Autumn has finally arrived in my heart as well as outside. While most people prefer spring or summer, I absolutely adore autumn! Especially in London, where leaves are turning yellow, red and brown wherever you look and mornings can be clear and frosty, while some days turn out to be bright golden and warm. The air is rich with the scent of damp, fresh earth and you can smell the winter isn’t far away.
One of my favourite activities is going on good long walks, equipped for all sorts of weather with my new pair of bright purple Hunter wellies and a warm coat, a big scarf and matching hat. I love rustling through the leaves on the ground and always wish I had a dog to accompany me.
I have decided to put John out of my head for a while. Last Saturday’s date has left me feeling rather uncertain. True, John had been funny and attentive and if I could forget the dreadful appearance and the over-eager start of the evening, I might even consider repeating the experience. But then… I am not attracted to him. And after all – this is only the start of my observations and who knows what else I will encounter underway – I must not cloud my vision by thinking about a man!
On Monday I decided that I wanted some time for myself. Where should I go? Take a day or so off and go to the countryside? Maybe visit Blake? Urgh, Blake is still a touchy topic and I don’t fancy getting myself in a situation where I lose control of my nerves (or worse feelings) right now. No, I will go back to visit Blake once I have decided what I want and found out how to get it.
A lunch-meeting on Tuesday took me to Hampstead, a truly lovely area, which I adore whenever life takes me there (which is admittedly not very often). I managed to get away with enough time to wonder out onto the Heath. Not many people were about and I quite enjoyed myself watching birds and squirrels, feeling a cool breeze on my face and walking through freshly fallen leaves.
Despite the cold and rainy weather, I sat down on a safe place on the grass and watched the clouds. I was so deep in thought that I didn’t hear the sound soft paws leave on grass and was quite shocked when a wet nose nudged my left ear. A large Doberman stood over me, wagging its tail. He had lowered a ball into the grass and was looking at me, expectantly.
I looked round to see who this beauty belonged to but saw no one. Mesmerised, I gazed into large, deep set, almond shaped eyes. Then, suddenly, he turned on his heel and ran a few paces, halting just long enough to prompt me to follow. Laughing, I got up and threw the ball as far as I could, watching him chase it with apparent glee.
After a while I started feeling there ought to be an owner coming to look for him by now. I ceased the game and called out into the misty silence – nothing. I must have forgotten the time because dusk seemed to be falling rapidly now.
The light had almost faded when we approached the gates and I was relieved, both by the fact that we had regained inhabited territory and by my strong companion, who seemed to be supremely unconcerned that he was with me instead of his owner. I was feeling cold by now and to warm up as well as to decide what to do, I made my way to the Euphorium Bakery on South End Road, which was thankfully open (this is an absolutely delightful little place!).
I was just ordering a decaff cappuccino when the Doberman broke free of my slack grip and pounded towards the door where it skidded to a halt, wagging its tail frantically. Within seconds, the door had been wrenched open and a tall man in running clothes stormed inside. “There you are, Bruce!” he boomed, firmly ruffling the dog’s sleek head. “And how did you get in here?”
I made a step forward and the giant looked enquiringly up from his dog. “I found him on the Heath. Or rather, he found me…” I said and faltered under his stern gaze, which (I noticed despite my discomfort) was framed by bushy eyebrows. His brow contracted, which made his face even more lined (and made me feel like a schoolgirl that had done something wrong). Then his face broke into a smile.
He extended a hand “I am grateful,” he said and introduced himself as Jerome d’Ambray. His hands were warm and large, his grip firm and authoritative – oddly comforting I thought bewildered. He looked down at his dog and after a moment or two asked “would you care for a coffee at my place instead?”
Although it was against everything I had ever learned, I followed Jerome and Bruce to a Range Rover. “Bruce has never run away,” Jerome stated once we had settled in the car. “I have had him for years and today is the first time he has given me the slip. I was very worried.” He gave the Doberman a fond look that altered his otherwise rather austere face completely.
A few minutes later, we pulled into a drive on The Bishops Avenue. “Please make yourself comfortable while I change,” said Jerome and gestured to a wooden cabinet that contained several bottles of wine and spirits. Bruce settled himself at my feet. I chose a glass of light amber sherry as I had abandoned my cappuccino at the bakery and suddenly felt cold and in need of fortification.
After a few sips, I felt more at ease and began to take in the handsome sitting room. It was decorated with beautiful antiques that were grouped around a magnificent marble fireplace. My attention was caught by a book that lay open on a coffee table, half hidden by a large folio of European history. Curiously, I stretched out my hand to shift the folio aside. But before I reached it, Jerome’s voice interrupted me and not wishing to appear nosy, I hastily pulled back.
He had changed into a pair of dark trousers and a velvet jacket. He was moving gracefully for a man that tall (he must have easily been 6ft 6) and for the first time I appreciated how handsome he looked, old though he must be. Apart from the bushy eyebrows and the stern gaze that I had noticed earlier, he had wavy grey hair, a hooked nose and a decisive chin. “Ah. I am glad you have made yourself at home,” he said. “Can I tempt you with a coffee?” I nodded and was silent until he had returned with two cappuccinos and settled down in an ancient looking armchair (I felt nervous even though I couldn’t say, why).
Once we started talking about dogs and sports however, I regained my spirit and soon we were laughing and bantering and I couldn’t remember why I had found Jerome intimidating in the first place. Sure, he could be my grandfather (He must be in his late sixties), but in a way, I was attracted to his mature charisma. This, I thought while I felt my face growing hot from the sherry and my own mischievous ideas, was a real man. A man who knew what he wanted and who would take good care of me…
Yes, you might raise your well groomed eyebrows. But I have promised myself to be open and unbiased on my search for Mr Right. To answer your question, no, I did not stay and no, nothing happened. Jerome soon ordered a cab for me and I left feeling both disappointed and relieved.
But I have since wondered about this man. I have nothing to expect as I left neither my full name nor my number and I didn’t hear from Jerome again. Still… I wonder. Maybe I will make another trip to Hampstead…