Thursday 30 January 2020

Doctor becomes Dave

Q. Hey, what do you call the chap [it's always a chap] who
graduates bottom of the class in Medical School?
A. Doctor.
In a way that's proper order: someone has to be last and at least that person completed the course, doing most of the assignments, attending many of the classes and presumably did well academically in school to scrabble the points to get into Med School in the first place.

Years ago a PhD fell into my lap [because I travelled to a different continent and worked really hard and learned  a lot]; in that case D is for Doctorate. But the only person who used that honorific was my mother when addressing envelopes (with stamps, remember them??):
Dr Robert T. Scientist PhD
she'd write. My son, the Doctor, indeed.

Well, as I wrote, my mother died recently and my siblings and I spent a weekend together in the parental home sorting papers - and other bits and pieces but mainly papers. Begob but there were a lot of them: mostly in cardboard grocery boxes where they formed archaeological layers. It's the kind of situation where a forensic scientist would be careful retain context. An undated letter near an envelope with a post-mark can be placed in historical context; Christmas and birthday cards tend to be in the same layer; an adjacent electricity bill can help predict which birthday was being celebrated; contrariwise a 90th bday card [must be 2010] can help date the adjacent concert programme.

Yes, yes, but none of us was treating it as a crime-scene, we just wanted to abstract family letters and photographs, and the most recent bills and bank-statements. The latter for probate to see how much tax we owed the state. My sister came across some correspondence from a ship's chandlery about 'preference shares' and 'dividends". The company name was familiar to us all because we'd each inherited 233 such preference shares from my father's Aunt Anna. Those shares were worth a nominal £1 each but were essentially valueless because when I tried to sell them through the company 30 years ago, they refused to entertain my request.

For probate-completeness, I was designated to contact the company to ascertain the value of my mother's shares. I got a surprisingly effusive response. The new Managing Director had acquired the Chandlery more than a decade ago and decided to clean up the company accounts by buying back all the preference shares. In 2011, he had squared away my mother [in 2008], and almost all the other holders-of equity; but there were still a few outstanding share-holders whom he'd been unable to track down. No, he had no recollection of a B. Scientist in the MIA list but he did have a D. Scientist and a vague suggestion that D could really be Dr. Scientist. That's me, I cried: Dr B.T. Scientist, PhD.  I even located the original share certificate from 1975.
 I now have Great Expectations of a few hundred pounds of 'found money'. It's really not so much the money as a useful exercise in consolidation and simplification of my financial affairs, so that my kids are not left with a huge heap of very miscellaneous papers and a mammoth headache.

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