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Posts Tagged ‘Gladys’

What happens when a banking professional like Suvarna Sanyal, who has spent a life time poring over bulky ledgers and checking debit and credit figures, turns his attention to one of the popular stories dished out by P G Wodehouse? Well, he simply whips up a series of illustrations which figure some of the better known characters from the canon in some selected scenes from the story!

Savour below the results of his labour of love which, incidentally, have already undergone a scrutiny under the precise microscope of an expert in all Plummy matters.

 

‘The day was so warm, so fair, so magically a thing of sunshine and blue skies and bird-song that anyone acquainted with Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, and aware of his liking for fine weather, would have pictured him going about the place on this summer morning with a beaming smile and an uplifted heart.’

 

‘Instead of which, humped over the breakfast-table, he was directing at a blameless kippered herring a look of such intense bitterness that the fish seemed to sizzle beneath it. For it was August Bank Holiday, and Blandings Castle on August Bank Holiday became, in his lordship’s opinion, a miniature Inferno.’

 

Breakfast over, Lord Emsworth’s sister, Lady Constance Keeble, looked brightly at him across the table.

 

Lord Emsworth left the table, the room and the house, but on reaching the yew alley some minutes later was revolted to find it infested by Angus McAllister in person.

Lord Emsworth told McAllister he is off to the village to judge the cottage gardens and will see him later.

 

‘It is always unpleasant for a proud man to realize that he is no longer captain of his soul; that he is to all intents and purposes ground beneath the number twelve heel of a Glaswegian head-gardener.’

He recalls the greatness of his brave and bold ancestors, whereas he himself reels under the tyranny of his sister and his head-gardener.

 

As he came to the last cottage garden, he unlatched the gate and pottered in.  A hairy, nondescript dog opened one eye and looked at him in a suspicious manner.  And when Lord Emsworth sniffed one of the flowers, the world became full of hideous noises.  He suddenly had a passionate desire to save his ankles from harm.’

At the sound of the girl’s voice, the mongrel suspended hostilities and writhed on its back with all four legs in the air.  And that was how Lord Emsworth met Gladys, and she introduced herself and her brother Ern, who was carrying a bunch of flowers.

 

‘Lord Emsworth looked at the girl almost reverentially.  Not content with controlling savage dogs with a mere word, this super-woman actually threw stones at Angus McAllister, and copped him on the shin.’

 

On learning that they would be at the Fetê in the park later, he made a vague rendezvous.

 

Clarence runs into Constance, who plans to tick off the kids who had misbehaved on their last visit to the Castle lawns.

 

‘It always seemed to Lord Emsworth that the annual Fête at Blandings Castle reached a peak of repulsiveness when tea was served in the big marquee.  It occurred to him that it would be a prudent move to take off his top hat before his little guests appreciated its humorous possibilities, but even as he raised his hand, a rock cake took it off for him.’

 

He craved solitude and made for the nearby cowshed, where he was surprised to meet a sobbing Gladys.

‘Tear-stains glistened on her face, and no Emsworth had ever been able to watch unstirred a woman’s tears.  He was visibly affected.

“Why,” he asked, “could Ern not have pinched them for himself?”’

 

Gladys recounts the encounter between Lady Constance and Ern. She concludes by saying she had told Ern she would “bring ’im back somefing nice.”

Lord Emsworth thought ‘it was like listening to some grand old saga of the exploits of heroes and demigods.’

He was further surprised to learn that Gladys had herself had no tea!

‘Do you mean to tell me that you have not had tea?’

‘No, sir. Thank you, sir. I thought if I didn’t ‘ave none, then it would be all right Ern ‘aving what I would ‘ave ‘ad if ‘ad ‘ave ‘ad.’

 

Five minutes later, Beach the butler answered the summons of a bell in the library, where he found his employer in the company of a young person in a velveteen frock.

After doing herself well at the tea-table, and clutching a well-filled parcel destined for Ern, Gladys was asked by Lord Emsworth if Ern would like something else.

‘Could he ‘ave some flarze?’

‘Certainly, certainly, certainly,’ he said, though not without a qualm. ‘Take as many as you want.’

 

When from his potting-shed Angus McAllister saw a small girl in a velveteen frock picking his sacred flowers, and realised that it was the same small girl who had copped him on the shin with a stone, he came out of the potting-shed at forty-five miles per hour.

Gladys did not linger, but scuttled to where Lord Emsworth stood and, hiding behind him, clutched the tails of his morning-coat.  Lord Emsworth’s knees shook at the spectacle of the man charging down on him with gleaming eyes and bristling whiskers.  But at that moment, Gladys, seeking further protection, slipped a small, hot hand into his.  It was a mute vote of confidence, and Lord Emsworth intended to be worthy of it.

 

Lord Emsworth pressed home his advantage while he could.

‘Angus McAllister made his decision.  Better to cease to be a Napoleon than to be a Napoleon in exile.’

 

Lord Emsworth was shaken but a novel sensation of being a man among men thrilled him.  He almost hoped that his sister Constance would come along and start something while he felt like this.

He got his wish, and asked her what the matter was.

 

He turned to Gladys.

Lord Emsworth had eventually proved worthy of his glorious ancestors.

 

This is how love conquers all. The desire to please the party of the other part. The need to be worthy of her trust and affection. Even spines made of cottage cheese get transformed into those made of chilled steel!

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/lord-emsworth-and-the-girlfriend-a-viewpoint

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-when-nature-stands-still

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/great-wodehouse-romances-lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-by-ken-clevenger)

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Lord Emsworth

Much like all masters perched on the literary high table, P G Wodehouse also used Nature as a colluding partner in his narratives. When all is well with the world, roses are in bloom, bees and birds go about doing what they are ordained to do, and the sun goes about spreading cheer with due benevolence. But when giant egos clash or a disaster looms large, Nature stops in its tracks, birds stop chirping noisily, breeze ceases to blow and even flowers stand still.

In other words, Nature is depicted as having a sensitive soul, cheered up when the proceedings are going as per plans, but looking askance when the reverse happens. In the hands of proficient wordsmiths, it assumes a character of its own and provides mute support to the goings on in the narrative.

By way of an example, consider the story ‘Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend.’

Angus McAllister, the head gardener at Blandings Castle, has an anti-moss spirit. Lord Emsworth often wonders why Providence had not taken note of his sterling qualities and made him a first class mule. He recalls the time when, after having sacked him, McAllister, he, Lord Emsworth, had to plead with him to come back. This alone had resulted in his favorurite pumpkin winning the Agricultural Show.

It was a supreme sacrifice at the altar of an employer’s ego, paving the way for a subsequent loss of the iron hand to have an effective control over his own property, comprising not only the castle and its grounds but also the exquisite flora and fauna hosted therein. Lord Emsworth had thus ended up becoming the ground under the number twelve heel of the Glaswegian head-gardener.

He believed that he had thus evolved into a spineless and unspeakably unworthy descendant of his ancestors who had perfected the art of handling employees, even if it involved dividing an obdurate employee into four employees by using a battle-axe without any eyebrows getting raised.

Till the time Gladys popped up in the scheme of things, McAllister’s control over ‘flarze’ in the Blandings Castle gardens was absolute. Anyone desirous of acquiring some of these had to wait till the time he was in an amiable state of mind, steer the conversation around to the subject of interior decoration, and then took a pot shot at one’s desire.

If one’s Guardian Angels were in a benevolent mood, and if McAllister chose to show you around the gardens with a dash of Scottish pride, one could see the following species in full bloom:

Achillea

 

Bignonia Radicans

 

Campanula

 

Digitalis

 

Euphorbia

 

Funkia

 

Gypsophila

 

Helianthus

 

Iris

 

Liatris

 

Monarda

 

Phlox Drummondi

 

Salvia

 

Thalictrum

 

Vinca

 

Yucca

And when a small girl in a velveteen frock is seen flitting about his sacred gardens and picking his sacred flowers – that too, a girl who had copped him on the shin with a stone just the other day, he rushes out of his den at forty-five miles per hour.

Lord Emsworth’s soul quivers at the spectacle of the man charging down on him with gleaming eyes and bristling whiskers. But with the soft hand of Gladys in his hands, his spine sheds all the cottage cheese it had accumulated over time and gets converted into one made up of chilled steel.

‘This young lady,’ said Lord Emsworth, ‘has my full permission to pick all the flowers she wants, McAllister. If you do not see eye to eye with me in this matter, McAllister, say so and we will discuss what you are going to do about it, McAllister. These gardens, McAllister, belong to me, and if you do not – er – appreciate that fact you will, no doubt, be able to find another employer – ah – more in tune with your views. I value your services highly, McAllister, but I will not be dictated to in my own garden, McAllister. Er – dash it,’ added his lordship, spoiling the whole effect.

The sudden transformation in the character of the main protagonist leaves Nature baffled and astounded. All is still for some time. The Achillea, the Bignonia Radicans, the Ampanula, the Digitalis, the Euphorbia, the Funkia, the Gypsophila, the Helianthus, the Iris, the Liatris, the Monarda, the Phlox Drummondi, the Salvia, the Thalictrum, the Vinca and the Yucca – all are still.

Angus McAllister is perplexed. He decides it is better to cease to be a Napoleon than to be a Napoleon in exile. ‘Mphm,’ he says.

Nature resumes its breathing. The breeze begins to blow again. And all over the gardens the birds resume their musical notes. And the Achillea, the Bignonia Radicans, the Ampanula, the Digitalis, the Euphorbia, the Funkia, the Gypsophila, the Helianthus, the Iris, the Liatris, the Monarda, the Phlox Drummondi, the Salvia, the Thalictrum, the Vinca and the Yucca, much relieved, start swaying in the gentle wind yet again.

The repertoire of such literary giants as Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Kalidasa are littered with natural allusions. Same is true of P G Wodehouse.

(Illustration courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.

Representations of flowers courtesy Wikipedia. Given the non-floricultural background of yours truly, errors and omissions in these may kindly be excused.)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/lord-emsworth-and-the-girlfriend-a-viewpoint

https://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/great-wodehouse-romances-lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-by-ken-clevenger)

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Lord Emsworth

The narratives dished out by Plum not only amuse but also educate the lay reader. Critics may label these as escapist fares, but that does not take away the kind of social and spiritual lessons which are embedded therein.

When a girl whom you have come to respect seeks your protection, you try to rise to her expectations. Suddenly, the spine which was made of cottage cheese gets transformed into one of chilled steel. You stand up to bullies and tell them where they get off. You look them in the eye and make them wilt, making them beat a hasty retreat from their time-tested positions. Like Angus McAllister, they suddenly find more merit in ‘ceasing to be a Napoleon than to become a Napoleon in exile.’

The Parva School Treat Transformation

When the story begins, we find that Lord Emsworth’s soul is weighed down with woe. The sun is going about its task with great aplomb, but he is unable to potter around in his own gardens. For, this is the day of the August Bank Holiday, ‘when a tidal wave of the peasantry and its squealing young engulfed those haunts of immemorial peace.’ In place of an old coat, he is forced to wear a stiff collar and a top hat and be genial. As if this were not enough, he is expected to make a speech in the evening.

However, by the time the story reaches its climax, he has become a transformed man. He has become a man amongst men. He can stand up to Angus McAllister, his gardener, and boldly reject his proposal to lay a gravel path through the moss-covered yew alley. He has even found the courage to give a piece of his mind to Constance, his dominating sister.

His foremost concern is to bring some sunshine into the life of Gladys, his girlfriend. If she has not had any nourishment, she must be provided a sumptuous fare not only for her but also for her younger brother, Ern. If she asks for flowers from the Blandings gardens, she must have them. He would rather walk back with her to the cottage she is staying at, rather than face the prospect of making a speech.

Doing the ancestors proud

Lord Emsworth detests the fact that he is no longer the captain of his soul. But he ends up acquiring the courage to stand up to the bullies in his life. From being a spineless and unspeakably unworthy descendant of ancestors who had certainly known how to handle employees, he can now boast of being a tough egg. Even though his soul quivers, the simple act of Gladys seeking his protection from a menacing Angus McAllister by slipping her small, hot hand into his, he secures a mute vote of confidence. It is something that he wishes to be worthy of.

Learning from kids of a metropolitan origin

Street smart kids of metropolitan origin have perfected their survival and self-preservation skills. They acquire a ‘breezy insouciance’ which their country cousins lack. Shyness is not one of the virtues they can boast of. They have no difficulty in translating their thoughts into speech. Their dog-management skills are something to write home about.

If they need to pick flowers, they stoop to conquer. They have no reservations about throwing stones at those who endeavour to thwart their floral ambitions. Those attempting to do so even run the risk of getting copped on the shin. And if someone were to deliver a sharp reprimand, they are not averse to biting them in the leg.

These are the kind of personality traits which appeal to someone like Lord Emsworth who believes that he is not a captain of his own soul. Kids with a kindred spirit end up earning his unalloyed reverence.

One of the kids who earns the awe and admiration of Lord Emsworth is Gladys. She is described as a ‘small girl, of uncertain age – possibly twelve or thirteen, though a combination of London fogs and early cares had given her face a sort of wizened motherliness which in some odd way caused his lordship from the first to look on her as belonging to his own generation. She was the type of girl you see in back streets carrying a baby nearly as large as herself and still retaining sufficient energy to lead one little brother by the hand and shout recrimination at another in the distance.’ Ern, her younger brother, also falls in the same category.

Pristine love that uplifts

A streak of independence, disobedience and childlike vehemence invariably appeals to someone who is not himself in the firing line. When it affects the parties who happen to be the tormentors, the sense of awe and admiration experienced by the tormentee grows manifold. Lord Emsworth is no exception to this general rule.

Love results into a spiritual upliftment of sorts. One is no longer concerned only about one’s own discomforts, whether material or spiritual. One starts looking at the broader picture. The vision is no longer myopic. The scales fall from one’s eyes. One works towards bringing some sunshine into the lives of those who are somewhat disadvantaged. Social and economic barriers fade away. Empathy and compassion kick in. So does the milk of human kindness. One focuses only on providing adequate succour to the object of one’s affections.

(Illustration courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.)

(Related Posts: 

https://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/great-wodehouse-romances-lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-by-ken-clevenger

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/when-masters-thos-bonzo-and-moon-rise-in-love)

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