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Posts Tagged ‘Empress of Blandings’

 

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:

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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.

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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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