Things are looking up

After several “dates” where things did not go according to plan, Hope and I finally managed to spend a whole afternoon and evening together with no interruptions, disasters or fallings-out. We met as agreed for a light tea before making our way to Westminster for a piano recital Hope had recommended.

Tea was in a wonderful little place Hope has frequented before, close to Covent Garden. Now I have never really understood the current fascination for these so-called afternoon teas where one is expected to nibble on miniature sandwiches and cakes that to me look like they are designed for children rather than adults. I always associate these affairs with genteel old ladies or pretentious young women looking to secure their place on the social ladder. But I suppose that as with many other things in life, it is almost as much about the ambiance and company one keeps than the food itself which I understand is not intended to replace a proper meal. In that sense, tea on Sunday was a very jolly affair and I have to admit that the food was exceptionally nice. Hope was in good spirits and seemed to enjoy hearing of my busy couple of days at Cheltenham races. I was very surprised to hear that she had not been to a race meeting since she was a teenager. I had expected that she and her former husband would have been regulars. I think that I will have to invite her to Ascot this summer as I am sure she should enjoy it.

After tea we made our way through the somewhat cold streets to the recital. I have to admit that although it would not have been my first choice, I enjoyed the performance immensely. There is something incredibly relaxing about listening to good music played well and I very soon found myself totally absorbed in the wonderful melodies. There was something almost magical about the atmosphere and by the midpoint of the performance, I found I had Hope’s hand in mine. I have no recollection of the moment we started holding hands; I can’t even recall which of us made the first move; it just seemed so natural.

Not for the first time with Hope, I felt a little like a schoolboy with his first crush. Holding Hope’s hand like that had such a feeling of intimacy that I am sure I must have been blushing.

We returned to Hope’s flat for supper and drinks once the performance was over. Charlotte was still in Manchester with her sister so we had the place to ourselves. And that is all I am going to say about Sunday evening. A gentleman does not kiss and tell.

I returned home yesterday morning to the news that dear old Aunt Murdock and Uncle George have decided to leave the city for a while and have relocated to their little summer place close to Brighton. It is a house owned by George’s family that they have been known to use on occasion, but not recently. Apparently, the old Mad Duck is none too happy with the social scene of Brighton at the moment, but she obviously needs some time to relax and recharge her batteries, so to speak. I will have to drive down to see them later in the week, should I get the opportunity.

I have to say that aside from my dear Aunt’s ill health life at the moment is looking particularly good. Obviously, the utter madness that the rest of world seems to be descending into is worrying, but I am sure it will all work out. All this talk of nerve agents and spies sounds more like a plot from a very bad book rather than real life. I will have to pop along to the Club tomorrow night and see what the chaps make of it all.

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.