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Courtjester
November 16th, 2011, 07:16 PM
‘Man In Debt’ concerns the correspondence and other interactions between a finance company, a man with mortgage payment arrears and the two firms of solicitors involved. As the principals move from hostility to a kind of rapport, their legal representatives go the opposite way, with farcical consequences. It is intended that, barring any unforeseeable obstacles, the schedule of postings will be similar to that of the Courtjester’s Madazine, i.e. three instalments per week.


* * *

MAN IN DEBT


The Cast

Brian Bodkin, of Aytuzi Finance Company, Newton Godfrey.
Cedric King, of Little Chinfold.
Stephen Rook, of Aytuzi Finance Company.
Henry Blaimire, of Trask, Blaimire & Co., Solicitors, Lower Newton Godfrey.
Lionel String, of Holliday & String, Solicitors, Chinfold Major.
The Editor, Chinfold Parish Magazine.

* * *


From:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey
10 February


To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Mr King,

I write with reference to our letters of 8 and 19 December last and 20 January, none of which elicited a response from you. The current position is that your required mortgage repayments are in arrears to the extent of £930.60, this being six months at £155.10 a month.

We at Aytuzi are understanding people and appreciate that there must be some reasonable explanation for your failure to reply. Our representative, Stephen Rook, has called at your house several times, but has not succeeded in contacting you, though he informs me that he has seen you in your living room and that you have refused to answer his repeated ringing of the doorbell and knocking. Though his efforts continue, we cannot allow this position to deteriorate further without taking steps, so unless we hear from you within seven days from the date of this letter, we shall put the matter into the hands of our solicitors, who will apply on our behalf to obtain an order for possession of your property.

I urge you to accept that this is a most serious matter. We do not lightly dispossess our borrowers, but in these circumstances, we appear to have no choice. If you wish to avoid the proposed action, please contact me by telephone or return post.

Yours faithfully,

Brian Bodkin
Credit Controller


* * *


From:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold
12 February


To:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey


Dear Brian Bodkin,

So, it’s Dear Mr King, is it? Ooh, lah-di-dah. So polite. Why don’t you say what you really have in mind? By all means address me as ‘Dear Churl’, or ‘Dear Villein’, or any form that implies forelock-tugging or brow-knuckling? After all, that’s your game, isn’t it? Humiliate them. Grind them into the dust! Well, you are at the wrong address here. If you were seeking a foeman worthy of your steel, you have found him. By the way, I am surprised that you didn’t close your letter with Your obedient servant’ – suitably Dickensian, don’t you think?

You have the right name for your job. According to my dictionary, a bodkin is an instrument for piercing holes. Somehow I see you as an anthropomorphised version of this tool. Well, broddle away. You will find that you are no more efficient than anyone or anything else in getting blood from a stone. I cannot give you what I do not have. I wonder if it ever occurs to people like you, sitting in air-conditioned offices and being whisked to and fro by upmarket company cars, that some of us are out here in the real world, where unpleasant things happen at times. I have lately been assailed more than somewhat by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – not that you would care. Is your cigar drawing well? And what about your cut-rate mortgage? I’ll bet you have no trouble in keeping up the repayments.

By the way, I note your address with some interest. White Horse Yard, eh? Well, that’s as fine a misnomer as I’ve yet come across. I thought the baddies were supposed to have black horses, to match their hats and hearts. Fear not, Dear Mr Bodkin. We shall have our high noon in due course, and you will find that I am quick enough on the draw. Did you ever see a good taut Western? If you’re familiar with the genre, think of yourself as the evil one, facing a comeuppance. Jack Palance in ‘Shane’ springs to mind.

On further consideration – I didn’t intend to go on about this but the attitude you exude provokes payment in your own coin – I cannot avoid the thought that those in your line of work would shoot people in the back. I can just see you puffing the smoke from that many-notched six-gun, as I lie face-up in the street. Make sure you engage the safety catch before you peer into the barrel. I wouldn’t want you to blow your face off at the moment of triumph. Alternatively, you might try to visualise yourself as Genghis Khan, counting that infamous stack of skulls – 4,000, was it? Adding my bonce to the pile would be a nice touch.

I am bound to comment on the taste of your company. I mean, Unit 3 doesn’t seem to quite fit the rest of the address, does it? Incongruity is the word that springs to mind. Where is your imagination? Couldn’t you call it, say, 3, The Mews, or something equally appropriate? But then, for anything I know you may be situated above ‘Sid’s Garage’, or in some other location befitting your miserable trade. Come to think of it, if you were adjacent to a car-mechanic, you would be quite well placed for service and spares for your limo. One half doesn’t know how the other half lives, right? I am reminded of the Chinese saying, ‘Who travel on horseback know not the toil of those who go by foot’.

Now, it is – God knows – no part of my responsibilities to give you tips on how to conduct your particular brand of usury, but I have a suggestion for you. It involves a handicap for me – rather like a golfer giving an opponent a few strokes to make things fair. Don’t worry, I can stand it. My idea is that you should not stop at seeking a simple order for possession. Why don’t you go the whole hog and apply for foreclosure? I am not a shyster – sorry, lawyer – and therefore perhaps don’t grasp every legal nuance involved, but as I see it, there is an important difference between the two procedures. If you get an order for possession, you will, upon evicting me and selling the house over my head, have to account to me for the subsequent sale, after raking off your booty. If you were to go for foreclosure, you would have the boundless satisfaction of not only throwing me out, but keeping all the ill-gotten gains. What a bonanza for you! With property prices running as they are, even the rabbit hutch I call home (yes, home – do you understand that word?) is worth a good deal more than it was when I bought it. If you play this right, you could scoop the pool. Why stop at just damaging a life, when you could destroy it?

With respect to your threat to let loose the Hounds of Hell, I must tell you that I am not entirely without resources. Oh yes, I do have legal representation. If your dogs are unleashed, they will meet their match. Of course, like me, my lawyers will be at a disadvantage, in that they will play the game according to what are generally considered as standards of decency. I have no confidence that your terriers will be restrained by any such scruples. When all is said and done, your aim is to win, no matter what the means. I imagine you have no concept of sports etiquette. The honourable bowler stifles his appeal in a doubtful case, while the right-thinking batsman walks off before waiting for the official decision, when he knows he nicked the ball or was well and truly trapped leg before wicket. You don’t grasp that, do you?

I must go now, as I have a million things to do. After receiving this letter, you will probably slump in front of your television set for the evening. There will be no such respite for me. I had a few other points in mind, but my guess is that we shall be corresponding for quite a while, so I will save them for later. Meantime, you can put this lot in your pipe and smoke it. Oh, silly me: we agreed on cigars, didn’t we? In spite of your vicious attitude, I hope that all is well with you and I am confident that this trifling matter will end satisfactorily. In passing, may I suggest that we get onto first-name terms? This could smooth things considerably, so I will make a start.

Yours in thrall,

Cedric


To be continued.

* * *

Courtjester
November 19th, 2011, 06:53 PM
From:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey
14 February


To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Mr King,

Communication at last! I suppose we must accept that even a nasty letter is better than total silence. You’re really quite vituperative when you get going, aren’t you? However, you are in error on a number of points and while I am under no obligation to refute them, I will do so.

As to this office being air-conditioned, my facilities comprise an inadequate convector heater and an even less satisfactory cooling fan. With regard to the sumptuous limousine of your imagination, you may care to note that I do not have a car of any kind. In fact I travel to work by bicycle, which at this time of year in particular can be hazardous. Only two weeks ago, I was forced off the road by a young tearaway, driving what I took to be one of the company-provided vehicles which so arouse your ire. That incident did the same for me, especially as I fell into a ditch and suffered a severe head wound.

You are also wide of the mark with your comment about a concessionary mortgage rate. My wife and I rent a small flat, so there is no house-loan involved. My firm does not provide special rates for staff and the truth is that I cannot afford to buy a dwelling of any kind. Yes, that startles you, doesn’t it? Here I am, working six days a week – sometimes Sunday afternoons, too (the mornings are for church) – and owning a property is for me pure dreamland. Sad that we live in one of the dozen or so wealthiest countries in the world, yet passably skilled people (I hope you will agree that I qualify here) who work as much as sixty hours a week cannot get into the mainstream housing market. You don’t know how lucky you are – or have been until now. By the way, unlike some of us, I do pay all my bills – promptly, please note.

Your plethora of blunders continues, in that you refer to ‘my’ cigars and – albeit metaphorically – pipe. I can tell you that the former are beyond my purse, much as I would love the odd Cuban job at times. I did try a pipe, but could never keep it alight for more than three minutes. If you know the secret, perhaps you would let me in on it and I will have another go. The truth is that I am in the throes of quitting cigarettes. I never liked them, but got into the habit as a result of the stress involved in working here. It is no easy matter to pursue recalcitrant borrowers. However, I don’t wish to exaggerate. Bearing in mind that I was made redundant from my previous position two years ago, I am now doing as well as a man so recently consigned to the scrap heap might reasonably expect, and have some hope of renouncing the weed in the coming months.

As for your animadversions regarding respectively firearms and heaps of skulls, it pains me to continue combing through your howlers, but if you insist on setting yourself up as an Aunt Sally, you are sure to attract a few missiles. Permit me to lob a trio of them.

First the western scenario you envision implies that I would be using a large-calibre handgun, most likely a .44 or .45. If I were to plug you from the rear, you would almost certainly land with your face down, not up. Second, my weapon would be a revolver, which would not have a safety catch, but would be secured by my allowing the hammer to rest on an empty chamber. That is why the good old six-shooter was really a five-shot job. I guess some revolvers still are, but don’t quote me on this. As you are apparently a western buff, I shouldn’t need to draw your attention to anything so obvious. Third – it is almost embarrassing for me to point this out – the man with all the skulls was Tamerlane, who came along a little later than Genghis Khan. Oh dear, you seem to be equally ill-informed in matters of the Wild East and the Wild West. If you wish to bandy words, perhaps you should do the necessary research. I am disappointed. Still, it is clear from your comment about payment in kind that you understand the concept of reimbursement. Judging from your record with us, one would not think so.

With reference to the office here, you might like to know that the ‘Sid’s Garage’ you mention would be a welcome change. This place is situated above a retail electrical outlet and the din from below is enough to drive a man to distraction. It’s all pop stuff, molto forte, with a thunderous bass that throbs like a major headache. I can’t differentiate between one alleged song and another. It’s just a continuous racket. I’ll bet you wouldn’t care to swap.

As for the suggestion that I slump in front of the TV, you are once more adrift. It is true that my wife and I tend to view on Saturday and Sunday evenings, but for the rest of the time I attend night school three times a week – learning never ceases – and my wife is very active here, in that she runs a play-group for children of pre-school age and works for the Samaritans by telephone. Furthermore, we have our own two young ones, so by the time we have done our respective duties – a concept which I suspect may be unfamiliar to you – we have few opportunities for lounging.

Lest you should think that you have drawn a complete blank in your assessment, I must say that not all your harpooning was misdirected. You mention that we might proceed for foreclosure in respect of your property. Frankly, I did not appreciate the distinction between the course you suggest and the usual application for a possession order. You really shouldn’t hand ammunition to your adversaries in this way. However, I have considered the implications and am impelled to tell you that, contrary to your obvious conclusions, you are not dealing with rogues who wish to profit from your kind advice. We at Aytuzi intend to act in the right spirit and, after what seems likely to be the usual process, shall account to you in our standard manner, i.e., with assiduous attention to your interests. However, I am bound to wonder whether you may be in the wrong business. Have you ever thought about a career in the financial world?

You mention the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Believe me, I am accustomed to them, but you do not say in what way they have affected you. Why not be a little more forthcoming? How has fate bludgeoned you? It is late in the day, but there is a possibility – admittedly an outsider – that something may be salvaged from this unfortunate affair. We are not heartless here and there is a chance that with goodwill on both sides, a rescue may be effected. Do contact us again.

Another point that strikes me arises from your observation that after a possible dispossession, your house would be sold over your head. Well, if you are evicted, the property could hardly be disposed of in that way, could it? Think about this.

Overall, your letter offers a modicum of entertainment, though your assessment of this company in general and me in particular is almost as wrong as it could be. If I were you, I would drop psychology studies – or take them up.

With regard to your closure, I must say that the ‘yours in thrall’ bit seems a little quaint. As you also allude to Dickens, I wonder if you are the one living in the wrong century. Get up off your knees, man. You are no more or less a serf than the rest of us – as your generally combative tone implies.

You refer to our solicitors as the Hounds of Hell. Again you are wrong. They are decent, middle of the road people, who will not dun you without good reason. Now, stimulating though this exchange may be, facts are facts and we have still no alternative but to act as I have already indicated, unless you show willingness to honour your obligations. By all means use my forename when making contact if that suits you, but remember that the bottom line is what counts.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Bodkin
Credit Controller


* * *

Memo from Aytuzi Finance Company Head Office to area representative Stephen Rook.
15 February

Steve,

Regarding your efforts to get to grips with the elusive Cedric King, I attach copies of my recent letter to him, his reply and my response to same. I shall pass the matter to our solicitors, but would be grateful if you could keep trying to interview the man. My feeling is that he is procrastinating, the idea being to avoid payments to us until his property value has increased sufficiently to make it worth his while to be evicted and rehoused, pending receipt of his share of the sale proceeds. No doubt he will then bamboozle some other party into giving him a loan to support his further adventures.

It was good to see you at the Christmas get-together. Nice new wheels you have there, but of course you need them.

Brian



* * *

From:

Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey
17 February

To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Sir,

We have received instructions from Aytuzi Finance Company in respect of your failure to maintain mortgage repayments, the amount outstanding being £930.60. It is our intention to proceed for an order for possession of your property, the initial step being the issuing of a summons. Unless you make a payment in full settlement within seven days of the date of this letter, the action will commence. You may pay direct to our client or via ourselves and may do so in cash or by cheque, though in the latter case, the item would need clearance in order for proceedings to be halted.

Yours faithfully,

H. E. Blaimire
Partner



To be continued.

* * *

Courtjester
November 20th, 2011, 06:46 PM
From:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold
17 February

To:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey

For the attention of Brian Bodkin

Brian,

My dear fellow, I had no idea that your personal circumstances were as you describe them. Allow me to commiserate with you and, by extension, with your obviously long-suffering wife, who I have no doubt has a right to better things, especially when one takes account of her voluntary activities, which I assume are unpaid. It would distress me to hear of filthy lucre being involved. I might be able to offer you a few tips, though that naturally depends on your being more reasonable than hitherto in this piffling matter of a few monthly payments.

First, let me say how sorry I am to hear about the position in your office. Convector and fan indeed. You surely deserve something more than that. Can’t you get your boss to spring for, let’s say, a storage heater or two? On second thought, perhaps not. He (I assume it is a ‘he’ – the ladies would not be so cruel) will have that mindset which demands squeezing until the pips squeak, and will be doing the same to you as to his captive debtors. I mean, for goodness sake, working all hours God sends for such a taskmaster, then being unable to buy your own place. This is outrageous and I feel sure we can do something about it.

I will give some thought to the more fundamental aspects of your position over the coming days, but right now I am minded to offer an immediate word of advice. Please do not persist with your efforts to stop smoking. Believe me, this is the wrong time. In order to take such a step, one needs a certain constellation of events, and you do not have it at present. Cigarettes are not nice things, so this leaves us with a pipe or cigars. I accept that, in your current state, you can hardly indulge in the products of, say, Henry Upmann or Ramon Allones. However, you don’t know what you are being spared. I can tell you that Havanas take a chap’s breath away no end. Were that not so, I would send you a couple from my own stock.

So, we are left with the pipe. Now, don’t stint yourself here. I recommend a fine straight-grain, but only you know the depth of your pocket. As for keeping the thing going, there is a technique involved, and here again I am willing to help with a few pointers. I still have a tin of the herbal smoking mixture I once used, and would be happy to send you a sample. You need only ask. I can tell you that you will have no trouble keeping the stuff alight, as it is tinder-dry and burns like a forest fire. Unfortunately, flammability is not the only quality it shares with parched woodland (think about inhaling the output of blazing twigs), so its effect on the palate is deleterious. Still, it would get you accustomed to maintaining a steady draw. You could regard it as, so to speak, a nursery slope, from which you could graduate to a cut plug or a black twist. Anyway, you have my address if you need help.

I am in complete sympathy with you in the matter of those pestilential people below your office. I was once a member of an old and most distinguished private library, which occupied premises above a place like the one you mention. I tried – oh, how I tried – to get the administrators concerned to remonstrate with the culprits. It was all in vain and I resigned. I regret the episode to this day. Yes, Brian, I failed. Not easy to think that of me, is it?

I am digressing here, but would like to know what you are studying at night school. I cannot escape the feeling that if your exertions are in the field of commerce, you may be facing the North Wall of the Eiger. You might like to know that I did that (I mean climbed it, not just faced it) many years ago, during one of my visits to Switzerland, a country I didn’t like much. Very orderly and all that, but somehow a bit antiseptic.

As you did not grasp the difference between possession orders and foreclosure, I suggest that you direct your efforts to English land law. If you do so, you will find the field quite knotty, but I have every confidence in your ability.

Brian, I cannot think what has become of my manners. I should have started this letter by offering you my sympathy in respect of your road accident. I hope you are battling back to full health. You might like to know that I was involved in a similar incident some time ago, when I ran over a cyclist while on my way home from a late-night party. The fellow turned out to be quite troublesome and made a terrible fuss. Admittedly his machine was wrecked, but his personal discomfiture was limited to a broken leg, various lacerations, an injury to his neck (which he insisted on keeping in one of those brace things for a few months), plus damage to what he claimed was his best suit – a set of off-the-peg rags which could not have cost him much.

I apologise for returning to sporting analogies, but having perceived at once that this chap was disposed to conduct himself like a footballer who takes a dive in the hope of securing a penalty, I had to do some quick thinking. While he was writhing around, feigning genuine discomfort, I took the precaution of removing the battery from his front lamp and smearing a little roadside mud – happily we had rain that day – over his rear reflector, thus placing him in a questionable position with regard to his bike’s roadworthiness. Had he chosen to make anything of the matter, his situation in the case of police intervention would have been precarious. In fact, in all probability he would not have had a leg to stand on. Well, he would have one leg, but you know what I mean. Anyway, I replaced his steed and his wardrobe, without prejudice – you will surely be familiar with this legal term and will understand that my actions stemmed from goodness of heart, and did not imply any culpability on my part.

In your case, I am bound to wonder whether you were wearing a crash helmet. Personally, I think those things are a little sissified, but if they not legally required now, they surely soon will be. The law is creeping into every corner of our lives. What happened to common sense? I blame these PC types, who will not be satisfied until everyone is as dreary as they are.

Anyway, the point here is whether that tap on the head you received has impaired your faculties, especially with regard to my case. Cranial shocks can induce odd mental developments. Are you experiencing mood swings? Your aggressive attitude toward me indicates as much. Overall, you strike me as a level-headed man, not given to vindictiveness. I recommend that you get someone to give you a check-up, with emphasis on the parietal lobe.

I was sorry to hear of your earlier redundancy, but delighted to note that you re-mounted the horse of industry – well, employment of a kind. It’s no disgrace to be considered surplus to requirements. That happened to me some years ago, but look at me now – temporarily embarrassed, but fundamentally as right as rain. No doubt the same will apply to you.

You ask whether I ever thought of a career in finance. I did, but rejected the idea. How can one make a lasting impact on world affairs by merely juggling with other people’s money? I am dealing with far more important things, as you will learn in due course – there is more up my sleeve than an arm.

Before it slips my mind, allow me to thank you for the corrections to my remarks concerning gunplay and skulls. You are right on both counts and have risen in my estimation. I was wrong about revolvers and have no excuse. The Mongol thing is different, in that I had simply confused Tamerlane with Temujin, which was the original name of Genghis Khan. You might consider letting me off with that one.

Now, I have a bone to pick with you, in that I must raise a distasteful matter. It is most regrettable that you have freed the dogs I mentioned earlier. Your solicitors have sent me a most offensive letter, which I propose to treat with the contempt it deserves. I shall ignore it on a personal level, but have referred it to my own legal boys, who will know what to do.

I am shocked and distressed to learn that you are behaving in this way, especially as we are establishing such a promising personal rapport. My suggestion is that we let the lawyers get on with their work, which need not interfere with our bonding. By the way, your fellow mentioned a seven-day period of grace, apparently a further spell in addition to the one you spoke of. I wonder if the impending summons will offer another seven days. Am I to take it that I shall have at all times an irreducible time-span of one week to settle? If so, why the action at all? Incidentally, your Mr Blaimire sounds like a complacent, sclerotic, curmudgeonly old bug, who has probably never known a day’s adversity in his life. What was it? Eton, Sandhurst and the Guards, I’ll wager.

Brian – please reciprocate in the matter of first names – interesting though it is to correspond with you, there are other things clamouring for my attention. I am sure that this little spat will work out to the benefit of both of us. In passing, I must mention that I have seen a fellow hovering around here in a posh black car. I hope he has nothing to do with you. If he has, and if he was the one who tried to wreck my doors, please tell him that, owing to a tragic accident in boyhood, I am hard of hearing. Yes Brian, for some of us life is not a rose-strewn path.

Let me know how things go. Also, do stop worrying. I just know you are a little worked up but life is too short for such agitation. My regards to your wife – and give young Jimmy and Sandra each a pat on the head from me.

Yours ever,

Cedric

* * *

From:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major
21 February

To:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey

For the attention of H. E. Blaimire.

Dear Sirs,

Your letter of 17 February to our client Mr Cedric King of Poplar House, Halfpenny Lane, Little Chinfold has been passed to me, with a request that I contact you. I fully understand the position, but would ask you to consider that Mr King has had a series of severe setbacks in both business and personal life. It was as a result of these troubles that he felt himself somewhat disorientated and failed to respond to your client’s demands for payment.

There is no dispute about the amount outstanding. However, Mr King’s affairs are taking a turn for the better and if you could see it in your way to extend, even for a further week or two, the latitude offered to him, I feel that he will be able to meet his commitments. I hope you will find it within yourselves to prevail upon your client to the extent suggested.

By the way, have I the pleasure of corresponding with the H. E. Blaimire who opened the batting for the county second eleven about twenty-five years ago? If so, let me say how much I regret that you did not make it to the first team. No doubt that arose from the fact that there were two splendid openers already in situ. I am reminded of the position of the great Percy Holmes in the 1930s. Had Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe not been such giants, Percy would have had his day in the England side. Anyway, the Blaimire leg glance was a sight to behold. Can you still do it?

Please let me have your views on this Aytuzi/King case.

Yours fraternally,

Lionel String
Partner


To be continued.

* * *

Courtjester
November 23rd, 2011, 06:49 PM
Memo from area representative Stephen Rook to Aytuzi Finance Company Head Office.
22 February

Brian,

Success at last, albeit highly qualified. Yesterday evening, I managed to speak, very briefly, with Cedric King. Have you ever dipped your hand into a bucketful of eels? If so, you will know what confronted me. I tried to get a grip on things, really I did, but the man cannot be pinned down. I met him as he was leaving his house – quite a pad, by the way. He was dressed as a clergyman and pushed me aside, saying that he had vital matters to deal with. He’s a big lad, about six-two and built like the proverbial brick privy. (Note that I eschew the coarser term.) I didn’t fancy trying conclusions with him – not through any anxiety about the outcome, but because I remembered the last time I was obliged to subdue an awkward debtor. But for your excellent soft-soaping job, that incident could have cost us a bob or two.

I did follow our man, discovering that he is a member of his local amateur dramatic society. It seems they are putting on ‘The Importance’ and he is the clerical one, Canon Chasuble if I remember the play rightly. Please don’t take me to task about this, as I’m not very well up on Oscar. Hardly wild about Wilde, ha, ha.

I waited outside the hall where rehearsals were in progress, but nobody emerged before midnight, owing – I later learned – to the fact that these particular thespians conclude their evenings with long sessions of bottled conviviality. I called it a day, but intend to keep at it, though I think you should proceed with the legal action. Rest assured that I shall report further developments, if any.

Steve


* * *


From:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey
25 February

To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Cedric,

Thank you for your letter of 19 February, which raises a number of interesting points. Regrettably, most of them do not bear upon the real nature of our correspondence. Nevertheless, the legal machinery grinds on without regard to our exchanges, so there is no reason why I should not respond to your comments.

I am grateful for your advice in the smoking matter. Though my cigarette days are surely now numbered, I would not wish to deplete your stock of Cuban cigars, which I am informed are not rolled on the thighs of maidens, by moonlight or otherwise. Sorry if this destroys any illusions you may have had to date.

I have discussed with my wife your suggestion that I might try again with a pipe. Good straight-grain briars don’t grow on trees. Well, now that I’ve said that, I’ll leave it in. They grow under trees, don’t they? Or rather . . . well, you know what I mean. Anyway, although the investment you suggest is a considerable one, I intend to give it a go. Our local tobacconist has a nice almost straight-grain job from a firm that is a household name, but the price is hair-raising. I had no idea that a pipe could cost so much. Still, you say that one should not spare the expense and I shall take your advice on that point, though I’ll give your herbal smoking mixture a miss. In passing, I wonder about the range of your tastes. I mean, on the one hand you tout the best that Havana has to offer, while on the other you were not above trying a product so obviously resembling old socks.

Do not distress yourself about the conditions of employment here. They are rather primitive, but one can get used to almost anything. I did once work for a much larger company where the amenities were better. However, the psychological pressures were enormous. One simply had to be the quintessential corporate man. Thinking for oneself was out of the question. Edicts were handed down from the ivory tower and one had to implement them. Frankly, it was hellish. This place has its faults, but on the whole I prefer it to what I experienced earlier.

Where did you get the bit about little Jimmy and Sandra? We do indeed have two children, one of each – did I mention that earlier? – but their names are Adam and Annie. You must be confused, perhaps as a side-effect of your desperate (one hopes) struggle to extricate yourself from your financial plight. Adam is eight, Annie is six and both are doing fairly well, bearing in mind that they are now at school and not having an easy time of it, socially speaking. Until they started mixing with other people’s misbegotten brats, they were developing nicely. It was kind of you to think about them. My wife sends her regards.

As for night school, I am studying economics, with a view to getting a diploma in same. I must confess that I have had trouble with some of the formulas, as they are simple and elegant, but do not seem to correspond with real life. You can have all the J-curves and MV=PT equations you like, but events either run ahead of theory or confound it. I sometimes wonder whether all economists are clever charlatans. Their main stock in trade seems to be finding obscure synonyms for everyday words. Never say ‘gap’ if you can slip in ‘lacuna’ and don’t use ‘superfluous’ where ‘otiose’ will do. You probably know the kind of thing. Also, economists seem to hunt in pairs. I tire of hearing such things as ‘Gruber and Smithson found this’, while Morello and Jansen concluded that’ and Breitkopf and Jones had yet another view’.

I’m finding the whole business quite enervating and am giving serious consideration to your idea that I might try English land law. The trouble here is that we are thinking about emigration, so any studies here might be futile, as the statutes are, I suspect, different elsewhere. I really don’t know what to do.

You must forgive me if I have missed anything significant in your letter. To be honest, the fact is that I felt it necessary to secrete the thing, to avoid the possibility of my boss – he is a hard man – getting hold of it. Sadly, I don’t know where I put it. Isn’t that always the case when one dumps something in a safe place? Should it turn up, I will check it over. Meantime, if I have overlooked any important point, you will no doubt let me know.

In case you thought you had sweet-talked me out of heading towards my goal, let me say that, so long as Aytuzi is paying me, I shall do my duty. With regard to the timetable, there is sometimes a little slippage here and there, mostly arising from one or other party having other commitments. However, everything possible is being done to proceed as indicated to you. Don’t run away with the idea that you can escape the net by your efforts to temporise.

As it happens, our solicitors are a little short-handed right now. Trask, Blaimire is a two-partner outfit and the senior chap, Isiah Trask, is in Bermuda for a week or two. Normally, he would have dealt with your case, but I see that Henry Blaimire has stepped in. I will not go so far as to endorse your vitriolic comments about him, but do admit that he is a dry stick, looking down the barrel in terms of age, rather eccentric and given, especially in his correspondence, to abrupt changes of tack and bursts of intemperance, the level of which I find astounding at times. However, he is the most persistent and inexorable man I have ever known and will stick to you like a linseed poultice. Short of paying up, there is no way out of the Blaimire toils.

I know this must be very painful for you, but I must remain firm. Events will take their course and you are the only one who can bring about your salvation. Somehow, I cannot see the local authority rehousing you in a style to suit your taste, though it might have the odd disused chicken coop or something similar available. For heaven's sake, you are basically a man of substance, are you not? Show your paces! You can do it, Cedric. By the way, another monthly instalment has been racked up and you are now in arrear to the extent of £1,085.70. Can’t you try to see this thing from my end?

Best wishes,

Brian (Bodkin)


* * *


From:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey
27 February

To:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major

For the attention of Mr Lionel String

Dear Sirs,

Your letter of 21 February is to hand and I apologise for the slight delay in replying – my partner is not available at present, so I must cope.

With regard to the position concerning your client, Mr Cedric King, I am afraid we cannot allow any hiatus in the proceedings instituted by Aytuzi Finance Company. However, if Mr King is indeed putting evil times behind him, he may well intercede on his own behalf, in which case we would be quite happy to halt the proposed action. I am sorry that we cannot be more accommodating at the moment, but you will appreciate that our client has been very generous.

As for your comments on cricket, I believe you may be thinking of my cousin, Eric Blaimire, who was my junior by some years. Our shared H.E.B. initials have occasionally caused confusion, so I will henceforth sign off to you with the forename by which I am usually known. Eric distinguished himself on various ovals at about the time you mention. Sadly, he succumbed to some sort of illness and is no longer with us. I never wielded the willow and have no interest in any kind of outdoor sporting activity. To my mind, such pursuits should remain on the village green and be impervious to the commercial blandishments now so common.

I cannot resist an aside here. Are you the Lionel String who did such stirring deeds in what I will, borrowing from the annals, refer to as ‘the late unpleasantness’? I am thinking of Group Captain String of Bomber Command. If you are indeed the man in question, I would like to meet you and shake your hand. To return unscathed from 36 missions over such hostile terrain was a remarkable performance. I played some small part in those disagreeable proceedings, so hope I know when to doff my hat to a titan.

Assuming you are the String, I am surprised to learn that you have buried yourself in Chinfold Major. I don’t wish to be offensive, especially not to a fellow inhabitant of our fair county, but I did once travel through your town, if I may call it that. Frankly, once was enough. Incidentally, I wonder about the local history there. I note that there is a Chinfold Major and a Little Chinfold, which seems most illogical. Why not, I wonder, Major and Minor, or Little and Great? I am puzzled.

We must hope that the Aytuzi v King case will end amicably, but to reiterate, we cannot suspend the process at this stage.

Yours fraternally,

Henry Blaimire
Partner


To be continued.

* * *

Courtjester
November 26th, 2011, 07:18 PM
From:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold
3 March

To:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey

For the attention of Brian Bodkin

Dear Brian,

I can hardly contain the anguish induced in me by your latest letter. Are you trying to drive me to suicide? If so, are you doing quite well. Your own efforts, combined with the recent intervention of your bully-boy enforcer and those dreadful legal people, are having the effect you doubtless desire. I find it difficult to believe that, after all that has passed between us, you are still pursuing your course of encompassing my downfall. Have I not tried? Have I not given you invaluable advice? And yet you trail me like a bloodhound.

Despite everything, I am persuaded that this risible matter will come to a happy conclusion. All’s well that ends well. Fortunately, the solution is at hand. You will be interested to learn that I have a maiden aunt, Ethel, whose days, like yours with cigarettes, are numbered. The old girl has been hospitalised with a complaint which is unpronounceable to the layman but is, I understand, invariably fatal. I have substantial expectations here, as I mowed her lawn, gratis, for six months, two years ago. I also did her shopping for an unspeakably trying three-week period. Heaven knows how she lived for seven days at a time on a small loaf of white bread, a pound of potatoes, a handful of teabags and a packet of cream crackers. Still, mine is not to reason why people do such things and anyway, I was able to unload the task in question onto her next-door neighbour, who is another old girl with Spartan inclinations.

Ethel expressed her undying gratitude and being of the old school, will certainly deliver. I can’t put a date on it, but believe me, she is failing fast and the outcome will be more than satisfactory for me – and by extension, for you. Just hold your horses and everything will work out right.

I am delighted to learn that you are to re-start your efforts with the pipe. I know the kind of thing you have in mind and you can take my word for it, the one you are thinking of will draw like a mill chimney, and you will not even need a boy to crawl around, reaming its innards. In your present state of unawareness, you cannot imagine the pleasures that await you. Persevere, old boy. Incidentally, I never had any illusions about the manufacture of good Havanas. It’s a business, like any other, with workbenches and the like.

I am so at one with you with regard to your experiences as ‘corporate man’. I once worked for a company which is, let us just say, of world renown. As you may have gathered, I do not make a habit of speaking ill of any individual or group, but the wretched people actually made me carry mail around their silly little offices. Can you believe it? Me! I can tell you that they did not have the benefit of my services for very long. There was a contretemps and, well, you know how it is. I left with the dignity you would expect of me. Nevertheless, the blighters pursued me even after the event, whining about some footling discrepancy in petty cash and a few office requisites. I ask you, Brian, a quid or two, half a dozen sheets of postage stamps, a calculator and various other odds and ends, none of which would have been missed but for an unscheduled audit and inventory. And that in an age when top executives write their own terms in advance and come out smelling of violets, irrespective of whether they do well or foul up. I despair of current standards of morality.

I’m pleased to hear that you are contemplating a cessation of your studies of what is known as the dismal science, the practitioners of which are subject to even more ridicule than are lawyers. Did you hear that if all the economists in the world were laid end-to-end, they wouldn’t reach a conclusion, or that if they were laid end-to-end, nobody would be surprised?

The only economist who has ever aroused my admiration was the fellow who once advised one of our prime ministers. I well remember reading a mercifully short book he wrote, in which he was frank enough to say that economists know next to nothing about how an economy works, and were only marginally ahead of the layman in terms of understanding the subject. Well said, was my verdict. These people are like the proverbial generals, who fight the current war with the mentality that prevailed in the last one. Do you wonder that we are required to endure one crisis after another?

Has it ever occurred to you that gross domestic product is not necessarily a measure of national or personal satisfaction? I mean, if a building burns down – let us say killing a dozen people in the process – and has to be replaced, then an economist would register the funerals, reinstatement work and so on as a plus in GDP terms? If you have considered this, you may wonder what the deceased individuals’ relations would think. I have got through the whole of my forty-two years without worrying my head about economics, and I think you will agree that with the exception of the present hiccup, I have done quite nicely. Now, I implore you, do as I ask before it is too late. Change to another path. My comment concerning land law was merely a suggestion. I can tell from your letters that you are a free spirit, enmeshed in a system that will break you, if you allow it to. Why not try origami? The products are pleasing and the field is not too overcrowded.

As for your idea of emigrating, I don’t know what has possessed you, but can imagine only that you have been overcome by your tribulations. Do not yield to them! My goodness, Brian, you are an Englishman. Apart from the spreading of the Anglo-Saxon good word – don’t think that I denigrate that activity – what would face you? You must remember that ninety-nine per cent of the world’s population comprises foreigners. Where would you go? It is (barely) conceivable that you might find your feet in, say, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, or – and I hesitate to say this – the United States of America. You would have a hard time in the last-named place, as the order of the day there is dog-eat-dog and devil take the hindmost. Do you really want that? Of course not. You wouldn’t last five minutes.

Face it, Brian. You are at best partially qualified in the financial sphere, where many of us believe ourselves to be experts. Wherever you were to go, you would find yourself swilled away as in a vortex. Also, you have a family, and no matter what the immigration officers say, they are looking for strong-backed, weak-minded, footloose chaps to grovel around in mines, or sweat twelve hours a day on some grandiose project. Do you see yourself as a latter-day toiler on whatever scheme has replaced the Hoover Dam or the Snowy River thing.

Now to more prosaic matters. I fully understand your desire to keep our exchanges from the prying eyes of your chief. The truth is that I do not keep a full record of my correspondence – further evidence that I am not small-minded – so don’t know whether or not you have missed anything. If you have, I am sure it will re-emerge if it is important. Don’t give this another thought.

I am depressed by your continual nagging about the small matter that lies between us, especially as you have seen fit to state that yet another of these annoying monthly instalments has been added to my woes. This is almost too trivial to discuss. Can’t you think of the sweep of history? Remember the words of Omar Khayyam. His text is not to hand here, but he said something about one’s being oneself with yesterday’s seven thousand years. In case you don’t get it, he meant that after we have spent a little time on this plane, we pass on to join others who have come and gone. You may think this minor debt thing is important, but I ask you to accept that in the fullness of time, both of us will be forgotten. Nobody will care who owed what to whom.

I have already supplied you with information worth far more than the monetary sum you mention, and you don’t know what else I have to reveal – do not think that my resources are exhausted. This episode will result in greater benefits to you than to me. It is all a question of karmic balance. One keeps on doing the right thing and eventually one reaps the reward. Brian, you are dealing with a man of honour, as you will finally recognise. By the way, I have just heard that Aunt Ethel is declining further and faster, and as she does so, my prospects rise in direct proportion.

Now, I am extremely busy, so you must forgive me for closing here, much as I would like to go on. Don’t forget to give my love to your wife – did you tell me her name? – and to greet the children. Sorry about the Jimmy and Sandra thing. They are my sister’s offspring and I must have been befuddled – no wonder when I am being pursued by what at times seems to me like that cur in the Sherlock Holmes story about the Baskerville family. Yes, I know that the creature was singular and you are, God knows, plural. Incidentally, since you are basically a conformist, I wonder why you have limited yourself to siring two children. I believe two point four is the norm. Couldn’t you add just a little one? You know, sort of treat it like a bonsai tree. A little pruning here and there to ensure that it always stays slightly below half-size. I wouldn’t put that past you.

Do buck up now. The clouds will roll by.

Yours ever,

Cedric


* * *


From:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major
4 March

To:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey

For the attention of Mr Henry Blaimire. Re: Aytuzi Finance Company v King

Dear Mr Blaimire,

Thank you for your letter of 27 February. It is my turn apologise for a delayed reply. Mr Holliday is away from the office for a few days, which situation imposes an extra burden upon me, much as your partner’s absence does upon you.

I note with regret that you are unable to offer further accommodation to my client, Cedric King, in his current difficulties, especially as he has today advised me that his prospects, already much improved since the start of this affair, have advanced a further large step. However, if you cannot influence your client, so be it. Presumably we shall meet in the appropriate forum.

I am sorry to hear of the demise of Eric Blaimire. His leg side play was an adornment to the game. I well remember seeing him smite one of our country’s leading fast bowlers over the ropes three times in one over, in a manner which I would have loved to emulate. Admittedly, he was a little suspect on the offside – though his late cut was sound – but that was as naught compared with his superlative pulling, hooking, sweeping and glancing. A sad loss to all of us.

You may be pleased to learn that I have now, as it were, got my ducks in line with respect to identities. You must be the Blaimire. Who has not heard of the exploits of Captain Courageous’? I am lost in admiration when thinking of a man storming a Normandy pillbox when armed only with a bag of onions. You are too modest.

With regard to your comments concerning Chinfold Major, I take exception. It is true that this is a farming area, both arable and dairy, and that our environment is therefore somewhat malodorous at times. However, the social scene here is a thriving one. We have a good deal of activity, in the form of a photographic association (one of its members has recently been up the Amazon and Rio Negro as far Manaus, where he got some beautiful shots of the opera house), a chess club and a much-admired amateur dramatic society. Perhaps you may wish to reconsider your derogatory remarks?

Regarding your query about our local identity, I must tell you that this matter reaches back through the centuries. I cannot quote chapter and verse, but the feeling here seems to be that some local potentate decided in favour of Major and Little as against Major/Minor or Great/Little. Nobody here cares about this and I am bound to wonder why it is of any concern to you.

As to Lower Newton Godfrey, I do not wish to speak disparagingly of any part of the county we both love, but I sped through your area only two years ago and the only conclusion I drew was that it was as well that I was up to – though not exceeding – the speed limit. A lower pace would have been trying.

You mention Group Captain String, who gained such fame some time ago. I have no doubt that he was – perhaps still is – a fine fellow, but he was, or is, not related to me. Incidentally, unlike some people I do not dwell upon the past which, like a certain gentleman whose name escapes me, I regard as a foreign country with customs different from ours. On a somewhat related theme, I am much in sympathy with Kierkegaard, who I believe said that life can only be understood backwards, but unfortunately must be lived forwards. How true, and how much we owe to at least one Dane. In saying this, I do not underestimate the great philosopher’s compatriots, such as Tycho Brahe, Hans Christian Andersen and Niels Bohr. Perhaps I should include Victor Borge, too. Come to think of it, The Danes have done quite well, wouldn’t you say?

Bearing in mind our obviously differing views, it remains to be seen whether we shall enjoy the handshake you mention, but as it was once put, there is no such thing as the last word in diplomacy. Let us proceed and see what happens.

Please give me your views on the Aytuzi v King matter as it develops.

Yours fraternally,

Lionel String
Partner


* * *


Memo from area representative Stephen Rook to Brian Bodkin at Aytuzi Finance Company Head Office.
4 March

Brian,

Another near miss. As you know, I have several pressing cases in hand at present, but I have done my best to keep tabs on Cedric King of Little Chinfold. I visited his place this morning, but am still unable to report any meaningful progress. This arises from the fact that my efforts to interview him were frustrated.

I was psyched up for the occasion, but arrived to find a tangled mass of barbed wire on the front porch. I took photos and enclose copies, from which you will see that the obstacle in question was fastened to the wall by nails at both sides of the door.

I was confronted by a further and even more disquieting sight, in that it seems that Mr King keeps a leopard in his house. I saw the creature’s head and front paws resting on the back of a sofa under the living room window. While I was there, the animal remained motionless and did not have anything to say. But then, movement and growling (or whatever they do) were not necessary, right? As you know, I take my work seriously, but the idea of penetrating a barricade, only to be faced by a hundred and fifty pounds of feral felinity, was too much for even my constitution, which I think you will agree is not feeble.

I am put in mind of a case I heard of in Scotland some time ago, when the creditor’s representative and the Sheriff Officer visited a property to carry out an eviction, only to find that the mortgagor was sitting on the doorstep, pointing a shotgun at them. I suspect that our man is capable of something similar. We have dealt with oddballs before, but Cedric King is something else.

Being accustomed to what you once jokingly (I hope) called snooping and wheedling, I poked about locally, going so far as to distribute largesse in the form of five pints of bitter – that lot will be on my expense account and don’t you dare to query it – and was able to elicit some information about King. I already knew that he had not made a single mortgage repayment to us, but I learnt that he did something similar in his last house, eight miles from his present one, where he used every trick in the book, keeping his lender at bay for eleven months before he was evicted. Rumour has it that that was not his first caper of the sort, so your suspicion is well founded. However, our quarry is not universally ill-regarded in his neighbourhood. One informant – he cost me two pints – said that as far as the local community is concerned, King is widely considered a pillar and a bastion. At least I think those were the words, though I must say that my man was well into his cups and his speech was a little slurred.

My efforts continue.

Steve


* * *

To be continued.

Courtjester
November 27th, 2011, 06:47 PM
From:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey
6 March

To:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major

For the attention of Mr Lionel String. Re: Aytuzi Finance Company v King.

Dear Mr String,

Thank you for your letter of 3 March. I am sorry to note that you are not the String I had in mind: he must have been – perhaps still is – an extraordinary man. I imagine you are proud to share the name.

It is perhaps as well that you went through the Newton Godfreys at speed, as loitering lawyers from elsewhere, especially from the Chinfolds, are not always well received by the locals. That is merely a jest, you understand.

I see that you have a thriving social scene in your part of the world. It may interest you to know that while we cannot compete with you in matters of photography, we do have a chess club here, of which I am a founder member, though by no means the brightest star in our firmament.

Were we on closer terms, I would suggest a match – we can produce half a dozen players capable of giving a good account of themselves. My own trifling attainments go so far as to have lasted for forty-seven moves against a man who once managed a draw with Eugene Znosko-Borovski – admittedly in a simultaneous display by the master, who had twenty opponents. Also, though I play only third board, there are those who have confessed to quaking at my Evans Gambit. All in all, I think you would find that we can hold our own in any but the most distinguished company.

Please don’t disturb yourself about the late Eric Blaimire. He had a short life and a merry one. ‘Besser kurz und stramm als lang und schlabberig,’ as they say in Germany. I will spare you a feverish search through the dictionary by suggesting that ‘better short and taut than long and limp’ might do. Dear me, please don’t think in terms of the double-entendre – none is intended. I am simply being literal. The Teutons do have a nice way with words, don’t they? I have often thought that the German vocabulary has much to offer which we could profitably assimilate, but I won’t go on, as you may have a different opinion, on account of your wartime background. Oh, forgive me. I forgot for a moment that you are not the String.

As to Aytuzi v King, the matter is proceeding and we shall see what emerges. Speaking from our side, I can say that we are always open to discussion, though your client does seems to be unusually recalcitrant. Now, we are dealing with the question of tempus fugit, and I have a novel queen’s pawn opening twist which I wish to try out this evening. Please keep me advised of developments in the legal matter which consumes so much of our respective energies – social exchanges must not divert us from the interests of our respective clients.

Yours fraternally,

Henry Blaimire
Partner

* * *

From:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey
7 March

To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Cedric,

Thank you for the letter of 3 March. You are in luck, as I have been out of the saddle for a couple of days, and you missed by a hairsbreadth having to deal with my superior, Miles Garth, who is far less tolerant than I am. In fact, like a certain fictional character whose name escapes me, it could be said of our Mr Garth that the softest thing about him is his front teeth. Count your blessings.

You suggest that I am trying to drive you to suicide. What a ridiculous notion! Your self-destruction could hardly benefit anyone at Aytuzi. You seem to be an intelligent man – have I said that before? – so can surely see that it is in the best interests of all concerned that we should recover what you owe us, without our invoking every step of the legal process? If you cannot, you must be less bright than I have so far supposed.

Cedric, old chap, couldn’t you come up with something better than an ailing aunt? For goodness sake, that one was played out decades ago. In these enlightened times, nobody uses the Aunt Ethel ploy. For one thing, there aren’t enough old girls of that name to go round. I had thought better of you. Are you some kind of ghoul? One could be excused for thinking that of a man who lurks in wait of someone’s decease to make material gain. Try something more original. I am always willing to listen and learn. In the unlikely event that you are telling the truth, I offer my sympathy. It is always traumatic to part company with the near and dear.

I have digested your comments concerning economics and yes, I had not thought about this in the negative way you describe. Now that I have done so, I am even more despondent. You say that a catastrophe is good news in GDP terms. That’s a downer, isn’t it? I don’t want to continue our discussion of this subject, as it is too disturbing. Nor do I wish to take up your suggestion about origami. No doubt that area is open to new entrants. The same could be said of train-spotting or collecting beer mats. Cedric, the idea is to make a living. Do you get it? No, probably you don’t. Any better ideas?

It is true that you have offered a lot of advice, for some of which I am grateful, though the benefits to this side have so far been limited. You may be astonished to learn that I am familiar with the work of Omar Khayyam. However, I consider it mock-nihilistic. Do you not sometimes think that he was a forerunner of Thomas Hardy? The difference is that we know in our hearts that Khayyam was having us on, while Hardy’s gloom was serious. I’ll take Omar any day.

If you were trying to alarm me with your observations about karma, you have come a cropper. Cedric, we are here now and must act accordingly. Maybe you were as noble as they came in some earlier lifetime, but you are not acquitting yourself too well in this one. Anyway, with respect to Buddha I don’t wish to be disrespectful but I wonder how smart he was. I mean, didn’t he claim to have got enlightenment by staying under a tree for several days? And what did he learn? If you don’t know, I will tell you. He concluded that a life of hedonism was not satisfying. Well, one doesn’t need to sit beneath the green canopy to get that far, does one? What about doing the proper thing at all times? I mean, apart from a few psychopaths we all know the difference between right and wrong. Do you get the message?

I note your comments about the Baskerville brute pursuing you. Again, you are in error. I will not go into too much detail, but I have heard from our representative who, in seeking to speak with you, encountered barbed-wire fixed to your front door and saw a leopard in your lounge. Cedric, this is not playing the game. Try to be less territorial and you might find that our Mr Rook is not the ogre of your imagination – though I understand that he can bench-press three hundred pounds without working up a sweat. He has muscles in places where most chaps don’t even have places.

Oh, before I forget, your words about working for a large company reached the Bodkin funny bone. The difference between us is that I lost my previous job because of what is euphemistically called downsizing, while you were sacked for fiddling – and you’re doing the same again now, aren’t you? Come off it, Cedric.

Now, time is pressing, so I must close, and will do so by telling you that the Bodkins are not about to emigrate. Thank you for the steadying remarks on this subject. By the way, my wife, Susan, sends you her regards, as do Adam and Annie. Remember that entertaining though all this is, it does not relieve you of the requirement to cough up!

All the best,

Brian

* * *

From:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major
8 March

To:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey

For the attention of Mr Henry Blaimire

Dear Mr Blaimire,

Thank you for your letter of 6 March. I was interested to learn that you have a chess club there and that you personally have made something of a mark for yourself in the activity which someone – was it Siegbert Tarrasch? – described as like love or music in its capacity to make men happy. I agree. No doubt you know that the pastime was also once described as lying on the borders of game, art and science. Again, I concur. Come to think of it, I believe that was another offering from Dr. Tarrasch, who was obviously far from taciturn. Anyway, your efforts in confronting the man who made a decent show against Znosko-Borovski are noted, though perhaps you should not have revealed your hand with regard to the Evans Gambit. I am forewarned. However, in order to keep matters on an equal footing, I will tell you that our county champion once remarked that he thought my Sicilian Defence was quite useful.

As for whether you could give us a worthwhile match, I have doubt. You say that your people are capable of holding their own in any but the most distinguished company. That is perhaps an unfortunate comment, in that we here like to think of ourselves as being in that high category.

Possibly we could make an evening of it, if we were to handicap ourselves by offering you, say, a pawn per board start. We might for example remove all the queen’s knight pawns on our side. In saying this, I am mindful of the incident when the great Alexander Alekhine met a man on a train and invited him to play, offering him an initial two-pawn advantage. The other fellow asked how it was that the great man felt able to make such a gesture, when he did not know his intended opponent. If you know the story, you will remember that Dr. Alekhine replied to the effect that if he could not give such odds, he would know the man. It was a neat rejoinder and I cannot help feeling that it has some resonance with our respective positions.

You appear to take the demise of Eric Blaimire with remarkable composure. I can imagine only that you are a man of extraordinary sang-froid, or that you are exceptionally unworldly. For goodness sake, sir, the man was a poet at the crease. I make no apology for being repetitive in saying that it is a tragedy that he was denied an international career. That he should also have died prematurely was perhaps for him a blessing, in saying which I think of another of those German expressions obviously so dear to you, viz: Weil du arm bist, musst du früher sterben, weil du reich bist, musst du länger leiden. You hardly need a translator, but for what it is worth, I usually render this to the uninitiated as follows: Because you are poor, you must die earlier, because you are rich, you must suffer longer. I suspect you will agree that this captures the spirit. Forgive the digression. I was about to say that for lovers of cricket – surely one of the greatest civilising influences of the last few centuries – your cousin’s death was ineffably sad. That you do not appear to appreciate this is an indication of the gulf that lies between us. You give the impression of being a man of some years and I will err on the side of generosity by suggesting that your attitude to Eric’s leaving this plane is born of mellowness, rather than hardness of heart – or arteries. Whatever the reasons, you are right in implying that we find ourselves on less than intimate terms. One can only hope for some improvement.

With regard to the Aytuzi v King matter, events will take their course.

Yours fraternally,

Lionel String
Partner

* * *


To be continued.

Courtjester
November 30th, 2011, 07:07 PM
From:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold
10 March

To:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey

Dear Brian

Yes, your itinerant thug has been here again. Brian, Bri., how could you? This is below the belt. Is it not enough that I am beset with woes? Do you really find it necessary to put this roving hoodlum on my case? By the way, I still like his car.

I am forgetting my manners. Thank you for your letter of 7 March. I am so glad to learn that you have dropped the emigration thing. Believe me, there are problems everywhere and you cannot escape them by flight. That might have worked in the 1930s, when some people were trying to avoid fascism, but it is no solution now. You must stand and fight, especially – it seems to me – against your employer, who appears to be something of a martinet.

This brings me nicely to the matter of your company’s identity. Did you think you were fooling anyone with this Aytuzi business? If so, your head honcho must be less astute than I had originally imagined. I mean, it’s so transparent, isn’t it? Merely a kind of word-play, with American connotations. I mean Aytuzi is simply a variation of A to Z, or as our cousins across the pond would say, A-two-Zee. Get it? This is too facile for words. I suppose that when he is not ‘taking out’ his US victims, your boss amuses himself by making mincemeat of their British counterparts. Does he ever invite you to revel on his yacht? No, I thought not. A sixty-footer, is it?

I should have gone to a building society, or even – a novel thought, this – a bank, but I admit I was seduced by your blandishments. Well, you may think that your spider has got its fly, but in fact what you have caught is a Tartar. You say I am not your only defaulter. Surprise, surprise! How does it work? Do you collect people like a lepidopterist gathering butterflies? I can see you pinning your specimens to a display pad. Or is it more like the wartime fighter-pilot business? Do you slap ‘kill’ stickers on your notice board? I can just see your hitman applying another swastika to the side of his car as a further enemy goes down. I note in passing that, like yourself, he is well-named for the work he does. Mr Rook fits the bill perfectly.

How are you doing with the pipe? I hope my advice is proving helpful. I could also offer you a tip or two in the matter of diet, which I think may be at the seat of your problems. Do you get enough roughage? I have every confidence in Susan’s – I am assuming she is the main cook – culinary competence, but my guess is that your savagery stems from over-consumption of meat. Do you realise what tortures animals suffer and what dementia is created in them, so that you can enjoy leaner, cheaper joints? Well, you are ingesting all that misery. No wonder you are dysfunctional. It’s horrifying.

You need not panic, as rescue is at hand. I am prepared to let Susan have a few vegetarian recipes which would soon induce a better balance within you. Would you like to be a little calmer? I suspect so. All you need is the right intake of carbohydrates, vitamins and protein. Do we need to butcher sentient creatures, so that we can poison ourselves by consuming them? I think not. You will find that lentils and pea/wheat/soya products are sky-high in protein. And you will feel much cleaner inside. I guess that even in your state of quasi-consciousness you accept the need for the five-a-day fruit and vegetable regimen, with which I have no quibble, but go easy on the potatoes – a little rice is a beneficial alternative. And remember that some extra vitamin C will help to fight the detrimental effect of your indulgence in cigarettes. You are still sneaking in a few gaspers while toying with the pipe, aren’t you? I am not thrusting all this upon you, as I have no desire to cast pearls bef . . .well, nuff sed, but if asked, I will take you in hand, with results which will amaze you.

Your letter introduces a distasteful note, in that you continue to pester me about the bagatelle of my slight indebtedness to your house of usury. You just can’t leave that one alone, can you? However, I will make allowances. I imagine your letter was written nocturnally – I can think of no other explanation for its dark tone, and after all, you at Aytuzi are basically people of the night, aren’t you?

Having unburdened myself of the above, I have the nagging thought that it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Your behaviour is more like that of pirates, in that you seize people’s houses like the buccaneers used to take over ships – a practice that has not entirely died out. I expect that the next time your galloping gangster comes my way, he’ll clump along the drive with a wooden leg and parrot on his shoulder. Be so good as to offer him a word of caution. I am an accomplished swordsman, equally at home with foil or sabre, though I will confess that the cutlass can be awkward, especially when one tries to get it between the teeth as one swings from the rigging. Anyway, take note that I am in a strong position to repel boarders. That said, I am not a man of violence. Let us rather agree on how many pieces of eight it would take to buy you off – not that I have any at present, you understand, but I soon shall lay hands on the wherewithal to assuage your slavering desire for plunder.

With regard to my wider family, there is no good reason why I should put your mind at rest, but I will do so. Brian, why should you doubt what I say about Aunt Ethel? This is somewhat infra dig. The old girl is fading satisfactorily. Only yesterday her doctor told me that she had experienced a moment of lucidity before relapsing. I need hardly tell you that this is what the medical people call ‘a lightening’, which comes shortly before the end.

Ethel was not always the most generous of people, but she came to her senses late in life and her final dispositions will assuredly gain her a few points in the hereafter. Your grasping employer has not long to wait. By the way, what about the summons of which you spoke? If you make threats, you must have the nerve to back them up. Or are you losing enthusiasm for your nefarious deeds? Believe me, if we get to court, I shall know how to behave. You might also wish to note that cases such as ours usually come before a local judge who is no friend of moneylenders. Mark my words, Brian, you will either withdraw this action or rue the day you started it.

As for your observations about the visit of your peripatetic hooligan, let me tell you that he was mistaken. With regard to the barbed wire, you may wish to know that the position was as he said, and remains so. The reason is quite simple. I am conducting certain experiments and intrusion is not welcome. Had your man been really on the ball – you might wish to take him to task about this – he would have gone to the back of the house and found a similar obstacle. The fact is that we have recently had a spate of thefts here. I secured the barbed wire at the doors because I had not had time to erect it along the front and rear walls as I intended, so I dealt with it in what was, temporarily, an expedient and effective way.

The matter of the leopard is almost too prosaic to mention. I must applaud your shuttling gangster’s powers of observation, but he deceived himself. I have a leopard-skin rug, complete with head and legs, and had spilled most of a bottle of wine – sadly, a fine Montrachet – on it, so hung it in the window area to dry out in the sun. Pernickety as you are, you may wish to check the weather conditions at the time. The obvious conclusion is that your goon saw all that he claimed to have seen, but interpreted the position quite inaccurately. If he says he detected any sign of animation from the (late) creature, that must be a figment of his imagination. What is needed to satisfy you? If all of us were as distrusting as you are, we would have a truly intolerable society.

Now, after this repugnant diversion, I would like to comment on your observations with respect to Omar Khayyam and Thomas Hardy. Full marks, Brian, perhaps you really have the cultural streak I have been seeking to draw out – one must try to keep an open mind. I am at one with you in that I see Khayyam as playing the Devil’s advocate – knowing full well that what he had to say would be understood by the cognoscenti and misconstrued by the masses. Isn’t that always the problem faced by advanced souls? Well, old Omar will be looking on, or perhaps is with us again. Hardy had his points, but I am not prepared to accept such unalloyed grimness. After reading 'Jude the Obscure' and 'Tess of the D’Urbervilles,' I was temporarily minded to suicide – yes, I know we have already touched upon this – but finally decided that that was not the way out. After all, by being born, one has paid for life’s journey and may as well ride to the terminus. I have no doubt that you will draw the same conclusion. Brian, do you not see that we are in agreement?

Much as I would like to continue, I have a number of commitments, so must close. My regards to Susan, Adam and Annie, and do stop fretting about the money.

Yours ever,

Cedric

* * *

From:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey
13 March

To:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major

For the attention of Mr Lionel String


Dear Mr String,

Thank you for your letter of 8 March, to which I was unable to reply earlier, as I have had a slight chill. I note your remarks concerning the merits of our two chess teams and I must say that I find them offensive. You speak of offering to handicap yourselves by removing pawns at the outset of any encounter between us. It seems to me that you are already sufficiently disadvantaged by your own arrogance. By what feat of presumption do you suppose that you could give us a start? If you wish to challenge us, by all means do so, but do not assume superiority in advance, as that might let you in for a severe shock. Only a month ago, we visited Nether Walford, where we played the usual six-board match, the result being a decisive 4 : 2 in our favour. Therefore I say do not count your chickens at this stage.

By the way, I am familiar with the story about Dr Alekhine and his companion on a train. I am also aware that he was also given to fits of bad temper when things did not go to his liking. You may have heard that some unpleasant articles on a wider social theme were published under his name, though he denied having written them. Does your admiration of the man extend beyond an appreciation of his skill at the great game? If you are seeking a chess hero of bygone days, I suggest you consider the great Emanuel Lasker, or perhaps Ossip Bernstein. I believe the latter was, like us – or at least like me – a competent lawyer.

As to your obsession with a dead cricketer, I think that this does not reflect well upon your mental state, especially as you present yourself as an experienced player of a different game, requiring a higher level of logical thinking. May I suggest that you put the ‘feats’ of my late cousin behind you? You have said that he never played at the top level. Furthermore – and if you had not pursued the point, I would not have responded this way – Eric drank to excess and smoked heavily. In that respect, he perhaps conformed to type, as he was, or so you seem to think, an artist of sorts, and such people are often given to extravagant behaviour. Shades of the above-mentioned chess master, perhaps? I am sorry that I cannot offer you more comfort – or perhaps I should say that I am unable to confirm your illusions – but Eric Blaimire was a flawed man.

I think you are right in saying that it is a pity that we do not have a meeting of minds. Such a concord could be profitable, but would require of both sides a tolerance that appears to exist on only one.

With regard to Aytuzi v King, we may well meet in due course.

Yours fraternally,

Henry Blaimire
Partner

* * *

From:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey
14 March

To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Cedric,

Thank you for your letter of 10 March, which like your other communications gives much food for thought. You are a smart man and it is pity that you find yourself in such reduced circumstances. However, this could happen to any of us. Indeed, notwithstanding my own recent emergence from the Slough of Despond, I am again conscious of the howling of wolves at my door.

Let me set you straight about our representative. Deep down, he is a very nice fellow and although of formidable appearance and, as I have already indicated, phenomenal strength, he is sparing in the use of his physical attributes when confronting borrowers. It is true that he has a few GBH charges on his sheet, but they invariably came about after he had been provoked and if you were to ask me, I’d say that the people who took exception to his methods were pretty small-minded. I mean, what is a man to do when somebody calls him a big ape? If I remember rightly, that was the broken jaw case.

On the whole, you are not in great danger of assault. In fact, if you want to put a figure on it, the odds are about five to two in your favour. Steve Rook is in most ways a fairly civilised chap and very fond of chamber music – when he is not pumping iron! So easy to prejudge people, isn’t it? Frankly, I had thought better of you. Be assured that Steve was far more alarmed than you were by the recent near-confrontation. Really, Cedric, barbed wire and a leopard. I note your explanation, but am not totally convinced.

Anyway, next time Steve calls, do invite him in. I think you will find the two of you have much in common, in that you are both brawny lads and neither of you lacks sensitivity. In other circumstances, you might be members of the same rugby team. Not a neck in sight – know what I mean? Give the man a chance, but don’t get too close to him. I did that during a company training session eighteen months ago, when SR gave me a friendly hug. My breathing and ribcage have never been the same since then. If you’d ever been embraced by a Kodiak bear – giant grizzly, in case you didn’t know – you would understand.

Ahoy there, shipmate of Planet Earth. Your essay into seafaring is quite gripping. However, I must set you right, as your grasp of matters nautical seems to be as tenuous as your hold on the affairs of the Old West or the Mongol period, both already discussed. I doubt that you will find any authenticated instance of a man chewing a cutlass, any more than you will turn up with a true story of a man walking the plank, though I believe there was one validated case of keel-hauling. History just isn’t your thing, is it?

I can hardly bear to leave so interesting a subject, but feel obliged to point out that your grammar seems to have slipped. Heaven knows I am no expert, but you mention our man approaching you with a wooden leg and a parrot on his shoulder. Are they both up there and if so, does he have two natural trotters or is he obliged to hop along on one? Sloppy work, Cedric. Should you use this material again, you might care to rephrase it.

Another point I feel bound to make is that your maritime foray is particularly ill-directed, addressed as it is to a man who in a school play had the eponymous role in a production of Captain Kidd’s Treasure. There was some reading involved, so please believe that I know what I’m talking about.

In an effort to dispose of this whole matter, I would suggest that you think of our Steve Rook not as Long John Silver, but as one of the Berserkers. You know about them, don’t you? No? Let me explain. They were placed in the bows of Viking longships and were fed with magic mushrooms – I think usually fly agaric – which induced them to create even more mayhem than did their companions.

Your comments concerning our identity could not be more wrong. Depressing, isn’t it? I mean, you seem to think of yourself as intuitive. I would hate to be ‘blessed’ with such insight as yours. Your imagination has clearly run riot, which makes me wonder if you spend a lot of time alone. People who do that often enter bizarre realms of thought, no doubt because they do not have anyone to attach them to reality.

Aytuzi has nothing to do with variations on or corruptions of the alphabet. Our boss is of Levantine extraction, though his family has lived in this country for generations. He does not operate in the USA, or anywhere else outside the UK, so there. I think the appropriate expression is ‘ gotcha’. Roll that one up in your Havana leaf. By the way, I opted for the pipe, expensive though it was, and I have to tell you that it is giving trouble. Tudor chimney indeed. I think I shall need the drain-clearing people to rod it out. I know you had the best of intentions and I don’t hold anything against you in this particular respect, but please don’t give me any more advice on smoking.

Notwithstanding this failure with the weed, I have considered your kind comments regarding meat-eating, for which many thanks. Cedric, you are full of ideas and you certainly give freely of yourself. A pity your obvious expansiveness doesn’t extend to money matters, don’t you think? The clock is ticking towards another monthly instalment.

You may be surprised to learn that the Bodkin family has tried some of the vegetarian options you mention, with results which were less than totally satisfactory. Susan, who could eat live hedgehogs, just about copes, as do the children, but my constitution is more delicate and I have to report that though I like pulses, the affection is not mutual, as they play havoc with my innards.

We have tried lacing our leek and lentil stews with caraway seeds, but the supposedly salubrious effect is marginal. The problem is, I hardly need say, flatulence. One bowl of the gunge just mentioned and I produce enough wind to propel a rocket. I do have a conscience about the meat thing and would like to convert, as long as there is no inconvenience involved. Any further tips?

Though often at a low ebb, I think you are right about suicide. It is tempting, but ultimately not the right way. After all, if one ducks out, one might have to come back and do it all again, right? Where do you stand on euthanasia?

Cedric, your gruesome preoccupation with Aunt Ethel’s state of health does you no credit. It is morbid. Furthermore, your expectations are probably doomed. The likelihood is that they will be thwarted by a late rally. I feel that I already know the old lass and to some extent feel for her. She is obviously putting up a magnificent fight.

You may wish to note that I am not without experience of seeing off the older generation and can state with some authority that this is not always as easy as it seems. Some of these veterans of the school of life are as tough as old boots and often hang on like bristlecone pines – think of the 4,900-year-old arboreal marvel in California. Moreover, the oldsters are quite devious, usually presuming upon their advanced years to claim sympathy that they neither need nor deserve. You can safely place a large bet – or you could if you had enough money, which apparently you don’t – that your aunt will pull through. Do not build up your hopes. Of course, I am saying all this on the assumption that there really is an Aunt Ethel – and you know what I think about that tale. Pull the other one, mate.

I am trying not to laugh. Why? You say you should have gone to a building society or a bank. Be your age, Cedric. Do you not realise that we are aware that our borrowers come to us after they have tried the channels you mention? If so, you must be less sophisticated – that is a euphemism for devious – than I believe you to be. Our rates of interest may seem exorbitant, but they reflect the relatively high risk to which we are exposed. For goodness' sake, look at your own case! Need I say more?

Now, I am loath to leave you, but I need to harass a few other refuseniks. Somebody, somewhere had better start paying up, or there will be big trouble all round. I am grateful for your advice, but must ask you yet again to find some loot, not least because I really do believe we could be friends, if only we could put this episode behind us.

All the best,

Brian


* * *

Courtjester
December 3rd, 2011, 06:43 PM
From:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major
15 March

To:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey

For the attention of Mr Henry Blaimire



Dear Mr Blaimire,

Thank you for your letter of 13 March. Forgive me if I have difficulty in concentrating on a reply, the reason being that I am hard pressed to contain my hilarity. Why? You ‘boast’ of your triumph over Nether Walford in your recent chess match. Really, Mr Blaimire, this is too much. That you prevailed by only 4 : 2 is scarcely something to broadcast. The duffers in question asked us for a match last year. Knowing something about them, we sent our second team. The result was a predictable 6 : 0 to us. I do not enjoy being so frank, but the truth is that a team of chimpanzees would not be greatly extended in producing a similar outcome. As far as chess is concerned, Nether Walford is not on the map. Sorry to take the gilt from your gingerbread.

I hope you have now recovered from your ‘slight chill’. Not having heard that expression for decades, I am bound to wonder about the manner of man with whom I am corresponding. I have no wish to cast aspersions upon your professional competence, but am thinking in wider terms, and have deduced that you are a gentleman of – shall we say? – mature years. Is it wise for you to expose yourself to sitting still for a possible four or five hour session of intense attention to the chessboard? Please accept that I am thinking of your own good. Even as a stripling of fifty-seven, I am beginning to find that my fidgeting – I do not have the capacity for bodily inertia that the Germans call Sitzfleisch – another surprise for you there? – in addition to which my frequent visits to the smallest room cause bewilderment to some of my opponents. I hope I shall know when to call it a day. Will you, I wonder? But then, men of your age often appear to be comatose for long periods, so if you can manage the odd twitch now and then during play, you might get through.

You seem to have misinterpreted my comments concerning the late Doctor Alekhine. Apart from deriving some enjoyment from his chess games, I was not one of his admirers. He was at times addicted to drink – as you no doubt know, he temporarily lost his world title because of that weakness – whereas I am inclined to moderation with respect to alcohol. My aim was merely to inject a touch of common humanity into our exchanges, but if you insist on placing your subjective construction upon my every word, I fear that any path we share will be a thorny one.

The only proposal I can make in order to clear the air is that we – I mean our respective teams – meet over the chessboard and try conclusions on even terms. I would suggest that we visit you, but have reservations about your facilities. For our part, we have excellent premises for a contest, plus six sets of top-quality boxwood pieces (four-inch kings) and handsome boards, plus folding tables which we share with our bridge club. In saying this, I am mindful of a recent away engagement, in which our opponents furnished two barely acceptable plywood boards, plus four made from the tops of cartons plundered from the local supermarket, and an assortment of pieces which would have interested antique dealers but not, I think, near-professional standard players of what one likes to think of as the royal game. I hope that long sentence has not confused you. We are ready at all times, but it occurs to me that you may wish to go into training. Kindly let me have your views.

I will say no more about the late Eric Blaimire, except that I feel we shall all meet in the beyond and find ourselves able to exchange notes. Of course, that depends upon our all going to the same place. Perhaps you agree that this might depend upon our conduct on this plane.

I understand that the Aytuzi v King matter is due for hearing in the near future. Sharpen your claws.

Yours fraternally,

Lionel String
Partner

* * *

From:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane Cedric King
15 March

To:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey

Dear Bri,

How nice to hear from you again. I got your letter this morning and am able to fit in a little time to reply. You have no idea how my commitments engulf me. Still, in your own way, you are a priority of sorts and I must attend to your concerns.

I am comforted to learn that your roaming Rottweiler is basically a nice fellow. Perhaps I was wrong to fear that he might hand me a faceful of vitriol. No doubt I was thinking of another Sherlock Holmes case – I think it was ‘The Illustrious Client’ – in which Kitty Winter did that to the dastardly Baron Gruner. By the way, I have always thought that the latter’s surname should have qualified for an umlaut, but no matter, as the nuances of Conan Doyle’s work are probably too esoteric for you. Being averse to repetition, I apologise for bringing up the great detective again.

The next time Mr Rook calls, I will invite him in for cup of nettle tea. By the way, in case you thought you were putting the wind up me with the allusion to his iron-pumping, be aware that I am no slouch in that department, my speciality being the clean and jerk.

I suppose I should be well enough acquainted with the kind of thing we are going through, as I once spent some time in the USA, where I became friendly with a repo man. In case you don’t know, these people are engaged to recover items, especially cars, when repayments have been missed. The chap I have in mind was alarmingly bulky and, as they say, of simian aspect (apelike, in case you’re floundering) but was a most charming type, though he was always armed and thought nothing of exchanging shots with his defaulters. I accompanied him for three weeks, and was comforted to find that he was an excellent marksman, though he did lose an earlobe in one sprightly engagement. Overall, the experience was somewhat disquieting.

Now, I would like to leave this until last, but I have never been one to shirk unpleasantness. Aunt Ethel has staged an astonishing recovery and is back to her normal querulous state. This is somewhat unsettling. She has gone so far as to say that she was precipitate in making what I had been convinced was her last will and testament, and that she may reconsider. I am beginning to wonder what to do about the pestilential old bat. As Verdi’s Duke of Mantua so eloquently put it, la donna è mobile. Is this a little above your head?

Rest assured that my resources are not exhausted. You may be interested to learn that I am an inventor of some note. My latest innovation is one that will revolutionise life for everyone. Naturally I cannot give details at present, as I need a little time to perfect things on the technical side, but you may be certain that I shall make a fortune from this little gizmo. In fact – yes, why not? – I am prepared to offer you a chance to get in on the ground floor. This would require from you a financial input which will be as nothing compared with the payback. I estimate the ROI (return on investment, in case you are not au fait with real business terminology) of at least a thousand to one. Forget the Footsie index and come in with Cedric King!

I think a sum of fifteen hundred pounds from you would be appropriate. Or how about another thought, which would kill two birds with one stone? Why not set the investment against the small amount you claim is outstanding in respect of my mortgage repayments? You say I owe you £1,085.70. Not being a bean counter, I will accept your word for this. You could apply the sum I have in mind against the amount allegedly outstanding and either pay me the difference of £414.30, or credit my account with that figure. This would get you off my back, as well as ensuring you a life of luxury. Those wolves of which you spoke will soon be driven from your door. Your views, please – but make it quick because many others will want a piece of this pie.

Please don’t give up on the vegetarian thing. I know that some of this stuff tastes like cat litter but (a) it need not, if imaginatively handled and (b) even when it does, it will give you a fresh lease of life. You really mustn’t be defeatist, Bri – by the way, call me Cedders. I am a busy man, but am quite prepared to visit you and give Susan some guidance in this matter. Perhaps that is the least I could do, now that we have gone through so much together. I feel for your little ones, growing up as they are in a carnivorous environment. In years to come, they will not thank you for giving them such an unenlightened start in life.

Your tussle with the pipe is of ongoing concern to me, and while I always try to avoid being dogmatic, I really must insist that you persevere. Incidentally, one side-benefit of a well-drawing brier is that it repels mosquitoes. I don’t want to advertise, but my own beautifully striated specimens, now rarely used, bear a certain distinctive circular marking on the stems, which denotes top quality. Know what I mean? If you wish, I will, as an extreme measure, send you one by post. You need not worry about disinfection, as I am very healthy. Furthermore, you could derive great benefit by filling the bowl with methylated spirit for a few hours. This not only cleans the gunk, but imparts a delightful sweetness. The opportunity is available to you and the choice is yours.

Now, I almost hesitate to touch upon the negative, but I understand that our respective lawyers are doing their stuff. I see these people in the same light as I do economists, in that their work is usually depressing to everyone but themselves. Let them proceed for the moment. After all, we are the principals and shall intervene at the right moment, after which we shall chuckle heartily about this minor vicissitude.

I must leave you now, as my efforts in the acting world currently entail rehearsing one of the immortal Oscar’s works. You may recall that he wisely said that to become a spectator of life is to avoid life’s suffering. Nothing new under the Sun, is there?

My warmest regards to you, Susan and the children,

Cedric (Cedders)

* * *

Memo from area representative Stephen Rook to Aytuzi Finance Company Head Office
18 March

Brian,

Excuse my writing this in haste, but I have to attend some school thing – I forget what it is – and must soon get moving. Yesterday evening, I was finally admitted to maison King at Little Chinfold. What a place and what a man. I wish I could say that I laid down the law to old Cedric, but that would not be quite accurate. This fellow is the most elusive character I have ever met, but he emits a mixture of ebullience, charm and wounded self-esteem which keeps one continuously on the wrong foot. I believe he could use his personality to knot girders. When I left him, I was completely bemused. I understood from our brief phone conversation that he was into nettle tea. He may well be, but what he offered me was a belt of single malt Scotch that I could have swum in. I regret to say that, owing to the refills he supplied, my coherence declined in proportion to his rising hospitality. However, I did pick up one or two points.

Cedric told me that he has settled everything with you, in that he has agreed to let you, or possibly both of us, in on a sound money-making scheme. Frankly, I could not understand much of what he said, but did not want to upset the apple-cart, so accepted his spiel, provisionally. It has something to do with an invention, the details of which were not disclosed to me. What is going on here?

As for Poplar House, aside from being in immaculate structural condition, the place is a positive Aladdin’s cave, with hardwood floors, Persian carpets, Chinese rugs, Meissen (he said) and Capo di Monte figurines and the like. Also, I was shown the garage, which is stacked to the roof with brand-new appliances and gadgets too numerous and varied to describe. Cedric is either a chap of considerable substance or the greatest conman since Ferdinand Waldo Demara. Anyway, we have more than adequate security. Having been unable to make head or tail of what I heard last night, I think we should proceed, at least for the time being. By the way, I wonder whether you have considered foreclosure rather than repossession? We could clean up here, big time.

Let me know what you make of this affair.

Steve

* * *

From:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey
20 March

To:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major

For the attention of Mr Lionel String

Dear Mr String,

Thank you for your letter of 15 March, which I am bound to say was couched in rather aggressive terms, not befitting our profession. Your scathing comments about the Nether Walford chess team are, I think, not only in poor taste, but also possibly libellous. I will not go so far as to say outright that the observations are defamatory, but they are certainly contentious. Do you wish to reconsider?

Regarding facilities for a possible chess match, we are not deficient here. Our home fixtures are usually held in the grounds of the vicarage, where there is a large communal room. With respect to the chessmen, we can offer a full complement, comprising four sets of the familiar Staunton pattern, the kings’ sizes ranging from three to five inches, plus two older oriental ones, which are somewhat ornate, but a joy to behold. Our boards are all of the folding variety and as such, perhaps inferior to yours. However, let me remind you of the adage that it is a poor workman who blames his tools. Are your people so temperamental that they would be discouraged by facing an illusory inconvenience? Come now, Mr String, let us not be childish.

Are you familiar with Stephan Zweig’s excellent novella on the subject of chess? If so, you will know that the imprisoned hero studied the game after stealing a book on it, then made a full set from pieces of bread, plus an improvised board – I think it was a chequered table cloth but don’t hold me to this – and that he later, in an informal game, beat the world champion. All that without having earlier pushed a competitive pawn. Quite a wood-shifter, I submit.

Notwithstanding our willingness to stage the event here, we are prepared to visit you, thus facing a match in what promises to be hostile territory. We have no qualms. Indeed, were we to smite you down on your own ground – and I have every confidence in our ability to do so – that would be a cause for increased celebration on our part. If you would be so good as to name the day, you will not find us wanting. By the way, we are armed at all points and need no training period. In that respect, as in so many others, your reasoning is questionable.

I am sorry that you see fit to invoke personal matters, especially those concerning age. Let me put your obviously disturbed mind at rest. It is true that I am no longer in the first flush of youth, but I assure you that I am spry enough, and anyway, by what kind of logic do you suppose – as apparently you do – that the brashness of youth must inevitably prevail over the wiles of age?

With regard to your unwarranted suggestion that I may be less than fully attentive at the board, you may well be obliged to eat your words. A similar situation will, I suspect, arise in court when our case is called and your client is weighed and found wanting.

You allude to the sharpness of my claws. Let me tell you that the said talons are in first-class condition and that our legal confrontation will not be their first experience of handling carrion. You will find our professional meeting no less painful than the sporting one. By the way, the fidgeting and bladder problems with which you are beset are not good signs. I think you should have the matter checked, and if you have no competent doctor over there – which would not surprise me – I could introduce you to a good fellow here, though why I should do so is a mystery, even to me. Alternatively, may I suggest that with regard to your boardside nervousness, you might care to try my home-made parsnip wine, which is most relaxing? Here again, I don’t know why I should make such an offer, except that I am cursed with a disease known as empathy – an affliction with which I imagine you are not acquainted.

Now, I have genuine work to do, so must close. Incidentally, I see that we have a date for Aytuzi v King.

Yours fraternally,

Henry Blaimire
Partner


* * *

Courtjester
December 4th, 2011, 06:38 PM
Memo from Aytuzi Head Office to area representative Stephen Rook
21 March

Steve,

Thank you for your memo of 18 March. Like you, I am writing hurriedly, but for a different reason. This is an early warning signal. The Big Cheese was here yesterday and I have never seen him in worse humour. As you know, A2 does not suffer fools gladly, nor is he interested in detail, but rather in results – a bottom-line man if ever I met one. He is displeased by progress in general and by the Cedric King case in particular. Steve, I ask you to understand that I tried to watch your back; so much so that I was able to distract the gaffer from looking at the file, but was obliged to give him the gist of this matter. He was unhappy about your role in the affair, and went so far as to say that he was wondering about the wisdom of having a travelling man at all. To put it bluntly, he said that he could see no point in having a battering ram which neither battered nor rammed. He really was hot under the collar.

I did my level best to convince our lord and master that you are working like a Trojan on this case. Unfortunately, he picked up on the matter of Cedric’s plying you with strong drink – sorry I failed to conceal that from him, but he set a verbal trap and I fell into it. He is firmly opposed to the consumption of alcohol, even off duty. I think this has something to do with his religion, but don’t quote me. Anyway, he was miffed and insisted that you call here on Thursday, when he will be back. He muttered something to the effect that you might have to consider your position. Pretty strong stuff, I think you will agree.

In this connection – and hoping that you will not take offence – I have hitherto tried to avoid harping on the theme of your work, but am puzzled. I had you in mind as playing a swashbuckling role in our affairs. Interesting term, that. Does one buckle a swash or swash a buckle? As I see it, both parts of the word can be considered as having either noun or verb form. On the whole, I am inclined to think that the former is correct, as one often hears of a swashbuckler, but never of a buckle-swasher. Any views? Sorry, back to your position.

There is no way you can avoid a meeting with His Topship, so I hope you will not be offended if I make the odd suggestion. I recommend that you wear your best suit – the blue serge job (try to get the shine off) – and the black shoes, not forgetting polish. Shortly after your last talk with A2, he had a few caustic words to say about your leather-elbowed tweed hacking-jacket and the size twelve – I know you can’t do anything about your large feet – tan suede brothel-creepers. He also mentioned that, being black-haired, you might try to cultivate a menacing moustache. I think he has in mind something between Hitler and Stalin – perhaps the Saddam Hussein style gets it about right. You really do need to make an effort to impress the old man.

We must thank our lucky stars that Big A did not investigate the computer glitch that caused us to lose sight of the King account – and ninety-odd others – for three months. Believe me, in diverting his attention, I used more flannel than a pyjama factory.

The scheme Cedric King claims to have hatched is most likely pure smoke and mirrors but I am about to write to him, so will mention it. He is probably the only person in the world capable of moulding fog – I realise that comment is not quite in context, but it’s mine and I like it.

You are not the first one to suggest that foreclosure might be a better course than repossession. It may be a surprise to you that Cedric the Saucy touched, I think mock-masochistically, upon the idea. We have considered this option and rejected it as too rapacious. You know as well as I do that the reputation of people in our line of business is lower than a frog’s waistcoat. Only last week I read a scathing attack on our friends at Blue Moon Finance, in which the words ‘Shylock’ and ‘pound of flesh’ appeared. This drivel came from one of the red-top rags, but was too close for comfort, especially when one bears in mind that the Blue Moon boys are usually considered a paradigm for those operating in our little firmament. None of us can afford any more adverse publicity.

Time is running out, Steve. I urge you to get a handle on this King matter. You could still impress our supremo, who is not entirely inhuman. Get with it, quick!

Brian

* * *

From:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey
21 March

To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Cedric,

Forgive me for not taking you up on the option to address you as Cedders, but I really cannot bring myself to it. Also, I am not too keen on the Bri thing, though if it amuses you I will tolerate it, pro tem.

So kind of you to fit us into your strenuous schedule. I understand that you have met our man, Stephen Rook. I think you’ll agree that he is not a bad fellow, though his capacity for hard drink is limited. That was rather naughty of you.

Sorry to hear that Aunt Ethel has made such a startling recovery, but I did warn you. My assessment is that with your exertions as an inventor, an actor and a payment dodger, you are burning the candle at both ends. If that is so, Ethel – I am prepared to continue assuming she exists – may well outlast you, which would be a drawback. Still, you say you have other resources. I am bound to be sceptical about them, in particular the one you describe, or fail to. Cedric, you seem to overlook the fact that I do not own this company and cannot, on its behalf, make the investment you suggest.

I wonder what your scheme is. Something like those of the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, is it? You must know about the astoundingly elaborate contraptions he devised to capture the road-runner, and I cannot help feeling that your ‘invention’, if such there be, is probably in this category. Or could it be that you have found a new variation on the Ponzi scam. You surely know what I mean. The crook has a nebulous offer promising huge returns, which are actually delivered to the early investors, albeit from their own capital and that put up by later victims. When income dwindles, the culprit cleans out the bank accounts containing most of the loot he has gathered in, then scarpers. If you don’t mind, I will stick with the FT index you seem to despise, or I would if I had any direct involvement in it. Give me a modest long-term annual benefit and you can keep the spivs’ agenda.

We are still persevering with the meatless regimen. Last night, Susan prepared us a macaroni cheese thing. It was a noble effort, but frankly I would have preferred having a go at my straw hat. The outlook in this respect is far from encouraging and were it not for what lies between us businesswise, I would accept your offer to drop in at our home. However, I shall be resolute.

Your tip about the pipe being an effective mosquito repellent is well taken, but I should point out that we do not have a problem here in that respect. Perhaps things are different over your way, though I doubt that. Still, I will think of your words if we can ever afford to take a family holiday in Scotland, in which case the creation of a thick fug may be quite useful in combating the notorious Highland midges.

As for your snide comment to the effect that the output of Giuseppe Verdi might be beyond my ken, you may wish to know that I am well up in matters operatic, so your jab below the belt elicited no more than a tolerant titter. Also, you did not need to apologise for piling on the Sherlock Holmes stuff, as I am familiar with most of Conan Doyle’s work. Cedric, you are a bright spark, but like many of your kind, you underestimate other people.

Now, I must ask you to excuse my brevity, but I have other cases demanding attention. Incidentally, I see that we now have a date for the repossession hearing. I just know you have something under the mattress and that you will not let the affair drift into court. How about it?

All the best,

Brian

* * *

From:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major
23 March

To:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey

For the attention of Mr Henry Blaimire

Dear Mr Blaimire,

Yours of 20 March to hand. This strange communication serves only to confirm the impressions I had already formed. However, I shall not avoid dealing with it and will comment first upon your accusation that my remark concerning the Nether Walford chess team is contentious. What nonsense! As for the implication that my statement might verge on the defamatory, you may wish to dust off your law books to answer that one. If you wish to make anything of this, you will have a hard time trying to prove me wrong. For a start, how does one go about producing a team of chimpanzees? I do not wish to overburden you, so perhaps you should deal with that before I introduce more complex arguments.

With regard to the proposed chess match, if I could stop laughing I would go into detail about your manifestly patchwork arrangements for receiving visitors. Is this the best you can do? Let me cut through the niceties and suggest that you come here, where you will find the facilities vastly superior to yours. I mean, really, kings of such disparate sizes, oriental sets and playing surfaces of folding cardboard. I don’t wish to speak disparagingly, but what choice do I have? Mr Blaimire, you are dealing with people of substance.

There would seem to be no point in beating about the bush on this one, so I now extend to you a formal invitation to visit us for a six-board match. Our programme is quite hectic but we have an evening free on 1 April. Shall we say seven-thirty? I would suggest an earlier start, but frankly I don’t think you will detain us for more than two hours or so.

As for sustenance, I imagine that for the kind of engagements you usually undertake, you carry your own snacks. On this occasion, you will not need them, as we shall provide refreshments in the form of burgers, fish and chips or, for the likes of yourself, cucumber sandwiches. I hope this does not offend you, but am merely thinking of your likely susceptibilities. If you wish to give us maximum notice, you may telephone me. I am almost always on duty from about ten a.m. until three-thirty p.m., though you may wish to avoid the lunch period – noon to two-fifteen.

I regret to note that you are a little sensitive about the age matter. Please be assured that it was not, and is not, my intention to cause annoyance to a gentleman who must be, as we are now obliged to say, chronologically challenged. If I may be permitted a playing card analogy, I will not speculate on whether you are in the jack, queen or king stage, but will hazard a guess that you are hoping that in your particular game, the ace is high. Need I elaborate?

Had our correspondence taken a more congenial turn, I might have been disposed to accept your offer of parsnip wine as an antidote to restlessness at the board. However, in view of our exchanges, I am inclined to wonder whether your apparently benign gesture might have Machiavellian undertones. By this I mean that I have indicated that my bladder is not what it was, and I believe that wine is something of a diuretic. Did your proposal arise from a spirit of amicability, or was it born of a desire on your part to distract me from the chessboard by possibly inducing my frequent absences for biological reasons? I will try to be positive by accepting the former interpretation.

As for your remarks concerning talons and carrion, words fail me. I can assure you that they will not do so when we meet in the Aytuzi v King matter.

Yours fraternally,

Lionel String
Partner


* * *

Courtjester
December 7th, 2011, 07:09 PM
Memo from area representative Stephen Rook to Aytuzi Finance Company Head Office
25 March.

Brian,

I write following receipt of your memo and my interview with A2. It was kind of you to prepare me, but I can’t help wondering about the matter of my intake of booze when I visited Cedric King. Was it really necessary for you to reveal this to the chief? I mean, he couldn’t have known except through you, right? You said you were trying to watch my back. I am almost tempted to think that with friends like you, I need no enemies.

I took your advice and sponged my serge suit, polished my shoes and generally spruced myself up – admittedly not an aesthetically pleasing process for any observer, but there was nobody around. In the time available, I could not do anything about producing a moustache. There wasn’t enough notice to grow one and we don’t have any theatrical outfitters or joke shops in this area.

I don’t think the governor was much impressed. As you indicated, he did suggest that he might have to re-evaluate the merits of employing legmen. However, I think his attitude was tempered by the fact that I was wearing a regimental tie. Happily, he was too discreet to ask me about the mob concerned – I would have been unable to satisfy him. I think it might be a Green Howards’ thing, but wouldn’t bet on it. A2 is a tough character. He had that lean and hungry look – I thought of Cassius – which conveyed the impression that he was fasting. I reckon a noggin or two now and then would unwind him a bit. Still, if his attitude really has to do with religion, I wouldn’t understand, as I’m not into that kind of thing.

With regard to swashbuckling, I agree that one buckles a swash rather than the reverse. However, I am bound to wonder about a business ‘executive’ who spends his time on such matters. I hope you will not take my response amiss, but the best suggestion I can make is that you opt for pre-emptive action by consulting some people in white coats before they approach you. That way, you might get a more sympathetic hearing.

As for your comment that A2 does not suffer fools gladly, I will be charitable and interpret that in the widest context – I cannot believe that this was another stab in the back from my ‘protector’ at HQ.

For as long as I am an employee of Aytuzi, I will continue to do my best. More later.

Steve

* * *

From:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey
27 March

To:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major

For the attention of Mr Lionel String.

Dear Mr String,

Many thanks for your rousing letter of 23 March, from which I gather that combat is imminent. We can meet you on 1 April as you suggest. Your offer of refreshments is most welcome, though I must protest at the suggestion that we usually carry our food with us. We offer hospitality and assume that the custom is reciprocal. By the way, you will find that I eat as heartily as my team-mates. Cucumber sandwiches indeed!

I am unimpressed by your idea that you will dispose of us quickly. Let us try conclusions and we shall see what happens. As to our personal encounter, you need not concern yourself with the matter of age. Advancing years do have drawbacks, but they also have advantages, in that the older mind is clearer in certain respects. I propose that we put the matter to the test by agreeing that we each play third board for our respective teams, thus ensuring that we have a head-to-head meeting. Can you rise to this, or are you all bluster?

I am sorry that you misconstrue my perfectly innocent offer of parsnip wine. No doubt this beverage is a diuretic, but I would hardly employ a ruse of that kind against such a whippersnapper as you. Self-control is the thing, young man.

I see that the Aytuzi v King hearing is to take place shortly after the impending match, and I look forward to demolishing you on both fronts, unless of course you are contemplating a diplomatic indisposition. I console myself with the thought that even you are not capable of that. Until 7.30 p.m. on 1 April, then. My wife has bought a bottle of champagne, with which we shall celebrate when I return home after the better man has won.

Yours vigorously,

Henry Blaimire
Partner

* * *

From:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold
28 March

To:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey

Dear Brian,

You see that I am deferring to your sensitivities with regard to affectionate name abbreviations. No more Bri. I am sorry that your letter of 21 March has languished here for a day or two, but I was conducting some most delicate experiments, which required my attention virtually day and night. It is a joy for me to report that all went well. I was going to leave this until later, but you are really forcing my hand, especially with your derogatory allusion to Wile E. Coyote.

Brian, I must swear you to absolute secrecy. You are not to mention this to anyone, even Susan – how is she? Now, prepare yourself to be, unlike Bond’s Martinis, both shaken and stirred. I appear to have succeeded in reproducing the Sun’s nuclear reactions!! I hope you will excuse the two exclamation marks – I am not given to extravagance – but you will doubtless agree that I was not guilty of overstatement in saying earlier that my invention is revolutionary. I not only achieved the colossal stellar temperature, but confined the result in an ordinary wine bottle. Well, not quite a commonplace one, as it formerly contained a memorable Clos de Vougeot.

This is the biggest thing since the equations of relativity were revealed. And the beauty of it is that, like all great strides, the whole thing is quite simple. Where others have gone wrong is that they have spent their time grubbing around with gigantic particle accelerators, magnetic containment and other such futile contrivances. By contrast, I was motivated by the words of David Lloyd George, viz: “Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” Well said.

My leap was to go from the absurdly large and complex to the small and mundane. Brian, I feel humble. That it should be given to one man to change the world would be overwhelming to the average human being, but I flatter myself so far as to say that I have coped, though I stand in awe of my own achievement. What will most astound you is that the equipment concerned comprises the above-mentioned bottle, a little sea-water, a syphon, two jam jars and, well, let us say a little Cedric King magic – and even if you turn me on a spit, I will not divulge details of that ingredient until it has been suitably recognised.

I suspect that I have said enough to persuade you of my bona fides, but should you be wavering, let me mention another factor. I am thinking of our common position as dwellers on this planet, which you will surely accept as overriding all other considerations. Just think of it! We are faced with living in a universe which the physicists tell us is slowly burning out. Within that overall framework, our local star is reaching what one might reasonably call middle age and will finally consume the Earth, that is if the Great Attractor beyond the Milky Way doesn’t gobble up our whole solar system first.

Are you following me? Before we are swallowed by the giant black hole, we shall be confronted by the likelihood of asteroid impact/s (sometime in the next eight or nine centuries) and a variety of other things which probably will bring about our demise. I will not enumerate them, as I have the greatest respect for your intelligence.

I think you will agree that when one bears in mind the above comments, our paltry affairs are of little account. However, I would not wish you to think that I am ignoring them. You will be as pleased as I am to note that Aunt Ethel has taken a turn for the worse. She had a burst of clarity, which I gather is not uncommon when the end is nigh. Within seconds she subsided again and, if all goes well, will be unable to make the amended will and testament I so much feared.

Ah, Brian, I have lost count of the number of times I have asked myself how I came to fall into such a pool of sharks as Aytuzi Finance, especially as I had some previous experience of your kind, in that I once took out a loan of £1,000 for a year at 20% per annum interest. I made the first six monthly repayments, then immediately settled. Any reasonable person would have expected, as I did, to be asked to pay £500, since that would have represented half of the annual interest of £200. Imagine my horror at being required to find £546. I was given the doubtless well-rehearsed patter about front-end loading or something of the sort, and did not contest this, as I was immersed in affairs of greater moment.

Now, I would be quite prepared to extend our skirmish in respect of the outstanding repayments which so concern you, but you will appreciate that with the world now virtually at my feet, I must bustle around. Believe me, the name Cedric King will resound through the ages. Brian, just show a little forbearance at this critical moment and there will come a point in your life at which you will be both delighted and relieved to say you played some small part in an event that changed our world in the most profound way. How do the microscopic affairs of Aytuzi stand against that?

I understand that this laughable court thing is imminent and can hardly wait to see the wigs wilt as I unveil all. Look after yourself and don’t give up on lentils.

Your friend,

Cedric


* * *

Courtjester
December 10th, 2011, 06:49 PM
From:
Holliday & String
Solicitors
7, Main Street
Chinfold Major
29 March

To:
Trask, Blaimire & Co.
Solicitors
1, Haymarket
Lower Newton Godfrey

For the attention of Mr Henry Blaimire

Dear Mr Blaimire,

I have received your letter of 27 March and as stirring events – in more than one way – are upon us, I will be brief. I regret that you misinterpreted my comments concerning cucumber sandwiches. Believe me, I was thinking merely in terms of the delicacy of constitution that affects so many men of advanced years – by the way, I note that your words confirm my inference regarding your age. However, since you describe yourself as a first-rate trencherman, I will ensure that the same fare is offered to you as to others. I just hope that your denture fixative will be up to the job. Again, my intentions arise from solicitude and no derision is implied. If you persist in taking my motives amiss, there is nothing more I can say. It has been stated that there is no such thing as the last word in diplomacy, but I begin to doubt this.

As for my ‘bluster’, you will soon discover that I am quite capable of putting my money, or rather my play, where my mouth is. And by all means do your worst by bringing me a sample of your parsnip wine. You will find me equal to the occasion, at least up to the level of a couple of bottles. However, I cannot escape the feeling that you would be better off with a good burgundy, a potion usually considered suitable for a man in the ‘sere and yellow leaf’ of his earthly span. Further, I would advise you to refrain from putting your champagne on ice. In the improbable event of your needing it, I would make my telephone available to you, so that you could call your wife and ask her put the bubbly out to cool – slowly of course, allowing time for your team’s fleet of Morris Minors and suchlike to trundle back home for the celebration snifters.

We shall meet in three days in the Aytuzi v King matter which, I think you will agree, has become a diversion.

Yours truly,

Lionel String
Partner

* * *

From:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey
31 March

To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Cedric,

Thank you for your letter of 28 March, to which I would have replied yesterday, had I been available. Unfortunately, my son Adam was ill with what we suspected was tonsillitis – happily a false alarm. The little fellow has recovered from whatever it was and is as fit as a fiddle. If you have a family, you will understand such matters.

Enough of my troubles. Cedric, old boy, can you really believe that you have replicated the solar furnace? By the way, I don’t understand why you didn’t use an empty gas bottle or something like that to ‘capture’ your inferno. Those things are quite robust, so do get one for your next essay into lunacy. That might give you an extra femtosecond of life before you incinerate yourself. I don’t want to see you crash face-down into the mud, but surely you appreciate that you are not the first one to claim a solution here? I mean, really, jam jars and the like. I could come up with something better myself.

You quote Lloyd George’s comment that one must be prepared to take large steps to cross a chasm. As far as I know, he didn’t say anything about doing it with a tightrope. Frankly, I think that this is what you are attempting, and my feeling is that you are about to topple into the abyss. I can only hope you will do so after honouring your obligations.

Your remarks concerning the fate of our planet are well taken, but you have missed one or two points. Maybe you are right about the mighty black hole, the possible doom by asteroid and whatever else you have in mind, but has it not occurred to you that we are faced with more immediate problems, such as the Atlantic conveyor, ozone depletion, etc? Cedric, everyone is going on about these things. Are you a genuine student of them, or just another quack? I would like to believe that the former is true, but your comments lead me to think otherwise.

While understanding your reference to our paltry earthbound affairs, I would point out that, high-minded though we may be, these matters are our limits. Allow me to draw your attention to contemporary fictional works. Only last week I saw a film in which a taxi driver remarked to his distressed fare that our world may be a heap of trash, but it is all we have. Are you getting the message?

With regard to Aunt Ethel, I must caution you against optimism. The event you describe might have been a last flicker, but could equally well presage a full recovery, upon which the old girl will probably disinherit you, leaving you dependent on your own seemingly flimsy resources. No, Cedric, you will not distract me by this stratagem any more than you will by the pseudo-scientific idea you mention.

Now, realising that you are mired in adversity, I take no pleasure in intensifying your pain, but I have bad news for you. Our eponymous headman has been here and spent some time grovelling in the records, with the result that he intends to take what he euphemistically calls an interest in your case. Believe me, Cedric, you would be more comfortable with a swarm of wasps in your hair. In my more fanciful moments, I think of Mr Aytuzi by the corruption of his name I have devised; Hate-Uzi – get it? Lest you should think that implies a dislike of firearms on his part, let me advise you that the reverse is true. In fact the old boy has a frightening collection of guns, which he claims are all harmless replicas. I don’t believe that for a minute. You may remember my telling you that the family of our grand fromage is of eastern Mediterranean origin. I understand that Aytuzi’s great-grandfather was known as the Beast of Beirut and my assessment is that our numero uno is a chip off the old block. According to our in-house gossip machine, he once squared accounts with a recalcitrant borrower by means of a duel. The result? Well, Big A is still with us, isn’t he? What of the defaulter, you may ask. Cedric, I implore you, don’t tangle with Bossman.

Your petulance is showing again. What brought about the outburst – a theatrical one even by your standards (have you ever thought of turning pro?) – concerning your earlier loan of £1,000 at 20% interest? The liver, is it? A pile of bile? I recommend more water with it, old boy. And do watch your blood pressure. These choleric fits do not bode well for you.

To set you straight, let me say that your former lender was quite right. When one repays a loan, the instalments comprise, unless otherwise specified, a mix of interest and principal, the former falling as the latter rises. Had you borrowed the sum for six months in the first place, your repayment schedule would have taken account of this and over the half-year you mention, you would have paid back more principal than you actually did, and the lender would have had that extra amount available to lend out to someone else. This is called ‘The Rule of 78’ (I will not belabour you with the technicalities) and is reasonable to anyone but a member of the awkward squad. Are you with me?

Incidentally, I wasn’t surprised to hear that you were obliged to pay 20% interest. I mean, you’re hardly a blue chip borrower, are you? We probably have less chance of recovering our money from you than we would have of getting double six with one throw of a pair of dice – a little under 2.8%, in case your knowledge of probabilities is as weak as your understanding of the need to meet commitments. I hope the above lesson in financing raises your opinion of my business acumen. One does have to pass exams for this kind of work, you know.

I have enjoyed our correspondence, but it has not distracted me from the main point, which is that you still owe us £1,085.70. Regrettably, my computer is on the blink at present, so I cannot call up your account, but have a strong feeling that another payment looms. I would love to file this under ‘cases solved’, which action might allow us to have a mutually beneficial personal relationship, but the fact remains that we, or our representatives, are about to meet in court. Can you not find it within yourself to forestall this?

All the best,

Brian

* * *

Extract from Chinfold Parish Magazine of 2 April

Your informant has taken the unprecedented step of delaying distribution of an issue of our little organ, albeit for only a day and for what it is hoped will be considered a good reason. We try to record events in as timely a manner as possible, and a delay of a month in reporting what follows would have been unfortunate.

Readers will be saddened to note that there was a most disturbing occurrence yesterday in the Chinfold Major village hall. What should have been a pleasant and quiet evening turned out to be something totally different.

Our local chess team, renowned throughout the county, was engaged in a six-a-side match, playing against visitors from the Newton Godfrey area. All went well for a brief period, after which trouble started in the third-board encounter between our own Lionel String and his opponent, Lower Newton Godfrey solicitor Henry Blaimire.

Exactly how this deplorable affair began is not clear to anyone but the parties immediately concerned. However, it is known that sharp words were exchanged between the two players mentioned above, the argument reaching a physical level when Mr Blaimire threw his king at the head of his adversary. Mr String retaliated by hurling the board and the remaining pieces high into the air.

Until this incident, the quiet atmosphere one might expect of a chess match had prevailed. Then, almost as though the dispute between Messrs Blaimire and String acted as catalyst for some more general sentiment, a fracas broke out, during which all the other ten participants emulated the initial antagonists. Pieces, boards and tables were flung to every corner of the hall.

The confrontation degenerated into a fist-fight, which required the intervention of seven police officers, who quickly restored order. One of their number, WPC Karen Stark, distinguished herself by felling the home-team’s sixth-board player with a right hook, later described as the highlight of the evening.

As far as the home team was concerned, the injuries were relatively minor, though Mr String required hospital treatment, as a result of having receiving a blow from his opponent’s walking stick, which Mr String contends was lead-loaded. His assailant, Mr Blaimire, was carried to one of the visitors’ cars by other members of the Newton Godfrey team. The extent of his indisposition is at present unknown to us here in the Chinfolds, but we understand that it is not life-threatening. As the two players at the heart of this sorry matter are both lawyers, we can only conjecture about what the repercussions may be in our increasingly litigious society.

For what it is worth, your narrator has some experience of playing chess, albeit at a very low level, and is aware that contrary to popular supposition, the game has been known to engender high emotions. No doubt this can be attributed to the normally necessary combination of physical inactivity and mental stress. One might suppose that at a certain point, something has to give, which is clearly what happened in the episode described above.

We have never before been visited by an occurrence of this kind, and must hope that the instance will prove to be an isolated one. It is hardly necessary to say that the match was, by mutual consent – insofar as that could be established – regarded as inconclusive. However, the currently bed-bound Mr String maintains that, bearing in mind the overall state of play when the disagreement arose, any fair adjudicator would conclude that the home team was far ahead on points and well placed to achieve what is commonly called a whitewash. A Newton Godfrey spokesman expressed an opposite view. Apparently neither side is able to find an independent arbiter, and even if such a person were available, the task of adjudication would be difficult because some of the players confessed to not having written down their moves, and most of the records made by observers were torn up in the scuffles.

Let us remember that we are mere pawns in the universal game, and that God will intercede – should He consider that necessary. In the meantime, we must pray for a speedy recovery for those hurt in this regrettable episode.

Editor


* * *

Courtjester
December 11th, 2011, 06:52 PM
Memo from Aytuzi Finance Company Head Office to area representative Stephen Rook.
2 April

Steve,

Thank you for your memo of 25 March. I am upset by your comments concerning my efforts to guard your rear. I did what I thought right, and it is hardly fair on your part to accuse me of allowing myself to be outwitted by our chief about the small matter of your drinking binge with Cedric King. You know as well as I do that A2 is as cunning as a family of foxes. Indeed, I sometimes wonder why he didn’t take up detective work, as he would have run rings around the likes of Philip Marlowe. Anyway, next time I think of mounting my white charger on your behalf, I shall remember this correspondence.

I did not mean to be offensive in speaking of A2’s not suffering fools gladly. For goodness' sake, Steve, that was just a turn of phrase. I begin to wonder whether your susceptibilities are a little too delicate for a field worker. Naturally, I have not mentioned this to A2. By the way – well, not incidentally as far as you are concerned – he isn’t contemplating termination of your services. Notwithstanding your obvious ingratitude with regard to my other efforts to defend you, I interceded and was able to prevail upon the chief in that respect. Bearing in mind your current psychological state, I am not holding my breath for applause.

Let us focus on our true problem, which is the Cedric King matter. There is still time for you to fully redeem yourself – sorry, but facts are facts – by nailing down perhaps the trickiest borrower we have ever had. Go to it!

Brian



* * *


From:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold
3 April

To:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey

For the attention of Brian Bodkin

Dear Brian,

Thank you for your letter of 31 March – my, how time is passing. I was most upset to learn of the near-emergency concerning little Adam. So nice to hear that it was a false alarm. Apart from a sister I visit once a year, I have no family, my parents having perished in a tragic accident. It is ironic that I am already an orphan, and that if you were to have your way, I would soon be a homeless one. There was a Mrs King – we had no children – but the union ended in a manner that would have shattered a lesser man than me. I do not dwell upon the past, but recall that my ex-wife several times mentioned my unreliability as a provider. Can you imagine that, Brian? When I bestride the world, as I shall, she will rue her impetuosity.

You speak of our urgent environmental problems, yet you do not draw the obvious inference, namely that our prosaic affairs are almost too insignificant to mention. Of course I am aware of the points you raise. Could you doubt this? I did not wish to burden you with these considerations, as they will be overshadowed – no, let me be accurate, sidelined – by my imminent revelations in the field of nuclear energy.

Brian, I do have hope for you, but it is dependent upon your making the leap of consciousness to get beyond this plane. You will not rest easy on a higher level if you try to lug this kind of burden with you. Bear in mind that although we can take nothing material with us when we go, there is no restriction upon the intellectual/spiritual storehouse we can carry, as that baggage is massless. Please try to grapple with this deeper understanding of reality.

I am mildly entertained to hear about your computer’s failure to acquaint you with the current position regarding my account. Perhaps this is schadenfreude (no capital s in the anglicised version, but this is probably a wee bit too subtle for you, eh?) on my part and unworthy of me. In times gone by, these transactions were recorded in ledgers, which did not rely on semi-conscious key-tappers – can’t you hear the quills screeching? Anyway, if you continue to have difficulties, I will keep you abreast of the position.

It is strange to think that I am on the verge of presenting enormous benefits to humankind, while you are wallowing in minutiae. Still, we are all at different stages of development, and I plead guilty to being ahead of the crowd. Well, Copernicus and Galileo were in the same position and were much vilified, but finally recognised as mental giants. Incidentally, you will possibly recall that they were pilloried by the clerics. Events such as those lead me to believe that the sooner we stamp out religion and seek genuine belief, the happier and better-balanced we shall be. You may disagree – I have you marked down as a United Reformed type – and if so, please favour me with your views.

As for your comments about the taxi driver saying that this ‘heap of trash’ was all the life we have, I saw the film – its title escapes me – so am further persuaded that beneath the scummed surface of our intercourse, we are on the same wavelength. It is inordinately difficult to get this point through to you, but I will persevere.

Aunt Ethel continues to slip into and out of consciousness and/or clarity. There are times when I come close to despairing of a favourable result here. When lucid, the crone hates me and when befuddled, she becomes maudlin. You will understand that my position is not an enviable one. Still, I bear up and remain hopeful that all will work out right. I remember reading one of Damon Runyon’s wonderful little tales, in which a doctor – I think his name was Samuel B. Venus – remarked that not enough people know when to die. Get what I mean?

Now to a banal matter of which you have doubtless heard. I speak of the disgraceful events at the Chinfolds two days ago. I imagine you will agree that it is depressing to think that we have entrusted our affairs to lawyers who resort to brawling over a chess game. It is almost – not quite – beyond my comprehension that these fellows should behave as they did. Believe me, Brian, there will come a time when we shall have no need of legal people, or of police or armed services. I hear you chuckle. Well, when you come back to this plane, you will laugh on the other side of your face. As I indicated above, we are all at our various levels of awareness and it gives me no joy to note that I am in the vanguard and would be happier if more people had reached my stage. I really would like to discuss this with you when the bagatelle that currently divides us has been consigned to the past.

With regard to our little contretemps, I see that the court appearance is scheduled for 3.45 on Friday, two days from now. Brian, this matter would have played into my hands, had I any interest in mundane affairs. Can you imagine how the arbiter will feel at that stage, after nearly five days of dealing with all manner of things prosaic? The poor soul in question will have lost the incisive edge of Monday morning and will quite naturally be thinking of spending a weekend free from the thought of having condemned a decent fellow to an unpleasant fate. From your point of view, the timing could hardly be worse. If our positions were reversed, I would ask for a postponement. With good luck, you just might get a hearing early in some week, with possible detriment to me. Having already advised you to go for foreclosure rather than repossession, I feel almost foolish in offering you yet another tip, but such is my nature. I have no wish to take advantage of your clearly limited experience in these matters.

By the way – I did not wish to bring this up earlier – your relentless persecution will have side-effects. I don’t recall mentioning to you that I have a serious heart condition and I must tell you that your badgering does nothing to improve it. Yes, Brian, despite all I have done for you, the effect of this harassment could well be my demise – another irony, you might think. Don’t take it too hard. Remember that the great Archimedes was stabbed to death at the age of seventy-five or so by a Roman soldier who was not fit to lace his boots. Had the great man been spared, he would surely have perfected the calculus on which he was working, nineteen-hundred years ahead of others. What a tragedy. Now you are the legionary, confronting a mental giant. Is your sword sharp? Are you ready to plunge it into the vitals of one who could advance the cause of humankind by two millennia? The choice is yours.

I take no nourishment from leaving you with sombre thoughts, but I think I know my man and suspect you will rise to the occasion, or at least will instruct your solicitors to do so. We are back with Shakespeare, are we not? There comes a tide in the affairs . . . no, I will not bore you. However, with your permission, I would like to refer to the Bard in one respect. Brian, you will have gathered that I am not as other men in matters intellectual – never mind, they will catch up. Physically, like all mortals, I have my limits. If you tickle me, do I not laugh? If you prick me, do I not bleed? Sorry if this is yet another one that’s out of bounds for you. Try ‘The Merchant of Venice’.

Oh, let me not forget to comment on your reference to a pile of bile. I appreciate your desire to achieve cadences in your writing, but please try to do so correctly. Bile is a fluid and does not come in piles. Obviously, your knowledge of bodily functions is as defective as your understanding of dietary ones. Presumably these two failings are connected. No doubt I shall be able to fill in the gaps in due course, though I shall need to consult a plumbers’ merchant to get enough putty.

Let me say in conclusion that I have given you every opportunity to accommodate me and that so far my overtures have availed us naught. I think I have mentioned that my reserves are far from drained – you might expect as much of a former fighter pilot, right? If you insist on testing them, you will do so at your peril. I must leave you now. If the whole lentils – I assume you are trying them – are giving you trouble, please resort to the split ones, as they dissolve more readily.

Very best wishes to you, Susan and the children,

Cedric



* * *
To be continued.

Courtjester
December 14th, 2011, 06:54 PM
From:
Aytuzi Finance Company
Unit 3, White Horse Yard
Newton Godfrey
4 April

To:
Mr Cedric King
Poplar House
Halfpenny Lane
Little Chinfold

Dear Cedric,

I’m not entirely sure what your game is, but you are cutting things very fine. Here we are with a court appointment tomorrow and you write as though you have all the time in the world. Perhaps you will receive this letter before nemesis catches up with you, although I have no great confidence in that. You speak of a possible postponement of the hearing. I prefer to think of it as a trial. That sounds a little sinister, doesn’t it? Cedric, can you really believe that your subterfuges will haul you from the mire? Tomorrow it is and so it will remain. You suggest that your wherewithal – for which I read range of trickery – is not exhausted. I do wish you'd straighten yourself out. We are always prepared to halt proceedings, right up to the last minute. By the way, I don’t remember telling you that we are entitled to charge the not inconsiderable costs of the action to you, by debiting your account with the sum in question. You really are behaving in the most obtuse manner.

You mention that our prosaic affairs are insignificant in the greater scheme of things. That may be true in your case, but having a family to support – apparently an unfamiliar concept to you – I cannot take such a relaxed view. Unless you can convince me otherwise, my sympathies will remain with your ex-partner. I don’t want to rub in the salt, but the poor woman must have been on tenterhooks, wondering whether you were ever going to bring home the bacon. Look, Cedric, living by one’s wits is precarious at the best of times. How could you expect a woman to entrust her future to a man whose prospects are limited to experimenting with jam jars and suchlike? Get real, can’t you? Show her a little understanding and you will be amazed by the results.

I hope you will accept that I am not trying to involve myself in your matrimonial affairs. However, had I been in your earlier position, I would have made an effort to look at matters in a different light. Not being in possession of all the facts, I find it difficult to reach a valid conclusion, but let me hazard a guess. I suspect that your wife was right in castigating you with regard to your cavalier attitude in the matter of provision of a stable home life. I don’t mean to be offensive but perhaps – just an outside chance, maybe – I have more experience in these affairs than you seem to think, assuming you dwell upon them at all. My recommendation is that if it is not too late, you make amends forthwith – and I don’t mean next week. Should the lady be uncommitted, you may still have a future together. Do consider this.

You suggest that I should try to get a grasp of the deeper meaning of life. Do you not understand that I am constantly grappling with this? The difference between us is that I attend to my domestic duties, while you clearly do not.

Once again, you are wide of the mark in inferring – by whatever abstruse means – that we are United Reformed people. In fact, we are Buddhists. You will appreciate that this belief is often defined as a non-theistic philosophy. I will not enlarge on this, as I have a due measure of respect for your intelligence. The fact is that you must look to yourself for your salvation, and you will not enhance your prospects by your current conduct.

It is kind of you to offer to keep me abreast of the state of your account with us. However, this is not necessary, as our system is up and running again. This must be a disappointment to you. How many times have we heard that this, that or the other quirk is attributable to computer failure? Wise up, Cedric. Such things are rare and usually transient. I am fully apprised of the numbers with regard to all of our borrowers and in this respect you take the biscuit. Since you moved into Poplar House, you have not paid us a penny. Despite everything, I still believe that your heart is in the right place and that you will come through for us.

Please pardon my going along a byway here, but you say you have a serious heart condition. How does this square with your earlier assertion that you are in very good health? Before I commiserate with you, kindly give me the facts. Are you really facing possible sudden doom, or merely employing yet another ruse? I don’t want to be cynical, but you owe me an explanation.

I have to agree with you about the behaviour of our legal representatives. The riot at the Chinfold village hall was indeed disgraceful. My inside information is that the trouble was started by your lawyer, but I don’t want to make anything of this. Regardless of who made the first move, the result was appalling.

While penning the above, I have been struck by a thought which may have some resonance at your end. You seem to be a devotee of Conan Doyle, and I wonder whether it has occurred to you that you may be involved in something akin to Sherlock’s final confrontation with his arch-adversary. In your case, the Moriarty is our Mr Aytuzi. I can just see the two of you locked in that final embrace at the Reichenbach Falls. Perhaps I am succumbing to delirium, but I cannot avoid wondering about which of you deserves to survive.

Now, I would love to dally, but I have another fellow who is giving me almost as much trouble as you are. He simply refuses to make repayments on a car loan. Our representative, Stephen Rook – well, you know him – and I are, even as I write, whetting our tools for an all-out onslaught on the blighter. Who’d be a financier?

I must close if this letter is to reach you tomorrow. Cedric, this is my final appeal. You are basically a good man. Just do what you know is right.

Yours hopefully,

Brian

* * *

Transcript of telephone conversation between Lionel String and Henry Blaimire, initiated by String at 11.30 a.m. on 4 April.

String: Good morning, Mister Blaimire.

Blaimire: Good morning, Mister String. I assume you are calling to apologise for your conduct three days ago?

String: Certainly not. If any apology is required, it should surely come from you.

Blaimire: If you are waiting for that, I trust you are well supplied with food and drink.

String: I will not dignify that remark with an answer. Now, perhaps you have lost sight of the fact that we represent two warring parties. I am ringing to tell you that I received this morning a cash sum from Mr Cedric King, which not only accounts for all his mortgage arrears, but includes provision for a further monthly instalment and more than covers the costs of the proceedings.

Blaimire: I am pleased to hear that, but this leaves us with a logistical problem, does it not? Far be it from me to doubt the word of a man who assaulted me so recently, but how am I to receive the alleged payment in time to cancel tomorrow’s hearing?

String: You continue to disappoint me. I am extremely busy, and if you are not willing to accept my assurance, I can suggest only that you call here to collect the money.

Blaimire: Impossible. I do not drive. However, I suggest that in order to equalise costs, I despatch my secretary and you yours. The two could meet at a halfway point. Shall we say two o’clock this afternoon at the Red Lion, Nether Walford. After all, that was the venue of our respective triumphs on the chess board, was it not?

String: Well said, sir. Let it be so. Perhaps we are not so different after all.

Blaimire: On further thought, another suggestion occurs to me. I have often heard that peace overtures should come from the party most senior in years and therefore, usually, in experience. Possibly your notion that we are not totally dissimilar isn’t far from the truth. Why not let us dispense with the secretaries? I have said that I am no motorist, whereas I believe you are. Would you care to call on me here at the office this evening – with the cash of course. I could offer you a tasting of the parsnip wine I mentioned some time ago – it really is quite special. What say you? By the way, please call me Henry.

String: You could say nothing fairer, Henry. Incidentally, henceforth kindly address me as Lionel. As it happens, I have a pound or so of particularly fine Stilton, which . . .

Blaimire: Unpasteurised, by any chance?

String: Of course. I think it would go down very well with your undoubtedly fine wine. Shall we say five o’clock? I have to get back here to prepare for a most troublesome hearing tomorrow morning.

Blaimire: Perfect. I’m sure we shall have an enjoyable hour or two together. Let us allow bygones to be bygones. Don’t forget the money.

String: No chance of that. Goodbye, Henry, old fellow.

Blaimire: Goodbye, dear boy.


* * *

Courtjester
December 17th, 2011, 06:47 PM
Reception and dinner at Poplar House, Halfpenny Lane, Little Chinfold, hosted by Cedric King and starting at 7.30 p.m. on 5 April.

Present: Cedric King, Margaret Brough (King’s ex-wife, currently re-married), Brian Bodkin, Susan Bodkin, Stephen Rook, Henry Blaimire, Emily Blaimire, Lionel String and Alice String. Apology for absence received from Mr M. Aytuzi. Speaker, Cedric King.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming. I am sorry that Mr Aytuzi could not be with us, but appreciate that his remorseless pursuit of borrowers in arrear brooks no interference. I would have liked to meet the Lebanese Limpet, as I believe he is sometimes called, but perhaps we have been spared some discomfort, as a man who never takes a dram might have dampened, or possibly dried, our spirits.

Now, unaccustomed as I am to speaking in this way, I hardly know what to say. So much has happened in the last few weeks. Perhaps I should start by apologising for my appearance. I do not normally receive guests while I am swathed in bandages. The fact is that I was conducting an experiment involving glassware. There was a mishap which I will not describe, as it was bad enough to experience such a thing, without recounting it.

We are gathered here at a moment which for me produces both joy and sorrow. I am reminded of the words of Kipling, who suggested that one true test of the worthiness of a person’s character was the ability to meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.

The tears I am having so much difficulty in concealing are occasioned by two developments. First, I have to tell you that after much toil and many setbacks, I was on the verge of a discovery which would have immeasurably improved life for all of us, when a final cruel and, I fear, irreversible snag wrecked everything. Only those who have had the cup dashed from their lips at the very moment of success can know how I feel. Was it Sisyphus who was condemned to roll a boulder up a hill, from the top of which it repeatedly fell back to the bottom? I know how he felt but I will not labour this theme.

Second, you have before you a bereaved man. My Aunt Ethel, as dear a friend as anyone might wish to have, died last night. Here again, I do not wish to be a wet blanket on what I had expected to be a wholly joyous occasion. Ethel and I were exceptionally close, so the loss to me is great. However, you all have your burdens to bear and no doubt mine are not greater than those carried by many others. I am mindful of the words of Solon of Athens, spoken about two thousand five hundred years ago. You may recall his observation that if all our misfortunes could be placed in a common heap, from which each of us would be required to take equal portions, most people would be happy to pick up the share fate had dealt them and depart.

We must summon up the sinews – I think that is borrowed from Wodehouse, but I doubt that he will object. More likely he will be gratified to be among his peers viewing our affairs from the beyond, noting that their turns of phrase have become part of our language. And with regard to the hereafter, I ask you all to consider your likely positions when you get there. I do not apologise for saying that there are those present who have dunned me mercilessly in the small matter of my oversight with respect to mortgage payments. I said all along that this microscopic affair would end satisfactorily for all concerned, and it has.

I do not intend to go into detail, so let me say only that I was always confident of my ability to be equal to the occasion. But for the distraction caused by the experiments I mentioned earlier, I would not have overlooked my remittances to Aytuzi, hair-raising though they are. It is purely and simply unfortunate that the start of the repayment schedule coincided with the last stages of my programme of ground-breaking work. Such is the lot of anyone operating at the uttermost limits of science. If you have never had the experience of total absorption in a struggle to advance the lot of humankind, you cannot understand my position. Therefore, to those of you who may have had unkind thoughts about me, I offer forgiveness.

Now, not having resorted to the insecure man’s device of making notes, I fear I am in danger of failing to touch upon certain significant points, so please allow me to address those that come to mind.

During the course of my contact with Brian Bodkin, I became aware of a serious shortcoming on my part. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a major flaw. Not easy to comprehend, is it? Brian, you drew my attention to my weaknesses in the matrimonial area. If it were within my power, I would confer upon you an honour for your efforts. As you see, my former and future wife is with us. Yes, we are reconciled and shall marry again as soon as she is freed from her present . . . er . . . encumbrance. Perhaps you are in the wrong business, Brian. May I suggest that you turn your attention to counselling? Without wishing to disparage any of your possible future efforts, I doubt that you will achieve anything to equal what you have done for the Kings. Please accept our most heartfelt thanks.

My intercourse with Aytuzi was not one-way traffic. I suspect Brian will agree with me when I say that I have been instrumental in guiding him through what he will in due course come to regard as his Jeremiah period. No, don’t thank me, Brian: you gave as much as you got.

And now to Henry Blaimire and Lionel String. Gentlemen, I have taken the step of acquainting myself with your not inconsiderable deeds on the chessboard. It is a pity that we did not meet in that arena before we got together this evening. Had we done so, you might have had something to report to your team-mates. Yes, I have dabbled in the game, to the extent that I once played against the great Vassili Smyslov. Ah, I thought that might raise the odd eyebrow. You may recall that he had the distinction of being rated number two in the world in 1948 and that when the years were reversed – ‘48 to ‘84 – he was only one place lower. What an extraordinary achievement.

The two of us agreed that we would never disclose the result of our clash. I will abide by that accord and have no doubt he would reciprocate, should you approach him. Permit me to say merely that after what the sole observer – who also agreed to make no further comment on the game – called an epic, Vassili was not seen to smile for some time. Gird your loins, Mr Blaimire and Mr String. As my recent experiments are at an end, we may engage in combat. Should we do so, you might find your Evans Gambits and Sicilian Defences tested to their breaking points. Incidentally, you seem to be at home with king’s pawn openings. Perhaps the more contemplative and less immediately gladiatorial style of the queen’s side starts would do something to moderate your apparent partiality to violence. In this context, and in order to avoid my stealing a march on you, please note that I am partial to the King’s Indian Defence – what else would you expect?

Now, I must apologise in advance for the fact that Margaret will be leaving us immediately after we have eaten, as she is assisting me in my latest business venture and there is an element of urgency. I could conceal this project from you, but I know that the sense of honour we all share will preclude your disseminating details. My dear partner will spend the post-prandial hours stitching together the pieces of the prototype of an item I intend to present to the world this autumn, and the purchasers have a longish lead-time, so need sight of this object in the next couple of days. Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to unveil what will become an almost indispensable winter accessory, especially for fashion-conscious women. I refer to the suede balaclava. Believe me, nothing can stop an idea whose time has come, and I predict that our streets will soon be thronged with upmarket females of paramilitary appearance. No applause now, please – I shall take the curtain calls later.

It has just occurred to me that the extemporaneous nature of my remarks has led me to get the cart before the horse, so I must mention something that should have been covered at the outset. There may be those among you who wonder whether the seating arrangements here are random. They are not. I have separated Messrs Blaimire and String, bearing in mind their tendency to settle their differences by pugilistic means. Mr Rook is on my immediate left, not through any question of hierarchy, but because I wish to keep an eye on his alcohol intake, in respect of which he recently disappointed me. Susan Bodkin is at my right-hand side, as I intend to apprise her of certain dietary information, speaking of which, you will see that I am offering lentil rissoles as an extra choice, in case anyone does not care for the lobster thermidor or chateaubriand.

I note that some of you have already made quite a dent in the caviar – beluga, by the way. In urging you to partake of everything on what I feel sure you will agree is a groaning table, I say only that I would appreciate your limiting consumption of the Richebourg to, let us say, a couple of glasses each, as the vintage in question was a lean one and I understand that there is little more to be had. Enjoy yourselves.


The End

Courtjester
January 18th, 2012, 12:19 PM
If you have enjoyed ‘Man In Debt’, you may be interested to hear that another new thread has been opened by me with the heading ‘Solomon Had It Easier’. It is going contain ever more stories about Octogenarian Embert Wimple who was coaxed out of retirement to lighten the workload of his fellow judges. You will hear about some of the cases heard by him in the last year before he finally called it a day. He was facing a formidable array of barristers in an assortment of bizarre contests. For example, you will encounter a man who was building an atom bomb at home, the operator of a tower crane using his machine to play skittles with his workmates, and a woman assaulting her husband with a frozen chicken. If that sounds interesting to you, please follow this link:


http://www.writingforums.com/humour/127205-solomon-had-easier.html (http://www.writingforums.com/humour/121245-madazine-6.html#post1494136)

With kind regards,
The Courtjester

:champagne:

Courtjester
March 10th, 2012, 06:53 PM
P.S. You may also find ‘Madazine’ of interest. This link will take you to it:

http://www.writingforums.com/humour/121245-madazine.html

:welcome:

Courtjester
April 28th, 2012, 06:21 PM
NOTE


If you have enjoyed Man In Debt, perhaps you would like to try my latest offering, Pondhopper, starting with Footwear, the first of twenty adventures of a Briton working as a private eye in the USA. If that sounds good to you, please follow the link below:


http://www.writingforums.com/humour/129436-pondhopper.html#post1520576 (http://www.writingforums.com/humour/129436-pondhopper.html#post1520576)

playingthepianodrunk
May 9th, 2012, 04:59 AM
It's not really my style but good work. Very long.

Courtjester
July 15th, 2012, 06:24 PM
If you have enjoyed ‘Man In Debt’, you might care to know that the first item of another aspect of my work has just appeared on a different forum. This is a story entitled ‘Banking On It’ and is the first of what I hope will be a series called ‘Sunset Stories’. If you like the sound of this, please click on the link below:



http://www.writingforums.com/crime-thriller-general-fiction/131220-sunset-stories-banking-others.html#post1541557 (http://www.writingforums.com/crime-thriller-general-fiction/131220-banking.html#post1539438)

The Courtjester

Kryptex
October 8th, 2012, 01:52 PM
I am shocked and distressed to learn that you are behaving in this way, especially as we are establishing such a promising personal rapport.

:rofl: I like it :lol:


I'll continue to read when I finish my lesson, but it looks incredibly interesting so far. :)

Kryptex
October 9th, 2012, 02:05 PM
It's brilliant, funny and gripping.

One of my only criticisms is the way you sometimes use abbreviations such as can't or didn't.

With the language used, I expected cannot or can not, or did not etcetera.
An otherwise nice read.

Wessik
October 10th, 2012, 03:26 AM
.*O*.

Courtjester
October 10th, 2012, 06:22 PM
Dear Kryptex,

Many thanks for your comments. So nice to know that you got some enjoyment from ‘Man in Debt’. If you decide to try more of my work in the Humour and Crime forums, I hope you will find other pieces to your liking.

With regard to the contractions you mention, I use both long and short versions at various times, the former usually when an element of gravitas is required. As it happens, I have just read some of Thomas Hardy’s work and noted that he used the shorter form of these and other expressions quite liberally, over a century ago, so I seem to be in illustrious company.

The way I regard this, the writing should emanate from the characters rather than their creator. As the suspect under intensive interrogation said: ‘That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!’

Best wishes – Cj

Courtjester
October 10th, 2012, 06:23 PM
.*O*.

.*?*.

Wessik
October 10th, 2012, 07:40 PM
Courtjester, I started to read this, and could not stop. I was so interested in how the story would turn out! Then I scrolled down. Lol. Actually, this work was presented in installments, so I shall read it installments. Dastardly entertaining, by the way! Once I am finished with the whole thing, I offer my comments. Thank you for this!

Kryptex
October 10th, 2012, 08:14 PM
I fully understand :D

And I agree with Wessik, I don't usually read pieces like this, it's too entertaining :lol:

Courtjester
October 12th, 2012, 11:51 AM
Dear Kryptex and Wessik (I hope you don’t mind being addressed jointly),

Thank you for your further comments. Man in Debt is by far the longest piece I have posted, hence the instalments. I think I can safely promise you that it gets crazier as it proceeds, so I trust you will get a few more chuckles along the way. I like to think that when you get to the end, you will consider your patience rewarded.

My other work comprises short stories and zany articles. Most of them can be found in the Humour Forum, but some – my Wild West stories – are presently appearing in the Crime Forum.

Best wishes - Cj

:encouragement:

Courtjester
February 5th, 2014, 07:38 PM
It has occurred to me that anyone who has found ‘Man In Debt’ entertaining might like to know that I have recently posted several new items to the ‘Madazine’ thread in this forum. I hope they will provide some pleasure. Cj


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