A frank exchange of views

One of the things I really enjoy about the Club, aside from the excellent food and extensive wine cellar, is that one never knows who is going to be there and which way conversations will go. There is such a variety of views that discussions are never boring, and can at times become quite heated. However, there is one thing that unites almost all of the members, and that is our concern over the terrible state our country is in at the moment. What we cannot agree on is the cause of the problem and how to fix it.

Quite a few of the chaps, and I include myself in this, are getting just a little impatient with the government over the whole Brexit thing. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to politics and finance, but even I can see that things aren’t going so well. The media is constantly referring to it as a divorce, which I suppose in a way it is, with both sides fighting over the family silver. My worry is that whilst the Union chappies seem fairly united in their approach, we are still fighting amongst ourselves over what we want to get out of the process. We can all see that despite what the Prime Minister says there is very little unanimity even in her own government.

What some of the chaps are saying is that they are more worried about the uncertainty and bickering than they are about Brexit itself. Like any divorce, each side wants to get the best it can for itself. Even the most amicable of separations will inevitably result in some conflict of interests; not that I have much experience of this kind of thing. What most people seem to want is certainty. I know one or two of my friends have business interests in the City and they are the ones most concerned about all the dithering and in-fighting. Apparently, the uncertainty about what is going to happen after Brexit is having an impact on investments and trade. I suppose I am in the same boat having investments of my own in City properties. Which reminds me that I really must talk to Aunt Murdock about this when I see her next.

There is still some disagreement amongst the chaps about how best to go about the Brexit negotiations. On one hand, there are those who want Mrs May to take a very firm stand and refuse any kind of compromise. On the other, and these are mainly the same people who supported the remain argument, there are those who want us to take what they refer to as a more pragmatic and open approach. I am not entirely sure which will be best for the country, but I suspect that it is somewhere in the middle. Even I know that there is never going to be a deal that satisfies the demands of both sides completely so we will have to accept some form of compromise. I am sure the debate will rumble on at the bar and, if the past week is anything to go by, it will only get more heated.

It is not just at the Club that the subject of Brexit rears it’s ugly head from time to time. Dorothy and Angela have been very vociferous in their support of remaining in the EU and are still very angry at the result. Angela has even spoken about getting herself a German passport. It seems that her mother’s family are from Germany so she can claim dual nationality if she wishes. I know that a number of people have done this recently, but to me, it seems a little futile unless one is actually planning to move there. I am not sure Dorothy would be too happy about that, but I am not going to interfere with their relationship or plans. What Dorothy has said on more than one occasion is that she is embarrassed by the whole thing. She has a lot of foreign friends and says that they can’t understand why we would want to leave the European club. I have tried to explain about sovereignty and the British standing in the world, but for some reason, she just can’t seem to understand it. I know that some people have implied it is some form of nostalgia for the days of the old Empire, but, at least as far as I am concerned, it isn’t that. It is just about being in control of our own destiny and our own laws. We should not be dictated to by other people. The rules and regulations we have to accept from Brussels are scandalous. For me, it is all about being able to decide things for ourselves. No one likes to be dictated to by outsiders who don’t understand our history or our customs. The French, Spanish and Germans have all tried to defeat us in war and failed; we can’t let them succeed by the back door.

Another subject that seems to have been creating something of a buzz at the bar this week is that of the Prime Minister’s position. I didn’t follow the events of the Party conferences – far too boring and narcissistic for my liking, all that self-congratulation and pompous self-righteousness does nothing for me – but those who do were very critical of Mrs May’s performance and the way she has been treated by the Party. I have to admit to having a great deal of respect for Mrs May, but even I am beginning to think that maybe she isn’t up to the job of leading us through our current troubles. Not that there seems to be a great deal of choice for replacement at the moment. With the Party so divided over Europe I don’t honestly think that there is anyone else capable of uniting all sides, and as far as I am concerned, unity is far more important than anything else right now.

There is only one subject at the moment that seems to have almost unanimous agreement with the chaps at the bar, and that is our mutual distrust of the American President, Donald Trump. Whilst he may be successful as a businessman – and there seems to be a little disagreement even over that – as a politician and diplomat he is very much out of his depth. The man seems to have absolutely no idea of how the world actually works. Several of the regulars at the Club have financial interests in the aircraft industry and are very angry over Trump’s recent announcements over the imposition of tariffs on Bombardier aircraft. One gets the feeling that he makes these announcements without thinking them through first. I certainly get the feeling that he doesn’t discuss things with his staff before taking to social media to make is pronouncements. I suppose that he is used to having complete control of his businesses and can’t seem to grasp the idea that his decisions have to me about more than just making money. America is not a business, it is a country, and it cannot be run in quite the same way. Having said that, Americans can be a little odd that way, putting financial gain ahead of everything else. I have said it before, they are a nation with no history and no idea of social etiquette. It is unfortunate that they have so much power and influence or we could just ignore them and let them get on with playing their silly games.

Mind you, we do have to be careful when discussing the Americans, and their President in particular, if my old chum Dorchester is around. Apparently, his American girlfriend is a Trump supporter (a Trump-et!) and he is very defensive of her views. According to Annabelle, the President can do no wrong. She fully supports his positions on immigration, North Korea and protecting American businesses. And whilst I can sort of see her point and some of his decisions, I cannot support her misguided view that Donald Trump is the saviour of the western world. The man’s a fruitcake I would hesitate to leave in control of a Sunday School, let alone a country.

Changing the subject completely, I had a call yesterday from Hope about some event or other she is holding at her gallery in a couple of weeks time. Apparently, it is one of those evenings when new artists get to display their work and she has asked me to go along. Of course, I have accepted the invitation, but I am not sure it is really my kind of thing. I have seen some of the work she has on display and it is all far too modern for me. My taste is more conservative I suppose, but she has been kind enough to ask me, so I will definitely have to go. I had thought of inviting Dorothy to join me, but she will be in Edinburgh by then.

 

Not a Hope-less cause

Yesterday evening Hope accompanied me to Cambridge’s latest charity soiree, and even though I say so myself, it was a great success. Old Cambridge throws these little parties of his from time to time, usually when a particular cause catches his eye, and they are inevitably always well supported, both in terms of numbers and the money raised. It must be two years since his last bash which I remember very well, only because I was ill at the time and on soft drinks all evening, Aunt Dorothy saw to that. That particular event had been to support a hospice or some such somewhere up North. Yesterday we were there for a charity providing schools and educational opportunities for children abroad, in Africa or Asia I think. Wherever it is, I am sure it is a very worthy cause. Cambridge himself is very keen on this kind of thing. He has often lectured me on the futility of raising money to simply feed people. Far better, he says, to educate them or provide ways to help make the self-sufficient. I know he is very supportive of local children’s charities which I find rather odd for a man who has never had any of his own. At least, as far as I know. There are rumours around the Club that he makes regular donations to a children’s hospice on the coast somewhere, but I have never asked him about it. After all, one should not pry into another fellow’s financial affairs.

Anyway, as you would expect, the whole thing was meticulously organised and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. I know I did.

I picked up Hope at a little after 7 o’clock as arranged, and I must say that as I saw her approaching the car the sight of her almost took my breath away. If anything she looked even more attractive than when I had first been reacquainted with her at the Sweetmans’ garden party several weeks ago. Her dress was a sort of shimmering blue with sparkling jewels around the top. It was full length but with a slit up the left that showed off a very shapely leg. I don’t know much about this kind of thing – I can’t tell one style from another – but it certainly looked expensive, and was very flattering. Hope has lost a lot of weight over the last few years and the way she was dressed emphasised her shape to great effect. She may not have the figure of a supermodel, but she is most definitely a very attractive lady.

For most of the evening, Hope and I were seated with several of the chaps from the Club. After the food, Cambridge held one of his popular auctions. I very rarely take part in these things, not because I don’t want to contribute to the cause (I always do that), but because the items themselves never really interest me. On this occasion, however, Hope persuaded me to bid for a weekend break at some healthy club or other out in the country. She told me it was a very expensive establishment with an excellent reputation, and although she had never been herself, she was sure I would enjoy it. Remembering my experience earlier on the week I was not too sure about that but took part in the bidding anyway.

Well, I must admit that once I started I found myself determined to win. No matter what anyone else bid, I was prepared to go higher. With the adrenalin pumping and Hope getting more and more excited, I just kept on going. It was just numbers, and I have never been very good with that sort of thing.

When the bidding finally stopped and we realised I had won, Hope was jumping around like an excited school girl and I must have looked a little like the Cheshire cat. Of course, I have no intention of going there myself, but I offered it to Hope and suggested she should take Charlotte along, make it a girls weekend. The look she gave me was one I think I will remember for quite some time. I hadn’t noticed before, but Hope has a wonderfully warm and inviting smile that seems to light up her whole face. She looked almost youthful and I was quite taken aback when she reached across and kissed me on the cheek.

A little later the dancing started. I had every intention of asking Hope to join me for a spin around the floor, but before I had the opportunity to do so, we were joined by a gentleman who was obviously acquainted with her. We were introduced but I can’t recall his name, only that he was something in the art world and seemed to have some business to discuss. I excused myself and made my way over to speak to Cambridge who was holding court at the far end of the room. Amongst those with him was Dorothy’s old friend Clara West. We had last met several weeks ago when Dorothy and Angela had tried their hand at matchmaking. I hadn’t seen her since and was pleasantly surprised to bump into her again. We chatted for a short while before I thought I had better return to Hope and ask her for that dance.

But when I got back to the table, Hope was not there. Assuming she must have gone to the ladies room, I sat and poured myself another glass of wine. It was only after I had been sat there a while that I spotted Hope at a neighbouring table talking with a group of mainly younger people. I could have joined her of course, but as I did not know any of them and wouldn’t really have anything to say if they were the arty sort, I decided to wait until she returned.

When she eventually did rejoin me I immediately asked her for a dance. It turns out that my assumption that all ladies liked to dance was a little wide of the mark. Apparently, Hope didn’t do what she called “proper dancing”. I must admit that I was a little surprised by this revelation. Within my own circle of friends and family, everyone danced, particularly the ladies. It is just one of those things one is expected to be able to do.

Shortly after this Hope said she was tired and was going to go home. I offered her a lift but she declined, saying that she would get a taxi. She suggested I should stay and enjoy the rest of the evening with my friends. It turns out that she was leaving early in the morning to visit friends in Bath. I spent the rest of the evening with Cambridge and Clara, and even managed a couple of dances before leaving a little after midnight. I was going to go on to the Club with some of the chaps but in the end, I decided against it.

I had a call from Hope around midday today. She was calling from her friend’s house and thanked me for taking her along to the last night’s soiree. Apparently, Charlotte was “over the moon” about the weekend break and Hope apologised for leaving so early and not dancing. I told her that was quite all right and that I had danced with Clara after she had left. The call then came to an abrupt end as she had to join her friends for lunch.

As I say, it had been a very enjoyable evening. It was very nice to spend some time with Hope. I really do enjoy her company. She is only a few years younger than me but there is something almost youthful about her. I find her very easy to talk to and find myself wanting to tell her everything. It was also good to see Clara again. It turns out she is back in London for a few weeks. I know she is planning on visiting Dorothy so no doubt we will meet again.

I think I am in trouble now

Argh! I think I am in trouble now!

At all started so well. This morning I went into the office for a meeting with some manager or other. I wasn’t entirely certain was he was the manager of, and after speaking to him for almost an hour, I am still none the wiser. I know it had something to do with logistics, but he lost me about 5 minutes in and I never managed to re-engage with him. He was so enthusiastic about his department and his job, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had no idea what he was wittering on about.

Anyway, as soon as the meeting was over I decided to take Miss Drayton out for lunch. Now, Miss Drayton has been my secretary for about two years, but as I have only been to the office very infrequently over that time I haven’t got to know her very well. So, I decided that today was as good a day as any to take her for a spot of lunch and to find out a little more about her and her understanding of the business.

There is actually a very acceptable little bistro not far from the office. It is one of those places that looks very modern but is actually very quaint and serves a more traditional English menu. It is often frequented by staff from the office and is a regular lunchtime venue for my Aunt Murdock. It is usually very busy but luckily there was a table for two available close to the bar. Miss Drayton seemed a little nervous about being there at first, but I ordered a very palatable Chablis and she soon relaxed.

As we enjoyed our drinks, Laura, as she insisted I called her, told me a little about her work experiences and her personal life. I was not prying, I was just curious. After all, she is my right-hand man at the office and I felt it only right that I should know more about her and what makes her tick. And I must say that I was very impressed on hearing about her career so far but very surprised to learn that she does not have a boyfriend. She is a very attractive woman and still quite young I think. I have to admit that I don’t actually know her age; it is very impolite to ask a lady that kind of thing. My best guess is that she is about 30, give or take 5 years or so.

Anyway, as we were just finishing our main course (we had both chosen the rather splendid sea bass that I have enjoyed there before) when who should walk into the bistro but my dear old Aunt Murdock. I was sitting facing the door so I saw her arrive over Miss Drayton’s shoulder. She didn’t see us at first and I watched her she was shown to a table close to the window. Once settled I made my way over to say hello. She was obviously pleased to see me and asked me to join her, but when I pointed out that I was there with Miss Drayton, her manner changed. I got the feeling that she didn’t approve. In fact, if I didn’t know better I would say that was actually quite angry.

I must say I was a little put out by my aunt’s reaction. After all, what can be more natural than a man taking his secretary for lunch? I know a few of the chaps at the Club do the same thing quite regularly, even treating their secretaries to trips away in some rather nice hotels. Mad Duck’s reaction was not what I would have expected. Anyone would have thought she had caught me in flagrante.

I returned to my table a little out of sorts but was soon cheered up by the prospect of ordering our dessert; a cheesecake for Miss Drayton, and a rather nice cheese selection for myself. At this point, I saw Aunt Murdock stand to greet someone who had just walked through the door. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I saw her step out to greet her sister-in-law, my Aunt Margaret. I haven’t seen Margaret for quite some time, and not since my recent reacquaintance with her old friend Hope. I was just about to excuse myself and walk over to speak to her when our desserts arrived, so I decided to wait until I had finished what was a very fine selection of cheeses. I am particularly partial to the Stilton, and their homemade chutney is one of the tastiest I know.

Once we had finished, Miss Drayton (I know she asked me to call her Laura, but one has to keep some degree of formality with one’s staff) left to return to the office and I made my way over to Aunt Murdock’s table. As they were eating their main course I was only able to offer the briefest of greetings before I was obliged to leave, but I was again surprised by my aunt’s very cold reception. Margaret’s “hello” was equally frosty.

On my return home I had a chat with Dorothy and told her about Aunt Murdock’s rather icy behaviour over lunch. I must say that I had rather hoped that she would be more supportive of me than she was. It seems that my taking Miss Drayton out to lunch was some kind of faux pas on my part. I can’t say I understand why; it was just a lunch to help me get to know her a little better. But apparently, being seen out with my young and rather attractive secretary goes against some unwritten social etiquette of which I was previously unaware. When I told her that many of the chaps at the Club did this kind of thing all the time, her reply was quite unladylike and certainly not something to repeat here.

Later this afternoon, I received a telephone call from Aunt Murdock which was pretty much a repeat of Dorothy’s dressing down. It seems that a number of people at the bistro also noticed me with Miss Drayton and have been making all kinds of assumptions about our relationship, particularly Aunt Margaret who she is in no doubt will say something similar to Hope.

Before ending the call, Aunt Murdock asked me about my arrangements for Cambridge’s charity function. I told her I had passed on the invitation to Hope, but for the second time today, I was met with an icy response – I could feel that look, even down the telephone wire. Apparently, I should have also made arrangements for taking Hope to the function itself; passing on the invitation wasn’t enough. I have to admit that this had not occurred to me, I just assumed she would meet me there. But according to my dear aunt, and Dorothy, who was listening to my side of the conversation from the study doorway, a gentleman is expected to transport his lady to an event to which they are invited.

It seems that my life is really not my own these days, but I suppose that the ladies know best about this kind of thing. I have agreed that I will call Hope tomorrow morning and make the necessary arrangements.

Hopefully, the news of my lunch with Miss Drayton and the subsequent misunderstanding about my motives will not have reached Hope before then. For now, I am going to get ready to go to the Club where I believe I can expect a more sympathetic ear.

 

All I got was wet!

Do you ever get the feeling that some things just aren’t meant to be?

Well, for the past week or so I have had to put up with both Aunt Murdock and Dorothy almost constantly going on at me about meeting up with Hope Greenwood again. And they are not the only ones who seem to have an interest in my friendship with her. But, despite all their insistence, and I must say some work on my part, it appears that the chances of any kind of romantic liaison are very slim indeed.

You see, I popped along to the gallery this afternoon – as we had arranged over the telephone – and I must say, it was a jolly difficult journey, what with the terrible weather. Despite my best efforts, by the time I arrived, I was rather wet through. In fact, I don’t think I have been so wet, with my clothes on, since the day I fell into uncle George’s garden pond back in 2002. We had been celebrating dear old Lizzie’s Golden jubilee with some very fine champagne and a selection of single malts, and it is possible that I may have had a little more than I should. During a particularly rowdy rendition of Rule Britania, myself and a couple of the chaps from the Club ventured a little too close to George’s new pond. Needless to say, dear old George wasn’t best pleased, and I think the newly transplanted fish were a little put out as well.

Anyway, as I walked through the door I could see Hope on the far side of the gallery talking to a young lady who I presumed was a client. I stood, dripping by the door for a few moments before Hope spotted me and, excusing herself, came over to greet me. I must admit that the whole greeting thing was a little awkward, not least because I was wet through and dripping all over her shiny floor. Unfortunately, our conversation was very brief as Hope had a meeting with the lady I had seen her talking to, so my plan for lunch had to be postponed again.

However, I did have an opportunity to pass on the invitation to Cambridge’s charity soiree, which she assures me she will be able to attend. Once that was agreed, I left the gallery and made my way back to the Club where I was able to dry off and enjoy a rather pleasant lunch. We have a new chef at the Club who is trying to introduce a wider range of dishes, some of which are proving to be very popular. I forget his name, but he is Italian apparently, which explains the sudden appearance of pasta and pizza on the luncheon menu.

If you haven’t heard, we have a new chef at the Club who is trying to introduce a wider range of dishes, some of which are proving to be very popular. I forget his name, but he is Italian apparently, which explains the sudden appearance of pasta and pizza on the luncheon menu. Now, I don’t have anything against the idea of extending the menu, but I personally have no intention of going continental. I have never been particularly fond of Italian wines, and I don’t suppose the food is much better. Don’t get me wrong, I am partial to a little pasta now and again, and have even had some very nice pizzas, but it is not the sort of food one expects to be eating at a respectable club. I see no reason to change things and will continue to eat the same foods I always have. Today I chose the Rack of Lamb, washed down with a very pleasant Spanish Rioja. If there is one thing you can always rely on at the Club, it is the quality of the wines on offer. Chefs may come and go, but the wine cellar is always stocked with the best.

So, it was not quite the day I had planned, but I have kept my promise to Dorothy and Aunt Murdock in as much as I have been to see Hope. Alright, she was too busy to come out to lunch with me, but she has accepted the invitation so I will definitely see her again soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I losing control of my own life?

This morning I had an unexpected, but a very welcome telephone call from Hope Greenwood. She hasn’t returned home yet but is in Edinburgh staying with an old friend. Apparently, she has been having a short break and visiting a few artists in Scotland. She told me that she heard yesterday that I had visited her gallery – it seems that the helpful young lady I spoke to on Wednesday was Hope’s youngest daughter, Charlotte.

It was just a brief call as she had an appointment, but she told me she will be back in London tomorrow. There wasn’t enough time to discuss the invitation to old Cambridge’s soiree but I told her I would call into the gallery again on Wednesday. Maybe this time I can take her out for that lunch I promised myself.

Whilst I was on the phone talking to Hope, Dorothy walked in and did a little eavesdropping. At times she is like an old mother hen, fussing and manoeuvring. I sometimes think she is taking tips from old Mad Duck. She may even be some kind of third columnist, planted by the old dear to spy on me. Nothing would surprise me where Aunt Murdock is concerned.

According to Dorothy, if I’m going to meet Hope for lunch again, I am going to need some new clothes. She told me that my current wardrobe is a little too conservative and old fashioned. I am not sure I agree with her, but she seems to have set her heart on taking me out shopping. Of course, I have said I couldn’t possibly find the time, but I know Dorothy well enough by now to know that she won’t let a simple matter such as being far too busy get in the way of a good plan. I am sure that now she has suggested going clothes shopping, as far she is concerned it is going to happen.

The more I think about it, the more I worry that my life is being controlled by the various women around me. I mean, there is Aunt Murdock trying to get me married off, Dorothy doing her best to “modernise” me, and even Miss Drayton seems to be trying to turn me into a business man. I know they mean well. They all seem to think they are doing what is best for me, and I am sure that in some ways they may even be right, but surely a chap needs to have some control over his own life.

 

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.

A new Hope

Now, before I say anything else about yesterday, I must make one thing very clear: attending Sir Arnold Sweetman’s garden party was not my idea. As a rule I enjoy a good garden party. They can, if the weather is kind and the wine properly chilled, be very jolly affairs. They are the type of social gatherings that usually attract the best people and offer a wonderful opportunity to mingle with family and friends.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s soiree was hosted by one of my Aunt Murdock’s business connections. Sir Arnold is a nice enough chap but his wealth is from trade and he is not renowned for his breeding or taste. In fact, he can, at times, be quite crude and vulgar. The guests were, for the most part, business people, and believe me, there is nothing so tedious as a group of businessmen going on about mergers, take overs, stock prices and trade deals. I can’t imagine anything more boring than talking about trade.

Of course, I had to go along for Aunt Murdock’s sake. And for her, the event was a way of killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. You see, she is not only trying to get me back into the business, presumably to take over from her at some point, but she is also more determined than ever to get me married off to one eligible young lady or another.

Yesterday was arranged as another of these blind date opportunities. When we last met she dropped enough hints, so I was pretty sure I knew who to would be. I was right, but more about that later.

Despite my misgivings about our host and the other guests, I have to say it was a fairly lavish affair and the weather was near perfect. By the time Aunt  Murdock and I arrived, the sky had cleared and was a beautiful bright blue. There was a slight breeze; just enough to mess up the odd hair do, but not enough to cause too much trouble with the catering. The house itself is situated just south of the river and is surrounded by huge trees that provided a little shade and some shelter from the breeze.

We had been there for about an hour or so and I hadn’t seen the old dear for quite a while. I had managed to make my escape from a group of stock brokers and had found myself a quite corner of the largest marque. Away from most of the crowd I was enjoying a rather fine Beaujolais when I heard Aunt Murdock’s distinctive and rather loud voice coming towards me from the other side of the tent. I can’t say I had enjoyed the afternoon thus far, but this was the one inevitable moment I had been looking forward to the least.

You see, I was sure  she had set me up to meet someone I already knew, Hope Greenwood, an old friend of my Aunt Margaret’s. I hadn’t seen Hope for a couple of years. We last met at a small gathering about six months prior to her husband Ronald’s accident. Mad Duck and her companion  were approaching me from behind. I could have turned to face them but decided to finish my drink and wait for them to reach me.

Well, imagine my surprise when they crossed in front of the table and there before me stood not the Hope Greenwood I had last seen almost three years ago, but a much slimmer and very much more glamorous Hope. A new Hope, as it were.

You see, Hope was one of those women who had, quite rightly, devoted most of her adult life to being a full-time mother and wife. In the early days of her marriage she had been quite a beauty, but in recent years she had sort of let herself go a bit. The last I heard she had started working for a friend in an art gallery. Not because she needs the money, because she doesn’t.

Anyway, Aunt Murdock made her introduction, physically manhandled Hope into the seat across from me, and then immediately rushed off in the direction or the afternoon’s host on the pretext of arranging a meeting.

So, there we were,  Hope and I, both slightly embarrassed by my mad aunt’s maneuverings and neither of us having the faintest idea of what to say or do next.

It’s strange how even now, in middle age, one finds oneself feeling and behaving like love struck teenagers. Just trying to find the correct words or phrases to get the conversation started seemed beyond the capabilities of either of us. All we could manage were a few meaningless “how have you been” and “how are the children” style questions. Of course, we already knew each other, but put into this strange situation by old Mad Duck seemed to have robbed both of us of the ability to start a coherent conversation.

We were spared too much embarrassment by the unexpected arrival at the table of Martin Oldman, a mutual friend and business acquaintance of Hope’s. The three of us chatted for a short while before Martin made to move on to discuss business with someone who had just arrived, leaving Hope and I to our own devices.

Now that the ice had been broken, as it were, I found it surprisingly easy to talk with Hope about how things have been, and what she is doing since poor Ronald died.

Despite my initial reservations, it turned out to be a very pleasant afternoon. The wine continued to flow freely and the food was excellent too, but the biggest surprise was Hope herself. When we last met she had just started working again and was, well, shall we just say she could have done with losing some weight. She also had a tired and put-upon look.

But yesterday she looked like a new woman. She has lost all the excess weight and has quite a glow about her. Once we got chatting she reminded me of when I first met her over 30 years ago, before her marriage, when she had ambitions to be a lawyer.

All I can say is that Aunt Murdock has really excelled herself this time. Despite the slow start, I found Hope to be a charming and animated companion. We spent a very pleasant afternoon together before she had to leave – something to do with her youngest daughter. We left the party with an arrangement to meet for lunch on Monday.

I spent the evening at the Club. A couple of games of snooker and a few drinks were the perfect end to the day.