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Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

Be it Blandings Castle or Totleigh Towers, summer is eternal and the sun beams benevolently across the books of Mr Wodehouse. And Mr Ashok Bhatia, who has spent much of his 60-odd years curling up in bed with the works of the great humourist, hails from a land where the sun-shine is as eternal, although not quite so benevolent. It is more prone to broil the citizens till they totter on the brink of the loony-bin.

In Amsterdam, however, even as the calendar assured that it was nearing the end of April, the weather was having a cold hearty cackle at the expense of misguided tourists shivering in their light jackets. Thus, the erstwhile management consultant and his wife turned up at Restaurant Szmulewicz wrapped from head to toe under many, many layers of wool, fleece and polyester.

Ashok is done with navigating the highways of the corporate world. He now spends his time with NGOs in the rather diverse and distinct disciplines of Management and Spirituality. That is provided he can tear himself away from his lifelong perusal of the antics of Jeeves, Ukridge, Lord Emsworth and the rest of them. He has recently authored a book himself, which takes a humorous look at the principles of management and, as a corollary, mismanagement. But perhaps he is happiest when adding thoughts and reflections to his blog, which, needless to say, is dominated by PG Wodehouse.

Mrs Bhatia has not really been an avid Wodehouse reader herself. But matrimony comes with associative afflictions. She is not immune to the moments when her husband is spotted variously chuckling, guffawing and, to use a modern illusion, rolling on the floor with laughter. Investigations carried out at these junctures do keep popping up Wodehousean passages as chief suspects. And she excels at that profound quality found in the better or worse halves of devoted readers, without which the very pursuit of reading would be rendered impossible – indulgence. She indulges Ashok as he reads, and tolerates him even as he sometimes reads aloud to her. It was this sterling indulgence that had brought her to Szmulewicz, withstanding the association of not only her husband but three more Wodehouseans.

Josepha Olsthoorn and Wil Brouwers had turned up before one could even say ‘Bring on the Girls’, charming and hospitable, eager to spread sweetness and light. And Arun too had been allowed in the restaurant … although as he entered there had been a distinct sound of a very old sheep clearing its throat in the southern alps, followed by the words, “Long hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.”

Thus glasses were clinked, old Plum was toasted, Empress was remembered, Ukridge was discussed. It grew louder and funnier by the minute, an evening filled with humour and hapjes, Galahad and gezelligheid.

In short, it was a perfect what’s-its-name of the thingummy and the thing-um-a-bob of the what d’you-call-it.

(The aforesaid write-up, whipped up by Arunabha Sengupta, appeared in ‘Nothing Serious‘, the magazine unleashed upon its members by the Dutch Wodehouse Society at regular intervals.

Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and freelance sports journalist based in Amsterdam. He also has a past in the software industry that still gives him the jitters. Apart from being a Wodehousean, he is also a Holmesian and is the author of the pastiche ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes.’

Permission to reproduce this piece, if piece is indeed the word one wants, is gratefully acknowledged.)

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

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The intermittent rays of a highly reluctant evening sun were falling on the city of a wind-swept Amsterdam. The Amstel flowed quietly. The Opera House rose from its banks in a majestic manner.

At the Rembrandt Square, a swathe of wide-eyed tourists of various sizes, shapes and ethnicities were busy getting photographed for the sake of posterity. Some liked to be remembered standing just beneath the imposing statue of the famous painter of the country. Others preferred to get clicked with the soldiers surrounding the main statue in the square. Some others fancied being seen in the company of army drummers which formed a part of the ensemble of statues at the square.

Just off the square, located on Bakkerstraat, inside a cosy and warm restaurant by the name of Szmulewicz, the owner, with a stiff upper lip which would have put even the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn to shame, was surveying his patrons of the day with a distinct frown of disapproval. He thought those visiting his place on the day were rather a noisy and boisterous lot. A sprightly and conscientious Miss Mabel was scurrying around, serving customers with alacrity and elan.

Psmith, the efficient coordinator who had organized the Drones Club meeting at the restaurant, was anxiously waiting for his invitees to join him.

Given the address, one could be forgiven to presume that he was expecting the famous detective and his companion, Doctor Watson, to join up. After all, literally translated from Dutch, Bakkerstraat is nothing but Baker Street. Alas, that was not the case, for the street was located not in London but in Amsterdam.

Nor were artists of such fame as Bill Lister, Corky or Gwaldys Pandlebury on his list of those invited to participate in the festivities.

Instead, on his list of invitees were some of the characters etched out with much finesse in the Wodehousean canon. Eve Halliday, the famous librarian from Blandings Castle, was expected. So was Aunt Dahlia from Brinkley Court. Also, joining in were Bingo Little and Rosie M Banks from India. Regrettably, Galahad, the President of the local Wodehouse Society, had already expressed his inability to make it to the meeting due to some harsh sling  and arrow of Fate he was facing at the time.

Within a few minutes of the appointed time, the group had assembled. Introductions had been performed. The couple from India was overjoyed to be meeting some members of the Society, which had seen as many as twenty-seven springs since it came to be formed.

Psmith was quick to inform everyone that due to constraints of space at the restaurant, plans to hold a dart throwing competition had been abandoned. Even though bread crumbs could be ordered, all assembled concurred that any projectile activity involving the same could be deferred to the next meeting, so deliberations could take place in a serene atmosphere, in tune with the decorum of the place. Plans to stand on the table and sing Sonny Boy were also vetoed for the same reason. Orders for tissue restoratives and the exotic fare on the menu were duly placed.

When asked about the whereabouts of the family members of Bertie Wooster’s sister in India, Bingo Little appeared to be clueless. It transpired that Bingo Little had progressed beyond being an editor of Wee Tots and had now become an author in his own right. On her part, Rosie M Banks had grown out of her previous role as an author and ventured instead into the realm of spirituality and meditative practices. Both confirmed that Bingo was still following the tradition of ensuring a regular supply of afternoon tea to his better half, thereby ensuring matrimonial harmony on the domestic turf.

Psmith, a prolific author in his own right, was delighted to present Bingo Little with his latest book, Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes, a delectable tale of the detective unraveling the villainy behind and other events which took place at The Oval during August, 1882. Bingo regretted his inability to reciprocate the gesture, not having on hand his recently launched book, a light-hearted take on the art and science of management.

Aunt Dahlia, geniality personified, was keen to leave the gathering a wee bit early. It appeared that Anatole had planned a lavish spread at home. She feared that her absence at such an important event could make him put in his papers, thereby causing much disruption at Brinkley Court. This, she felt, would be worse than the perilous implications of the impending stand-off between USA and North Korea. The group wished her good luck.

Eve Halliday was elaborate and generous in her praise of her previous employer, Lord Emsworth. She fondly recollected her time at the Blandings Castle, and her invigorating encounters with the Empress of Blandings.

She and Psmith got into an animated discussion over the relative superiority of Plum’s screen plays vis-à-vis his romantic whodunits and other creative endeavours. As expected, the discussion was inconclusive.

The speech of Gussie Fink Nottle, delivered many years back at the Market Snodsbury School, came in for a loving mention. So were the sterling characters of such strong-willed women as Joan Valentine, Sally and Mrs Spottsorth. The conduct of such kids as Thos, Seabury and Edwin came up for discussion. One of the members sympathized with Aunt Agatha for the challenges she faced so very bravely while bringing up Thos.

There was a consensus that many of the problems faced by humanity at present – poverty, treatment meted out to the delicately nurtured, and terror, to name just a few – could be effectively tackled by ensuring that Homo sapiens followed the Code of the Woosters.

The meeting was yet another evidence, if evidence is indeed necessary, of the love for Plum’s works which transcends boundaries and can bring people of diverse origins together.

(Note: Yours truly and his spouse wish to express their heartfelt gratitude for the warm hospitality extended to them by Ms Josepha Olsthoorn, Mr Arunabha Sengupta and Ms Wil Brouwer.)

 

 

 

 

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