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.

 

Back from the races

I have just returned from the races and what a jolly couple of days it has been. Initially, I had not planned to go this year, what with one thing and another. Then, on Thursday I thought, dash it, Cheltenham is always such a splendid affair, I really ought to go. So I did. Rather luckily I was able to find a room with my old chum Ashworth. He has a rather fine little place almost next door to the course which is jolly convenient. I have stayed with him before and I was more than happy to bunk up in one of his spare rooms.

As I had left it rather late to make the arrangements I was not able to make use of my usual room overlooking the magnificent lawns but had to settle for a view towards the trees and fields to the rear. Not that I spend much time in the room itself for anything other than sleeping, but it is rather nice great the morning with a fine view. But then again, back home in Kensington, my view is hardly scenic. At the front, we do have some trees that partly obscure the view of the High Street, but to the rear, it is all roof tops and tower blocks. Hardly inspiring I know, but it is home.

Ashworth’s place is always busy during the festival week, but this year there was actually quite a crowd, with any number of the old school gang popping in and out for drinks and a chat. Ashworth has a splendid little snooker room and a very well-stocked cellar. His family have been in the wine trade for generations and Ashworth himself has always been the person to call if drinks were needed, even at school.

So it has been a very pleasant and, I must say, rather profitable few days down at Cheltenham. Not only did I enjoy some very good company and sample some extremely fine new wines, I also had some luck on the old gee-gees. Thanks to some good advice from a few of the chaps in the know, I finished the event almost twenty-thousand pounds the richer. Now, this may not be a fortune, but it is probably the best result I have ever had at a race meeting. Not being a pundit myself, I generally consider myself lucky to come away having broken even. Last year at Aintree, after following some rather dubious tips, I ended the day several thousand down so this weekend’s good fortune more than makes up for it.

I am not a natural gambler, unlike my father. He was the type who would often spend large sums chasing the odds, either at the races or in the casino. But I have to admit that he was very good at it and although he was often on the losing end of a bet, on the whole, his losses were outweighed by his gains. I think it was that tendency to take risks against the chances of high returns that made him such a good businessman. He seemed to thrive on the uncertainty, a trait that I have not inherited. In that way, I am more like my mother, a little reserved and with a preference for small returns on certainties rather than venturing into the unknown.

Gambling is deeply embedded in our culture. It is something that we all do at some point, be it with a small bet on the Grand National or with one’s future when choosing one job or lover over another. But, like many other things we do, it can in many cases become a real problem. The excitement one feels when collecting the rewards of an unexpected win can be addictive. Whilst I have always been cautious about where and when I take risks, some of the chaps I know have not. I have seen more than one of my old school chums gamble away entire family fortunes, always in the certainty that they can win it all back on the next turn of the card or the next race. But the odds are always against the gambler and the end result is so often inevitable. In fact, one of my oldest friends got involved with some very unsavoury characters not so long ago in his desperation to fund what had become an addiction. It was so sad to see the state he got himself into. A couple of the chaps and I did our best to help him but in the end he got himself in too deep and wound up taking his own life. It was all very sad and is a reminder of how easy all that we have can be taken away from us.

Although he was a gambler, my father always followed his own rule, stop when you are winning and never try to reverse a losing streak. It served him well, and I have always tried to follow his example in that regard.

When I arrived back in town earlier today there was a message for me from Hope. It seems that I had overlooked to tell her about my little trip. It would appear that she had wanted me to join her for dinner yesterday evening as Charlotte was away for the weekend visiting her sister and she thought we could spend the weekend together. Obviously, I would have jumped at the chance had I been at home, but I wasn’t. I telephoned Hope as soon as I received the message and apologised for my tardiness in not telling her I had gone away. I have to say that I had expected a much colder response to my call, but she seemed quite relaxed about the whole thing and said that she had already heard about my little jaunt from Dorothy. My apologies duly accepted, we have arranged to meet later this afternoon for a spot of tea and a piano recital at some hall or other in Westminster. Now normally, I would have to say that these kind of events are not really my sort of thing, but I do enjoy a little Tchaikovsky every now and then, and I did want to see Hope, so of course, I agreed.

For now I really just get back to the dining room. Dorothy has decided to make us both a full English for breakfast and I dare not be late. I am going to miss these Sunday morning treats when she and Angela do finally get their own place. It is amazing how quickly one becomes used to this kind of thing.

We just can’t cope with snow!

Like most Londoners, I have found myself badly affected by the weather. Coping with the vagaries of our island weather is very British sort of thing. We are generally quite good when it comes to drizzle, fog and occasional cloudy sunshine. Those we are very comfortable with. But when it comes to snow, particularly when it has the audacity to lay more than half an inch thick, then everything comes to a standstill. It seems that our smooth and efficient transport infrastructure comes to a crashing halt at the first sign of snowflakes.

But that said, it has been damnably cold this week. The Beast from the East the newspapers have been calling it, and a beast it surely has been. I understand that quite a few trains and the like have been cancelled and some parts of the north virtually cut off. But I am sure I remember much colder winters and certainly much deeper snow. As a child I would often be able to spend days on end tramping through the snow, building snowmen and hurling snowballs at my chums. There was actually something quite magical about the old estate covered in a blanket of snow.

I was actually a little disappointed that it was not like this last week when I was back at the old pace. Although it has to be said that too much snow can leave one a little isolated in the country, especially if the local hostelry is temporarily beyond reach. I remember one particularly harsh winter as a child when we were unable to leave the house for almost a week, the snow was so deep. My father was extremely frustrated and stomped about the house the whole time. He was never very good at relaxing I being away from work for more than a day or two was something he seemed almost physically incapable of doing. For my mother and me it was something of an adventure. With the grounds looking like a scene from Narnia, it was a very special time when I was able to spend the whole time with my parents without them rushing around, busying themselves with social engagements and work.

Despite the inclement weather I did manage to get down to the Club yesterday evening. I had expected it to be a little quiet, what with the snow and wind, but instead, I found the old place quite busy. I was joined for dinner by my old chum Cambridge, who it turns out has been staying at the Club for a few days. Something to do with faulty plumbing or some such. I found him in surprisingly good form. The last time I had seen him he was looking a little frail. But Cambridge is not the sort of chap to let a little thing like cold or flu get in the way of things.

After eating we adjourned t the bar where we walked in on a very interesting debate about the weather. It is not an unusual subject for the chaps at the bar, but this particular discussion had just moved on to the idea of global warming by the time we joined them. It is one of those subjects that comes up every now and again, with the two sides of the debate seeming to become increasingly irate. I rarely get involved in these debates as I feel that I do not know enough about the subject to form any kind of meaningful opinion. Not that this seems to stop some of the other chaps from wading in with their size tens and having their say.

But whether one is suitably informed or not, one cannot deny that there is something slightly amiss with the weather these days. Every year one reads increasingly alarming reports of record-breaking extremes; heavier than usual rainfall, stronger and stronger winds, more hurricanes than ever before, flooding and like. It really does paint a very worrying picture. But one has to ask, is this just a case of the media exaggerating events to fit their own agenda? Or is there really something behind all the stories.

I know that my father was very much in the doubting camp. He claimed that all the talk of global warming was total rot. He would often remind us of the really bad winters we had back in my younger days, and the droughts and water shortages that plagued the country for several years at a time. And what about those long past winters when the Thames froze over and they were able to hold winter fairs on the ice. No, to him it was all very clear and he would have none of it, despite what the scientists say.

And I have to admit that his argument was very persuasive and it was one I shared until very recently. That is not to say that I have completely changed my mind, but I am becoming more and more convinced that most of the people I hear opposing the idea of climate change are those who have a vested interest in the status quo. But I suppose that is true of anything, nobody likes change, particularly those who have something to lose by it.

Anyway, the talk around the bar became rather heated at one point, with some of the chaps claiming it is all a conspiracy and others saying that even if it was true, it won’t affect them so why worry about it. I may not be particularly knowledgeable about these things but I do think that when so many respected scientists are all telling you the same thing, it probably makes sense to listen.

I am not particularly happy when discussions of this mature get too heated, so I made my excuses and left. All the way home I thought about the various things that were said on both sides. Whilst I am not entirely convinced that there is a problem, one cannot ignore the weight evidence that says there is. I am sure the debate will rumble on at the Club and elsewhere. I wonder what Hope or Dorothy have to say on the subject.

Talking of Dorothy, she told me this morning that she and Angela have found themselves a flat and are planning to move in around Easter. I have to admit that I had hoped it would take them a little longer to find their own place. Purely for selfish reasons, I admit – I am going to miss them both. Although Dorothy has only been staying with me for a few months, I find it difficult to imagine the place without her. Although she tends to keep herself to herself, it has been rather nice just having her there when I need someone to talk to or to watch old black and white films with.

I haven’t heard from Hope this week. I presume she has been busy with the gallery. I did try to speak to her on Monday but she was out for lunch, I presume with a client. I have been invited to a bit of a do in the country next month and I would love it if she were able to join me. I am planning to make a weekend of it, staying at a lovely little place I know in the Cotswolds. I will have to try her again tomorrow.

This evening I am joining dear old Uncle George at his club for some kind of celebratory dinner. It involves some political chappies so it is bound to be a frightful bore, but one has to support one’s family.

 

 

 

A pleasant evening with friends, old and new

Dinner parties with strangers are a little like a leap into the unknown. One never knows quite what to expect. When Hope asked me to be her partner at this little soiree hosted by a couple of her old school friends I immediately accepted but did have my reservations. After all, I had no idea where we were going, who we would be with, or if we would have anything in common. As it turns out I need not have worried; we actually had a really fun evening.

The big surprise of the evening was discovering that although I did not know our hosts, I was already acquainted with the other guests, Richard and Lianna Bardon-Willis. I knew Dickie from College, he was one of the members of our little debating society; Lianna was one of the young ladies we used to drink with. They became a couple in our last year which was no surprise to anyone. We didn’t really keep in touch a great deal afterwards, but our paths have crossed on several occasions over the intervening years. Seeing them there was such a jolly nice surprise and made the whole affair much more pleasant.

Before I say I anything else I really do have to compliment our hosts – Charles and Helen – for the most amazing meal. A delicious Salmon and Prawn Taurine, Lamb so tender it virtually melted in the mouth, and a truly refreshing Lemon Sorbet to finish. All served with a perfect selection of wine which flowed just as freely as the conversation.

Our hosts seemed to know just the right things to say to keep things chugging along. I had not met them before, but they seemed to know a little about me. Apparently, Charles has some business interests that have brought him into contact with my Aunt Murdock, and my father before her. I don’t know exactly what he does, but it seems to involve property development in some way. Dickie, on the other hand, is in banking and has been since we left college, all those years ago.

The one rather strange thing about the evening was that Hope and I were the only two single people there. Although we have known each other for quite a while, our friendship is actually fairly new. For many years Hope was just someone I knew of but had very little direct contact with beyond family gatherings and social events. Over the past few months though I feel we have become very good friends and I am really rather fond of her. As the drink and conversation continued to flow, more than once I found myself watching her as she laughed, noticing,  not for the first time, that she has a couple of crooked teeth which I found strangely alluring A number of my friends and acquaintances have spent a great deal of time and money on having such things repaired, but there is something about these slight imperfections that I find more attractive and genuine. To my mind, all this tinkering with ones’ looks is often counterproductive. There is nothing so unnatural as a woman of a certain age relying on surgery and drugs to keep her looking like a 20-year-old. There are far too many women of my acquaintance whos looks owe more to a surgeons knife than their own efforts or lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when plastic surgery and like are necessary, but the obsession some people have over tinkering with their own bodies I find quite frightening. I would never consider going under the knife for anything unless it was truly necessary. And I am pleased to see that Hope is not one of those who feel they need to hide their natural look.

I must say we all had a jolly good evening and I was a little disappointed when it came time to take our leave. Charles and Helen were wonderful hosts, it was good to see Dickie and Lianne again, Hope was her usual charming self, and I do believe I did or said nothing to embarrass myself, which is always a bonus.

Arthur collected Hope and me a little before midnight. During the drive back to her house, I asked Hope about Emily and what she thought I had done to offend her. I could tell she was a little reluctant to talk about it, but I eventually persuaded her to tell me.  According to Hope, Emily has worked on a number of cases that have involved one or another of the companies my business is linked with, and her experiences have not been very good. This revelation came as something of a shock to me and I promised Hope that I would look into whatever it was that Emily felt was wrong.

Personally, I am not totally convinced that her business dealings are the whole story, but I am happy to leave things there for now. Undoubtedly we will have other opportunities to clear the air and discuss whatever issues Emily feels she may have with me.

One of the many things that were discussed last night, all be it rather briefly, was Valentine’s Day. Now I am not one for all this sentimental flim-flam so I was rather surprised to hear that both couples were planning something special for today. I found the whole conversation rather embarrassing as, being the two singles at the table, there seemed to be some expectation that Hope and I would be doing something romantic today. Of course, we aren’t and I had to admit to not having given the day a moment’s thought. Thankfully the conversations moved on to other things fairly rapidly.

Why is it that married couples can’t seem to stop themselves interfering with the relationships of their single friends? Well, I for one do not appreciate that kind of thing, no matter well-meaning the plotters may be. As I said, things moved on very quickly so the whole subject was soon forgotten, but I was reminded of it this morning when Dorothy and Angela joined me for a late breakfast. Apparently, there had been flowers, cards and gifts aplenty and they soon turned their attention to me. But not for long. I very quickly appraised them of my view that the whole thing was just another event designed to make as much money as possible out of people. The price that restaurants and clubs charge for tables on Valentine’s Day is almost obscene and as far as I am concerned it is all a complete waste of time and money. As I see it, one should not wait until 14th February to let one’s feelings be known to our loved ones.

My plan for this evening is for a few drinks at the Club and game or two of snooker with not a piece of chocolate or a rose in sight.

 

A busy weekend

The weather may be absolutely appaling, but there is a ray of sunshine on the horizon, for me at least.

Thursday’s lunch with the Greenwood’s did not go the way I had hoped. Emily’s antipathy towards me was as surprising as it was unexplained. I do understand that we will obviously have some very different perspectives on the world, but I did not expect that I would have to spend the afternoon defending my position on what are, in reality, very minor points. I hate to think what would have happened if we had been discussing religion.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I received a telephone call from Hope apologising for Emily’s behaviour over lunch. It seems that she has been having personal problems, something to do with her relationship with her current boyfriend. According to Hope, she was an absolute horror all week and had fallen out with Charlotte over something a nothing. She says they will both let out a huge sigh of relief when she returns to Manchester this evening.

So, during our brief chat, Hope asked me to join her on Tuesday evening. She has been invited to a dinner party at the home of an old school friend and wondered if I would like to join her. Of course, I said yes, even though I do not know the hosts or any of the other guests. Generally speaking, I would try to avoid such events as I find them to be tedious and embarrassing, but I am sure that it will not be anything like that. I just hope that they are not all arty types; that is one thing that would make the evening very difficult. Art is not my thing and attempting to keep up a dialogue on the subject, particularly with total strangers, can be very taxing. But I am sure we will have a wonderful evening.

Yesterday I invited Dorothy and Angela out for the evening. They are both very fond of jazz music so I decided I would treat them to an evening at a jazz bar that one of the chaps at the Club had recommended. It is not really my thing, but I was happy to sample the atmosphere and the food, which I had heard was very good. And I have to admit that I actually found the music quite pleasant. I would not go so far as to say I enjoyed it, but I didn’t find it as unpleasant as I had imagined it might be. As for the food, that turned out to be everything I was told it would be. Dorothy and Angela seemed to enjoy the combination and we had a very jolly time. In fact, it was actually quite late by the time we got home and I was feeling just a little tipsy. I may have had one or two single malts more than I should have, but if one can’t enjoy yourself when you are out with friends, when can one?

I have had a rather quiet day today spent mainly with the girls. I had originally planned to spend the afternoon at the Club, reading the newspapers and sharing a drink or two with some of my chums. But when I awoke this morning I was feeling a little delicate so decided that in the end I would just stay at home and relax which turned out to have been a very good decision. Shortly after lunch, I received a visit from young Nigel. Normally he is a very confident young man, very sure of himself and his decisions, but today I saw a very different side of him. Over drinks in the lounge, Nigel confided in me that he was becoming very serious with a particular young lady and wanted my advice. Why he came to me I really don’t know. My history with the ladies hardly marks me out as any kind of expert where romance is concerned. I actually find the idea of talking about these things very uncomfortable. I never know the right thing to say. So, I did the best thing I could think of, I called for Dorothy and Angela.

Nigel made me promise not to say anything to anyone about our little chat so I will leave it there for now. Suffice to say that I was not totally surprised by his revelations, only by his indecision. I think that we all have times when the road ahead seems unclear and need the guidance of others to help us find the correct path. I just hope that things work out for him.

I will be on my way to the Club shortly for a few drinks and a light supper. I had invited Nigel to join me but he declined as he had a previous engagement elsewhere. I just hope that the snow stays away.

Silver linings

I always find January to be quite a depressing month. It is usually wet, often cold, but always dark. It’s dark when I rise in the mornings and dark shortly after lunch. Some days it never really gets much more than a dull grey. It’s hardly the kind of weather to encourage a bright and cheery outlook. Add to that Aunt Murdock’s recent health scare, the damage to my dear old Bentley, and my missed date with Hope and I am sure I can be forgiven for being a little below par right now.

Of course, Aunt Murdock is on the mend and the Bentley is being repaired, but it is none-the-less a dreary and depressing time of year.

Talking of the old Mad Duck, I saw her earlier today and she is looking much better. She gave us quite a stir last week but she is almost back to her old self. Today she was issuing directions and instructions to myself and Uncle George who seems to be almost relieved to be on the receiving end. I was getting quite worried about him last week. For many years I thought that he and my Aunt lived around each other rather than together but over the past few months, I have begun to see a different side to their relationship.

In an uncharacteristically candid moment a few years ago my aunt told me that theirs was very much a marriage of convenience. There had been no passion or romance, simply an acceptance that their union would benefit both families and provide respectability and companionship for herself and George. I have heard rumours that prior to their marriage it was widely suspected that George batted for the other side – as they used to call it – which at the time was considered social and business suicide. Whilst I have never been one for gossip and have never observed anything in his manner that might confirm or deny these suggestions, it did go some way to explaining the distance that seemed to exist between the two of them.

But now I am not so sure. Over the past week, in particular, I have seen just how close they are and the deep affection that exists between them. Far from feeling sorry for their lack of romance I find myself somewhat envious of their relationship. Whilst I myself fiercely resisted all attempts by my parents to arrange my own nuptials, when I look at my Aunt and Uncle I can’t help wondering if maybe I should have just gone along with it.

Talking of matchmakers, it seems that even in her sick bed my dear old Aunt can’t help interfering in my private life. At some point, I must have mentioned my missed date with Hope and my disappointment that she had not replied to my note. I should have known that she would not let this lie but would take up the proverbial batten and run with it. As she did. I had been summoned to visit her this afternoon and lo and behold, who should have also received a summons, but Hope. At first, I felt a little awkward. I had taken her silence over standing her up as a sign of her displeasure and had decided in my own mind that it was probably best if I put a little distance between us. But it seems that I was mistaken. Yes, she was rather upset about being stood up and had for the past week and a half been avoiding my calls, but that was only because she not actually received the note I had written. Its whereabouts remain a mystery that even Arthur, who assures me he posted it through her door, can explain.

Once all that had been cleared up Hope agreed to telephone me later to arrange another lunch date, one that hopefully we would be able to keep. Once she had left I could see Aunt Murdock grinning like the old Cheshire Cat in Wonderland. She was obviously very pleased with herself and for once I found I was actually very grateful for her interference in my private life. Aunt Murdock had reintroduced us with the obvious plan of us becoming a couple and I find that on this occasion I don’t mind at all.

Yesterday evening was spent down at the Club with Uncle George. The decision to take him was as much Aunt Murdock’s as mine. We both felt he needed an evening with the chaps with some good food and drink. I was only too happy to oblige and play host. Now you have to understand that George is not one of life’s great drinkers. A glass of wine or sherry with food and the occasional single malt of an evening are normally his limit. In fact, until last night I had never seen the man even remotely tipsy, let alone raving drunk. He was obviously ready to let down what little hair he has left and made the most of the club’s stock of Highland whiskies. He was in such a state that I decided he should come back home with me. I didn’t want Aunt Murdock to see him in such a sorry state. And I have to say I am very glad I did. The poor chap was quite ill this morning; I don’t think he has had a hangover in over 50 years and it showed. I went back with him to act as his second in the inevitable duel with old Mad Duck, but she was actually very understanding and if I didn’t know better, I would have said she seemed pleased at the way things had worked out. We left George to sleep things off and spent the rest of the afternoon watching old black and white films and reminiscing about family.

Looking back on the week I suppose it hasn’s been so bad in the end. I have still to speak to Hope about or rescheduled lunch date, but I am just pleased to know that any misunderstanding there may have been had been resolved. For once I am happy with Aunt Murdock’s interference. Aunt Murdock herself is looking much better and George has regained a little of his customary pink hue (unlike the pale grey countenance he had this morning!). Dorothy and I are visiting an old friend of hers this evening for supper. She was originally going with Angela, but she has had to pull out at the last minute to deal with some family emergency or other, so I have been called upon to stand in. Although I don’t know these people and am unsure what to expect of the evening, I am rather flattered that Dorothy should think to invite me to join her for such an occasion.

 

A busy start to the new year

After a very poor start to the new year, things have begun to brighten up a little in the Dimbelby-Smyth household. Dorothy has secured herself a small role in a show of some kind due to be staged in London next month. I am not sure exactly what it is but she is quite excited about it. I spoke to Aunt Murdock on Monday and she is sounding much like her old self again. Obviously, she is going to have to slow down a little but she sounds much better than she did at Christmas.

And, to top it all, I have heard back from the insurance company about my poor old Bently. thankfully the old girl is built like a tank so the damage is mainly superficial. That said though, it is still going to take a couple of weeks for the repairs to be completed. But then again, quality and craftsmanship can’t be rushed. I will just have to be patient.

Albert is still rather upset about the whole thing. He has never been involved in an accident before and, despite my constant reassurances that he is in no way to blame, he seems to feel responsible for the damage inflicted on my dear old car. If it is anyone’s fault it is the driver of the delivery vehicle that hit us, although I understand that he is denying this. I personally have no desire to get involved in all the arguments and who is or isn’t to blame, I am only too pleased to leave that in the hands of my brokers. Personally, I just want my old car back.

One of the most unexpected consequences of being involved I what they term a road traffic accident is the pressure to make a claim for injury or losses, even if there aren’t any. I think that most people will agree that I am a fairly tolerant man – there are not many things that really make me angry, but this modern-day obsession with apportioning blame and pursuing ridiculous claims is one of them. I have often heard the phrase “where there is blame, there is a claim” and I never really understood what it meant until now. From what I hear from the chaps down at the Club, this culture for claiming compensation for even the most trivial of incidents is costing insurance companies, and so consequently yours truly, an absolute fortune. And as some of them have business interests in the insurance industry one has to believe what they say. I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If the commpanies are paying out untold thousands of pounds in compensation, that that will mean higher premiums for the rest of us. I do not pretend to understand how the insurance industry works – all that underwriting and so on just confuses me – but even I can see the logic in that.

I believe that several companies have already attempted to make contact with me regarding my “injuries”. It is a good job they didn’t come through directly to me I can tell you. I would have given them a piece of my mind and sent them off with a flea in their ear, make no mistake about that.

Now don’t get me wrong, where there is a genuine case I am all in favour of victims receiving their just compensation, but this idea that one is somehow owed something I find rather offensive. I was pleased to note that many of my chums at the Club are of the same mind. As far as I am concerned, at this moment in time, my most pressing concern is the return of my Bentley.

This week I have spent three mornings in the office making good my promise to be more involved in the family business. And I must say that it is all much more complicated than I had at first thought. Not that I was under an illusion over the complexity of the family’s affairs. Generations of wheeling and dealing have left few avenues for investment untrodden. I am sure that with the help of Miss Drayton and Aunt Murdock I will learn enough to enable to steer this somewhat ponderous ship into a bright and prosperous future. However, I suspect that many of the various managers are expecting my endeavours to fall a little short. I can’t blame them if they do. My record with the firm hasn’t exactly been glittering. Working under my father I made a lot of mistakes, which is why he left the running of the family’s affairs to Aunt Murdock. He never had much faith in me, and looking back I can understand why. I am not a natural when it comes to business and financial affairs, but I am determined to do my best this time around. After all, I am a little older and more determined than I was I was in my twenties.

On Friday I was going to call on Hope again but decided instead to call her on the telephone. I have never been comfortable trying to hold conversations over the telephone; one never knows quite what the other person is doing or who they are with. I know it doesn’t trouble most people, but I always feel much happier when I can actually see the person I am talking to. But since I have had very little success when trying to visit her in person, and since the unfortunate events of my previous visit, I decided that it was much safer to call instead. As it happens, Hope was available and seemed genuinely pleased to hear from me. She could only speak to me briefly but we have agreed to meet for lunch next Tuesday, which is very agreeable to me. I think I will take somewhere quiet and intimate as I have a few things I would like to chat with her about, not least being Simon. I don’t know if she has seen him recently but I feel that if she does have any intentions towards him she needs to be made aware of his track record as far as women and relationships are concerned.

Yesterday I spent the evening with my old pal Dorchester and his family. they have a very nice little house south of the river where I spent many a pleasant weekend in my youth. Having known the family all of my life I find time spent with them much like being with family. One can relax and be one’s self in the company of people who have lived with one through the good times and the bad. We were joined by Dorchester’s two sisters, Clara and Emily. Clara is just getting over a particularly acrimonious divorce whilst Emily is visiting from abroad. At the moment she is living in Germany where she works in some capacity for the European Union. I think she is a researcher, but I may have got that wrong. We had a very pleasant evening, catching up on recent events and reminiscing about some of Mine and Dorchester’s little adventures when we were on holiday from school. Clara reminded me of a time when the four of us decided to take a boat onto the Serpentine, only to capsize the thing after becoming a little too boisterous. I think we all developed nasty colds and Clara insists that she has never been on a boat since. Half in jest I suggested that I take her back to the scene of the crime once the lake reopens in the spring. To my surprise, she said she would love to, providing I agreed to behave myself!

During the evening I asked Dorchester about Anne. He was a little coy, I suspect because he didn’t want to say anything in front of his sisters, but from what he did say, it seems that he has seen her a couple of times since Christmas. I must say that I was delighted with this news. Anne is a really wonderful young lady much more suitable than that American he was seeing until recently. I am not sure his parents are aware f this new relationship; they seem to be under the impression that he can make things up with Annabelle. From my point of view, he is much better off without her and I hope that his new relationship with Anne works out. I am sure his family will all like her.

I have no plans for today other than visiting the Club this evening after dinner here with Dorothy and Angela. In fact, Dorothy is cooking and has told me to “expect the unexpected”, whatever that is supposed to mean. I just hope it is nothing too continental or spicy. I do enjoy Dorothy’s cuisine, but there have been occasions where her dishes have been a little too hot for me. Anyway, I had better go and prepare myself. There should be just enough time for a snifter of the old Scotish firewater and a glance through the newspapers.