In the 1990s, with the emergence of a freer society in Russia, a number of people began assuming long-forgotten titles. The people of Europe love fancy titles.

Although I haven’t lived in Europe since about the time of Henry V I received a letter from Dr B J in der Busch of Hemelijnstraat, Holland (I am being serious) who signed himself Emeritus Professor of Economics (but did not say where); Grand Prior of the Templar Order, Chancellor of the Lofsensic Ursinius Order and Member of the Academy Midi.

These orders, I found, actually exist.

The letter was headed HONOURS and it listed honours currently available.

I must confess I hunger for honours. I am one of those persons who has initials only in front of his name.
Mind you I could add OMD. I know an academic who adds OMD after his PhD (Oxon) and MSc (Rand) and he says only one person has ever asked him what OMD meant. It stands for Honorary Member of Densa - Densa being the club for those too stupid to get into Mensa.

The only honour I have received was an honorary membership of the Institute for Solid Waste Management. (Being a writer the bestowal of this honour has often bothered me.)

Dr in der Busch offered me membership of the Maison Internationale des Intellectuels in Paris. Me! That is to say, Moi! Une intellectuel! If I’d become a member I would have received a “passport-like identification book, three buttons for the coat and a large plasticised diploma for the wall”. All I had to do was send $140 (US) and three photographs.

Or - for the same price plus three photographs - I could have become a Knight of the Templar Order (12th Century) which comes with two sealed diplomas. (Hurry, while stocks last!).

A knighthood in the Order of the Lofsensic Ursinius Order (10th Century) - I find that this too exists - could be had for a mere $100 and just one photograph. So could a knighthood of the Holy Grail (King Parzival), or a knighthood of the Order Circulo Nobilario de las Cabelleros, or a Captain of the Legion de L’Aigle de Mer which included a medal (“large”). Captain Clarke! Le croissance! Touts! (I’m sorry, I can get very excited at the thought of having a title other than Mr.)

For $200 and six photographs I could have got into the serious stuff: “six various honours including three medals with band” (a “toot ensemble”?). He adds “you may include members of your family and friends”.

Not believing in half-measures I posted off $500 and a dozen pictures of myself in adulthood.

The weeks went by. I could hardly sleep. Then, very early one morning, came a Dutch-sounding knock at the door.

My wife answered the door and called up to me: “Coo-ee! Baby shoes!”

“What is it, Chicken pie?” I called down as I tried to fish my teeth out of the tooth mug.

“There’s a man at the door with a long sword who wants to fight you. Oh! No, sorry… He says wants to KNIGHT you! He wishes to bestow upon you a knighthood and proclaim you heir to the throne of Silesia.”

“Does it come with a plasticised diploma?” I shouted back.

“He says he comes with some assorted crown jewels - oh, and a tiger’s eye for the kids. And, guess what?”

“I am trying to think, my Sweet Lips.” (THINKS like anything.) “I give up. What?”

“He has just made me Baroness of Brakpan!”

“Tell him that as soon as I get my teeth in I’ll be right down.”

“He says you don’t need your teeth - he’s offering knighthoods not Gouda cheese.”

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James Clarke