The Duke of Mildshire could look back on a traceable ancestry of over four hundred years, populated by those who lived largely free of financial and moral constraints: rich in statesman of varying moral profiles. Owing to a remorseless stream of what the Duke called “bad luck” and others referred to as reckless behaviour the circumstances of the current bearer of the title were markedly different to those of his ancestors. Now residing at Flat 3, 25 Whiteley Crescent, which he usually referred to as his castle, the current nobleman was the distinguished leaseholder of a local fish and chip shop, by-line, “ Every meal served with distinction, ” which Frederick Norman Octavius de Launston, twelfth Duke of Mildshire, or Freddie as he was known during working hours, toiled at during his day.
At night, as he laid his weary head on the pillow, which had been washed within living memory, he dreamt of being free of the drudgery that he felt ill- suited a man of his background. Gym-averse, and with the figure to prove it, our tired nobleman wracked his brains for ways to escape what he secretly described as “a living nightmare.”
He felt sure he might be able to indulge in what he niftily described as “Reverse Russian bride dating,” by which he meant securing the attention, if not affection, of a lady of East European origin who wished to live in a world of takeaway restaurants and hair salons offering a pleasing range of outdated magazines: needless to say her father would have made a vulgar pile of money in the gas industry or some other noble enterprise.
Barely was the thought formed than a surge of what some people call “energy” coursed through his system: regardless of the hour, he sprang out of bed and switched on his laptop. Within minutes his eyes were grazing through a field rich in grinning female faces of East European ancestry. Petroska Bulgin, who boasted that she liked to “make cakes the good” caught his eye. He sent her a message “Dear Petroska, I read of your enthusiasm for baking with pleasure. I am involved in the food industry and feel your skills would lie very happily with mine.” The whiff of double entendre in the word “lie” gave a pleasing edge to his message, he considered, and he signed it Freddie, Duke of Mildshire.
Freddie prided himself he could look beyond any surface blemish to the inner bank statement and Petroska seemed similarly inspired by his circumstances: affections swiftly deepened to the point where a need to meet became imperative. Freddie managed to refer casually to his need to repaint “ The Castle” by which we know he meant Flat 3, 25 Whiteley Crescent.
Both parties raved about the spiritual beauty of the other, and how hard it must be for someone of such purity to survive in the brutalising world they both had to endure. When Petroska asked him how far his castle was from the nearest hair salon, complete with outdated magazines, he realised he had seriously engaged her interests. On her part, his enquiry about the number of gas pipelines controlled by her father displayed, she considered, a pleasing and caring side to his character.
At last the time arrived when she decided that she must fly over and see her soulmate in person and enjoy a quick tour round his estate . Clearly this was a slightly disturbing prospect to our adventurous nobleman but possibly his first challenge was to smarten up the fish and chip van to a standard more suited to the transport of a would-be Duchess. Regarding his residence. our wily Duke told his “besotted one” that the castle was being redecorated and they would be forced to stay at a country hotel within walking distance of a local hair salon: that seemed to please her.
He thought briefly of hiring a car for the duration of her visit but fish sales had been ebbing recently and he was not sure the business could stand the extravagance. Still, he was determined nothing would get between him and a lifetime’s supply of free energy. ” Fortune favours the knave ” he said, quoting from his as yet unwritten Book Of Dark Wisdoms with a gusto which would have made his ancestors proud: others might nod their heads at this unsettling profundity.