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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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When the silver rays of a refined full moon descend upon Blandings Castle, the ancestral home of Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, queer things start happening.

Would-be brides find themselves quarantined, so obdurate mothers may breathe easy. Romantic aspirations get into a jumble. Phantom faces keep popping up, proving the theory advanced by Dr E. Jimpson Murgatroyd that excess consumption of tissue restoratives results in such hallucinations. A diamond necklace goes missing, thereby creating conditions which could lead to a nasty divorce.

But Gally is there to set things right, acting like an elderly Christopher Robin, leaving everybody happy, loving young hearts united, and nothing for anyone to worry about.

Here are some of the gems from Full Moon which fans of P G Wodehouse may relish.

 

When clotted cream becomes audible

Her reverie was interrupted by the opening of the door. The pencil of light beneath it had attracted Colonel Wedge’s eye as he started forth on his mission. She raised her head from the pillow and rolled two enormous eyes in his direction. In a slow, pleasant voice, like clotted cream made audible, she said:
‘Hullo, Dad-dee.’

Some basics of Cardiology

To say of anyone’s heart that it stood still is physiologically inexact. The heart does not stand still. It has to go right on working away at the old stand, irrespective of its proprietor’s feelings. Tipton’s, though he would scarcely have believed you if you had told him so, continued to beat. But the illusion that it had downed tools was extraordinarily vivid.

The proceedings at reunions

Few things are more affecting than these reunions of old buddies after long separation, but they involve too many queries as to what old What’s-his-name is doing now and whatever became of old So-and-so to make good general reading.

When business magnates behave like Roman Emperors

You don’t know my father-in-law, of course. He’s a bird who looks like a Roman emperor and has a habit of hammering on the table during conferences and shouting: “Come on, come on, now. I’m waiting for suggestions.”

 

 

Einstein and Gally

There were men in London – bookmakers, skittle sharps, jellied eel sellers on race-courses, and men like that – who would have been puzzled to know whom you were referring to if you had mentioned Einstein, but they all knew Gally.

A beleaguered garrison in India

It was with something of the emotions of the beleaguered garrison of Lucknow on hearing the skirl of the Highland pipes that he came at long last out of a sort of despairing coma to the realization that the dressing gong was being beaten, and that for half an hour he would be alone.

When a gnat bite depreciates radiant beauty by between sixty and seventy per cent, Sugg’s Soothine helps

As Veronica Wedge stood gazing at Tipton Plimsoll with her enormous eyes, like a cow staring over a hedge at a mangel-wurzel, no one could have guessed that a few brief hours previously the nose beneath those eyes had been of a size and shape that had made her look like W. C. Fields’s sister.

Uninspiring dinners at English country homes

Too often, in English country houses, dinner is apt to prove a dull and uninspiring meal. If the ruling classes of the island kingdom have a fault, it is that they are inclined when at table to sit champing their food in a glassy-eyed silence, doing nothing to promote a feast of reason and a flow of soul.

 

The Thinker (Auguste Rodin)

 

A meditative state

He went back to the bed and sat down again, his chin on his hand, motionless. He looked like Rodin’s Penseur.

When an ex-fiancé spoils the fun

Ex, one says, for where he had once beheld in Frederick Threepwood a congenial crony and a sidekick with whom it had been a pleasure to flit from high spot to high spot, he now saw only a rival in love, and a sinister, crafty, horn-swoggling rival at that, one who could be classified without hesitation as a snake. At least, if you couldn’t pigeon-hole among the snakes bimbos who went about the place making passes at innocent girls after discarding their wives like old tubes of toothpaste, Tipton was at a loss to know into what category they did fall.

Trouser seats

The face which now looked up into his was one which harmonized perfectly with the trouser seat. It was the face, as the trouser seat had been the trouser seat, of a tortured soul.

A perspective on future sons-in-law

There are fathers, not a few of them, who tend to regard suitors for their daughter’s hand with a jaundiced and unfriendly eye, like shepherds about to be deprived of a ewe lamb.

A bad bit of casting

His eyes rested on Prudence and in them now there was nothing but affection, gratitude, and esteem. It amazed him that he could ever have placed her among the squirts. An extraordinarily bad bit of casting. What had caused him to do so, of course, had been her lack of inches, and he realized now that in docketing the other sex what you had to go by was not size, but soul. A girl physically in the peanut division steps automatically out of her class if she has the opalescent soul of a ministering angel.

The perks of wearing a false fungus

Every young man starting out in life ought to wear a false beard, if only for a day or two. It stiffens the fibre, teaches him that we were not put into this world for pleasure alone.

Of Clarence and jellyfish

‘My dear boy, I have been closely associated with my brother Clarence for more than half a century, and I know him from caviare to nuts. His I.Q. is about thirty points lower than that of a not too agile-minded jellyfish.’

 

 

Poet Robert Burns

It is a truism to say that the best-laid plans are often disarranged and sometimes even defeated by the occurrence of some small unforeseen hitch in the programme. The poet Burns, it will be remembered, specifically warns the public to budget for this possibility.

The density of face fungus

Too little, the chronicler realizes, has been said about that beard of Fruity Biffen’s, and it may be that its concealing properties have not been adequately stressed. But reading between the lines, the public must have gathered an impression of its density. The Fruities of this world, when they are endeavouring to baffle the scrutiny of keen-eyed bookmakers, do not skimp in the matter of face fungus. The man behind this beard was not so much a man wearing a beard as a pair of eyes staring out of an impenetrable jungle; and, try as she might, Lady Hermione was unable to recall any more definite picture than just that.

A puma of the Indian jungle

Throughout this well-phased harangue Lady Hermione had been sitting with twitching hands and gleaming eyes. It had not occurred to the speaker that there was anything ominous in her demeanour, but a more observant nephew would have noted her strong resemblance to the puma of the Indian jungle about to pounce upon its prey.

The Aunt, the whole Aunt, and nothing but the Aunt

Lady Hermione was still sitting behind the teapot, as rigidly erect as if some sculptor had persuaded her to pose for his Statue of an Aunt. In all the long years during which they had been associated it seemed to Freddie that he had never seen her looking so undisguisedly the Aunt, the whole Aunt, and nothing but the Aunt, and in spite of himself his heart sank a little. Even Lady Emily Finch, though her mental outlook was that of a strong-minded mule, an animal which she resembled in features as well as temperament, had been an easier prospect.

An unbridgeable gulf

The Hon. Galahad snorted sharply. Himself a bachelor, he was unable to understand and sympathize with what seemed to him a nephew’s contemptible pusillanimity. There is often this unbridgable gulf between the outlook of single and married men.

When equanimity gets ruffled

‘She’ll divorce me.’

‘Nonsense.’

‘She will, I tell you. American wives are like that. Let the slightest thing ruffle their equanimity, and bingo! Ask Tippy. His mother divorced his guv’nor because he got her to the station at ten-seven to catch a train that had started at seven-ten.’

 

 

Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge

There is a widely advertised patent medicine which promises to its purchasers a wonderful sense of peace, poise, neural solidity and organic integrity, and guarantees to free them from all nervous irritability, finger-drumming, teeth-grinding, and foot-tapping. This specific Tipton Plimsoll might have been taking for weeks, and the poet Coleridge, had he been present, would have jerked a thumb at him with a low-voiced: ‘Don’t look now, but that fellow over there will give you some idea of what I had in mind when I wrote about the man who on honeydew had fed and drunk the milk of Paradise.’

The omelette gag

‘But you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. Not Shakespeare,’ said the Hon. Galahad. ‘One of my own. Unless I heard it somewhere. Besides, Freddie’s agony will be only temporary.’

Of lovers’ impulses

The primary impulse of every lover, on seeing the adored object on a balcony, is to shin up and join her.

Cactus in a trouser seat

What urged him to retreat was the thought of having to meet Lady Hermione again. It stimulated him to action like a cactus in the trouser seat.

A family’s average of mental anguish

It is fortunately only very rarely that in any given family in the English upper classes you will find two members of it who have drained the bitter cup in a single afternoon. The average of mental anguish is as a rule lower.

 

Full Moon is only one example of the virtuosity of Plum, whose narratives are littered with similes, literary allusions and insights on human behaviour. These amuse, entertain and educate.

 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/some-juicy-quotes-from-stiff-upper-lip-jeeves)

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‘Is Mr. Little in trouble, sir?’

‘Well, you might call it that. He’s in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?’

‘Mr. Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.’

‘Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests.’ 

(The Inimitable Jeeves)

 

If one happens to be an ardent fan of P G Wodehouse pottering about Amsterdam, and gets an opportunity to meet up local members of the P G Wodehouse Society there, one would be wise to wear an asbestos vest before popping up at the gig. One does not necessarily allude to romantic possibilities here, but only to the kind of warmth, sweetness and courtesy which welcomes one at such events.

When yours truly, in the garb of Bingo Little, passed by Amsterdam recently, Psmith, the journalist and cricket historian, lost no time in organizing a small get together. Galahad, the charming President of the Society, took some time off from his linguistic and scholarly pursuits and decided to join in. Pop Glossop, yet another linguist and a communication expert, trooped in, duly braced for the loony festivities.

A lay person could be excused for believing that not much gets discussed at such gigs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Besides the characters and narratives dished out by Plum, the events which led one to come under the spell of the Wodehouse canon get recounted. Different lenses with which his works can be viewed – social, economic, political, psychological, and the like – get discussed. The relevance of the same in our tension-ridden contemporary times is subjected to a pitiless analysis. The need for new books which try and imitate the Master comes up for a mention. Personal experiences which remind one of some Plummy instances get shared. The work being done by various Wodehouse societies the world over to spread Wodehousitis gets appreciated.

Bingo Little, fresh from his international travels over the past two years, had an intensive discussion with Galahad. Copious notes made by the latter may soon result in an article which could get unleashed on the unsuspecting members of the Society in the June 2019 edition of its journal, Nothing Serious. He also received a treasure trove of books – Dutch translations of some of the Master’s works and a compendium of the wit and wisdom of Wodehouse by Tony Ring – from Galahad and Psmith. Bingo obviously felt honoured and chuffed, especially because after the gig got over, Pop Glossop ensured that Bingo’s return to his temporary abode in the city was comfortable.

Earlier, during a leisurely stroll around the Amstel, Psmith was quick to point out to Bingo Little the various attractions of the city. One of these was a statue of Spinoza, ‘the Prince of Philosophers’, in front of the Amsterdam City Hall by the Zwanenburgwal. As we know, Spinoza is held in high esteem by none other than Jeeves himself.

The duo also passed by the house where Rembrandt had lived for some time. It is common knowledge that there are many reasons for the centuries-old popularity of the renowned artist – the tremendous volume of his output, the range and the quality of his work, and the kind of unique life he lived. But beneath all this is the undercurrent of human psychology that his work represents. Look at any of his subjects, and you can somehow surmise the kind of slings and arrows that Fate might be bestowing upon them at the time of facing the artist’s easel.

Rembrandt

The narratives dished out by Plum are not different. The psychology of the individual reigns supreme. Whether one comes across mentally negligible bachelors, intelligent valets, goofy females, maiden aunts, helmet-pinching curates, eccentric bishops, or even senile aristocrats and their nagging sisters, it is their psychology which determines the flow of the goings on. Even those from the animal kingdom get presented to a reader with unique insights into their behavioural patterns.

It stands to reason that Netherlands, which produced creative geniuses of the stature of Spinoza, Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh and many others, has one of the few societies which spread sweetness and light globally by keeping the Wodehouse canon alive and kicking.

It does not really matter that the backdrop of his oeuvre is the vanished world of Edwardian England. What matters is that his work continues to educate, engage and entertain all those who decide to take a saunter down the streets of Plumsville, soaking in its brilliant sunshine and savouring low-hanging fruits of pristine humour on the trees lined up on both their sides.

(This article was reproduced in the May 2019 issue of Nothing Serious, the newsletter of the P G Wodehouse Society of Netherlands.)

(Related Posts:

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

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/p-g-wodehouse-fans-some-meetings-during -2017)

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Ms Ragini SGH, an ardent fan of P G Wodehouse, has whipped up a composition which all residents of Plumsville would cherish.

Someone once suggested writing a clerihew
Not too sure about it ‘coz the word to me was new;
I decided to try it with some of Plum’s characters
It requires great skill along with other factors.

 

Let’s begin with Lord Emsworth
His vocabulary was stunted at birth;
The most that he managed to speak
Made him sound like a pip squeak;
Many doubted his ability mental
But he was just shy and gentle.

 

Aunt Dahlia’s master chef Anatole
Often baked a huge Swiss roll;
Layers and layers of chocolate cream
Truly a sweet n delightful dream.

 

An interesting character is Gussie Fink Nottle
Who kept newts in a bottle;
He studied their habits in great detail
Identifying the male and the female;
In this study he was totally engrossed
By every character bossed;
For years he preferred staying in the country side
From crowds he always tried to hide.

 

Madeleine Bassett
Far too frivolous to be an asset;
Whenever it rained
She felt hurt and highly pained;
A fairy’s teardrops
Couldn’t be reported to cops.

 

As for Dear Bertie
He tries very hard not to be flirty;
Before he knows it he’s hooked
Waiting to be cooked;
Between Bobbie and Madeleine
He can but jump in vain.

 

Gally Lord Galahad,
Knows how to drive everyone mad;
With every smile
His friends run from him a mile;
He’s incorrigible,
Always on the lookout for the gullible.

 

Angela at Cannes saw a shark,
Tuppy thought it was probably a tree bark;
They had a huge spat
Heatedly giving each other tit for tat;
Angela decided to act tough
Told Tuppy he was ill mannered and rough;
Their engagement she did break
And wished Tuppy would go jump into a lake.

 

Hey Nonny Nonny!
A few words in favour of aunt Connie;
Whose brothers are weird
But her grey cells well oiled and geared.

 

Writing about Honoria I did consider
But that I felt would create quite a stir;
She’d quote lines from Nietzche
Bertie, she would verbally flay;
‘Coz he said she had a lion tamer’s voice
To befriend her would be much against his choice.

 

(Permission to blog it here is gratefully acknowledged.)

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