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.

The missing link

Although it has only been a couple of days since Dorothy left for Edinburgh, I am already beginning to feel her absence around the house. It is rather strange how quickly one becomes accustomed to another person’s presence. That is not to say she is any way obtrusive, she always respects my privacy and never intrudes, but her very presence makes a difference to the atmosphere of the place. In just three days the house has changed from a vibrant welcoming place to a cold and far too quiet one.

When I first offered Dorothy a room here I must admit that I did wonder if I was doing the right thing. I have, after all, lived alone for quite a while and by the time she actually moved in, I was beginning to regret having made the offer. But in the weeks since her arrival, Dorothy has become such an important part of my everyday routine that the last couple of days have felt very strange indeed.

Of course, Dorothy has been leading her own life and is not always around, but her very presence, the sound of her moving about, the almost audible thump of her music ensures that her presence could never be ignored. I hadn’t realised just how much I have come to accept these things as part of the everyday pattern of life.

But there is one particular area in which Dorothy has become invaluable to me. You see, almost as soon as she moved in she started changing the way I dress and the way I behaved towards other people. It was almost imperceptible at first; in fact, I didn’t realise what was happening until we had that shopping trip where she changed almost my entire wardrobe. If I am going out to meet anyone special, such as Hope, she will stop me before I leave the house and either make minor adjustments or send me back upstairs to change one item or another. No one has done this since I was a child when my mother would often send me back to my room because I wasn’t looking smart enough. Now it’s the other way round. Dorothy will “suggest” I need to be a little more casual and recommend the clothes to wear for each occasion.

Now I have this exhibition event coming up at Hope’s gallery and I had been expecting to get some help from Dorothy. Obviously, her being in bonny Scotland means that I will not get the benefit of her advice. Oh well, I suppose I will just have to rely on my own adjusted sense of style. I can almost here Dorothy laughing at that statement which I think she would consider an oxymoron.

Dorothy’s presence has also made me question one of the main arguments I have always maintained for remaining single. The very idea of someone else being so integrated into my life has always been something I considered to be unacceptable. That is why my friends were so surprised when I offered Dorothy the room here. You see, I am quite a private person really, and I think I have become a little staid in my ways. Dear old Aunt Murdock has been telling me for years that I need to find a nice young lady and settle down. In fact, she has made it her goal to in life to find me such a lady. I have lost count of the number of women that she has introduced me to over the last few years, parading me like a prize bull. But whether it’s because I haven’t met the right person yet, or because I don’t want to lose my precious freedom, all her efforts have so far been in vain. I think that when she reacquainted me with my cousin Dorothy she had considered we might hit it off, so to speak, and in many ways we have, just not in the way that Aunt Murdock had wanted.

I am extremely fond of Dorothy and, if things were different, maybe we could have made a good couple. But as it is she has become one of my closest friends and something of a confidante and relationship advisor. Admittedly she can be a little too emotional and get a little carried away at times, but she talks a lot of common sense and I have learned better than to ignore her advice. Obviously, the whole gym incident may be considered something of a misadventure, but I believe she had my best interests at heart, despite the two days of pain I suffered as a consequence.

That is enough for now I think. I am off down to the Club for a quick snifter or three with the chaps. A little bird tells me that Dorchester will be there this evening so it is a good opportunity to see what he has been up to lately – that confounded Annabelle woman never seems to let him out of her sight these days. I am not sure how he managed to wrangle an evening at the Club, so I am not going to waste the opportunity to see my old chum.

Tomorrow Nigel and I are taking the Bentley out for a spin. It hasn’t been out of the garage since we came back from Ascot so could do with a run to blow away the cobwebs. We are going to drive down to Brighton to visit an old family friend. I am hoping that we can learn something to add to my family tree as her family and my mother’s have been closely linked for many years.

 

Divided by a common language

Today I had another of those tedious meetings with one of my managers. This time I had the dubious pleasure of meeting the head of PR and Marketing, Miss Langdon. Whilst I openly admit that talking to my heads of Logistics and Human Resources had left me underwhelmed and a little baffled, today’s little chat was in a league of its own.  Where Human Resources mangle the Queen’s English in a manner that makes it almost unintelligible, the language of PR and Marketing is about as easy to follow as Esperanto, and twice as incomprehensible.

Not only did I not understand two-thirds of the things she said, I am convinced that she was making some of the words and phrases up as she went along. I mean, what is all this about “blue sky thinking”? Does she expect me to stare at the clouds and daydream? And who came up with the phrase “white eye time”? I am all too familiar with the red-eye but was totally at a loss to understand this particular direction of our conversation. And when did it become accepted practice to speak in abbreviations? On several occasions, Miss Langdon would prefix a sentence with “FYI”. It wasn’t until afterwards when I asked my secretary about it that I understood what it meant. Needless to say, I was decidedly unimpressed by what I heard, or at least by the little I understood.

I think that anyone who knows me will accept that whilst I am not always the most on the ball when it comes to current affairs and business, I am not stupid. My parents spent a great deal of money on my education and I am pretty sure it can’t have been all wasted. So why do I feel so out of my depth and confused following these meetings? Is it too much to ask to expect people to talk in plain, simple English? I am sure my father would not have put up with all this gobbledygook.

I mean to say, English is such a beautiful language. It is the language of romance, of poetry and music. It can be so lyrical and magical, a joy to read and to hear. Whilst I can understand why the chaps from the colonies, particularly the Americans and West Indies, have manipulated it to make it their own, there can be no excuse for educated people from the City to try to do the same thing.

And it’s not just in the office I see examples of our wonderful language being murdered. I hear plenty of conversations in bars and restaurants where the phrases and words used seem to be designed to confuse rather than enlighten. At least at the Club, the Queen’s English is very much the language of choice. You won’t hear anyone dropping the term  “blue skies” into a conversation unless of course, they are talking about the weather.

Of course, I appreciate that language changes with time. Like everything else, it evolves. Anyone who has read Shakespear or Chaucer will acknowledge that. Even the words of the great Charles Dickens can seem a little odd these days. But from what I recall from my school days, evolution is a slow and natural process, and I don’t feel there is anything at all natural about blue sky thinking and FYI! It seems to me that insecure managers have collaborated together to create a linguistic barrier to anyone else encroaching on their territory. It seems nothing more than a device to secure their own positions whilst excluding those they perceive to be outsiders. One needs to learn the lingo, so to speak, if one wants to join the club.

Well, I am not going to play their games. In future, it is plain old Queens English or nothing. I am going to make it my mission to rid the company of business gobbledygook once and for all.

Once I had finished my chat with Miss Langdon I spent the rest of the morning with my secretary Miss Drayton. I wanted to get her view on the people who run the various departments. After all, she deals with all of them and I have learned to trust her instincts. I have also often found that women tend to be better judges of character than men. I don’t know whether it’s the hormones or part of the mother instinct, but they do seem to be able to see beyond the facade that some people manage to build for themselves. Miss Drayton is particularly astute at spotting those who have things to hide, or who are not quite as they seem. Actually, it makes me wonder why our head of Personel (or Human Resources as they like to call it) is a man. Surely this is a role better suited to a woman? Anyway, according to Miss Drayton, all the various department heads are very reliable and loyal. That doesn’t mean to say she trusts them all, but she says she knows how to handle them, and when they can be trusted and when they can’t.

I did consider taking Miss Drayton to lunch, but after what happened last time, I decided against it. It seems that it is not just our language that has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. These days a man can’t take his secretary out to lunch without his intentions being misconstrued. My father often took his secretaries out for meals and such like and no one thought anything of it. Or at least, if they did nothing was ever said to me. Ah well, I suppose that is the modern world for you. Maybe it is time I returned to the old family homestead in the country for a short while. I do love living in the city, but sometimes I like to return to the old estate, just to recharge the batteries and regain my perspective on life. Perhaps once Dorothy has left for Edinburgh on Saturday I could take myself away for a couple of days. I can’t be away for too long of course as I am attending an event at Hope’s gallery next week.

Anyway, I must dash, I am meeting Dorothy and Angela for a farewell dinner. I believe that we are being joined by a couple of her friends. I just hope they aren’t those theatrical types. I have had a stressful enough day without having to deal with a room full of lovies!

 

 

 

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.

A friend of Dorothy

This afternoon I had arranged to meet with my cousin Dorothy and her friend Angela for a spot of lunch. The whole thing was arranged to appease my Aunt Murdock who had well and truly set us up. It is all part of her new campaign to get me married off to some worthy (and preferably wealthy) heiress or other. But this time she has failed most spectacularly.

I had invited the girls to meet me at the Savoy and was surprised when Dorothy arrived alone. When I asked where Angela was, she told me that she was far too embarrassed after what had happened on Monday. Neither of them were aware of Mad Duck’s plot to do a little matchmaking until they arrived, so were on the back foot so to speak. According to Dorothy, Aunt Murdock had asked them to join her and “a friend” with a view to discussing her future plans once her current show closes at the end of the week. She had invested quite heavily in Dorothy’s production and was disappointed to see it close early, but was already looking for the next project she might encourage Dorothy to take a part in.

Aunt Murdock and I share a love of theatre, but seldom see eye-to-eye on style or quality. I enjoy good comedies and murder mysteries, whilst she is always on the look out for serious drama, one women shows and art house projects that I simply do not understand.

Some of the chaps have suggested that I invest a little of my time and money in the theatre, but in truth I don’t really know much about what goes on behind the scenes, so to speak. Not that I think Aunt Murdock has either, but she makes up for it with great enthusiasm and a larger-than-life personality that demands attention from everyone she comes into contact with. She is a frightful force of nature my aunt.

Anyway, back to my lunch and it turns out that Angela is “a friend of Dorothy” in more ways than one!  I mean, I knew from our previous meeting (once again instigated by Mad Duck) that Dorothy was gay, so there is never going to be anything of a romantic nature between us, but what was plain to me but not mad Duck, was that Angela is gay too. In fact, Angela is Dorothy’s current girl friend. This is something that dear old Mad Duck would never even consider as a possibility, and she was completely oblivious to the obvious intimacy the two girls shared when we met them over lunch.

I had suspected as much and was not really surprised when Dorothy gave me the full story. Anyway, our little lunch engagement gave us an opportunity to make arrangements for her moving in at the weekend.

I must say that now I have had to consider the idea further, I am quite looking forward to having Dorothy around the old place. The house is a little on the large side for one person, even with staff, and it will be good to see some of it used a little more. My only concern though is the kitchen. Now, I personally hardly ever venture into the part of the house. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I went into the kitchen. After all, that is what staff are for. I know from our previous conversations that Dorothy is a very keen cook and I suspect that she will want to do her own cooking. How this will go down with old Mrs Kaczka, who looks after the house and me, I just don’t know. I do hope that they get along; I would hate to see them clash over the use of the kitchen.

Actually, Mrs Kaczka is a very fine cook indeed and I suspect that Dorothy might like to learn a thing or two about polish cuisine. Her Gulasz and Sernik are particular favourites of mine.

I am certain there will be some teething problems having someone else about the place, but I don’t expect them be unsurmountable. The biggest issue we face is Aunt Murdock’s reaction. Someone will have to tell her she was barking up the wrong tree when she thought that either Dorothy or Angela were suitable contenders to be a future bride. That will teach her to interfere with her matchmaking, but I am sure it won’t stop her.