her husband died, she had just started working in a friends Gallery, but in the meantime he has branched out on her own.

After our lunch Hope suggested we take advantage of the weather and take a walk along the river bank. Although I would normally seek to avoid the tourist areas and the bank holiday crowds, I acquiesced and led her away from the Festival Hall, down towards Westminster. I found myself enjoying her company so much I was somewhat reluctant for the afternoon to end. But, alas, Hope has her family and she had to return home much sooner than I would have liked. We finished the afternoon with drinks at a small bar I know just off Trafalgar Square.

It was undoubtedly one the most pleasant afternoons I have had for quite some time. Hope is nothing at all like I remember her. Being a widow seems to suit her. She is much more ambitious than she was and very obviously much more aware of her appearance.

On my return home, Dorothy and Angela were upon me like two hungry lionesses, eager for any morsel I would throw their way. The biggest question for them, and for me if truth be known, is whether or not I thought there was anything between Hope and I, and was I going to see her again.

Whilst I am sure we will meet again soon, I am not sure about any prospects for this to lead to anything more than a close friendship. I enjoyed her company and, yes, I find her very attractive, but it is far too soon to even think about our relationship being anything more than friends. Only time will tell.

As you might expect, Dorothy sees things slightly differently. I think her relationship with Angela is making her see Austenesque romances blooming everywhere.

I will keep on open mind. This was not a date, but who knows what the future holds.