Saturday, 14 March 2009


"A thing of beauty is a thing forever", thus spake my devoted char, Mrs Rumteigh, this morning, and never a truer word was rasped by that sumptuous old drudge. How easily this could be applied to the Probate Office where I have had to spend a lot of my valuable time in recent weeks, for truly it is a thing, and will be a thing forever.  As I attempt,  as required by the law of this land, to execute my father's last testament,  the suction-covered tentacles of jurisprudence have me in their grip. Yesterday,  I attended the solicitor's office with my sisters, for yet another hour with Mr Oetzmann in his dingy chamber off  Villiers Strteet.  You see, my father's will has turned out to be far more complex than we first thought.  My mother, that gorgeous old harridan, is the major beneficiary.  All well and good.  There are several bequests to charities.  Splendid.  Some smallish gifts to retainers and locums.  Right and fitting.  And then there is a vast, shimmering superstructure of trusts within convenants, within protective titles within encumbrances. 
-Your father seems to have received some arcane fiscal advice, says Mr Oetzmann without irony. 

 There are nine codicils to his will, each one tied with green satin ribbon.   My sisters and I have been left some money.  For them,  it is quite straightforward.  They are very pleased.  My sister, Belinda, has a huge, unwieldy house needing repair, and my sister Cornelia has a huge, unwieldy husband needing rehab.  These things cost money.  It is a lifeline.  For me, the situation is more delicate.  My father, whom I'm almost sure loved me more than the others, has left my money in a trust to be administered by my oldest child, my daughter Joybells, the theatrical.  I can scarce believe my ears.  I ask Mr Oetzmann to re-read.

-It is quite plain, he says.  Your father seems to think that his grand-daughter is better placed to administer this bequest, for some reason.
-How killing! shrills the Heiress to the right of me. 
-He knew you'd piss it all away, hisses the Executrix to the left.

-Your father seems to think there might be malfeasance, nonfeasance and misfeasance, says Mr O.  I think I can reference the Accumulations Act 1892 here.  Mrs Pouncer, are you familiar with R. v Thellusson, or Faggott's Law of Purchase?

Mr Oetzmann is a nice man, he is a bright man, he is a kind man, but he might just as well be reciting chunks of the Cartularium Saxonicum.  Nothing seems to make any sense.
-Why would he do this, Mr Oetzmann?
-It is hard to say, Mrs Pouncer. He leaves no clue.  All I can say is that whereas and whereinunder, as, to and pursuant from whichever or whatever, for by and under, which said person or persons being or having been entitled, unless injuncted, disjuncted, rejuncted or double-juncted, the aforesaid without foreknowledge whosoever, shall or shall not be the sole accessor for and by the law of scriven and scroven, the which not proven.

Seconds later, we are across the Strand and into Joe Allen.  My sisters drink Dubonnet with a twist; I have a White Russian, which I suck through a transparent straw.  I feel a welling tide of misery, because I think I know why this has happened.

Back at home, my boy waits for me on the doorstep.  I have taken away his key.  This is he of the burning eyes, the hacking cough, the raccoon skin hat.  He is skint, although next week he will be minted.  He can be seen this weekend in one of the aspirational supplements, in a shoot for trenchcoats.  He is living with a girlfriend in Marlow, but he comes home when she is too stoned to cook or there is no lavatory paper.  They support a vigorous habit between them.  My father knew about supply and demand.  My son hawks violently into a paper handkerchief and says, I'm ill.  I feel really ill and look at this.

He shows me a newspaper article about someone he knows vaguely. It is Jake Myerson. 
My boy says, you wouldn't do that, would you?
And I say, no, of course not! Fuck, no.  I would never tell anyone anything. 
And then we stand on the step together and have a smoke.


  1. Mrs P, I feel for you. My pug is called Cornelia, I threw her at the TV set during Aguirre, d'ye recall?

    Whatever you do, leave the Tanqueray alone and stick to vodka. Yes, I know, I've said it before, but that makes it truer.

  2. Tempting though...? Maybe you could strike a deal and give your son a cut?

  3. Very nicely written, a pleasure to survey on a sunny Sunday morning.
    But, please, put my mind to rest on one point. (I live a sheltered life.) Please reassure me that a "White Russian" is some sort of beverage.

  4. It is a thing of rare beauty to see a graceful son hacking into a handkerchief. It is because they are young and beautiful anyway and because they have something nice to cough about. They are not coughing up old dissolution, rather they have been engaged in pleasant and vitally young activities thank you and now they’ll have a quick hawk up to prove it.
    It doesn’t work for rosy cheeked fat kids called Reginald. For them, they must blow their nose quickly and put that hanky away somewhere for god’s sake. (it’s a Mecca for germs)

  5. "Pourquoi faire une donation en avancement d'hoirie par acte notarié, avec réserve d'usufruit et clause de retour conventionnel, en bénéficiant des réductions sur les droits d'enregistrement?"

    Exhérédation ? Fongibilité ? Imputation des libéralités ?

    J'ai décidé de vivre c'est plus simple !!!

    "Why to do a donation in advancement of hoirie by act notarié, with reserves usufruit and clause of conventional return, while benefitting from the reductions on the recording rights?"

    Exhérédation? Fongibilité? Liberality imputation?

    I decided to live this is simpler!!!

    Mes respect aux héritiers ;)

  6. Look on the bright side, my dear. It's your daugther who's going to end up having to deal with the bank managers. That thought may make the slight more bearable.

  7. I'd pay someone to manage my finances - if I could afford it. Until someone manages my finances I probably wont be able to afford it. A viscous-oval. I need a red celt, now!

  8. Oh how similarities are revealed by these blogs. My Mother passed away just before Xmas and left my eldest brother in charge, what a mistake that will be. My eldest son hacks away in the mornings, a fag and cup of coffee is his heart starter.
    I have my own theory as to why your Dad did what he did, but I'm just an amateur psychologist, so will keep it to myself.
    Thanks for the great read.
    P.S. How long does it take to go through probate? I'm sure my brother will take as long as he can.

  9. There's a berth for you in the Ladies' Snug of the Berkshire Chapter of the Knights of the Stained Beermat, Mrs P. You'll only need your Mireille Mathieu impression to gain admittance. Then nobody leaves.

  10. This is painful stuff, Mrs P. "Where there's a will there's a family argument", so the truism has it. I recommend you try the simply life from now on; move to a remote cottage somewhere (Boyo must know some in his homeland) and then your family can visit you only when they're really desperate, or (hopefully) because they want to see you.

  11. Inky, your pug! How sweet that we both have the same breed. Mine is a black one, name of Damson, direct descendant of one of Lady Brassey's prizewinners. I am trying to wean myself off Tanqueray, but failing. Have you tried Tanqueray Ten? It's to buy.

    Scarla, I don't like the words "cut" or "deal" used anywhere near my boy. They act as an open sesame. It is important for parents to keep a healthy distance.

    Kevin, I have dealt with bank managers these 35 years or more. They used to like me. I used to like them. A small, stuffy office with a safe in the corner, a leather-bound blotter, a photograph of a porcine wife in a silver frame. Occasionally, particularly on Fridays, a small drink would be offered, or some avuncular comfort. On the "extension" telephone, Miss Trubshaw would be told not to put any incoming calls through. What days! Now - change and decay in all around I see. Open-plan hideousness, bescreened "consultation areas", coffee machines. And the terrifying youth of these drones! And (what is worse) many of them WOMEN. It is beyond reason.

  12. Wendolina, how nice to see you! Are you so minted that you need supervision? I doubt it. And who is this Red Celt you pine for? Surely not Mick McGahey?

    Farrish, you and I are body fascists to a T. There is something glamorous about a thin child 's expectoration after a good night. The contents of his hankie often suggest that he has been up shoveling anthracite, but you are right. Die Kaufkraft der Jugendlichen - sie erfullen alle dieselbe Funktion. Love to all at Hendon Reform, as ever.

    Gadjo, the simple life would give me hives, as you know fine well. No, this is a PHASE like any other, and I intend to make hay while the sun shines by moaning on and on about it on this glamorous blog of mine. But, don't despair! Next month I am off to Jumby Bay with Numby, and I will regale you with tales of such cosmopolitan loucheness, such mindless consumption, that you will know I have my Mojo back.

  13. Mireille Mathieu is just the tip of the iceberg, Boyo. I then segue into my Francoise Hardy impersonation, hitting the money note in Mon Amie La Rose, followed by a song of my own composition which pays tribute to Salut les Copains. Kevin Musgrove can be pressed into service as Johnny Halliday, if absolutely neccessary, or he can do Guy Lux if his suit's back from the cleaners.

    Hello, Vicus. A White Russian is a cheerful concoction of Vodka, Kahlua (or Tia Maria if you have access to your mum's sideboard. She will have bought a bottle in 1971, and it will still be safe) and cream (or milk if you've got a cholesterol thing going on). Ice, if you like. I drink it because I believe it to be nutritious, and it saves time - you know, sitting down, eating, that kinda thing. The transparent straw is my own twist; some men find it mesmerising.

  14. Yes, but is your pug aerodynamically well designed for use as a missile? Is your sister?

  15. Crabtree, mon brave! Raconter tout serait impossible, mais les vainqueurs prennent immediatement les vices des vaincus.
    Truly lovely to see you again! As ever, your words are impossible to fault.

    Grump, it's grisly, that's what. Mr Oetzmann says This thing'll run and run, but then he's on £300+ an hour. Have just had an invoice for "Various Disbursements". As nothing has been disbursed, I have sent him a tenner and told him to look snappy. Good luck with yours, and if you are all on speakers by the end, then I will apply to Pope Benedict for Miracle Recognition application forms on your behalf.

    Inky, I would never propel that innocent beast! He brings me the sort of pleasure that is best not dwelt on. I mean companionship; you know, a girl's best friend is her doggie kinda vibe. My sister Cornelia is designed for nothing more or less than what she is: a bombed-out Alma Cogan type with a habit on a heroic scale. Married to a frum, she is the least observant of us, and last Friday went to Rottingdean to have Oral Enhancement, which is the new phrase for cosmetic dentistry. As ever, I read between the lines.

  16. Layers and layers of family stuff there and I'm sure you're right about his reasons which is caring about you rather than shunning you.
    How apt - the green ribbon - what with St Pat's day and all.

  17. Pat, it's the pits, to be sure, to be sure. And that is the only concession to Hibernia chez Pouncer; and I'm a day late. The debacle at Maroon's this weekend has made me very wary of our Dunnes Stores' cousins.

  18. Beauty is all very well but one becomes bored after it's been in the house for three days.....

    I'm paraphrasing someone, Oscar Wilde perhaps?