I have just received a very intriguing and perplexing communique from a Mr Ho Wang, delivered "via his proxy visiting my country". It was actually addressed to my mother, but she is away and in such circumstances I’m instructed to open her letters, in case they are of importance. This letter certainly was that.
It concerned my late father.
It was a shock to learn of my father's death; particularly as I had lunch with him yesterday, 1st March, and the letter was dated 29th January. More troubling still was that, unbeknownst to any of us, he died in a "ghastly motor accident in mainland China, back in 2002". The Land Rover Discovery we had at the time was an unreliable car, but terribly safe, and had difficulty making it to Surrey, let alone mainland China.
The revelations, however, kept coming. It transpired that he was born in Gdansk. To be honest, his claim to be from Bolton always seemed a little fishy, as he has a perfect RP accent and supports Chelsea Football Club.
Furthermore, the old boy was rich: RICH, I TELLS YEH! (Well, I don’t. Mr Ho Wang does.) In 2000, he “invested US$21.7MN with our Hong Kong investment bank”. Obviously, they never offered him the chance to use their Swiss branch, or perhaps it was before that idea had occurred to them. Mr Ho Wang, it appears, managed my father’s money and “he made good returns from the commodities trade”.
It was at this point that I began to doubt the tidings of Mr Wang. For my father, whether under the advice of his stockbrokers or on his own whim, rarely makes any profit on the markets. Indeed, that is how he likes it, for it allows him to start ever morning with a sulk about GSK’s latest bungle. He even has shares in Tesco’s.
On the other hand, Mr Wang referred to my father’s “china prospects”. Many would suggest that the lack of a capitalised C on “china” is a typo: but, I know that this refers to my papa’s love of porcelain, so once again Mr Wang regained the ring of truth.
Mr Wang had a proposal.
This seemed a little impersonal. After all, I had just learned of my father’s death not three paragraphs ago and was struggling to come to terms with this shocking turn of events. The situation is as follows: the money he accrued has remained out of touch as no next of kin could be reached. Indeed, we are not the next of kin, but Mr Wang suggest that he makes my mother the next of kin legally. He reassures us: “You don’t have to do anything but wait and receive estate payments. For our efforts, I propose we split proceeds.”
Suddenly, everything falls into place. My father is alive, but conducted a highly successful, very secretive junket with connections to the Chinese financial services’ industry. His cover at home was that he was a highly successful international barrister, constantly required for trips to the Far East. This was a part he played so well that he was appointed a QC in 1984, and still “pops up to London” for business. Now, I see, he’s clearly having marvellous lunches, paid for with his ill-gotten gains.
Clearly, he ran into trouble and faked his own death, before, like Derek Nimmo in One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, he escaped the clutches of the Chinese, no doubt drawing on the all the skills he acquired during his rough childhood on the streets of Gdansk.
Mr Wang, it seems, is oblivious to this, but is insistent on his proposition, one which he sells poetically if not always grammatically. “This is a golden opportunity for us both,” he writes, “and I hold the key to its success. They say ‘nothing ventured is nothing gained’ [which I suppose is the longhand version of that saying] and that success and riches rarely come easy on a platter of gold [silver, generally, but now it turns out that I’m absolutely minted, I’m willing to upgrade], but when it does, a man must seize it [he seems to have forgotten that he is writing to my mother, who is, as mothers generally are, a woman].”
Mr Wang concludes: “This is the one truth I have learned from life. “Let us seize this opportunity together”.”
He has asked us to get in touch and, dear reader, I shall inform you of our progress and, we will invite you to the inevitable, glitzy gala party in honour of my surprisingly wealthy, surprisingly Polish, surprisingly dead father.