Bertram Mildew ran the laundry which bore his name, underlining the fact that he was the proud owner of this seldom-patronised venture. “Mildew Laundry Services” which didn’t seem to “Cut it” in a town bustling with shops selling everything from unnecessary trinkets to those nifty new slippers which, battery charged, add a comforting glow to your feet without placing an undue burden on the central heating system.
At last, as his capital reserves dwindled towards crisis point he took the bold step of contacting a powerful PR company in the next town. ‘Smoothie and Glib Ltd,’ masters of the flowing phrase sited just beyond the world of meaning, who sent one of their sharper wordsters to,” get a sense of the Mildew enterprise,” and see how much they could drain out of his monetary reserves before he cottoned on to the fact that a laundry with the word ‘Mildew’ in its title was unlikely to attract custom from a town noted for a high percentage of neurotics amongst its population.
Across the road the local café, ‘Bland Eating’ which employed the slogan “Every allergy catered for”, seemed to enjoy a thriving existence, if you can ignore the fact that most of those who entered therin were checking the newspaper for nut content, or holding a handkerchief to their noses lest nearby trees tried to pollinate their nostrils. Even its rival, “The Fat Café,” which boasted in black print above the entrance, “All weights welcome: our doors accept any figure” managed to cram a decent number of customers into its outsized chairs on a regular basis. The sound of the waiter leaning over the table and asking in the quiet cultured voice gained while failing a degree at Oxford “Four eggs or six sir” added a surprisingly sophisticated tone to an eatery which boasted slightly stained tablecloths.
Sydney Byline, “A tie to suit every mood,” was the sharpster sent by Smoothie and Glib to get the lie of the land. “The secret is in the name” he told Mr Mildew with a gloating display of perceptive power. “Have you ever thought of changing it to something which would be less distracting to prospective customers of a laundry”
“I cannot change the name without offending the memory of my father. He would spin in his crematorium.” “I see” said the nimble advisor. “Perhaps if we combined his name with that of your mother we might distract from the ‘subtext’ if you follow me” Mildew didn’t follow him, but gallantly offered up the surname of his mother as the route to business rescue, “Widebottom”
Our canny advisor, who had slipped into The Fat Café on his way to the appointment looked stunned for a second and then his face cleared and he said “Mildew and Widebottom, by-line, ‘No shirt too large, no dress too shapeless” and added, “That is the very thing to gain custom in this odd and ill-peopled town, and as an afterthought he continued, “Open at tactful hours” which might save the blushes of those still unfamiliar with the interior of a gym.
By these simple steps, Mildew found his fortunes restored and social profile raised. Even the future Mrs Mildew, current name Sandra Boil, was introduced to him while sneaking a stained party frock through his doors at 2:30 am, which, mysteriously, had become his busiest hour.