What family is free from a little friction here and there? Dave’s family certainly isn’t, as those who have followed his misfortunes will realise. But one corner of that family – not often spoken of by the rest of the clan – is more given to discord than most. We are referring mainly to Uncle Hugh.
Hugh “over my dead body” Canhope is Dave’s maternal uncle, and a more disagreeable man it would be hard to find. He is almost always at daggers drawn with one or other of his three children, and he provides his solicitor with a steady stream of income by regularly rewriting his will so as to disinherit whichever one it is that is currently out of favour.
Somehow, though, Dave does not seem to be able to shake off this unpleasant relation, and today is one of those days when Uncle Hugh is sounding off to his unwilling nephew.
It isn’t appropriate on these pages – just in case you’re reading them before the watershed – to quote verbatim how Hugh describes his offspring.
However, the gist of it is that Hugh has reached the end of his tether; he will be damned if any of his lazy, good-for-nothing, ungrateful, malicious, disobedient wastrel children, or their idle, drunken, cheating, scruffy layabouts of husbands or wives (delete where applicable) will see a penny of Hugh’s hard-earned cash or a single brick of the house that he’s worked for 30 years to pay for.
Hugh is in mid-rant in the back room of FinalVinyl, where Dave is vainly trying to work, when Simon walks in. For once, Dave looks pleased to see him.
“Who’s in for it this time, Hugh?” Simon asks. He’s quite used to Hugh’s testamentary vacillations.
“All of ‘em” snaps Hugh. “I’ve had enough. I’m washing my hands of the lot of ‘em.”
Simon attempts the conciliatory approach. “Come on, Hugh; they can’t all be that bad.”
“Worse.” Hugh is not to be appeased.
“Well you might as well make up your mind to it – they’re going to come into your money some day.”
“Not if I have anything to do with it. I’ve made up my mind to leave everything to the Woodham Croquet Club.”
“But you don’t like croquet.”
“Utterly loathe it. Which will make my point even more.”
“You can’t do that, Hugh.”
“Of course I can. It’s my property, I can do what I like with it. Simple as that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that if you don’t make reasonable provision for your family, they may be able to challenge the will after you’re, well, you know, dead.”
It seems to surprise Hugh that he won’t always be around to control who gets their hands on his property. “I’ll make it crystal clear. My children will get nothing.”
“It isn’t just about how clear you make it, it’s about whether you are allowed to do it at all. You would have to write an accompanying letter of wishes, not just saying why you don’t want to leave it to them, but also explaining why you do want to leave it to the croquet club. They might argue that that you were being unreasonable. And a court might agree.”
This is about as close as anyone has ever got to criticising Hugh, and he doesn’t take it well. His look suggests that if there were ever a time that he might have bequeathed anything to Simon, that time has passed.
“How do you know all this stuff?”
Dave chimes in: “Simplify the Law, of course”. Now it is his turn to be glared at. “I’m sorry, Uncle, but randomly punishing your children by disinheriting them isn’t all that simple. You can try, but to be honest you’re just better off making a will, dividing your property between your children, and trying not to fall out with them.”
Also, Dave thinks to himself, there ought to be a law against cantankerous old misers taking out their own issues on their children.
Judging by the look on Hugh’s face, Dave may have forgotten to keep that thought inside his head.
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