The end of a very busy week

I must say that I have had a rather busy week this week, what with one thing and another. It all started with an absolutely wonderful weekend away with Hope, although I have to admit that it did not look very promising on Friday. Arthur was supposed to be driving us up there in the late afternoon, but he was rather suddenly struck down with some kind of tummy bug, leaving me without a driver. Of course, I am more than capable of driving the car myself, but I had hoped to be free of that particular responsibility. I mean to say, one can’t really make the most of the wine cellar knowing that one has to take to the wheel later on.

Some of my chums are not so diligent when it comes to drinking and driving, but having lost my licence many years ago after a little accident involving a stray dog and a police car, I am a little more cautious these days, particularly when I have a passenger.

I did consider asking young Nigel if he was free but reluctantly decided to step up to the mark and do the honours myself. Now I am not a comfortable town driver at the best of times, but attempting to negotiate the Friday night rush-hour traffic did nothing to calm my nerves. Don’t get me wrong, I love driving my dear old Bentley but not on congested city roads. I much prefer cruising through the countryside, and I am sure the car does too.

Needless to say, by the time we finally arrived in the environs of the old homestead I was feeling rather tired and stressed by the experience. If I hadn’t needed to drink before I picked Hope up, I certainly did by the time I guided the Bentley up the driveway. Although it has to be said that Hope’s presence beside me was a somewhat soothing influence, there is also something soothing about the sound of the Bentley’s tyres crunching over the gravel. It always reminds me of coming home from school for the holidays.

It is funny how certain sounds or smells can trigger childhood memories, even those one has forgotten over the intervening years. Certainly, there are some things that will always remind me of home: the smell of my mother’s perfume, the polish that old Danvers used to use on the woodwork, the sound of the car tyres crunching across the gravel, all evoke such happy emotions.

Hope and I spent the evening at the Royal Oak where we enjoyed a splendid meal and a bottle of their rather fine Chardonnay. It was the first of several visits we made to that esteemed establishment over the course of the weekend. I had planned to have Anne join us there for lunch on Saturday but unfortunately, she found herself somewhat “tied-up” with some client or other so had to postpone our little get together. I do think it is a crying shame when a young lady’s business or career impacts so badly on their social life. I have seen it a number of times with Hope when she cannot meet me or was generally unavailable because she had to see a client or dealer. It really is a bad show.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those chaps that believes a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I would never be so presumptuous as to suggest such a thing. After all, we live in a modern society where such things are simply not acceptable, and rightly so. But none-the-less, one cannot help feeling that society is very much the poorer for their absence in favour of business advancement.

As it turns out were not exactly short of company during our stay in the country. Several of the local families also frequent the King’s Arm’s which was jolly nice, particularly as it gave me a fine opportunity to introduce that who didn’t already know her to Hope who, I must say, seemed very much at home amongst the local bigwigs.

Thankfully these little gatherings in the village meant that when we were at the house we were relatively undisturbed, which was fine by me I can tell you. We had a rather splendid weekend together and it was one of the best birthday’s I can remember. And as it was just the two of us I had the opportunity to show her around the old place, including the gardens which we did not see much of over Christmas. On one of our little perambulations, we saw some signs of work undertaken taken on one of the old barns on a neighbour’s property. It looks as if they may be converting it into a new house. Talking of which, there is still a great deal of chatter locally about predatory property developers putting pressure on the local landowners to sell so they can build new houses and the like.

Hope and I did discuss the pros and cons of all these new developments that are beging to encroach on our beautiful countryside. I had to admit that I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, the chaps in government keep prattling on about the need for more new houses, but on the other hand, why can’t they concentrate their efforts in the towns whjere I am sure most the houses are actually needed. I don’t see the point in trying to inflic these dreary new developments on us poor country folk.

Anyway, Hope and I had such a splendid weekend that we were rather reluctant to head home on Sunday. In the end, we left it so late that by the time I had dropped her off at her flat it was far too late to get to the Club. Which was a shame as I had heard some of the chaps had prepared something of a treat for my birthday? Ah well, it can’t be helped I suppose.

Monday morning started reasonably well. I had received a message from Aunt Murdock inviting me to join her for lunch, which I was only too pleased to accept. We met a little after midday at the Savoy, somewhere I know that the old dear enjoys. I am delighted to say that she is very much on the mend and looks better than she has for quite a few months. I have to admit that I have been rather worried about her, but it seems that right now she is doing very well indeed. In fact, she has invited me to join her and Uncle George for a little get together they are planning at their home on Sunday.

The rest of the week was rather busy, what with silly little meetings at the office, a couple of evenings at the Club and a rather unusual lunch date with my old chum Dorchester. It would appear that he is getting very close to Anne and I suspect that it may not be too long before we hear that they are officially a couple.

For now, I think I will draw this to an end as it is getting quite late and I have a busy day tomorrow. First I am going to visit Dorothy and Angela, then Hope and I will be attending some kind of art event somewhere on the Southbank. I am not entirely sure what it is all about, but Hope assures me that I will enjoy it.

 

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.

 

 

Home is where the heart is

Well, here I am, back in town. I had thought I might return on Tuesday with Anne and take the opportunity to meet with Hope, but in the end, I decided to stay another couple of days and sort out a few issues with the estate. And I am very pleased that I did. I met with Anne for lunch after her return and she told me that her meeting with Hope had gone very well indeed. It sounds like they will be working closely together on a couple of projects. I am so pleased that I have been able to help them both.  Over drinks at the King’s Arms on Friday night, Anne and I were joined by Mr Rotherby who told us that he had just been speaking to a couple of local farmers who said that they had been visited by some developer or other about selling portions of their land.

This very quickly became the focus of a lot of debate around the bar, I can tell you. There is a lot of bad feeling amongst some of the locals about all these new developments, Not everyone is happy about having all these people moving into the area from the cities and cluttering the place with their cars and teenagers. Whilst I don’t share their views, being a city boy myself these days, I can see their point. Many of the small villages around here are like little oases of calm and rural tradition. But it is that very authenticity that draws in their new neighbours. But they also need to accept that these people bring money, jobs and some stability to what are sometimes areas in decline.

But I do have some sympathy for them. It seems that almost everywhere you go these days they are building new homes on what was once good farming land. I know that a lot of people get very angry about it, but so long as they stay away from our old estates and lovely villages, then I don’t see what the problem is. After all, politicians and campaigners keep banging on about the need for more houses, so let them get on with it. But if anyone thinks they are going to get their hands on any of my lands, they can think again. I may not be there very often, but I am determined to keep the estate as well maintained and intact as possible.

You know, I really don’t understand all the fuss about the housing shortage. I see plenty of empty properties almost every day, even in the city. There are whole blocks just sitting there with no one in them. Whilst some of these may not be housing as such, surely they could be converted or knocked down and rebuilt to make something suitable. Then they wouldn’t need to start looking avariciously at our beautiful countryside.

And I don’t understand all this fuss about what they call “affordable” housing. I mean, surely if one has a job one can afford a mortgage or rent. I admit that I am no expert when it comes to the economy or finances, but it doesn’t make sense to me to make house prices too high for people to afford. And if buying is beyond reach, there is always the rental market. A large part of my family business is related to property development and rental, and although I don’t understand it all, it seems to me that there is plenty of property out there.

It’s strange but for most of my life the old family house has just been somewhere I visit occasionally. It has not been a real home to me since I was in my teens. Although, if I am to be totally honest, I am not actually sure it ever was, even then.

My parents sent me away to school when I was very young so that is where I spent most of my time and I think that in many ways, the various schools I attended became home. That was where my friends were, and where I was happiest, which I think is as good a definition of home as any.

I have always been glad to return to the city, but there are times, like now, when something about the country leaves a trace of regret. The country estate may never have felt much like home to me, but family is important, and the family home is as much a part of it as the people themselves. After all, it is the place that holds the family’s memories and treasures. And there are certainly plenty memories in the old place, but not all of them good. And as for being a repository for the family heirlooms and mementoes, it is certainly that, in spades. Most of the walls are lined with portraits of various ancestors on my father’s side. The house shows very little of my mother’s influence, other than some improvements to the kitchens and new greenhouses.

Anyway, I am back in my Kensington abode, which feels much more homely now that Dorothy has returned from her filming job in Edinburgh. I am so relieved to have her around the place again.