Alice in Wonderland, bona vacantia, Charles Lutwidge Dodson, Eton Porny school, Fraser and Fraser, Godzilla, Goneril and Regan, heir hunters, Jabberwocky, King Lear, Mozilla, Nigel Milford-Haven, probate genealogists, Ronald Reagan, rubber, Ted Hughes
Nigel Milford-Haven was suffering frustration in St Birinus Middle’s
staff study. He was trying to fix up a friendly mini-rugby match for
his Junior B team, but was denied access when he attempted to
Google Eton Porny C of E First School, Windsor, to get the phone
number of the sports master. He only had one study period that
morning and he was increasingly finding himself wasting time
through being blocked by the school’s over-rigorous firewall, which
had the aggression of a New South Wales inferno, he felt. Level:
Even in the holidays, he had come into school in his own time, to
prepare some war poetry for his English class. He had wanted to
print off Six Young Men by Ted Hughes. The firewall interpreted this
as Six Fit Blokes and thwarted him. What about Transitus A’s
Jabberwocky questions on portmanteaux? Charles Lutwidge Dodson
was clearly a no-go area.
Uttering a mild expletive which his charges were prone to utilise in
the yard and which did not even merit a detention, he turned to the
geography worksheets that he had been typing. The Malaysian
Peninsula and its Cash Crops had seemed a little more original than
the textbook’s playsafe options until he smugly typed in: Rubber.
Again- total obstruction!
His phone rang. He jumped with guilt. He had only landed on a
sepia photo of the young Alice in Wonderland model for a
nanosecond before quickly removing his virtual presence. Surely it
couldn’t be the Thought Police already? This was beginning to be
like 1984, only decades on.
Hello, Child Protection Nemesis. I mean, hello. Milford-Haven, St
Hello, is that Nigel Milford-Haven? Or did you say St. Birinus?
Milford-Haven- yes, Nigel speaking.
Ah, just needed to check.
(Who would take the part of a single, male, housemaster? Wasn’t
Napoleon Braithwaite in 3C’s father a defence lawyer?)
You see, the voice continued olagineously, you don’t know us, but
we are Fraser and Fraser.
He hadn’t taught any identical twins, had he?
And we have some potential good news for you. We are probate
genealogists who look into the treasury’s bona vacantia unclaimed
estates and, passing over our 40% search fees, we have to tell you
that your great-aunt Julia Conroy-Haven, spinster, left a large parcel
of land and some property to be used for educational purposes in
perpetuity. However, in these times of austerity, the council
could no longer afford to maintain these assets as local
demographics had moved the infant population on, so to speak, and
therefore a builder developed the site for four luxury town houses. As
one of the legal heirs, you may be entitled to a share in the proceeds.
But how did you find me? blurted Nigel, desperately trying to recall
Great Aunt Julia, lest he share the epic sin of ingratitude with Ronald
Reagan and the like- or was it Goneril and Regan? They hadn’t
covered King Lear in his B.Ed teacher training and he had always felt
the lack thereof..
Well, we use the Electoral Roll and the Records Office, but your
erstwhile neighbours were all too ready to get in on a slice of the
action and enjoyed their microsecond of televisual coverage while
proffering your forwarding address.
So I am the beneficiary?
One of them-yes. Through your great-uncle, your father being-ah-
Nigel could see a small apartment away from school begin to
materialise. He could de-mote to bog standard schoolmaster,
without house duties. Maybe part-time would be possible…He could
watch Only Connect in the privacy of his own home without Ralston
junior pestering him to help with his Latin prep. Bona vacantia– he
must look that up! It must mean Open sesame!
So, if I sign up, how much am I due- after your cut, naturally? Sorry
to be so blunt…
Not at all, Mr Milford-Haven. You are thirteenth in line after your
great-uncle’s children and their offspring.
I’d say that we will send you a cheque for £100.
The riverside apartment de-materialised rapidly and he could see
himself working till he was put on the Pathway and he didn’t mean
the one to prosperity.
Ah well, it would just about cover his petrol for the double journey
he would have to take to discuss directly next term’s fixtures with
the sports department of that curiously named school whose contact
details he was denied by Godzilla or some other ridiculous-sounding