This year’s #bloganuary prompts from WordPress included the interviewing of a fictional character, which I thought might fit here rather well. So I decided to interview one of the secondary characters from November Deadline – initially thinking I’d focus on one of those who would have a place in the on-going series, when I remembered the work I’d done on the character of our bad guy Bunty.
In the first draft he was only seen through the eyes of others, without a voice of his own. When we came to expand the work, we decided to include a portion from Bunty’s point-of-view, which was when I really had to get to know Bunty properly. Using K M Weiland’s 100+ Questions to help you interview your Character and the 35 questions attributed to Proust, I came to understand in more depth the man who’d started out as as a shadowy cipher, and so to find his voice.
When I carried out my getting to know “interview”, I spoke of Bunty in the third person, so I decided to re-work it and to select questions which a society journalist may have asked a young man of money and property at the time. I hope these will give you a good idea of the Bunty we came to know – if not love.
J: Today I met Bartholomew Hargreaves. After the tragic death of first his older brother in the final stages of the war and, more recently, his father in a shooting accident, Mr Hargreaves inherited the family estate. He subsequently decided to make London his permanent base and agreed to meet me for tea at the Ritz, just around the corner from his offices in Piccadilly. He arrived, impeccably attired from head to toe in a made-to-measure grey wool Saville Row suit, pristine white shirt, pale blue silk tie with matching silk ‘kerchief, and immaculate black Oxfords. A pale blue woollen scarf and leather gloves were his only concessions to the chilly weather.
J: Mr Hargreaves, thank you for agreeing to meet me.
B: Bunty, please. Bartholomew makes me feel like a small boy in trouble.
J: Bunty it is, thank you.
J: May I ask, were your schooldays not happy then?
B: No, no – nothing like that at all. But even I was summoned once or twice to the headmaster’s office – if only for the most minor of transgressions.
J: Ah, I see.
J: We’ve not had the pleasure of your company much in London up to now. What made you decide to move here after you inherited your family estate?
B: Well, the estate all but runs itself and I have no real interest in countryside affairs. As to why London, I’ve long wanted to be here, especially now I am free to pursue my own interests without family interference.
J: You mentioned your offices are around the corner from here. What business are you engaged in?
B: Property. A significant number of people decided to get out of London after the war, so I’ve been able to pick up a lot of property well below its true value. Even those with bomb damage will get me a good price once things return to normal and people decide they want to return.
J: You’ve been seen about town of late with Lady Michaela. Are your families connected in some way?
B: We have a mutual friend – Robert Cavendish.
J: Ah yes, the Colonel. Many thought there would be wedding bells heard there – with him and her ladyship.
B: Really? I saw no sign of it. Indeed I thought Lady Michaela rather too high-handed with Robert for him to want her for a wife.
J: I see. What about wedding bells for Lady Michaela with you?
B: I think not.
J: How did you come to meet the Colonel?
B: He was assigned to my team in the later stages of the war. I suspect he found the cultural nature of the work not quite his thing. He was apt to seek out my company, what with the other team members being mostly academics, he’d have found them rather a bore. We met up again recently and he suggested Lady Michaela might introduce me to the right sort of people in London. What with attending University in Germany, my service during the war, and then home to support my father, I find I’m rather new to London society.
J: You chose a German University over those in this country – why was that?
B: Why ever not? Heidelberg has an excellent international reputation, and it was an opportunity to improve my German from fluency in conversation to written.
J: You speak German?
B: Of course my mother was German. During my childhood we had many wonderful holidays in Germany visiting her family home. It’s where I – where we all – made good friends. Some have suggested a degree of naivety about what was to come, but when you have family…
J: So have you found a use for that fluency?
B: It was certainly an asset during my service. I was working with a team tasked with tracking down missing art works, and most of my fellow team members had no such fluency.
J: Do you do business with Germany?
B: I do business with a number of countries.
J: But having served and seen what happened there, you don’t have any problems in working with Germans?
B: None at all.
B: What I mean to say is I have a different outlook having known Germans all my life. And – of course – the politicians insist we must move forward, and the country be re-assimilated.
J: Of course. May I ask, what are your preferred leisure pursuits?
B: I ski. I’m a decent enough shot, and I ride – of course.
J: Do you hunt?
B: If invited.
J: You mother was a keen rider and huntswoman. Your brother also?
B: Yes, yes. But I am not my brother.
J: What about cultural pursuits – do you have an interest in the arts?
B: I go to the theatre – a comedy, or a musical, not Shakespeare or its ilk.
J: Art galleries or music?
B: No galleries, no. And classical music – only Beethoven.
J: Do you intend to make London your permanent home or return to the country at some point?
B: For now, yes. As to the future, it depends what it brings.
J: Do you aim to marry – are you looking for a wife?
B: It isn’t foremost in my plans, but yes I’ve no doubt that is in my future.
J: If you were a young lady about town then, what qualities would you need to turn the head of Bunty Hargreaves?
B: I enjoy the company of many young ladies.
J: Yes, of course, but we’re talking of marriage now.
B: For marriage, let me think. Blond, pretty, feminine. Softly-spoken, prefers to be in the background, good with managing the household and children.
J: Old fashioned then?
B: A woman who holds traditional values.
J: Thank you Bunty, for a most enlightening afternoon.
With that my host rose, put on his gloves and scarf, and gave me a small bow and, if I’m not mistaken, almost a click of the heels and was gone. After he’d left, the waiter – somewhat embarassed – presented me with the bill.
PostScript: In our current re-drafting, Bunty’s chapters are being re-written with a changed POV, nevertheless I found this a really useful exercise which I’ll use again in the future.
© Debra Carey, 2022