If music be the food of love…

To say that the last couple of days have been enlightening is actually a little of an understatement. Any of my friends would attest to the fact that I am a man of simple tastes and am not inclined towards taking unnecessary risks. When I decide to try a new restaurant, I tend to do so based on either a recommendation or because of the reputation of the owner or the chef. I like to be as sure as I can be that I am not going to be too disappointed. And whilst I enjoy sampling some types of foreign cuisine, I do draw the line at all that spicy Eastern cooking.

I was well aware that by leaving the choice of venue for our dinner date to Hope I was taking an uncharacteristic risk. Whilst I was sure she would not choose something too outlandish, I was still a little apprehensive about what she had planned for the evening. After all, I had also agreed to accompany her to the theatre and again, I had no idea what she might have booked to see. Hope had arranged to pick me up in a taxi so I did not even get a clue to the location.

I suppose that I should have had a little more confidence in her understanding of me and the things that I like. She took me to a little place that I had heard of but never visited, possibly because of it’s proximity to the National Theatre and the clientele that such an establishment can attract. But good food is good food, no matter where one finds it, and I have to admit that Hopes choice of venue turned out to be an excellent one. The decor and atmosphere were clean and inviting and the menu simple but varied.It was all fairly traditional fayre, but fairly well cooked and presented. I chose a steak and a rather fine Château La Croix Fourney to go with it. Hope settled for Sea Bass which she assured me was very nice indeed.

Being the early evening I had thought that wherever we went would be fairly quiet, but in that I was wrong – it was a very busy service, due I believe to the majority of the clientele being on their way to the theatre itself. Which should have given me a clue to where we were going, but this didn’t actually occur to me until we were waiting for our deserts.

Over the course of the meal, Hope and I discussed our families, work and a little about our desires for the future. It seems that each time we meet I learn a little more about this fascinating woman. She was quite candid about her marriage which seems to have had some difficult times. Not that this is anything unusual; many of my friends have dealt with rocky relationships. I myself have experienced something similar but admittedly not to the same degree as poor Hope. I had not known Hope’s husband particularly well but he always seemed to me to be a decent sort of chap. Not exactly the sort one would expect to meet down at the Club, but decent enough for that. From what Hope told me, he was a good father and pleasant enough man, but he could also be a little domineering. He did not approve of her art ambitions which is why she did not open the gallery until after he had died.

Anyway, when we finished our meal and it came to settling the bill, I was in for another surprise. Not the bill itself which Hope told me was reasonable, but the fact that Hope herself insisted on paying it. Now, it has always been my contention that when one is taking a lady out for the evening, it is the man’s place to pay. That is what my mother always taught me and it is something I have always stood by. I suppose I should have expected something like that; Hope is, after all, a very independent woman who is used to doing things for herself. But none-the-less, it went against the grain a little to have a lady such as Hope pay for the meal.

My next surprise came after we left the restaurant as we made our way to the National Theatre. There is no mistaking the building itself; it has to be one of the ugliest buildings of its type in the world. I don’t think anyone in their right mind could ever consider this concrete monstrosity as anything other than what the Prince of Wales would call, a carbuncle. I cannot for the life of me imagine why the architects of what was supposed to be a prestigious centre for the arts should design such an eyesore.

Anyway, it turns out that Hope had purchased tickets for the current production of Twelfth Night. Now I am sure that most people who know me are aware that I am not exactly the bard’s greatest fan and ordinarily the thought of being subjected to an evening of one of his plays would leave me somewhat cold. But on this occasion, I was with Hope so was assured of good company at least.

As it turns out, despite the usual issues I had with Shakespeare’s language, I found I really enjoyed the performance. Before it started Hope told me to expect something unusual but at first, I didn’t realise what she meant. I have seen this particular play before – it was one that my mother took me to see once – but my recollection was a little vague so I did not immediately see what she meant. Of course, once she pointed it out to me it was obvious. You see, in this particular production, the part of Malvolio, written as a male character, was being played by a woman. From what Hope told me, the actress Tamsin Grieg is very popular. I had not actually seen her before myself, but she was frightfully good and highly amusing.

After the show I had Arthur pick us up and drop Hope off at her flat in Chelsea. She asked if I would like to join her for a nightcap, but I declined. It had been a wonderful evening full of surprises, but I was a little anxious not to spoil things. I can’t pretend to be a particularly romantic type and I don’t fool myself that I am any kind of catch. I know that Hope likes me, otherwise she would not have planned the evening we had just had, but I did not want to put myself in a position where I may say or do something embarrassing. Before we parted Hope invited me to join her on Saturday evening for dinner at her flat. Of course, I did not need to think twice, accepting the invitation with probably a little too much enthusiasm.

This morning I had a telephone call from my Uncle George to say that dear old Aunt Murdock was back in the hospital. Nothing to worry about apparently, but he thinks she will be there for a couple of days. It is obvious now that I am going to have to get used to managing the firm’s affairs on my own as she is definitely going to have to slow down. At the office, my secretary, Miss Drayton informed me that she was going on holiday for a couple of weeks with her boyfriend but had secured a temp to manage my affairs, such as they are. I have to admit that it had never occurred to me that Miss Drayton might have a boyfriend. In fact, I had never even considered her life outside of the office at all. I really must take more of an interest in future.

 

Thinking the unthinkable!

I spoke to Hope on Monday evening and she agreed to join me on my little trip to the Cotswolds next month. I have also arranged to meet her tomorrow evening for dinner and theatre. I have no idea what we are going to see – I have left that up to Hope – but I have asked that it isn’t one of those high brow arty things. I am not a regular theatregoer by any means but I do enjoy a comedy or a murder mystery. My dear old Aunt Murdock has often coerced me into going with her to see all kinds of shows, some of which I enjoyed, but most I found either infuriatingly self-absorbed or interminably boring.

Even at school, I had trouble concentrating when it came to literature and plays. Shakespeare was the worst. Now, I know that by saying this I am going to offend some people, but I can only say things as I see them. After all, we can’t all like the same things, can we? I mean, it would be a pretty tedious world if we were all the same. Dorothy is always telling me I need to broaden my horizons a little, take in some of what she calls “serious” theatre. Aunt Murdock has been saying the same thing for years, even going so far as to hoodwink me into attending some of these shows.

Now, I am well aware of the importance of William Shakespeare and his role in English literature. I have visited Stratford-upon-Avon several times and know how important a figure he is. I just don’t enjoy his plays. There are actually quite a few literary figures whose work I find either boring or unintelligible. I clearly remember my father insisting that I read works by writers such as Jules Verne, but they never really appealed to me. Each to his own, as they say.

I have to say I am really looking forward to tomorrow evening. Hope has told me she has somewhere special in mind for our meal. She has even said she will pick me up in a taxi so I will not even get any clues as to whereabouts we are going. It is all very cloak and dagger and quite exciting. I just hope that her choice of show is something suitable. A nice comedy would be good. Or perhaps an old-fashioned murder mystery. I have to admit that I have a bit of a soft spot for Agatha Christie type stories. There is a sort of comfortable familiarity with these types of plays. They don’t challenge ones intellect or expect one to look for hidden meanings. I just want to be entertained and the idea of having to decipher what is almost a foreign language makes the likes of Shakespeare more of a chore than a pleasure.

I had another busy day at the office today dealing with the property side of the family business. Aunt Murdock tells me it is the most profitable side our work, after the banking interests. Mind you, that term “interests” is one I use very loosely. Where I can see something tangible in the property portfolio, the whole banking side of things leaves me a little lost. It doesn’t seem to matter how many ways the banking chappies explain the way it all works, I just can’t seem to follow it. Fluctuating markets, CIFs, DTIs, Reverse Mortgages or Escrow Funds – all make no sense to me at all. I am finding dealing with the property and development side of things quite interesting. That is not to say I understand or agree with all the decisions made by others on my behalf, but I am much more comfortable with land and buildings than I am with money or people.

With Aunt Murdock’s current ill health I am having to consider my role in the business. It is obvious I am going to have to take on more responsibility, but I have to admit that the thought frightens me a little.