Let battle commence

It’s an old adage that when in company you should never discuss politics or religion. And it’s a little bit of well-worn wisdom that I try to adhere to as much as I can. We all know that these are subjects that will inevitably cause friction and dissent, even amongst friends and family. I have seen more that one gathering descend into chaos as those with opposing views draw up their battle lines.

From the sidelines, these confrontations between people who are otherwise quite close can be rather amusing. But I have seen such disagreements lead to long-lasting breakups, which is not so funny.

I was reminded of this earlier today when I met with my Aunt Murdock and Uncle George. I had invited them to join me for lunch at a little place that we are all rather fond of on Parliament Square. Aunt Murdock has said more than once that it is her favourite London restaurant, and it is one I am rather fond of myself, although neither of us tends to frequent it too regularly. My choice of Partridge, followed by Cumbrian Beef, were a perfect reminder of why we enjoy it so much.

Anyway, today’s lunch was my treat. I have always been very close to the Murdocks and although I see quite a lot of old Mad Duck, I don’t get to spend much time with Uncle George these days. Since he retired from running his business he spends a lot of time playing golf, very often abroad, so I have to take these opportunities to get together whenever I can. I really like George and he is one of the few people I know I can talk to about politics and religion without causing a family feud. I could always talk to George in ways I never could with my own father. We have always seen eye to eye on most things, even the dreaded Brexit.

I find there is no better way to catch up on recent events than over a good meal. One can truly relax and savour the best in food and company if you chose your venue with care. Once seated George and I were very soon making observations, recommendations and comments about all kinds of things, from how to deal with North Korea, to the best ways to reduce terrorism and immigration. George’s immense experience travelling around the world gives him a wonderful insight into the way foreigners think and work. I have always taken his advice on political matters and very rarely do I find the need to disagree with him.

It was as we were waiting for our main courses I began to notice that conversation at the next table seemed to be getting a little heated. It was obvious from what was being said they were discussing the ramifications of leaving the EU, and I can tell you, there was little or no common ground between the two primary antagonists. I assumed they were two couples; the men were quietly battling it out while the women tried to come between them and broker some kind of peace. Things calmed down with the arrival of their desserts, which gave the ladies an opportunity to change the subject to families, children and last night’s television.

But the ceasefire didn’t last, and it wasn’t long before I heard mention of Boris Johnson, after which things began to get very heated. Mind you, it’s not the first time I have seen people fall out over their opinion of dear old Boris. I have to admit that I do like the chap, despite the silly things he sometimes does or says. I was almost tempted to leap to his defence, but a quick glance from Uncle George dissuaded me from that particular course of action.

In the end, it all got a little too loud and they were encouraged to leave the restaurant. It must have been frightfully embarrassing for the two young ladies who really need to learn to take a firmer hand. Aunt Murdock would never have allowed that kind of thing to happen at her table.

Once all the excitement was over we were able to enjoy the rest of our meal, which was as good as anticipated, as was the company. George and I were able to put the world to rights without coming to blows and Aunt Murdock got to enjoy her favourite Raspberry Souffle. For the three of us, it was a particularly enjoyable lunch. I only hope that the four young people who ignored the advice on avoiding politics and religion have made up their differences.



A weekend of capitulation

The chaps and I had a rather heated conversation at the Club last night about fitness clubs and gyms. Now it may surprise you to hear that until recently I had not given such places even the briefest of thoughts. After all, as far I am concerned they are of interest only to the grossly overweight, those with an obsession with their bodies or keen sportsmen. They are certainly not the kind of place you would find respectable chaps such as myself or my friends. But it seems that I may have been a little wide of the mark.

It all began with a chat I had with Dorothy earlier this week. She was on her way to meet her girlfriend Angela, and they were going to a gym. Now I have to admit that this revelation took me quite by surprise. I mean, for one thing, Dorothy is a very slim and attractive young woman, as is Angela. The idea that either of them would need the use of a gym was something I not only hadn’t considered but was openly shocked to discover.

When I asked why on Earth she felt the need to go to a gym, she said it was to keep herself fit for performing and also to keep her shape.

“What shape,” I asked, only to be met with a look that would have done Aunt Murdock proud. Luckily I had enough of my wits about me to keep quiet and say nothing further, other than to wish her an enjoyable afternoon. She left, mumbling something about my shape and suggesting I needed to look in the mirror. What she meant by that I wasn’t certain.

This particular conversation had been all but forgotten until the subject came up again yesterday evening. I had joined some of the chaps for dinner at a rather nice little restaurant that Dasher had told us about close to Sloan Square. It is one of those rather exclusive places that served some really fine food. It is somewhere I hadn’t visited before so I was intrigued to see what they had to offer. I must say that the selection of food and wine were superb; I had a perfectly cooked pigeon washed down with a particularly fine Côte de Beaune. Whilst the presentation was very modern and artistic, over all, it was a very good choice. It is certainly somewhere I would think Hope would enjoy.

Anyway, over dessert (a very fine cheese selection), a couple of the chaps began discussing their experiences of various fitness clubs. Following so soon as did after my conversation with Dorothy, I ventured to say that I saw little point in all that exertion when they were so obviously in fine shape as it was. I mean, what is the point of putting one’s self through the kind of punishment usually reserved for sportsmen or soldiers when it was plainly unnecessary. I have even heard that some doctors have been recommending this kind of thing to their patients. Quite astonishing really when you considered the punishment they will be putting their bodies through for little or no visible benefit.

Well, it seems that, as with Dorothy, such enlightened opinions were not overtly welcome by some of the group. In fact, their replies were quite loud and impassioned. At one point I found myself totally alone in questioning the need for chaps like ourselves to undergo such activities.  By the time we left the restaurant I was beginning to feel a little like a stray rabbit at a greyhound meeting. Even Dasher himself said he was considering joining a club. Apparently, his doctor is concerned about his weight.

“Nonsense,” I said, “you’re slimmer than me.”

It seems that was not the correct thing to have said either as I spent the next half hour resisting suggestions that I needed to join a gym myself.

The whole thing started up again at the Club where, after a further hour of brow beating and comments about my weight and size, I finally agreed that I would “take a look” at one of these places, just to see what it was like. I made no commitment to do anything else, certainly not to join or do any of that exercise stuff. I just can’t see myself leaping about to Kylie Mongue wearing little more than a headband and leotard.

I mentioned this to Dorothy this morning over one of our rare breakfasts together. She seemed delighted with the news and asked me which gym I was going to look at. In all honesty, I hadn’t given the actual place much thought. Apparently, a couple of the chaps go to some place quite close to Hyde Park which is supposedly very nice. I assumed I would go there. This seemed to please Dorothy who appears to know of it. I will check on the details this evening at the Club but don’t expect I will get there this week. I am far too busy, what with work and one of Aunt Murdock’s cultural outings, I just don’t know how I would fit it in.

Before she left for the afternoon, Dorothy also gave me a little of an Aunt Murdock style grilling over my intentions regarding Hope Greenwood. I had to admit that I hadn’t been in touch since our none-date on Monday, which Dorothy seemed quite annoyed at. I mean, Hope and I had made no promises, except that we would keep in touch. I had planned to invite her to join me as my “plus one” (a phrase I particularly dislike – it sounds so common) at a small gathering that Cambridge is holding later this month in aid of some charity or another. He does this kind of thing all the time but I can’t recall which particular good cause will be benefitting from this year’s event.

Whilst that went down well, it appears that it is not enough for my romantically inclined little cousin. Just to keep the peace I agreed that I would call on Hope at her Gallery later this week. Primarily to extend the invitation to Cambridge’s charity event, but also as an opportunity to, maybe, take her out lunch again.

Looking back it looks as if I have had to make quite a few concessions to the whims of those around me this weekend. Quite astonishing really.