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Posts Tagged ‘P G Wodehouse’

What could be a more cheerful kick-start to the New Year than finding that one of the most endearing bloggers on Plummy matters, Honoria Glossop, is back to regale us with her insightful posts!

Happy days are here again!

Plumtopia

‘There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself,

“Do trousers matter?”‘

‘The mood will pass, sir.’

The Code of the Woosters

I’m going to skip the preliminary disparaging of 2020. It’s been a stinker of a year, but you know this already. Merriam-Webster summed things up nicely; when announcing pandemic as their word of the year, they revealed that top words searched for in 2020 included unprecedented, coronavirus, quarantine, schadenfreude, malarkey and Kraken.

Another word seems to have been undergoing a much-needed rehabilitation this year—escapism. With the therapeutic benefits of reading now well understood, perhaps 2020 (a year with little else to recommend it) may signal a turning point in recognising the merits of escapist fiction and its contribution to our health and happiness.

Wodehouse has often been classified as escapism, as grounds for derision by his critics or apology by admirers. But in 2020, readers are giving…

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“So, Mr Bhatia, what do you think?” asked the tough looking beak-in-chief. I had just been ushered into this mandarin’s plush office. A cup of tea had been duly arranged, with few snacks in tow.

Across the road, the sea was going about performing its normal task, its mighty waves relentlessly pounding the rocks, roaring and frothing. The night sky was clear and a mild breeze was blowing. The moon was enjoying its usual saunter, its soothing light creating dancing ripples on the surface of the sea. It was a scene which was designed to soothe any soul in aguish.

But my soul was in torment. The heart was aflutter. The brow was furrowed. The pride of the Bhatias was wounded. You see, life had so far never prepared me for being treated as a criminal of sorts. Having been a law-abiding citizen all along, I was not used to being interrogated and that too so very late in the day. Having been held in captivity throughout the day, and asked to pen down my responses to a long list of obnoxious and repetitive questions, the nerves were all of a twitter. All this had happened under the stern watch of some of the junior beaks who looked much like a bunch of dreadful villains straight out of a Bollywood movie.

I eyed him narrowly. Obviously, the beak-in-chief’s looks were not much to be written home about. He reminded me of Sir Watkyn Bassett, the magistrate from the canon of P G Wodehouse. Nature, when planning this unique specimen, had endowed him with bushy eyebrows, a pencil moustache and a prominent jaw which would have prompted even someone like Adolf Hitler sit up and take notice. His eyes were a bit too keen and piercing for one who was not an Empire builder but a mere revenue official of a senior cadre tasked with milking businesses which, in his opinion, had many skeletons made of unalloyed gold stored in their cupboards. Revenue officials all over the world happen to be a class apart; particularly, those in India are well known for their deep distrust of businesses. Guilty till proven innocent is their credo. Shakespeare, I suspect, would have etched out Shylock’s character based on an earnest and conscientious taxman hounding him for concealing his royalty earnings.

I summoned all the Bhatia courage, resilience and tact and gave him an artificially sheepish look.

“To be frank, I feel like crossing over the road and drowning myself in the sea,” I bleated weakly.

All gibberish, of course, designed to deflect, deceive, distract and bring in a temporary rapport between me and the party of the other part. His relief on hearing these words, containing as they did no reference to the facts of the case, was great. He smirked. A sarcastic smile adorned his visage.

The dialogue with this officer of the law continued far into the night but I would spare my audience all the boring details which, if mentioned here, might promptly put them to sleep.

As P G Wodehouse would have put it, one of the several difficulties which authors face when telling a story is as to where to begin it. If they take too much time building the atmosphere and etching out the characters, the audience may simply decide to junk the narrative and start checking their social media updates instead.

On the other hand, if the author were to permit his narrative to take off like a rocket to the Mars, the public simply starts twiddling its thumbs trying to figure out what is happening. They simply walk out on the hapless soul, leaving it a wee bit clueless, much like an Olympic athlete who dazzles with his performance in a stadium which happens to be empty and utterly devoid of humanity, thanks to a raging pandemic.

Allow me therefore to go back a little bit in time. Assigned a senior management position in a small company operating out of a small town located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, I had somehow been sucked into the eye of a storm since past several months. Thanks to a two-timing junior employee and an array of operational goofies, the revenue authorities had been persuaded to suspect something fishy going on in the operations. A detailed investigation was underway for some time. The authorities, as is their wont, were keen to quickly size up their pound of flesh and make my employers cough up a sizable sum without delay. My feudal sense prevailed. A close friend from my college days who had risen to a senior position in the same department of the government elsewhere kept advising me informally throughout the sordid process.

As the episode unfolded, however, it transpired that I was suffering from a misplaced sense of loyalty to the company. My brand equity was at its lowest ebb. The credibility of the technical department which was the real defaulter in the matter was somehow much higher. In me, the company found a ready villain who could take the rap for the unfortunate incident.

Once the case had assumed a shape, I was given the marching orders and left to fend for myself. If I myself had been in the position of the owners then, I would have reacted similarly but perhaps in a gentler and more humane manner. In fact, had the company followed the principles of natural justice and an equidistant approach to all functions, the probability of a corporate embarrassment of this kind could have easily been nipped in the bud.

Subsequently, I had learnt that the matter had dragged on for quite some time and had got finally resolved on mutually agreed terms.

The stress suffered over a period of 18 months of the investigation eventually led to a cardiac issue popping up, duly followed by a long period of rest and recuperation. The family moved in to provide unstinted support and I was soon up and about, living as normal a life as one could wish for.

A great thing about the harsh slings and arrows of life is that even when we feel that there are dark clouds on the horizon and not even a single ray of hope visible anywhere, our Guardian Angels wake up and decide to offer us an olive branch. For the past several years, I had not ventured to seek greener pastures in the town my wife and I made our home. The impression was that for a person like me having a senior position in a company, backed by a package which was otherwise fine though not something to write home about, it was well nigh impossible for me to secure another assignment with a matching, if not higher, paycheck, especially in a town which did not boast of many industries.

A Good Samaritan amongst the broad circle of friends I had came up with an olive branch in the form of a suitable position in the large organization of which he was a key decision maker. An offer got made and was duly accepted. Some nine months after I had lost a great degree of my self confidence, personally as well professionally, I now had an opportunity to turn a new leaf and rebuild it.

This change was just a way for life to show me the importance of observing values and ethics in whatever I did. I realized that one’s brand equity is built over a long period of time. Once built, it becomes like the fragrance of an exotic flower. It travels much ahead of one, often opening up new vistas, offering a wider canvas for one to perform and excel at whatever one undertakes to do. The observant ones amongst those around us are surely able to size us up much quicker than we can manage to do ourselves.

I would urge my audience to take my suicidal intentions – conveyed to the stern beak-in-chief – with a bowl full of salt. Close friends who have noticed the Bertie Wooster streak of resilience within me have held that amongst their circle of pals, I shall be the last one to ever consider a deliberate attempt to kick the bucket.

My idea of mentioning this nasty episode in my life is not to play the victim card and seek sympathy from my audience. I just thought I could share with others what I learnt in the process. My mistake was to not to keep a tab on the ground realities myself. Instead, I practiced partial abdication, mistaking it to be delegation. Trusting some colleagues who had an axe to grind with the company was another. Like the incident mentioned above, there are many others which can also be captured here.

Life, as you all know, is not a bed of roses. It is not a social media platform where narcissism alone rules. It also makes all of us undergo major setbacks. This is indeed its unique way of chiseling us out of hard rock and giving us a better shape.

But with each harsh chiseling, one had somehow managed to wriggle out of the throes of a deep V-shaped depression. One had risen from the remains of one’s dead self. Mighty forces of positivity had prevailed. The chin had yet again become high. The stiff upper lip had come back and the sky had once again turned a cheerful blue. A leap in the professional affairs had eventually come about.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/about-me

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/planning-a-career-with-an-owner-driven-outfit-consider-some-of-the-values-followed-by-such-businesses

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/of-a-mom-bassett-and-the-allure-of-policemens-helmets

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/divine-grace-works-all-the-time)

 

 

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Among the fans of P G Wodehouse, many kids happen to be rather popular. Digging deeper, one is apt to find that they are popular because of the kind of imagination, inventiveness, goofiness and roguishness they bring in to whatever they set out to accomplish. Their cunningness and resource entertains, enthuses and educates adults of all hues, sizes and shapes.

Wooster Sauce, the quarterly journal of The P G Wodehouse Society (UK), has captured a shorter and crisper version of one of the earlier blog posts on the subject by yours truly.

Rogue Kids WS Dec 2020 issue

 

(The original blog post can be accessed here.)

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The year that is coming to an end is twenty twenty,
The problems we all had to face were a plenty;
Thank the Lord for small mercies and please no whines,
You are alive and kicking and can read these lines.

What would Bertie have done had he been around?
It is definite that in the Drones he would not have been found;
For all clubs and social gatherings in the lock down would have been forbidden;
What was allowed was drinking whiskies, getting a hangover and being bedridden.

Where then could the poor lad go,
He was not some one to shun a meal or a pleasure forgo;
Yes to his favourite Aunt Dahlia’s place which would substitute for a waterhole,
And on the side enjoy the sublime dishes of the master Chef Anatole.

In this pandemic what did the brainy Jeeves do,
Definitely he did not mop cry or over this predicament rue;
He curled up in a corner with the philosophers of yore,
Frankly such reading to you and me would have been a big bore.

Once in a while he got a call from a gentleman spurned,
The advice he gave was so useful that the romance cold once again brightly burned;
In one such case the advice was good and sent in a sealed envelope,
On receiving it the gentleman applied it and very soon with his love did elope.

Poor old Lord Emsworth would have been worried about his prize pig,
Hoping and praying that the Empress should not catch COVID or something big;
Not that he cared much for his secretary Baxter, not even a hoot,
Whom he thought was mad with his eyes glittering like that of a coot.

All that his Lordship desired and wished fervently,
That Baxter would disturb him less frequently;
And that the Empress would in the Agricultural show win medal after medal,
And show the world that true nobility is not always about being regal.

How would the time in London be passed by our beautiful Sue Brown ?
Away from her Ronnie all alone and forlorn;
The musical halls would be closed and empty,
No shows or theatricals with chorus girls a plenty.

Imagine Galahad in the midst of all this dread and isolation,
‘No sir, no sir, not for me’ says Galahad ‘this dread and deprivation;
I shall be in the company of a barmaid this winter,
I shall cheer her up with gentle chaff and hear her gentle simper.’

How shall Beach the butler pass his time?
Sipping his port, hot toddy and lime;
Reminiscing of the time he stole his masters pig,
How lucky he was to get away with a caper so big.

Even today when poor Beach thinks of that caper,
A shudder goes through his frame and he sets aside the betting paper;
For all his toils Ronnie had shared with him the horse that would win the Goodwood Cup,
The mare that would by many a length had the peculiar name Buttercup.

Win she did by many a furlong and made Beach win many a pound and earn some benediction,
Oh Yes Oh Yes as far as horses were concerned Ronnie was always correct in his prediction.

And so my friends in this delightful group,
I thank you one and all for helping me to pull off this coup;
The first of keeping my chin up during this trying time,
The second of posting cheer here with prose and rhyme.

May the miasma be behind us in the year twenty twenty one,
Let all of us be healthy happy fit and on the run;
Let the Drones be full of the young gentlemanly brood,
Sozzled, betting, throwing bread crumbs and food.

With this let me wish you good cheer for the festive season and new year in advance,
Hoping that we never ever give twenty twenty another glance.

(Pradeep Swaminathan has done his professional course in Accounting both from India and London. He has been a Director and a CFO of listed companies in India. After retirement he has joined an NGO supporting poor farmers . From reading, his passion has now evolved into dishing out juicy posts and even juicier books. He has written two books ‘Enter Mrs Bertie’ and ‘Who killed the boss?’

His permission to reproduce this composition here is gratefully acknowledged.)

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Day 1

It is widely believed that Jeeves was fed a lot of fish in his childhood, thereby making him a brainy cove, with his head bulging at the back. However, all bloggers may not have had the same fortune. Their grey cells often register a protest, refusing to budge, much like Balaam’s Ass.

But there are indeed times when the creative juices are in full flow and an idea pops up!

Day 2

The idea simmers within. Many sub-ideas spring up and fall into the creative cauldron. The blogger often behaves like Angus McAllister, nurturing the Achilleas, the Bignonia Radicans and the Yucca in the Blandings garden, eventually creating a bouquet of exotic ideas, cleverly brought together.

The outcome is a juicy idea which often gives a sleepless night to the blogger who twiddles her thumbs to figure out words and phrases so the key idea gets draped appropriately.

Day 3

Thanks to one of Jeeves’ pick-me-ups, the idea takes the shape of words which flow on to the writing instrument preferred by the blogger. A working draft emerges. Many refinements take place over meals comprising soluble vitamins recommended by Laura Pyke. Putting different kinds of tissue restoratives down the hatch aids the creative process.

Day 4

The blogger sleeps over the draft. On the following day, when the sun is shining bright, birds are twittering and butterflies are hopping around taking in as much nourishment as they can muster, she gets back to her work station.

Much like Florence Craye, she makes several refinements. A chipping here, a cut there, and the stone of the core idea takes a well-hewn shape. Some cross references get traced. Spellings and grammar get checked.

Day 5

The D day arrives. After a final review, the blogger has a nice feeling about the way the post has shaped up. She has by now started developing a sense of detachment to the post, wanting it to have an independent existence of its own. Like Gwladys Pandlebury, she casts a final look at the portrait of Bertie Wooster, takes a deep breath and punches the ‘publish’ button!

Prompt steps are taken through proper channels to circulate the post over different social media platforms. She finally experiences the inner bliss of having conveyed her idea to the universe at large.

Day 6

A blogger does not necessarily court praise. Many scriptures also recommend that the adulation of the multitude should mean very little to a person. But when one has taken the trouble of whipping up what, in her opinion, is a highly juicy piece which would benefit a deep-in-the-soup society in many ways, her soul anticipates some nurturing by means of a meaningful interaction with a wider audience.

Absence of any feedback, or getting trolled for the same, upsets her deeply. It leads to a V-shaped depression getting experienced.

Some likes and fewer comments make her heave a sigh of relief, much like Rosie M Banks discovering that Bingo Little had indeed deposited the tenner entrusted to his care in the kid’s bank account.

The Law of Bloggers’ Happiness kicks in. The more the number of likes, the happier the blogger feels. Answering meaningful comments raises her Happiness Quotient even higher.

Day 7

Whether in moments of heart-bowed-gloominess or of the nectar of happiness brimming over the cup of life, there is nothing that calms the soul like a good go at one’s beauty snooze – a creative one, tuning the mental antenna to the creative forces of the universe, keenly searching for the next idea to pop up!

 

(Illustrations courtesy Ms Shalini Bhatia)

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/of-writers-and-their-blocks

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/a-plummy-way-to-banish-the-cruelty-that-authors-face

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/some-blogging-lessons-from-the-bhagavad-gita

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/bertie-social-media-and-blogging-blues)

 

 

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Dinner date with Plum

ashokbhatia

What ho! Here is a juicy post from Neha Dsouza which the residents of Plumsville may like.

Quote

It was quarter past seven and my date was late. I grew anxious; would he not show up? The waiter hovered around my table.
“Your order, ma’am?” he asked me for the third time.
“Il have tea and butter cookies”, said I
That got rid of him, temporarily.
I checked my watch, it was nearly half past seven. I concluded that my date had been hit by a bus. I decided to violate my code of womanly indifference and give him a call. It rang several times with no positive outcome. My date had been hit by a bus and the impact had dislodged his phone from his grip, undoubtedly.
My phone grunted, I received a text message. It was from my date. “Stuck at work, won’t make it, sorry”.

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ashokbhatia

Often, we hear that age is a mere number,
But also wonder if it makes us dumb and dumber;
Unless proper and timely steps are taken through channels right,
The chances of our becoming dull happen to be bright.

The body needs all the care and affection it can get,
The mind needs to be kept active, not to forget;
The soul needs nourishment of a different kind,
Otherwise it is left in torment and in a bind.

The zeal of youth makes us leap light-heartedly into traps,
The spirit of adventure keeps us wandering off the known maps;
Romantics at heart, fragile in maturity, we jump at gold coins with strings attached,
We behave like zombies, often getting disappointed over chickens un-hatched.

 ZOMBIES

When advanced in age, our optimism fades, no longer making the spirits lift,
A feeling grows that our guardian angels no longer care to bear a…

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ashokbhatia

While dishing out the unique fare that P G Wodehouse specialized in, never would he have imagined the kind of spell it would cast upon the unsuspecting youth in a country like India which remained a colony of the British Empire for quite some time. The kind of whodunits which he unleashed on the gullible youth occasionally launched an array of goofy schemes and practical jokes. And if the setting for rolling out such schemes happened to be an educational institution, one can merely bemoan the fate of its Reverend Aubrey Upjohns and other illustrious lion-tamers who had no other option but to be at the receiving end.

Imagine an educational institution which is teeming with a bevy of intellectually inclined youth. It is not difficult to surmise just how busy the institute’s Wodehouse Society office bearers would be, whipping up one goofy scheme or the other at regular intervals.

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 A well-bred professional, a docile male rabbit of about 68 winters, is desirous of the companionship of a gentle and mild dormouse with whom he could nurture a peaceful bond and nibble lettuce.

The Party of the First Part (PFP) is not a patch on the inimitable Rupert Psmith. It follows that the Party of the Second Part (PSP) need not be cast in the mould of Eve Halliday.

Who is PFP?

Born in Mathura (UP), he had his education in Delhi and Chandigarh. Throughout his uninspiring career of over 35 years in senior management cadre, he, being a dumb brick of the first order, kept learning and relearning the same lessons repeatedly. One can be excused for believing how lucky these companies were to get him. In reality, it was the other way round. His inability to grasp what it was all about made him a legend of sorts. Often, he had the unique distinction of being called a manager, even though the grapevine declared him to be an overpaid and glorified clerk. Details of his experiments in mismanagement can be seen here

Companies like Tata International, Hidesign, HCL and others he has worked with were secretly delighted when he decided to quit them. Few of his seniors even celebrated the day of his departure from these companies as a ‘Happy Riddance Day’.  

Having hung his corporate boots, he keeps busy writing articles and books. Often, he can be found searching for a muse. Management institutes in different countries shy away from inviting him to deliver talks, lest their students get into the habit of dozing off while someone speaks. On the day a talk by him does get scheduled, vendors of rotten vegetables and eggs in the city do brisk business.  

PFP’s family life has followed a straight line, with nothing much to write home about. His late spouse has left behind two loving children and their families. They reside in the European Union. Long time friends and relatives keep a watchful eye, ensuring that the PFP is never up to any mischief. Since 1997, he has been infesting the environs of Pondicherry in India. 

What the PFP intends to bring to the table is a modern notion of chivalry. Opening car doors and holding chairs is passé. Instead, the emphasis would be on sharing responsibilities based on respective capabilities and in providing soulful companionship. All possible endeavours shall be made to ensure that the party of the other part never misses her evening cup of tea. 

Check if you could be the PSP

The aspiring PSP is expected to be smart, intelligent and well read. PFP strongly believes that those familiar with the works of P G Wodehouse would fit the bill rather well. It would help if the aspirant has a head which is steeped in Plummy thoughts and a heart which has an abundant supply of the milk of human kindness sloshing about within. An abiding interest in movies and music would be desirable. So would be an awareness of the spiritual dimensions of life.

It would be nice if the PSP has a sunny disposition and nerves of chilled steel. It would help her to handle the ass-like obstinacy of the PFP with equanimity and aplomb. Prior experience in managing children who throw tantrums at the drop of a hat would be equally useful.    

A sound bonding at the mental level would be the mot juste. Neither party shall try to have a whack at the other’s millions, if any.

Skills which keep invading cousins, aunts and friends away from the home and hearth would be greatly admired. So would be the ability of retaining cooks and maid servants in the face of stealthy moves by scheming neighbours and aunts who refuse to be gentlemen.

Some contours of companionship

The PSP shall be encouraged to pursue her own professional career and personal interests. It is expected that the resultant pocket-money meant for the PFP would get dished out without any hesitation or remorse. Nor would its usage be ever questioned or doubted, thereby supporting the sporting spirits of the PFP.

It may kindly be noted that the PFP shudders at the prospect of swimming a mile and then playing five sets of tennis post-lunch on weekends. Joint Larsen exercises, even under the curious eyes of the maid, the cook and stray dogs and cats, may be considered. An improvement in one’s intellect shall not be on the agenda of the proposed companionship. Sharing of knowledge, thoughts and views shall be encouraged. It is hoped that the PSP would keep such sensibilities in mind and refrain from using softer tactics to get the PFP to abide by her wishes.

Both parties would enjoy equal rights in terms of occasionally spending time with their own circle of friends at clubs and in other social circles. Valets and house maids who are members of clubs which insist on keeping records of juicy goings on in the lives of either of the parties shall not be hired.

It is hoped that when either of the parties faces one of Life’s harsh slings and arrows and is twiddling her/his thumbs trying to cope with a challenge, the other one would rally around and act like a Jeeves, marshalling not only his/her keen intelligence but also a deep understanding of the psychology of the individual.

Since either party could be facing unique challenges owing to the lining of the stomach being not in the pink of health, it is crucial that the PSP be adept at dishing out savouries which are nutritious and healthy. Co-morbidities, if any, shall need to be managed effectively. The PFP confesses that his own cooking talents are restricted to boiling milk and eggs originating from contented cows and hens.

Members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured who happen to be pure padded cell from the foundations up are discouraged to respond to this missive. Same goes for the likes of Laura Pyke and Madeline Bassett. Gold diggers need not respond to this missive. 

A joint endeavour

The intended purpose of the proposed companionship is to drink deep from the rivulets of life in the remaining time left for either of the parties on this planet. 

In case it works out, the arrangement may be annulled by either party at any time. Prior intimation and mutual consent would help.

All this will ensure that flowers shall always be in bloom, birds shall always chirp merrily, the sun shall shine merrily, peace shall prevail, and God shall continue to be in heaven, at least till the time one of the parties decides to either kick the bucket or bid adieu.

Those interested in exploring this concept further may like to send a mail to akb.usha1952@gmail.com. Privacy of messages exchanged is assured.  

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/about-me

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/how-plum-dissuaded-me-from-opting-for-a-diplomatic-career

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/some-wodehousean-characters-i-can-relate-to)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In fond memory of Eduardo Garcia who handed in his dinner pail recently.

ashokbhatia

(Disclaimer : This composition is not by Ralston McTodd. But poets are, after all, also God’s creatures…)

I wish I could be Bertie, and let Jeeves do all the thinking
Whilst avoiding hard work – about it having no inkling,
I worship Ickenham’s horror of convention
And yet, often, am prevailed upon to avoid contention;

I yearn to saunter between tailor, bootmaker and hatter 
Rather than dentist and supermarket – whilst enduring boring chatter,
I dream of living in Blandings, superbly waited on by Beach
Unconcerned about rules I daily feel inclined to breach;

But, alas, one cannot live other’s lives – that’s our lot
And however irksome one’s existence, of it one cannot be shot,
So one must find solace in laughter, fellowship and books
To escape – however briefly – boredom’s nasty hooks;

And there is a place to go, unlike any other one
Which uplifting powers are…

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