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Posts Tagged ‘Empress of Blandings’

 

The placid streets of the village of Market Blandings were adorned on this June afternoon by a jaunty figure in a pale grey suit and matching derby hat and by his companion, somewhat less well-attired, in patched tweed and a battered straw boater.

The natty dresser dabbed his brow with a silk handkerchief, for the day was warm. Beach, the butler who had driven them down from Blandings Castle, had opted to remain at the Emsworth Arms for a cool one, while Galahad, for it was he, and his brother Clarence, the ninth Earl of Emsworth, strolled off to the tobacconist.

“I had a letter from young Ronnie the other day,” said Gally.

“Ah, yes, Ronnie. Yes, indeed. Ronnie who? “ asked Lord Emsworth courteously.

“Your nephew Ronnie. Ronald Overbury Fish. You know, Clarence- Julia’s boy— pink face, married Sue Brown, prettiest girl in three counties.”

“Ah yes, Ronnie, of course Ronnie. And how is he?”

“Very well. In fact, from hints he dropped, I fancy there may be a little Sue or Ronnie on the way.”

“The way here?” Clarence asked in alarm. “The summer has so far been remarkably quiet and free of pests, er guests.”

“No, no, a little bundle, to be brought by the stork in a number of months, you know… never mind, Clarence. The point is, he may need some extra income and wants to buy out his partners in the onion soup bar.”

“Ah, just so, good for him. Good for him.”

“In order to become sole proprietor of the onion soup bar he naturally needs some capital,” said Galahad, “and as you surely are aware, it would be a good investment, Clarence. Late night revelers and after-theatre crowds are always clamouring for onion soup, and young Ronnie has turned out, unlikely as it may seem, to be a canny businessman. Of course with Sue by his side, the world’s his oyster, or rather his onion, I might say. The world’s his onion,” he repeated, rather louder. “Ha, ha. Anyway, shall I tell him you are good for the money?”

Gally was glad to see that Lord Emsworth was fingering his chin and wrinkling the brow in concentration. It was not always easy to capture his full attention.

“Onions. Yes, hmm. Onions. Do you know, Galahad,” he said, swimming up suddenly from his brown study, “My veterinarian Banks has been advising me, and very strongly, I might add, against feeding the Empress onions. Onions of any sort, mark you. And yet, Whiffle, in The Care of the Pig, most clearly states that onions are not at all detrimental to pigs, if lightly boiled first. Lightly boiling them appears to remove any toxicity whatsoever!” He brooded a moment. “Banks is an ass. I shall take a strong line with him in this matter.”

“My sainted aunt, Clarence! You haven’t heard a word I’ve said.” Gally removed his pince nez and used them to rap Clarence sharply on the head. “Now listen, and forget about that blasted pig for a moment! Who is more important, your nephew Ronald or the Empress?”

Lord Emsworth regarded him with surprise. “The Empress, of course.”

“Clarence!”

“Well, really Galahad, I have…several nephews. Quite a few, I fancy. But there is only one Empress.”

“And I yield to no one in my appreciation of her many admirable qualities,” said Galahad, “but she is, after all is said and done, just a pig.”

Lord Emsworth started so violently that his glasses fell from his nose to dangle freely from their chain. “Just a pig! The Empress is a thoroughbred, an aristocrat, dash it, descended on both maternal and paternal side from prize-winning porcine pedigrees. She has three times won the silver medal in the fat pigs class at the Shropshire agricultural show and there is no reason why she may not win a fourth, no matter what drivel that fellow Banks says about onions in her diet. She is certainly not just any pig.”

“A pig is, in the end, a pig, Clarence. Yes, she is a good pig, a large pig, but a pig by any other name would smell as sweet.” Galahad paused. “Well perhaps not quite that, but I’m sure there are plenty of other pigs that, if fed properly for awhile, could match her girth and magnificence.”

“I beg to differ, Galahad, Lord Emsworth said stiffly, “I beg to differ indeed. Few other pigs match her lineage, precious few, if any.”

“All right. How about this? If I can take a pig, a common local young pig from the village here or its environs, and, given six weeks to feed it up, nurture it, and make it a match for the Empress in girth, you will cut Ronnie a sizeable cheque.”

“Certainly. I agree to your proposal. There is surely no chance of you doing it, none at all, but I give you leave to try. If you manage to turn a plebian local animal into something resembling my prize pig (and I scoff at the idea), I will not only give Ronald the money, but I will… I will eat my hat!” he finished hotly.

“That I will not require, Clarence. But after we obtain our tobacco, let us go to a nearby farm with the purpose of purchasing a pig.”

**********

Five and one half weeks later, the Honourable Galahad Threepwood and the Castle’s butler, Beach, stood gazing morosely at a pig rooting contentedly in a ramshackle pen behind the abandoned garden shed. More precisely, Gally was gazing morosely— he would have described Beach as wearing his customary demeanour, that of a stuffed frog.

“No use sugar-coating it, Beach,” he said, screwing his black-rimmed monocle more firmly into his eye. “This pig, though certainly day after day, in every way, it’s been getting fatter and fatter, is nowhere near in the Empress’s class.”

“I have not neglected a single feeding, sir,” said Beach. “Despite it having added considerably to my regular duties, I have carried comestibles amounting to approximately 57,800 daily calories in starches, proteins and additional roughage to the animal. As far as I can tell, it has consumed them all.”

“I don’t doubt it, Beach. I don’t doubt it. Be that as it may, this porker is never going to win Ronnie the money for his onion soup bar. What is worse, Clarence will be able to crow over me for making that silly bet. “

The butler nodded mournfully. He was fond of Mr. Ronald Fish, and his wife Sue Brown had made a strong impression on his susceptible heart.

“Too bad, too bad, sir. Poor Mr. Ronald. He will be disappointed, I fear. Perhaps he can acquire the money from some other source.” Beach stood a moment in a grave silence. “Ah, well. I must return to the house, sir. Tea will be served on the terrace in approximately twenty minutes, if you require sustenance.”

“Damn the terrace, and damn tea!” Beach turned back as Galahad, removing his hat and slapping it on the railing of the pen, burst into impassioned speech. “I won’t accept defeat this easily. Did my ancestors at Agincourt, when faced with a few bloodthirsty foes, turn and go home for tea? Pshaw! Besides, you know I never touch tea, not after what happened to my old pal Buffy Struggles. Gave up cocktails for the foul stuff after attending a temperance lecture and the poor fellow was dead within a week!”

“Dear me!”

“Absolutely. Run over by a hansom cab in Piccadilly Circus. No,” he mused, “what we are going to do-“

“We, sir?” the butler quavered.

“Most certainly we. I shall need you for this next phase of the plan, or Plan B, as it were. Now, I have heard that Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe down the road at Matchingham Hall is boarding a prize pig in the hopes of mating his own pig, Pride of Matchingham, to it. Clarence has never seen that sow, so we, or more accurately you, will sneak over in the dead of night and borrow it. We will then present it to Clarence in the place of this pig, and he will have to admit that we have won the bet. You can leave old Parsloe this smaller sow for a couple of days, just to confuse him.”

Beach was trembling all over like a jelly in a brisk wind. “But sir…”

“But me no buts, butler! Would you want to be the one to dash that young Fish’s hopes and dreams? Or cause Sue’s starry blue eyes to fill bravely but despairingly with unshed tears? Surely the Beach I have known practically from a lad would not be the man to allow fear of a simple pig-swap to dash the food from the mouth of Sue and Ronnie’s first-born, or soon-to-be born, child?”

“Mrs. Ronald is expecting, Mr. Galahad?” Beach drew a deep breath and a look of noble sacrifice passed over his large face, causing his chins to quiver. “Tell me what I need to do, sir.”

**********

“I would never have credited it, Galahad. It seems a miracle, but you have done it!” Lord Emsworth shook his head wonderingly two days later. You have taken a common farmyard sow, even perhaps a somewhat scrawny sow, and transformed her into a magnificent creature. I do not say she is the equal of the Empress, but you have certainly won your point.”

He took another turn around the large, placid animal that a rather pale and haunted-eyed Beach had led by a rope out into the stable-yard.

“Yes, she is a very fine animal indeed. I will be happy to add her to the Castle’s livestock. She will not by any means do us shame.”

“Er, as to that, Clarence,” Galahad said hastily, “I have promised her back to the farmer from whom we bought her. It seems her litter-mates in his pig-sty have been missing her. Pining away in fact, and refusing their food.”

“Egad, that is most worrisome, Galahad.” The Earl of Emsworth took one last covetous look at the sow. “Pigs will not thrive if they do not ingest their regular daily nutrients. Wolff-Lehmann is very clear on that in his book on the subject. Perhaps you’d better bring her back to the farm after all.”

“And that cheque for Ronald? Your nephew Ronald, that is, for his onion soup business.”

“Ah yes.” A slight shadow crossed Lord Emsworth’s face. “Exactly how much was he needing, Galahad?”

Galahad told him and the ninth earl winced.

“But look at the bright side, Clarence. Ronnie will be so busy with the increased responsibilities of his business and his growing family that he will have no time at all to make pleasure trips down to Blandings. And as our sister Julia will soon be presented with a grandchild in London, she will surely remain in the metropolis as well.”

“Er, for quite some time, do you think, Galahad?”

“Indefinitely, I’m sure.”

“Ah, well, that’s… too bad, of course, and all that. However, the pressures of business and family, yes, certainly. Let them know we quite understand if they stay away…, er, quite some time. Er… indefinitely, as you say.”

With the look of one who sees the sun coming out from behind the clouds, Lord Emsworth turned towards the house. “Come see me in the library in ten minutes, Galahad. I will be writing that cheque.”

 

(Permission to post this piece here is gratefully acknowledged.)

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An Anonymous Doctor

Yet another medical practitioner who wishes to remain anonymous specializes in the realm of diet and nutrition. Like all good doctors, he advises those who have been disappointed in love to eat frugally. Fail to do this, and the result is as inevitable as the climax of a Greek tragedy. No man, however gifted his gastric juices, can go on indefinitely brooding over a lost love and sailing into the starchy foods simultaneously. If so, indigestion grips him soon enough, making him consult a physician like the one alluded to here.

His solutions to cure a soul in torment may sound drastic, but are invariably effective. He is apt to put one on a diet comprising nothing else but the juice of an orange.

He may advise the patient thus: ‘Precisely. Take your orange. Divide it into two equal parts. Squeeze on a squeezer. Pour into a glass … or cup,’ he added, for he was not the man to be finicky about small details, ‘and drink.’

(The Juice Of An Orange; Blandings Castle… and elsewhere)

Laura Pyke

When it comes to maintaining your digestive system in the pink of its health, yet another dietary expert, Laura Pyke, could assist you. Some may consider her to be a food crank but she is a professional who thinks most of us not only eat too much but also too quickly. She recommends a diet comprising only parsnips and other greens. Alcohol, she maintains, corrodes the stomach tissues.

She is apt to gaze at you like a high priestess imparting instructions to her favourite, though erring, disciple, while describing the manner in which you are ruining the lining of your stomach when you keep eating stuff lacking in fat-soluble vitamins. She would speak freely of proteins, carbohydrates, and the physiological requirements of the average individual.

When you shift to any of her diet plans, your immunity levels are bound to go up, thereby reducing the probability of getting afflicted with viruses of any kind.

It is always wiser to consult her either online or by physically popping up at her clinic, if you have the permission of the concerned authorities. Inviting her to your home, even if she happens to be an old school chum of your spouse, is best avoided.

(Jeeves and the Old School Chum; Very Good, Jeeves)

 

Buck-u-Uppo

Wilfred Mulliner, a brother of Mr Mulliner, is a chemist and is the inventor of various creams, lotions, and tonics, known in the trade as Mulliner’s Magic Marvels.

Many of you may recall the following creams, lotions, and tonics invented by Wilfred Mulliner which are specifically mentioned in various narratives dished out by P G Wodehouse.

  1. Mulliner’s Raven Gypsy Face Cream.
  2. Snow of the Mountains Lotion
  3. Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo
  4. Mulliner’s Reduc-o, the recognized specific for obesity. Available in the form of tablets (3d the tin) or liquid (5s6p a flask).
  5. Mulliner’s Ease-o, cures the most stubborn case of lumbago in six days.

Of these, Buck-u-Uppo is a tonic invented ‘primarily with the object of providing Indian Rajahs with a specific (concoction) which would encourage their elephants to face a tiger of the jungle with a jaunty sang-froid.’ It works directly on the corpuscles. The dose for an adult elephant is a teaspoonful mixed with the elephant’s morning mash. If consumed by Home sapiens in glassfuls, it makes them far more confident and assertive, making them succeed in life, whether personally or professionally.

In these times, when work-from-home is the norm, spouses who get persuaded to try a small dose of this concoction may not venture out to paint statues pink. Bishops may refrain from frequenting nightclubs dressed in Sinbad the Sailor costumes.

But long term pending projects at home, such as mowing a lawn, clearing snow off the driveway, garage cleaning, painting a room blue while awaiting the arrival of the stork to deliver the next baby, spending quality time with family members, wearing skirts for a change, tidying up the fridge, doing dishes and mopping the floor, would get attended to with much enthusiasm and aplomb; much to the delight of the party of the other part which had since long given up nagging of the party of the first part on such issues and had instead decided to take a spiritual view of things.

(Buck-U-Uppo features in three Mulliner stories: ‘Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo’, ‘The Bishop’s Move’ and ‘Gala Night’.)

Dentists I. J. Zizzbaum, B K Burwash and the like

Merry laughs and gay quips make Doctor I. J. Zizzbaum the life and soul of the party at the annual dentists’ convention. But this does not guarantee his behavior when approached in his white-coat-upholstered professional role.

If his trade rival B K Burwash, who is also in the business of teeth management, has landed a prize catch in the form of a celebrity client like Joey Cooley, the 12-year-old movie star and darling of all American mothers, you could find him to be a gloomy cove, appearing like a dentist with a secret sorrow. This could leave you shuddering even more while seated in his pin-cushioned dentists’ chair.

Dr B K Burwash has a reassuring smile and is rather used to handling celebrity clients who could amount to free advertisement worth about a thousand dollars in the olden days, besides the heavy fee he pockets even otherwise.

Then we have the dentist in Shrewsury who wishes to render his services anonymously.

(Laughing Gas, Leave it to Psmith)

 

Some of the Veterenians

Dr Smithers is a veterinary surgeon who gets called in to investigate the sudden onset of asceticism upon the Empress of Blandings after her keeper Cyril Wellbeloved goes out of action, so much so that she, a hearty feeder, starts refusing any form of nourishment. Somehow, he is baffled by this sudden change in her dietary habits.

 (Blandings Castle, elsewhere)

Banks is yet another vet who gives a clean bill of health to the Empress even when she refuses to accept a potato offered by Lord Emsworth.

(Pelican at Blandings)

 

Webber is another vet who gets called in when the Empress ends up gobbling Gally’s memoirs.

(Heavy Weather) 

Lord Emsworth may have a poor opinion of all these gentlemen. However, we learn from reliable sources that they are capable persons who can bring relief and succor to many of the species known to mankind.

Augustus Whiffle

Residents of Plumsville would fondly recall the dietary requirements of the Empress of Blandings, as prescribed by Whiffle, an authority on all matters porcine. According to him, her daily nourishment should not be less than fifty-seven thousand eight hundred calories, these calories consisting of barley meal, maize meal, linseed mail, potatoes and separated buttermilk.

In order to assist vets and pet owners of all kinds, Augustus Whiffle (or Whipple), the well-known author of Lord Emsworth’s favourite book, The Care of the Pig, has been roped in to promptly dish out his advice on handling pets of other species as well, covering dogs, cats, horses, cows, lions and the like. This, it is hoped, will cheer up pet owners and exert a soothing influence on them when they suspect their pets to be suffering physically in any way. Moreover, the communication gap between a white hunter and a lion which has just been shot, as to whether the latter is dead or alive, could become a thing of the past.

An elderly man with a thin, reedy voice, Mr Whipple is a member of the Athenaeum club and is so impressed by what he hears of the Empress of Blandings. Our office has already contacted Lord Emsworth to request his permission to enable his wish to be fulfilled. We hope a gesture of this kind would enthuse Mr Whipple to churn out his advice in respect of other species without much delay.

(Blandings Castle, elsewhere)

It is hoped that the steps taken by us would assist humans as well as members of other species to attain the highest possible level of health. WHO would keep making its unique contribution towards promoting health, keeping the world safe from pandemics and serving the vulnerable, with measurable impact for people at country level. As always, we are individually and collectively committed to put these values into practice.

Notes

Illustrations of some of the characters have been dished out by Suvarna Sanyal, a retired (but not at all tired) banker who has a flair for dealing with figures. Illustration of the E of B courtesy the www.

 

Inputs from the following fans of PGW are gratefully acknowledged:

Abhik Majumdar

Arun Krish

Bommireddipalli RamaKrishna

Devadas Mallya

Mahesh Sankaran

Morten Arnesen

Gopalakrishna Annavarapu

Pradeep Swaminathan

Ryk Westwood

Satish Pande

Sudhakar Ravindranath

Sudheer Tambe

Ted Fontenot

 

Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/who-ropes-in-doctors-and-paramedics-from-plumsville-to-counter-corona-virus-part-1-of-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/30/some-bollywood-songs-and-the-corona-virus

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/cedric-mulliner-defeats-quarantine-guest-post-by-eduardo-garcia/

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/psmith-shares-with-lord-emsworth-a-smart-marriage-plan-to-ward-off-corona-virus

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/jeeves-deals-with-croronavirus-guest-post-by-eduardo-garcia

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/the-droitgate-spa-now-offers-net-detoxification-programs

 

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Lord Emsworth went to the window and looked out. The sun was shining brightly, the birds were chirping along merrily, the hollyhocks, carnations and Canterbury bells were swaying in a gentle breeze and bees, ants and butterflies were going about their business with vigour and vim. In short, God appeared to be in heaven.

But Lord Emsworth was in one of his melancholic moods. What weighed on his conscience was not the loss of his glasses, which were perched firmly on his nose and he could see all things clearly. Baxter, the world’s most efficient secretary, had just parted company with him owing to a difference of opinion in respect of the former hurling flower pots at the window of the latter. He suspected he will have a tough time finding another secretary as capable as Baxter.

However, this melancholy was short-lived. Psmith had just joined him and had successfully managed to secure for himself the vacancy that had arisen. Even though Psmith had confessed to having no prior experience of being a secretary, what went in his favour was the self-confidence with which he proposed his candidature, the fact that he was a member of the Senior Conservative Club and that he was the son Smith, the owner of the Corfby Hall, who had won a prize for tulips at the Shrewsbury Flower Show the year Lord Emsworth had won the prize for roses.

Psmith announced that he was about to be married to Ms Eve Halliday, probably the finest library-cataloguist in the United Kingdom.

‘She is a nice girl,’ said Lord Emsworth.

‘I quite agree with you.’

‘Congratulations are in order, my dear fellow, to both of you.’

‘I am extremely obliged,’ said Psmith. ‘But we are planning to go in for a slimmer, trimmer and smarter marriage, unlike one of those bigger and fatter marriages which take place elsewhere, like in Greece or India.’

‘Eh?’ said his lordship. ‘Is there anything which is causing any problem?’

Psmith patted the shoulder of his employer reassuringly. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘You might have heard of the Corona Virus which is catching up like wild fire across our planet these days.’

‘Cyrus….do you refer to George Cyrill Wellbeloved?’, enquired his lordship, shaking like an aspen. A dark cloud appeared to be casting a shadow on his visage.

‘No. I allude to a deadly virus which kicked off its journey in China and has rapidly spread across very many countries,’ responded Psmith. ‘It causes fever, cough and breathing difficulties. Human contact must be kept to a minimum to avoid its further spread.’

‘Do you think the Empress could contract this as well,’ cried his lordship, staring like a war horse at the sound of the bugle.

‘I would not venture a guess. Perhaps we need to consult a vet immediately.’

‘Let us do this right away,’ responded his lordship, peering sharply through his glasses. ‘The next Shropshire Show is not too far off, and we need to provide her all the protection she deserves.’

‘Absolutely’, said Psmith. ‘But allow me first to update you on the marriage plans without further delay.’

‘Marriage, eh? But who is marrying whom?’, queried his lordship.

‘Eve and I have plans of walking down the aisle pretty soon.’

‘Oh, yes, yes….quite, quite. Capital. Capital.’

‘As I said, we plan this to be a slimmer, trimmer and smarter affair. If you permit me, I wish to share some details with you.’

‘My dear fellow, you may do so quickly and then rush to arrange my meeting with an eminent vet.’

‘Obliged. We are working on a short video invite which would get delivered on the smart phones of our relatives and close friends. The invitation will request them to be available on their phones at the prescribed time. The marriage will take place only in the presence of our parents. The ceremony will be shown live to all invitees on their phones, thereby minimizing the chances of the virus becoming a contagion of sorts.’

Lord Emsworth drew himself up. But beneath the solemn friendliness of Psmith’s gaze hauteur was not easy to sustain. He sagged again, resigning to the situation.

‘So no wedding cake for all those invited?’ he commented dryly.

‘Far from it. To all those who are virtually present, we plan to send them return gifts comprising yoga manuals, some delectable chocolate figurines showing a marked likeness to the bride and the groom striking a Charleston pose and, of course,  hand sanitizer tissues with which they might wipe all the contents before touching the same. If the epidemic is already under control by then, we would send them gift coupons from famous restaurants located in their city of residence. This way, the carbon footprint of our marriage would be minimal and we shall make a modest contribution towards protecting our near and dear ones from the kind of exotic viruses which Nature keeps unleashing upon us at frequent intervals. Nature is calling upon humanity to change its polluting lifestyles and we need to heed the same. When Nature starts healing itself, all of us shall benefit. Roses, hollyhocks and others of their ilk would be happier. Birds would chirp more merrily. Bees and butterflies would go about doing whatever they do with renewed enthusiasm. Blandings Castle would thus be a happier place.’

Lord Emsworth perked up. ‘A novel idea, my dear fellow,’ he said.

‘We do believe so. It would be a win-win situation because all would get a bird’s eye view of the ceremony, avoiding travel, free of security bottlenecks due to VVIP attendees, no fat charges for hiring large venues, minimizing catering and other incidental costs.’

‘But the warmth of personal contact would be missing, don’t you think?’ commented his lordship.

‘Yes. Many of us would be missing the back-slapping, bonhomie and networking which entails at a traditional wedding. But social distancing is the key idea these days. One has to make tough choices in tougher times.’

Eve passed by on the terrace below. Psmith waved at her. She waved back at both of them and continued with her stroll.

Psmith continued with his tirade.

‘There are many other benefits of a smarter marriage of this kind. One, parents are spared the trauma of plastic smiles they have to put on so they may appear to be fair and polite to all those who land up in flesh and blood. Two, one does not need to hire detectives so as to ensure that all valuables remain safe. Three, with lesser number of those who keep firing instructions at the bride and the groom, both breathe easy and enjoy the proceedings better. Four, elaborate arrangements invariably make our income tax sleuths sit up and take notice. Such obnoxious occurrences are best avoided.’

‘Income tax!’ cried Lord Emsworth. Income tax and pigs were the only two subjects which really stirred him. ‘Let me tell you that the more you speak of a marriage of this kind, better sense you appear to make. Do please go ahead with your commendable plans. I hope you have drawn these up in consultation with Ms Halliday!’

‘Yes, indeed. Many of these happen to be her ideas,’ said Psmith graciously.

‘God bless you both.’

‘Permit me also to point out that under such circumstances when close encounters with others are best avoided, you could even exercise the option of cancelling the August Bank Holiday this year.’

‘Oh, that would be nice, indeed. The invaders would then not be able to trample over my flower beds, and I do not have to wear stiff collars and make infernal speeches!’

‘I thought you might like the idea,’ said Psmith.

‘Er, now about that vet…..’

‘Yes. I am just rushing off to enable a meeting of the kind desired by you. Meanwhile, may I suggest that you persuade Ms Monica Simmons to keep a strict watch on the Empress’ diet? Any large deviation therein could indicate her indisposition. If you consider it proper, you may even spread a rumour about her having attracted a contagious disease. This would keep pig-stealers of all hues, sizes and shapes under check for some time.’

‘Splendid. I shall attend to it right away’, said his lordship.

With a slight bow, Psmith withdrew.

(With due apologies to Plum; Inspired by https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/jeeves-deals-with-croronavirus-guest-post-by-eduardo-garcia)

 

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The Guardian Angels who preside over the affairs of yours truly recently enabled a short trip to Netherlands. Other than a wonderful meeting with some fans of P G Wodehouse in Amsterdam, one could also visit Zaanse Schans and Rotterdam.

Of tilting at windmills

Zaanse Schans in Netherlands is best known for its collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. Built from 1576 AD onwards, these windmills have been used for multiple purposes. Claude Monet was so impressed that he came up with several paintings depicting these.

From 1961 to 1974 old buildings from all over the Zaanstreek were relocated to the area, so as to preserve this unique architectural heritage and to promote this as a unique open air museum of windmills, old houses and traditional crafts.

While crossing the windswept bridge over the river Zaan, one is captivated by the panoramic view of windmills. One could be excused to feel like a Don Quixote who is firming up plans to tilt at some of the magnificent wooden giants.

Much before the management concepts of Customer Orientation and Flexible Manufacturing Concepts came into vogue, the entrepreneurs owning the windmills had put these into practice. The mills were producing whatever the market demanded.

Tobacco leaves were chopped and pulverized in the past to produce snuff in as many as 83 windmills in the Zaan region. From 1675, around 20 smaller windmills were used to crush mustard.

Over time, in keeping with the demand pattern, windmills underwent a transformation. For example, one of the mills was originally a paint mill, but went on to be a mustard mill, tobacco grinder and board sawmill. Post 1911, it was converted into a timber factory with biscuit boxes being made for the Verkade brand. From 1961 onwards, the famous Mustard was produced here.

Of aniseed products and cow creamers

Some of the windmills have been making spices. Some of you may know that herbs and spices form an integral part of the Dutch cuisine. Spiced biscuits and sweets are commonly found. Mulled wine, aniseed milk and even some sandwich toppings containing aniseed have these. Traditionally, the birth ritual celebrating the arrival of a newborn baby involved the proud father stirring a cinnamon stick into the kandeel, a liqueur, providing strength and warding off evil spirits.

If Jeeves and Bertie Wooster had ever visited the area, the duo would have been delighted to have had an easy access to aniseed products. Luring back a dog McIntosh would then have been the work of a moment for them, enabling them to avoid a trip across the Atlantic so as to escape the fury of Aunt Agatha.

While in Rotterdam, yours truly was delighted to have had the opportunity of sneering at the cow creamers displayed in one of the stores. Being aware that these were indubitably of modern Dutch origin, one lost no time in registering scorn. The same was the treatment meted out to some distant cousins of the Empress of Blandings on the next shelf. However, all this sneering and scorning did not leave the sales girl on the counter amused.

But the aim of one’s life is never to keep sales girls amused. Rather, it is to outgrow the inane desires to possess material objects and thereby enjoy unalloyed bliss.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/another-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam)

 

 

 

 

 

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The International League of Happiness hereby invites all residents of Plumsville to a glittering ceremony at the Tinanmen Square in Beijing, where the Empress of Blandings shall be conferred with a prestigious award, based on the following citation:

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Pig of the Year Award

Hereby conferred upon the Empress of Blandings, in recognition of her literary contributions which keep bringing happiness and joy to humanity, as also owing to her such sterling qualities as follows:

  • Optimism, as reflected in the attitude of equanimity she maintains even when remaining at the centre of many a kidnapping plot foisted on her from time to time;
  • Enthusiasm, by way of her openness towards feasting on all kinds of nourishment that comes her way, including, but not limited to, tissue restoratives of all kinds; and,
  • Hard work which she demonstrates by sticking to her trough at all times, gobbling up not only what is on offer but even dubitable memoirs, protecting the family honour at all costs.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

The ceremony shall be held on February 14, 2019, starting at 1700 hours, local time. It would involve presentation of a gold medal, an honorary red colour ribbon and a silver plaque with the aforesaid citation.

Lord Emsworth, the Chief Patron of ILH, has kindly consented to preside over the brief function. George Cyrill Beloved shall be in attendance, taking due care of the honourable awardee.

Mr Rupert Psmith, Secretary General of ILH, shall deliver a small talk on ‘Getting the Suidae members of our Planet to contribute towards Global Peace and Harmony.’

Miss Gladys, the famous girl friend of Lord Emsworth, shall propose a Vote of Thanks.

High Tea by Beach.

 

Note:

The International League of Happiness is a not-for-profit organization where:

-Destructive propaganda of any kind is sneered at

-Global interests are accorded higher priority than narrow national/regional interests

-Healthy discussion is encouraged but indifference to, or defiance of, its collective resolutions is discouraged

(Limited seats. Please register without delay at http://www.ilh.com.)

(Illustration courtesy: OLDBOOKILLUSTRATIONS.COM)

 

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Whether in literature or in fine arts, we relate to characters when we find an inner connection. There could either be a similarity in personality traits, or in the challenges faced. When this happens, we laugh with the person. We cry with the person. We willingly suspend our own beliefs and virtually start living the life of the character.

As a member of the tribe of the so-called sterner sex, I confess I have shades of quite a few characters etched out by P G Wodehouse. These could be males, or even females.

Amongst males, when it comes to notions of chivalry and a chin up attitude towards the harsh slings and arrows of Fate, Bertie Wooster becomes my role model. When the summons arrive from someone higher up in the hierarchy, and the prospects of a severe dressing down cloud the horizon, I meekly surrender and follow the messenger, trooping down to face the firing squad. Even if one is being led to the gallows, the chin should invariably be up. Also, when a pal in need has to be bailed out, no effort can be spared to bring solace to the tormented soul.

Jeeves is obviously a role model when it comes to advising others on solving the intricate problems of their own lives. The pleasure I get thus is readily explained. One, I am not obliged to follow the advice myself, so there is a comfort and a sense of objectivity to the whole act of dishing out advice. Two, it proves to be a short-term interaction. Pretty soon, the party of the other part realizes that my grey cells are but a fraction of those of Jeeves. They then do a vanishing trick the speed of which would embarrass an Indian fakir of yore doing a rope trick. They start avoiding me like the plague. Whenever they run into me next, they start checking if my head indeed bulges at the back, or if my eyes shine with the legendary keenness of his intelligence.

Rupert Psmith is another role model. Unlike him, I confess I could not woo females by lying without batting my eyelids while spending time with them on a boat adrift in a lake. But I could surely thwart an attempt by gang lords to skin a close pal alive. I could also persuade a young lass wanting to commit suicide to give up her homicidal thoughts and instead walk out of my office with a song on her lips, eyes sparkling with renewed hope. Her reasons could be as whacky as her boy friend having not ‘liked’ her social media post about the sharks she encountered while splashing about in the waters near Cannes. A dash of the occasional gift of the gab, you see.

When it comes to uplifting the intellectual level of some dim wits whom I happen to know, I take after the likes of Florence Craye and Vanessa Cook. I advise them either to read a Peter Drucker tome or devour some scholarly articles in reputed management journals which get unleashed on hapless managers at regular intervals. If they desist, I recommend to them one of my own books, so they might become sharper at managing their careers.

In matters of physical fitness, Ashe Marson and Honoria Glossop happen to secure my adulation.

When churning out a dreamy whodunit, Madeline Bassett and Rosie M Banks don the mantle of being my muse.

I cannot afford to have an Empress of Blandings on my humble premises. But as to forgetfulness, you could be forgiven to believe that I happen to be a cousin of Lord Emsworth.

At home, I have always tried to maintain matrimonial harmony by simply walking in the footsteps of Bingo Little. Before my bitter half decided to hand in her dinner pail, I tried to ensure that she never missed a steaming hot cup of tea first thing in the morning. When there was a spiritual event she wanted to attend, I normally rallied around by ferrying her to the same. Whenever a friend like Laura Pyke passed by, I retained my sangfroid and tolerated all the dietary restrictions imposed on me. To deliver satisfaction to her had invariably been my motto.

The mood of my Guardian Angels has seen some swings of late. Quite a few bouquets have come my way. Some brickbats – deserved as well as undeserved – have also got hurled at me. Fate has been busy targeting me with some harsh slings and arrows. But by doing so, it has ensured a spiritual awakening of sorts. Quite a few scales have fallen from my eyes.

Be that as it may, the chin remains up. The brow is not furrowed. The upper lip is not stiffened. The protective shield provided by the Wodehouse canon does not fail me.

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ashokbhatia

Respected Sir,

As a lay citizen of India, allow me to say that you are spearheading a great drive to reform the education system of the country. There may be no big ticket announcements, but one can see some incremental steps which would help our youth to realize their full potential in the years to come.

I write this with all humility at my command, merely to suggest one such incremental reform, which, I am reasonably certain, can help our youth to develop their soft skills faster and better.

I write this to suggest that a special drive be launched to expose Indian students to the works of the eminent humourist, P G Wodehouse. By discovering, delving into and devouring these, our future citizens shall turn out to be cheerful, joyous and happy. India would soon become a country which would be not only chasing her Gross Domestic Product numbers…

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Respected Sir,

As a lay citizen of India, allow me to say that you are spearheading a great drive to reform the education system of the country. There may be no big ticket announcements, but one can see some incremental steps which would help our youth to realize their full potential in the years to come.

I write this with all humility at my command, merely to suggest one such incremental reform, which, I am reasonably certain, can help our youth to develop their soft skills faster and better.

I write this to suggest that a special drive be launched to expose Indian students to the works of the eminent humourist, P G Wodehouse. By discovering, delving into and devouring these, our future citizens shall turn out to be cheerful, joyous and happy. India would soon become a country which would be not only chasing her Gross Domestic Product numbers, but also shoring up her Gross National Happiness index.

A spurt to ingenuity and innovation

At the school level, his stories – depicting hostel life, cricket rivalries and the kind of goofiness which kids normally display – would entertain and motivate our children no end. On the one hand, headmasters and headmistresses would quickly learn how to be shrewd lion-tamers. On the other, children would get into the right spirit of innovation and ingenuity, thereby brightening the prospects of creating many a Silicon Valley in India in the decades to follow.

Children who have already shifted to ball point pens, iPads and other advanced gadgets would no longer be able to put sherbet in ink pots. But they would still learn how to sneak back into their dormitories, ably assisted by their resourceful seniors. They would understand the importance of giggling and staring at guest lecturers, thereby enabling the latter to improve upon their oratorical skills and overcoming their stage fright.

Seeking protection money would come easily to them. When they grow up and take up responsible positions in administration, such skills would make them hotter at their jobs. Planning for such innovative schemes as creating butter slides for defaulting step-fathers-to-be would help them to sharpen their intuitive faculties. Their decision making abilities would improve. They would end up being better managers. Their employability quotient would register a quantum jump.

Many back benchers in our schools would end up being proficient in such vocations as chimney cleaning et al. The skill of using paraffin to douse flames of any kind would help them to gauge and neutralize terror threats of many kinds. When they grow up, our law enforcing agencies would find them ready for many a delicate task.

When besotted with Bollywood divas, they would rise to their higher selves and learn how to help those in distress. Better discipline and good conduct, whether in schools or at home, would result. Tantrums thrown at the change of a Wi-Fi password at home, or at the announcement of a surprise test in mathematics at school, would be a thing of the past. Hapless parents and teachers would breathe easy.

A boost to chivalry and matrimonial bliss

At the college level, our youth would learn invaluable lessons in chivalry, thereby making our country much safer for the delicately nurtured amongst us. Following in the footsteps of Bertie Wooster, they would go to any length to stand by a pal in distress. Eventually, this would help them to imbibe a feeling of brotherhood and secularism.

Such exquisite hobbies as rearing newts would reignite their respect for environment. They shall imbibe the finer characteristics of canine and feline creatures. They would learn to treat members of all species with due respect. Those who decide to pursue the career of a dietitian may seriously consider specializing in developing healthier diets for the Empress and her ilk.

Standing up to aunts who are not gentlemen would come easily to them. Rebutting the unpleasant endeavours of such bullies as Roderick Spode by ferreting out their Eulalie-kind secrets would help them in their lives. They shall develop a deeply spiritual outlook towards the harsh slings and arrow of fate.

Some of them would surely aspire to be like Jeeves, providing satisfaction to all and sundry with their keen intelligence. They would learn to use the psychology of the individual as a potent tool to achieve their goals in life. Overall, their Emotional Quotient ratings would jump manifold.

The art of sliding down pipes to avoid encounters of an unpleasant kind would be a great value-add to their skill sets. Refusing to be job seekers, they would use their romantic skills to assume key positions in premium dog biscuit manufacturing conglomerates, generating a multitude of employment opportunities. Motivated by the adventures of Sally, many others would create successful start-ups.

When they start experiencing the bliss of married life, Bingo Little would become a role model. Sacrificing a highly proficient cook merely to keep peace at home would make them practice the invaluable art of detachment, as espoused in the Bhagavad Gita. Ensuring that the spouse gets the daily ration of her afternoon tea would sustain matrimonial harmony. The art of bringing up kids and touching others for ten quids would get learnt the easy way. Divorce rates shall plummet. Happier and contented kids would eventually evolve into happier citizens of India.

From Ashe Marson, they would learn to do regular Larsen exercises at an early age. Even if they choose to write detective stories when they grow up, they would land lucrative assignments involving restoration of unmindfully pinched scarabs to their rightful owners. By hobnobbing with those who are less fortunate than them in their station in life, they would develop empathy and compassion, thereby becoming more humane in their approach to life and its myriad situations.

Thanks to Rupert Psmith, the art of managing and controlling bosses would come easy to them. They would make effective managers, and shall be in great demand in the employment market.

Making education enjoyable

Sir, you are undoubtedly aware that our students happen to be a worried and depressed lot these days. At a tender age, they are expected to lug around heavy bags slung on their slender shoulders. When at the secondary stage, the poor souls turn and twist in their beds, worrying about future career choices. Much before they acquire a degree of sorts, they start chewing their nails and twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out ways to support their families by making a decent living.

A dash of humour is what they desperately need. Loads of wisdom and practical advice is what they want. Values and a role model is what they seek. A sense of inner joy, peace and happiness is what they inwardly crave for.

All this, and much more, can be found in the Wodehouse canon. By introducing his works for study at all levels of education, India shall be setting a fine example for the rest of the world.

By ensuring ready availability of his works in libraries, book clubs and reading rooms across the entire country, we shall be enabling our youth to rediscover the value of subtle humour in their lives. Our Teacher Training Institutes can be tasked to expose those in the so-called noble profession to the works of P G Wodehouse. Our multilingual scholars can be persuaded to translate his works into other prominent languages used in India. Local fans of the author may be willing to spare some time to read his books to students at all levels.

By learning to appreciate the sunnier side of their lives, students would overcome their depression and be ready to face the future challenges with a chin-up attitude. Many of them would derive a vicarious pleasure in reading about the decadent British aristocracy, thereby forgetting their own deprivations in life.

A unique initiative with juicy spin offs

It is time that we, as a country, adopt what is good for our youth, rather than only blaming Lord Macaulay, who belongs to a distant past.

If you were to initiate this single change, your colleagues in many other ministries of the Government of India shall feel obliged as well as bucked up. The Home Minister would applaud you. The Health and Family Welfare Minister would praise you. The Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister would be in awe of you. The Social Justice and Empowerment Minister would look up to you. The Defence Minister would admire you. The Women and Child Development Minister would envy you. The possibilities and the spin offs are mind boggling.

Sir, this unique initiative is all yours to take. I, on behalf of Wodehouse fans the world over, hope you will not disappoint us.

With kind regards and a hearty pip pip!

An Indian suffering from acute Wodehousitis.

(Caricatures courtesy Kevin Cornell)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/the-epidemic-of-wodehousitis

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/spreading-wodehousitis-some-plummy-awards)

 

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Residents of Plumsville who have been keeping a watch on the gradual resurgence of Wodehousitis in the Nordic countries might recall that at the last meeting of the Drones Club at Vollen in Norway, befittingly held on the 15th of October 2016, those present had planned for the next meeting of the Club to be held closer to the National Day of Norway, that is, on or around the 17th of May 2017.

And that is how it transpired that the Egg, the Bean, the Crumpet and the Pieface met at Asker recently. After much back-slapping, flag waving and associated patriotic activities, the four settled down to wide ranging discussions on a variety of Plummy affairs.

Here is a quick recapitulation of the deliberations.

Spreading cheer and happiness

Plum has left behind a range of work which is as prolific as it is magnificent. Homo sapiens need to be made aware and encouraged to drink deep from this underground reservoir of bliss. Hope was expressed that the economies dependent on black gold till now would eventually start becoming dependent on this joyous variety of gold, thereby improving the happiness levels of humanity.

The prodigal sons

When it comes to musicals, it is well recognized that kids of rich producers with bulging pockets and cigars in their mouth alone call the shots. Attempts should be made to breed more of such canine species as McIntosh, so kids can be suitably influenced and musicals can bounce back and regain their popularity amongst the masses.

A teen connection

Thanks to their ignorance about the Wodehouse canon, the millennials are not aware of what they happen to be missing in life. The group wondered if some of our dream merchants would start producing short animated clips which showcase the stories dished out by Plum. Once launched on dedicated ‘Apps’ and other digital platforms, the younger lot with their short attention spans may get drawn to the sunlit valleys of Plumsville, with streets lined on both sides with low hanging fruits of delectable humour.

The translation challenge

The Crumpet wondered as to how the beauty of Plum’s writings could be retained while translating his works into such other languages as Norwegian. The Pieface clarified that such translators often dig up the local history and quote juicy instances therefrom, thereby maintaining the lyrical beauty of the original prose.

Of feminism and the delicately nurtured

In a society which provides equal opportunity to its delicately nurtured, even going to the extent of making both the sexes serve a fixed duration military tenure, just how popular could be the old Victorian-era notions of chivalry, such as opening doors, holding chairs, and the like?

The Bean opined that such notions no longer had a meaning. The practice of such overt gestures of chivalry might be silently appreciated. But the absence of such gestures does not get noticed, much to the obvious relief of the so-called sterner sex.

The literary landscape of Plum

Almost all his works are littered with quotes from, and references to, those at the high table of English literature, such as Shakespeare, et al.

The Egg felt that literary figures preceding Plum had helped shape the present contour of English language. The Pieface thought that this is a vast subject which merits much careful analysis. The group felt they would admire the perseverance and erudite scholarship of anyone who might undertake a mighty task of this nature.

The real estate connection

Is Plum in any way related to the real estate sector of the economy? The Pieface did think so. He felt that he was nowhere near achieving his ambition of having collected all of Plum’s works in English as well as in Norwegian. His room was already overflowing, inviting sinister comments from the Rosie M Banks of his life. In order to fulfil his desire, a barn may soon need to be added. This, he felt, would serve a completely unintended purpose – that of providing a much-needed fillip to the local economy.

The Empress of Blandings

She was the guest of honour, adorned atop a small cake which was baked and provided by the daughter of the Crumpet. The Egg did the honours. All those assembled hummed ‘Sonny Boy’ and devoured few helpings of the same.

Wodehousitis in Norway

Those assembled agreed that all efforts need to be made to popularize the fact that such meetings are taking place in the Land of the Midnight Sun. By making prospective members green with envy, it was felt, the objective could be accomplished in the days to come.

The uneven spread of Wodehousitis

Concern was expressed at the fact that there were wide disparities in the per capita affliction of Wodehousitis across different countries. According to latest informal estimates, USA, UK and India appeared to be leading other countries when it came to per capita affliction of the dreaded disease. Netherlands, Italy and Russia appeared to be forming the middle order. Down Under, the affliction rates were reported to be rather poor. Same was the case with Switzerland which, though famous for its cheese, chocolates and watches, had very little to show when it came to Wodehousitis.

The consensus was that much more needed to be done to facilitate a more equitable distribution of Wodehousitis across the globe. The Royal Academy of Goofy Technologies may be approached to come up with a concrete action plan which, once approved by Rupert Psmith, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Plumsville, may be set in motion.  It would also do well to conduct studies establishing the precise characteristics of Wodehousitis, thereby making it amenable to measurement.

Norway is a unique country in more ways than one. It hosts the Nobel Peace Prize. It is presently ranked as the happiest country in the world. The fact that it is shoring up its ranking in terms of Wodehousitis is yet another feather in its cap.  

(A vote of thanks is due to Morten Arnesen, Jo Ingebrigt Spalder and Oystein Moe for propelling the Nordic Wodehousitis Mission further)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/a-drones-club-meet-at-asker-in-Norway

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/a-drones-club-meeting-at-vollen-in-Norway

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/a-drones-club-meeting-in-Amsterdam)

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Residents of Plumsville, whether of the existing kind or the aspiring kind, would cherish this instructive post on the Blandings saga. Anyone who follows this shall never get lost in the sunlit valleys of the delightful world left behind for us by P G Wodehouse.

Plumtopia

blandings-castle

Lord Emsworth breathed heavily. He had not supposed that in these degenerate days a family like this existed. The sister copped Angus McAllister on the shin with stones, the brother bit Constance in the leg . . . It was like listening to some grand saga of the exploits of heroes and demigods.

‘Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend’

(Blandings Castle)

This piece is the third in a series of guides for readers wanting to discover the joys of P.G. Wodehouse — from the popular Jeeves and Wooster stories, and the Blandings series, to the wider world of Wodehouse ‘hidden gems’. Previous instalments in the series offered:

A reading list for the Blandings saga is offered below, followed by notes on the series.

A Blandings Reading List

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