Dear Mr Mayhew.
You won’t remember me but, almost exactly 23 years ago, you handed ‘Moon Tiger’ to me, looked me in the eye and said firmly, ‘This is not a gift: it is a loan’.
You asked me to find the reference to Rules hidden within the pages. As I was in the last few weeks of working at Rules (I had been accepted as a mature student to go to University), I did the task quickly and waited to return it. However, thereafter whenever I saw you, you seemed so preoccupied that I lacked the confidence to interrupt. To my eternal shame, I left without ever returning it.
Despite my relative lack of previous formal schooling, I did well and (after quite a long hiatus while I saved up) did my PGCE. I am now an English and Drama teacher in a secondary school in Cumbria. Recently, (and very pleasingly) I was offered free accommodation in the student hotel to conduct an inspection visit as a precursor to bringing some of my little ankle-biters to visit the teeming metropolis in February, next year. It seemed, therefore, only right and proper to treat my husband and daughter to dinner at Rules to bring to life the many stories I have told them of my happy time there as a waitress. (But where is the sherry trifle that haunted my student dreams?) It also gives me the opportunity to make good my promise to you, albeit belatedly, and to apologise.
I love to think how many memories have been formed and held within the silent walls of Rules over its many years and mine were very happy; some of the stories I tell my pupils have them roaring with laughter. I remember enduring a night of breathtaking rudeness from an overseas visitor: one of those whose enjoyment of an evening and sense of self importance is inversely proportionate to the humiliation they can heap upon the unfortunate staff. This was the case, right up until the final imperious snap of her fingers for her mink to be brought to her.
But other memories are gentler and more heartfelt. I want to thank you for creating such a warm and happy working environment for your staff; the sunday pastries, the voucher to eat at Rules and the delicious staff meals stand out but also the genuine way you took the time to stand and chat with us. We felt respected and valued.
Another of your innovations while I worked there was to create a new competition for the most friendly staff member; amazingly, I won a weekend at your lovely estate (my apparent confidence was a complete fraud, so I was astounded). As an impoverished Australian saving to put myself through Uni., I had only seen as far as my bicycle could take me and the beauty of the estate was a real delight. Again, I was too shy to thank you properly. I have worked in many jobs since I left school at sixteen and I can honestly say that you remain the most kind, courteous and personable employer that I ever encountered.
So, in short, please accept my sincere thanks and my many apologies. The novel was, as you said, not a gift but a loan, so please find it enclosed. My apologies that, in following me in my unremarkable life it is yellowing with age; the (rather short) reference to Rules is on page 56 ‘And dinner after at Rules – a treat for Tim’s birthday’: a bit of an anti-climax after 23 years, isn’t it?
It remains a source of pleasure that the grand old lady Rules is still weaving fresh memories under your trust and hope that you are personally well and happy. R.C