A weekend away

Kent-Countryside-900x450

I have to say what a jolly nice weekend I have just had with the lovely Hope. We had not planned to go away, but after having had a rather bad week I decided that we should pack our bags and head out of town for a couple of days. I originally suggested we go to Brighton and stay with some old family friends with a little house on the coast, but Hope was not all that keen on the idea. So, after a little chat and with the help of young Charlotte, we settled on a lovely little hotel in Kent.

Now, normally when I go away I will either stay with friends or, if I have to stay in a hotel, chose one that I already know or has been recommended. The very idea of booking our stay through the internet was something I had never even considered. But for Charlotte, and most young people I suspect, it seems to be almost second nature. Whilst I am getting much better with the whole cyber surfing thing, I am still very much on the beginner’s slopes. Hope has more experience than I do with with the computer, but even she admits that some things still confuse her.

So, by the time we had finished our first glass of Chablis, the hotel was booked and all we had to do was pack a few bags and then we were on our way to sunny Kent, the garden of England.

Of course, it being a sunny Friday afternoon, the roads out of town were extremely congested and I was very glad I had decided not to drive there myself. Albert was going to drop us off and then make his own way home – I would be using the car myself over the weekend and making the return journey on Sunday afternoon.

I must say that when we arrived at the hotel I was very impressed. One hears so many stories about people being duped by unscrupulous characters using the internet to front their nefarious enterprises. Nigel is always going on at me about the need for security and that I had to be careful about who I might “meet” online. Well, I have told Nigel often enough that I am not that easily fooled and anyone trying to con me would have a very hard time indeed. Non-the-less, I was very relieved when we pulled up outside what was an old stately home but was now our home for the weekend.

As a child, my mother and I were frequent visitors to the Kent countryside, but in recent years I fear I have somewhat neglected it. We would often visit family and friends and I have very fond memories of those long hot summers. We were always outdoors and I never remember it raining, although I am sure it did. Kent to me is a county of my childhood and one I very rarely visit these days.  I suppose that the Kent’sm undeniable attractions are better shared, which is why my stay there with Hope was so special. For two days we became tourists, something I am not used to.

I have to say that our accommodation was first class. The service and food were as good as anywhere ion the City, and the room extremely comfortable. I will admit that I can be rather fussy when it comes to hotels, but on this occasion, I found nothing to complain about and plenty to enjoy. The fact that the weather was so good certainly helped to make the whole weekend rather special. When we are in town, I feel I do not get to spend as much time with Hope as I would like. She is obviously a very busy lady with a home and the gallery to run, so I do try not to monopolise her attention. But when we get the opportunity to get away from all the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and relax, I find myself happier that I have been for many a long year.

But as always, all good things must come to an end. I did try to persuade Hope to stay for a few more days, but unfortunately, she had commitments at the Gallery which made that impossible. So, regretfully, we made our way back to town late on Sunday afternoon. Which is just as well actually as shortly after our return I received a telephone call from Aunt Murdock to tell me that poor old Uncle George was back in the hospital with his heart. Of course, that meant jumping straight back into the car and driving across town to see how the dear old thing was getting on.

I am relieved to say that despite the rather frightening array of electronic devices and the miles of tubing that surrounded him, the old fellow was in fairly good spirits. He was obviously rather tired and looked a little pale, but was otherwise showing no signs of being at death’s door. In fact, he was out of the hospital and back home by late Monday afternoon. I paid a quick visit to the house earlier today and can happily report that the old gentleman has quite recovered from his little turn and is already talking about whisking the old Mad Duck off to the Lakes for a long weekend.

Anyway, I must finish there as I have agreed to meet a couple of the chaps at the Club this evening for a few drinks. I don’t seem to get down there quite as much as I used to and there is so much to catch up on.

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.

 

Aunt Murdock gives us quite a shock

What a week and a half this has been!

Last Monday I was all set for what promised to be a very good week. Not least of the reasons for this was my impending lunch date with Hope Greenwood on Tuesday. After a busy morning in the office, I took it upon myself to take a short stroll up to Regent Street and treat myself to a haircut and new jacket. Now, those who know me well will probably be wondering why I would choose to do either unprompted. Indeed, I asked myself the very same thing on my way home. All I can say in my defence is that it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. One cannot always give a logical or reasonable explanation for one’s actions, no matter how out of character they may seem.

Everything was going well until the early hours of Tuesday morning when I received an unexpected telephone call from my Uncle George to say that Aunt Murdock had been taken ill during the night and taken into hospital. Poor George sounded so upset and not at a little incoherent so I decided to make my way to the hospital straight away.

By the time I arrived Uncle George had calmed down a little but was still very upset. According to the doctor, Aunt Murdock was rather poorly but not critical so there was no need worry undulyBut you have to admit, it is very easy for these people to say but not so easy to do. When someone one loves is so obviously unwell one can’t help but be worried and concerned. We have all been aware for some time that Aunt Murdock has been slowing down, but I think we had all thought it was simply down to her age. Old Mad Duck may be as tough as old boots, but even she is not invincible. It was quite a shock to see her lying there in the hospital bed with tubes all over the place.

The rest of that morning is something of a blur, what with George fussing and flapping about and me trying to keep him calm and under some kind of control. In the end, I suggested that he would be better off at home as the last thing my aunt needed was to see him cracking up. He refused at first but eventually acquiesced and headed home for a rest. I stayed until mid-afternoon, but which time Aunt Murdock had stabilised and a couple of the tubes had been removed. George returned around 3 o’clock so I made my way home. It had been a rather tiring day because I fell asleep in my chair before I was even halfway through my first glass of single malt.

It was not until much later in the evening as I was relating the story to Dorothy and Angela that I suddenly remembered my date with Hope. I made several attempts to contact her but couldn’t get through. O felt quite wretched – I had been so looking forward to our lunch and should not have forgotten it like I had. In the end, I had Arthur deliver a note from me explaining what had happened and asking her to please contact me so we can meet another day. So far I haven’t heard anything, which I find rather surprising but I suppose there is a kind of inevitability to it. She is a very busy lady who has no reason to keep in touch with the likes of me.

Aunt Murdock was much better by the time I saw her on Wednesday, but she didn’t go home until Friday afternoon, and that was only because she was making such a fuss that some of the nursing staff were refusing to go into her room, a sure sign that she was getting her strength back. Old Mad Duck has no time for what she calls malingerers and has never been very good with sickness. Even when Uncle George broke his leg in a skiing accident she wouldn’t let him rest for more than a couple of days before she sent him back to work. And when I went down with a severe case of gastric flue two years ago she came round to the house and forced me out of bed to attend a meeting with our accountant.

To tell the truth, I have not felt myself this past week. I have hardly been to the Club and have not felt in the mood for writing anything as I was quite worried about the old dear. But I visited Aunt Murdock earlier today and she was looking much better. It is such a relief to see her almost back to her old self again, although she has warned me that I am going to have to take on even more responsibility at the office. I am not sure how I am going to manage that. I already do three mornings a week and I can’t see how she can expect me to do much more.

But obviously, I will do everything I can to make her life a little easier, even if that means working another couple of mornings, at least in the short term. Tomorrow I am going to try to contact Hope again and see if I can’t arrange another date.

Family matters

This morning I made one of my irregular visits to see my dear old Aunt Murdock. I have not seen a great deal of her recently as she has been a little unwell and has not been to the office or dragging me to see her latest theatre projects. I don’t think she is seriously ill or anything like that, but she is not getting any younger and even a tough old boot like her has to slow down eventually. The old Mad Duck has been trying to run my affairs for so long now that it feels rather strange her not being around all the time, poking her nose into my love life and wittering on at me incessantly about my behaviour.

Not that I am badly behaved you understand. But Aunt Murdock does expect certain standards to be maintained. The major positive of her slow down has been to stop trying to marry me off to one or another of her seemingly endless stream of eligible young ladies of her vast acquaintance. And it may well be endless as she seems to know just about all the good – and some of the bad – families. In fact, her acquaintance is so large one can only wonder at the stories she could tell if she were so inclined.

But she isn’t that way inclined. Excentric she may well be, informed she most definitely is, but loose-lipped? Never! Aunt Murdock does not gossip and would rather die than divulge a confidence. Indeed, I have heard one or two people say that one’s confession is safer with her than with the Pope!

Uncle George, on the other hand, is very much the family gossip. If there is anything juicy to be had then he will be only too pleased to pass it along. I have often wondered how two such totally different people have managed to stay married for so long. Dorchester says it is because George is far too afraid of his wife to even consider leaving, but I think they are actually rather fond of each other.

Anyway, I called at their flat a little after midday, just in time for a light lunch and one of George’s fine brandies. Aside from being a little pale, Aunt Murdock seemed to be in fine form. George hovered around her as if he expected her to collapse, or physically fall apart at any moment. He is obviously very concerned about her, but she just shoed him away and told him, in no uncertain terms, to stop fussing. Once we had exchanged the usual pleasantries and ascertained that we were all quite well, my dear old Aunt began her usual third-degree interrogation about my love life – or lack of it – and news from the Club and the office.

Aunt Murdock’s sole aim in life at the moment seems to be marrying me off. She may have felt unable to play the active matchmaker recently, but that does not mean she has given up. Indeed not. If anything I believe that her recent ill-health seems to have strengthened her resolve. I know she means well and has my best interests at heart, but it can be rather embarrassing at times. Hope seems to be her current hopeful though I don’t think that she is the only candidate on the current “potential future Mrs Dimbelby-Smyth” list. And like Father Christmas, she is checking it twice.

Once the initial interrogation was over the three of us enjoyed a very pleasant lunch and a drop or three of Uncle George’s very fine brandy. I stayed for a couple of hours, allowing me to catch up with some family news and bits and pieces from the office. I was particularly interested to hear that one of my cousins is getting married early next year to an old school chum if mine. I haven’t seen either of them for years, which is probably why I hadn’t heard about their impending nuptials. Knowing the families I am sure it will be a lavish affair. During the afternoon I found the opportunity to invite them to join me at the house for Christmas, which they have accepted. Just as I was about to take my leave and head down to the Club, I told Aunt Murdock that Nigel and I had been to see Mrs Dalton, in Brighton, and mentioned the cryptic message about needing to speak to her. She asked what about and I told her that other than that is was connected to my mother, I couldn’t tell her anything else. At this point, she became awfully defensive and Goerge very dismissive. Neither of them seemed prepared to admit they knew what Mrs Dalton had been talking about. So, rather than upset them any further I made my excuses and left.

The more I think about it the more unusual and out-of-character the conversation had become. It is obvious that there is something they did not want to discuss, which I can understand from Aunt Murdock. Maybe if I get George on his own at some time he will feel able to tell me. For now, it is time to get back to making arrangements for my Christmas trip to the country. So much to do and so little time…