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ashokbhatia

The character of Bertie Wooster is a study in contrasts. He has a dreamy sweetness about him. He is soft and chivalrous. He has a generous soul. He declines all proposals of marriage in a very polished manner. He never bandies about a woman’s name. Code of the Woosters Cover 1

But very often he also displays a unique strength of character. He can also speak his mind. If there is a fruity scheme which might result in the Code of the Woosters getting compromised, he is not game.

The delicately nurtured invariably corner Bertie and persuade him to do something truly goofy and get him into a jam. Gwladys puts her boyfriend with a broken leg in his flat. Pauline Stoker invades his rural cottage at the dead of night in a bathing suit. Florence Craye, Pauline Stoker, Roberta Wickham, Vanessa Cook, Nobby and Stiffy Byng are some other characters which immediately spring to one’s…

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ashokbhatia

When it comes to delivering bad news gently, Bertie Wooster is good. His technique involves an adequate amount of foreplay and inane conversation, followed by the news which is likely to leave the other person all-of-a-twitter.Code of the Woosters Cover 2

However, when the situation demands, he can also be tough on the errant person, putting him or her in place. Mind you, he does not offend. He merely follows the Code of the Woosters and plays firm and steady. He does so till the time the object of his derision wilts and relents.

He asserts himself. Much like the ancient Roman gladiators, he also chooses to be aggressive at times, whereupon his agility and nippiness knows no bounds. If he is sarcastic, his nonchalant manner rules supreme. It is another matter that his brand of subtle sarcasm is often lost on a hard-boiled party of the other part.

Here are some instances from ‘

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Think of those lavish spreads of Anatole’s and the mouth waters. MereWodehouse characters description of the dishes dished out by the “God’s gift to our gastric juices” makes us drool.

Even though the names of the dishes sound enticing, not many of us pause to think of the ingredients.

Take a saunter down Moulder’s Lane and you will find each of the dishes de-mystified. This delectable post would not only whet your appetite but also make you wonder at the investigative skills of the authoress who could perhaps pose a danger to the career prospects of Sherlock Holmes.

Bon appetit!

Statutory Warning: Partaking of all the dishes mentioned herein in one go could upset your calorie counts. The lining of your stomach could register a protest. Restraint is advised.

(Illustration courtesy www)

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/of-bertie-goofy-females-and-the-wooster-clan

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/an-invitation-for-the-residents-of-plumsville)

Moulders Lane

After an amusing discussion at Baker’s Daughter blog on food in books and eating the Enid Blyton way, and a prompt from that witty Wodehouse fan the Old Reliable Ashokbhatia, I have polished up my A level French and scoured the internet to bring you this Wodehousian feast. Aficianados will recall it is the menu put together by Bertie in The Code of the Woosters after he anticipates being jugged in lieu of Aunt Dahlia:

‘Bertie! Do you mean this?’

‘I should say so. What’s a mere thirty days in the second division? A bagatelle. I can do it on my head. Let Bassett do his worst. And, ‘ I added in a softer voice, ‘ when my time is up and I come out into the world once more a free man, let Anatole do his best. A month of bread and water or skilly or whatever they…

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When it comes to making a choice between characters of all sizes and shapes created by P G Wodehouse, one would be left twiddling one’s thumbs. A sense of bafflement would overwhelm us. Our minds boggle. Not so for the jury which declares the winner. They happen to be used to a pitiless analysis of characters and situations. They have nerves of chilled steel.
Pig….hoooooo….eeeey!

Plumtopia

Having taken the obligatory swigs of orange juice, it gives me great pleasure to announce the prize winner of the ‘Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party’ competition. Judging was more difficult than expected. I’m only sorry there aren’t enough prizes to go around.

The entries deserves some discussion, beginning with Sally — what a wonderful name for a Wodehouse lover. Sally was quick off the mark in suggesting Cakebread, butler of Shipley Hall in Money in the Bank. A fine answer. Even the name Cakebread implies calories. Those of you who’ve read Money in the Bank will also know it’s an alias. Cakebread isn’t Cakebread. He’s not a real butler either. But he is large.

‘The newcomer, as the sound of his footsteps had suggested, was built on generous lines. In shape, he resembled a pear, reasonably narrow at the top but getting wider and wider all the way down and…

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The character of Bertie Wooster is a study in contrasts. He has a dreamy sweetness about him. He is soft and chivalrous. He has a generous soul. He declines all proposals of marriage in a very polished manner. He never bandies about a woman’s name. Code of the Woosters Cover 1

But very often he also displays a unique strength of character. He can also speak his mind. If there is a fruity scheme which might result in the Code of the Woosters getting compromised, he is not game.

The delicately nurtured invariably corner Bertie and persuade him to do something truly goofy and get him into a jam. Gwladys puts her boyfriend with a broken leg in his flat. Pauline Stoker invades his rural cottage at the dead of night in a bathing suit. Florence Craye, Pauline Stoker, Roberta Wickham, Vanessa Cook, Nobby and Stiffy Byng are some other characters which immediately spring to one’s mind.

Not to be left behind, his rough and tough aunts also come up with demands which put the hapless Bertie in a fix. But unlike other members of the opposite sex, they also stand up and protect him when they notice a threat to the Wooster clan.

In The Code of the Woosters, both Aunt Dahlia and Stiffy exhort him to pinch a silver cow-creamer. He does not fall prey to their machinations. His views on the opposite sex in general and on aunts in particular reveal to us the underlying code of conduct he normally follows.

When the Delicately nurtured Lie

When girlfriends and wives give the men in their lives a build-up, they often end up overdoing it. They never know when to stop while doing so. But do they lie in the process?

I remember Mrs Bingo Little once telling me, shortly after their marriage, that Bingo said poetic things to her about sunsets – his best friends being perfectly well aware, of course, that the old egg never noticed a sunset in his life and that, if he did by a fluke ever happen to do so, the only thing he would say about it would be that it reminded him of a slice of roast beef, cooked just right.

However, you can’t call a girl a liar; so, as I say, I said: ‘Well, well!’

Being a Preux Chevalier

Bertie has perfected the art of retaining his bachelorhood. This is how he explains his reasons for not willing to take a saunter down the aisle with Madeline.

‘I should feel just the same about marrying many of the world’s noblest women. There are certain females whom one respects, admires, reveres, but only from a distance. If they show any signs of attempting to come closer, one is prepared to fight them off with a blackjack. It is to this group that your cousin Madeline belongs. A charming girl, and the ideal mate for Augustus Fink-Nottle, but ants in the pants to Bertram.’

Being a Shrewd but Level-headed Pig

It is understandable that parents do not normally approve of their daughters marrying curates. Same goes for uncles who are concerned about their nieces. Since Stiffy would like to get married to a curate – Stinker Pinker – she must find a way to sell him to her uncle, Pop Bassett. Bertie’s services are requisitioned. However, Bertie has no intentions of becoming a part of any of her loathsome schemes.

I told myself that I must be firm. But I could not but remember Roberta Wickham and the hot-water bottle. A man thinks he is chilled steel – or adamant, if you prefer the expression – and suddenly the mists clear away and he finds that he has allowed a girl to talk him into something frightful. Samson had the same experience with Delilah.

Plain praise would not work, she feels. Pinker saving a drowning uncle from a boat in the lake is an idea shot down by both of them, simply because there is no lake around. A friend dressing up as a tramp and attacking the uncle, followed by the man in shining armor dashing in and rescuing him, is an idea which is quashed by Bertie. Stiffy then comes up with another terrific idea – that of Bertie stealing Uncle Watkyn’s cow-creamer! Pinker would then secure the object d’art and hand it over to her uncle, thereby earning his gratitude and a vicarage. Bertie refuses to oblige, earning a reprimand from Stiffy.

‘I do mean I won’t do it.’
‘Well, I think you are a pig.’
‘A pig, maybe, but a shrewd, level-headed pig.’

Stiffy then offers a reward to Bertie – return of Gussie’s notebook with juicy comments about Pop Bassett and Roderick Spode. Bertie shudders at the prospect.

The Royal Disapproval

Jeeves and Bertie agree that the modern emancipation of women may not have the royal seal of approval.

‘The whole fact of the matter is that all this modern emancipation of women has resulted in them getting it up their noses and not giving a damn what they do. It was not like this in Queen Victoria’s day. The Prince Consort would have had a word to say about a girl like Stiffy, what?’
‘I can conceive that His Royal Highness might quite possibly not have approved of Miss Byng.’

The effect of a Woman’s Grief

‘But you are going to help us, aren’t you?’
‘I am not.’
‘Well, I do think you might.’
‘I dare say you do, but I won’t.’

Somewhere about the first or second line of this chunk of dialogue, I had observed her eyes begin to moisten and her lips to tremble, and a pearly one had started to steal down the cheek. The bursting of the dam, of which that pearly one had been the first preliminary trickle, now set in with great severity. With a brief word to the effect that she wished she were dead and that I would look pretty silly when I gazed down at her coffin, knowing that my inhumanity had put her there, she flung herself on the bed and started going oomp.

It was the old uncontrollable sob-stuff which she had pulled earlier in the proceedings, and once more I found myself a bit unmanned. I stood there irresolute, plucking nervously at the cravat. I have already alluded to the effect of a woman’s grief on the Woosters.

When Aunts aren’t Gentlemen

Aunts play a stellar role in Bertie’s life. But their affection often comes with a price tag. An invitation to the dining table at Brinkley Court could get withdrawn in case of any deficiency in service.

‘If I had my life to live again, Jeeves, I would start it as an orphan without any aunts. Don’t they put aunts in Turkey in sacks and drop them in the Bosphorous?’
‘Odalisques, sir, I understand. Not aunts.’
‘Well, why not aunts? Look at the trouble they cause in the world. I tell you, Jeeves, and you may quote me as saying this – behind every poor, innocent, harmless blighter who is going down for the first time in the soup, you will find, if you look carefully enough, the aunt who shoved him into it.’
‘There is much in what you say, sir.’
‘It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof. Consider this Dahlia, Jeeves. As sound an egg as ever cursed a foxhound for chasing a rabbit, I have always considered her. And she goes and hands me an assignment like this. Wooster, the pincher of policemen’s helmets, we know. We are familiar with Wooster, the supposed bag-snatcher. But it was left for this aunt to present to the world a Wooster who goes to the houses of retired magistrates and, while eating their bread and salt, swipes their cow-creamers. Faugh!’ I said, for I was a good deal overwrought.
‘Most disturbing, sir.’

Standing Up for the Clan

Aunt Dahlia may be too demanding at times. But when the honor of the Wooster clan is at stake, she does not hesitate to put her foot down. Here are two instances which go on to prove this point.

Stopping Spode in his tracks

‘I must ask you to leave us, madam,’ he said.
‘But I’ve only just come,’ said Aunt Dahlia.
‘I am going to thrash this man within an inch of his life.’
It was quite the wrong tone to take with the aged relative. She has a very clannish spirit and, as I have said, is fond of Bertram. Her brow darkened.
‘You don’t touch a nephew of mine.’
‘I am going to break every bone in his body.’
You aren’t going to do anything of the sort. The idea!….Here, you!’

Getting Bertie dismissed without a Stain on his Character

Butterfield, the butler, has just brought in the missing helmet of Constable Oates on a silver salver. While airing Stiffy’s dog sometime earlier, he has observed Bertie Wooster dropping it from his window. Aunt Dahlia takes the floor, trying to protect Bertie. First, she reasons, the helmet could have been dropped from some other window. Then, she proposes that the butler had himself stolen the helmet and was merely trying to pass on the buck to Bertie. Saintly looking butlers with a furtive eye come in for a sharp criticism.

Overall, Aunt Dahlia injects into the proceedings a very pleasant atmosphere of all-pals-together and hearty let’s-say-no-more-about it. However, Pop Bassett is not inclined to dismiss Bertie without a stain on his character. He sees no reason to revise his earlier resolve to get the perpetrator of the crime to serve a prison sentence.

‘Here, come, I say now, Sir Watkyn, really, dash it,’ she expostulated, always on her toes when the interests of the clan were threatened. ‘You can’t do that sort of thing.’
‘Madam, I both can and will.’

When her repeated pleadings fail, she negotiates a deal with the retired magistrate: he gets Anatole while Bertie gets his release!

The Feudal Spirit

Bertie is profoundly moved when he discovers that Aunt Dahlia is prepared to dispense with the services of Anatole merely to save him from getting bunged into a chokey for a month.

‘You were actually contemplating giving up Anatole for my sake?’ I gasped.
‘Of course.’
‘Of course jolly well not! I would not hear of such a thing.’
‘But you can’t go to prison.’
‘I certainly can, if my going means that that supreme maestro will continue working at the old stand. Don’t dream of meeting old Bassett’s demands.’
‘Bertie! Do you mean this?’
‘I should say so. What’s a mere thirty days in the second division? A bagatelle. I can do it on my head. Let Bassett do his worst. And,’ I added in a softer voice, ‘when my time is up and I come out into the world once more a free man, let Anatole do his best. A month of bread and water or skilly or whatever they feed you in these establishments, will give me a rare appetite. On the night when I emerge, I shall expect a dinner that will live in legend and song.’
‘You shall have it.’

Opinion on Bertie’s intellectual capabilities could be divided. But there is no doubt that his heart is in the right place. Even if it turns out to be that of chilled steel, the milk of human kindness sloshing about within makes him yield to pressure from pals and aunts alike. Yet, the core of his heart glows with a dazzling sparkle – that of a diamond called the Code of the Woosters.

(Part 3: Decodifying the Code of the Woosters)

[Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/bertie-wooster-and-the-art-of-breaking-bad-news-gently

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/when-bertie-wooster-decides-to-assert-himself

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/different-shades-of-women-in-plumsville

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/bertie-wooster-needs-your-opinion%5D

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When it comes to delivering bad news gently, Bertie Wooster is good. His technique involves an adequate amount of foreplay and inane conversation, followed by the news which is likely to leave the other person all-of-a-twitter.Code of the Woosters Cover 2

However, when the situation demands, he can also be tough on the errant person, putting him or her in place. Mind you, he does not offend. He merely follows the Code of the Woosters and plays firm and steady. He does so till the time the object of his derision wilts and relents.

He asserts himself. Much like the ancient Roman gladiators, he also chooses to be aggressive at times, whereupon his agility and nippiness knows no bounds. If he is sarcastic, his nonchalant manner rules supreme. It is another matter that his brand of subtle sarcasm is often lost on a hard-boiled party of the other part.

Here are some instances from ‘The Code of the Woosters’ which demonstrate Bertie’s power to assert himself.

Standing up to Gussie’s Amorous Plans

Gussie’s notebook containing juicy remarks on Pop Bassett and Rederick Spode continues to be in Stiffy’s possession. Gussie comes up with a fruity scheme to retrieve the notebook from her.

‘Well, listen. You could easily engage her in a sort of friendly romp, if you know what I mean, in the course of which it would be simple to…well, something in the nature of a jocular embrace…’
I checked him sharply. There are limits, and we Woosters recognize them.
‘Gussie, are you suggesting that I prod Stiffy’s legs?’
‘Yes.’
‘Well, I’m not going to.’
‘Why not?’
‘We need not delve into my reasons’, I said, stiffly. ‘Suffice it that the shot is not on the board.’

He gave me a look, a kind of wide-eyed, reproachful look, such as a dying newt might have given him, if he had forgotten to change its water regularly.

Unfortunately, Gussie proceeds with his plans. This prompts Madeline Bassett to scratch their engagement, thereby putting both Gussie and Bertie in a limbo.

Restraining Aunt Dahlia

Saying no to a loving aunt like Dahlia is no mean task. But Bertie is able to stand up to her machinations by placing a pitiless analysis of the situation at hand. Dahlia wants Bertie to pinch the cow-creamer from Pop Bassett’s silver collection. Thanks to the magic of ‘Eulalie’, the obstacle faced from Spode has been neutralized. However, Gussie’s note book with juicy comments about Pop Bassett and Spode continues to be in Stiffy’s possession.

This is how Bertie places his case before his aunt.

‘My dear old faulty reasoner, you miss the gist by a mile. As long as Stiffy retains that book, it cannot be shown to Madeline Bassett. And only by showing it to Madeline Bassett can Gussie prove to her that his motive in pinching Stiffy’s legs was not what she supposed. And only by proving to her that his motive was not what she supposed can he square himself and effect reconciliation. And only if he squares himself and effects reconciliation can I avoid the distasteful necessity of having to marry this bally Bassett myself. No, I repeat. Before doing anything else, I have got to have that book.’

Aunt Dahlia appreciates the logic and eventually ends up pinching the cow-creamer herself!

Reining in a Hippopotamus

By way of self-defense, Gussie Fink-Nottle has just hit Roderick Spode with an oil painting. Unfortunately, rather than using the picture sideways, Gussie has used the flat side of the weapon. This leaves Spode blinking, with the painting around his neck like a ruff. Bertie seizes the opportunity thus:

Give us a lead, make it quite clear to us that the party has warmed up and that from now on anything goes, and we Woosters do not hang back. There was a sheet lying on the bed…and to snatch this up and envelop Spode in it was with me the work of a moment.

Once the ‘Eulalie’ secret has been discovered, Bertie can afford to put Spode in his place firmly. When he finds Spode banging on the door of Gussie’s room, hoping to break his neck, Bertie loses no time in taming him. Note the polished manner in which he does it.

‘What do you mean by disturbing the house with this abominable uproar? Have you forgotten already what I told you about checking this disposition of yours to run amok like a raging hippopotamus? I should have thought that after what I said you would have spent the remainder of the evening curled up with a good book. But no. I find you renewing your efforts to assault and batter my friends. I must warn you, Spode, that my patience is not inexhaustible.’

Eventually, Spode disappears from the scene, leaving Gussie in the safe company of Bertie.

Putting a bite on Pop Bassett

Pop Bassett, having accused Bertie of stealing his cow-creamer and also pinching Constable Oates’ helmet, has had to eat humble pie. Bertie has a solid alibi as far as the cow-creamer is concerned. Jeeves has managed affairs in such a way as to persuade Spode to confess having stolen the helmet, thereby exonerating Bertie. However, when it comes to uniting two pairs of lovers, namely Madeline and Gussie and Stiffy and Stinker Pinker, Pop Bassett continues to play a spoil sport. But Jeeves has a solution – put a bite on him!

Accordingly, Bertie proceeds to threaten Pop Bassett thus:

‘There is something you wish to say to me, Mr Wooster?’
‘There are about a dozen of things I wish to say to you, Bassett, but the one we will touch on at the moment is this. Are you aware that your headstrong conduct in sticking police officers on to pinch me and locking me in my room has laid you open to an action for – what was it, Jeeves?’
‘Wrongful arrest and defamation of character before witnesses, sir.’
‘That’s the baby. I could soak you for millions. What are you going to do about it?’

Bertie then proceeds to get an OK on both the unions, makes Pop agree on keeping quiet upon discovering that the cow-creamer has popped up in Uncle Tom’s collection and even manages to secure his five quids back – the fine he had to pay in his formal encounter with Pop Bassett much earlier.

Jeeves and the Stiff Upper Lip

Bertie often runs counter to the tastes and wishes of Jeeves. However, when Jeeves has extricated him from a tricky situation, he has the good grace and flexibility to accept defeat and fall in line.

In ‘The Code of the Woosters’, the bone of contention is a Round-The-World cruise. Jeeves is rather keen on it. Bertie is not.

‘Jeeves,’ I said, ’this nuisance must now cease.’
‘Travel is highly educational, sir.’
‘I can’t do with any more education. I was full up years ago. No, Jeeves, I know what’s the matter with you. That old Viking strain of yours has come out again. You yearn for the tang of the salt breezes. You see yourself walking the deck in a yachting cap. Possibly someone has been telling you about the Dancing Girls of Bali. I understand, and I sympathize. But not for me. I refuse to be decanted into any blasted ocean-going liner and lugged off round the world.’
‘Very good, sir.’

However, by the end of the narrative, Totleigh Towers has ceased to disturb Bertie’s peace of mind. The love lives of Gussie-Madeline and Stinker Pinker-Stiffy are progressing smoothly. Uncle Tom has received his cow-creamer back. Anatole continues to be in service at Brinkley Court. Bertie has just escaped being bunged into a chokey without the option for a month. Constable Oates is still on duty, prowling about below the window of his room, braving violent rain.

All this is thanks to Jeeves’ ingenuity. When it comes to being pretty hot in an emergency, Bertie rates him higher than Napoleon. Bertie relents.

‘Perhaps that cruise won’t be so very foul, after all?’
‘Most gentlemen find them enjoyable, sir.’
‘Do they?’
‘Yes, sir. Seeing new faces.’
‘That’s true. I hadn’t thought of that. The faces will be new, won’t they? Thousands and thousands of people, but no Stiffy.’
‘Exactly, sir.’
‘You had better get the tickets tomorrow.’
‘I have already procured them, sir. Good night, sir.’

Many of us can learn the art of saying a ‘no’ from Bertie. He does so without causing an offence. He is firm and polite. He knows how to be assertive. He also knows when to give in and be flexible.

Moreover, he has a unique way of expressing his disagreement and registering a protest. He wins over the situation by using his analytical skills, building up and supporting his case using impeccable logic and pitiless analysis. When backed with a legally sound argument, he can even put a bite on someone like Pop Bassett to bring some sunshine into the lives of his pals, aunts and uncles!

 (Part 2: Decodifying the Code of the Woosters)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/bertie-wooster-and-the-art-of-breaking-bad-news-gently)

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