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Posts Tagged ‘P G Wodehouse’

Bertie Wooster, as you know,
Is not really a true Lothario.
Sure, he’s admired a girl or two,
As lively young Drones are apt to do.

 

There was Bobby, of the fiery tresses,

Who got Bertram into tangled messes.

And haughty Lady Florence Craye,

A lovely profile, seen sideway.

 

Pauline Stoker gave him quite a scare,
Lolling about in his gents’ sleepwear.
Honoria Glossop was a strong maybe,
‘Til her father gave the nolle prosequi.

 

The menace of Madeleine Bassett was there,
Like Damocles’ Sword, hung above Bertie’s hair.
Only Gussie Fink-Nottle, her prospective mate,
Stood between Bertram and a most hideous fate.

 

An English gentleman’s honour code,
Pointed Bertie down the matrimonial road.
Only an iron hand in a velvet glove,
Could loose the tightening fetters of love.

 

Fresh off a fish-containing snack,
Head visibly bulging at the back,
Jeeves glides in and finds a way,
To free poor Bertie and save the day.

 

Even in Bingo Little’s sad case,
When he falls for every pretty face,
Jeeves manages to pull off a stunning coup,
And pull young Bingo out of the soup.

 

We doff our hats to this wonder man,
Marvel at each Machiavellian plan.
If ever we stray on the primrose path,
We hope Jeeves can fix up the aftermath.
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Robert Pimm

I have written several times in these chronicles of my slow-burn devotion to the works of P G Wodehouse, including my induction (How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide), drawing on the excellent advice of fellow WordPress blogger and Wodehouse specialist Plumtopia – strongly recommended for all things Jeeves and Wooster and beyond.

Hence my concern, bordering on panic, at my initial perception that “Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit” was not quite such a pearl of the Wodehouse canon as, say, the wondrous Thank you, Jeeves.  Bertie Wooster’s early decision to grow a moustache, to the disapproval of Jeeves, felt a little familiar as a plot device.  The plot of the first half of the book meandered – well, I am reminded of Bertie’s description of Daphne Dolores Morehead on her first appearance in the novel as having “a figure as full of curves…

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ashokbhatia

In quite a few memoirs of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, we are treated to an exquisite insight into the way the long arm of the law works.

One is not referring here to the stern looking beaks who sit in a Court of Law, eyeing Bertie Wooster or any of his friends censoriously over their well-polished pince-nez while dishing out sentences without the option.

Instead, one alludes here to the humble constabulary which ensures that the laws in force are rigorously implemented without a flaw on their personal reputation and character. While tracking down criminals, they spare no effort. It is their upright and proper conduct which upholds the might of the Law. They are invariably meticulous in their approach. They show due respect to the gentler sex, unless they have direct evidence to the contrary. Even defaulters of the canine kind do not escape their fury.

When it comes…

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P G Wodehouse and the little town of Pondicherry in India could both boast of a French connection.

The former began his stint in France in 1934 at Le Touquet, but was detained and interned by the advancing German army in 1940. When he was released in 1941, he went on to live in Paris from where he left for USA in 1947.

As to Pondicherry, it was in 1674 that the French East India Company set up a trading centre there. This outpost eventually became the chief French settlement in India. With some intermittent breaks, Pondicherry remained one of France’s colonies in India till 1954.

 

Policemen surely play an important role in many of Plum’s narratives. A majority of them happen to be in the service of the Queen. Some are also of French origin. Thus, to a lesser mortal like yours truly who happens to be a fan of his and is normally found polluting the Pondicherry landscape, a museum showcasing the history of our gallant policemen there does hold some attraction. Add to this the allure of looking up policemen’s helmets of various kinds at closer quarters, and the gig becomes a must-do.

The challenges

The police force in Pondicherry comprises not only the higher rungs of officers in Central or State government services but also the humble constabulary which ensures that the laws in force are rigorously implemented without a flaw on their personal reputation and character.

 

While tracking down criminals, they spare no effort. It is their upright and proper conduct which upholds the might of the Law. Their career pursuits may not be of much interest to either the Scotland Yard or the DGSE, but they happen to be meticulous in their approach. The force believes in gender parity and has exclusive outposts (wo)manned by the delicately nurtured.

Much like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, often they face the challenge of walking the thin line between performing the duties assigned to them and kowtowing to the wishes of their political masters, much like a cop in Plum’s narratives who has no recourse but to yield to the wishes of his Justice of Peace.

Yet another serious challenge the constabulary in Pondicherry has always faced is that of keeping a strict eye on its multi-ethnic society. In order to be able to understand the psychology of the denizens under their watch, its members need to be fluent in several languages. In a write-up dating back to 1943, Monsieur Le Chef d’escadron Petignot, the then Commandant les Forces Publiques de I’Inde Francaise, speaks of the Indigenous police constabulary being entrusted with ensuring administrative police and judicial police in most parts of the territory where all the castes and almost all races exist, having to make enquiries in as many as eight different languages – French, English, Tamil, Hindustani, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali and Oriya – indicating the extraordinary situation which this police force was required to function in.

Of French policemen and weapons

Fans of P G Wodehouse fondly recall the pursuits of Pierre Alexandre Boissonade, Commissaire of Police, in French Leave, as also those of Monsieur Punez, one of his underlings. They would be disappointed to learn that the former never made it to the coveted post of a Directeur de la Police at Pondicherry. Had he done so, he would have found himself on familiar ground, what with the place being akin to the fictitious French resort of Roville, duly infested with troubled lovers, impoverished aristocrats, millionaires and servants. To his surprise, he would have also found expatriates of all hues, sizes and shapes, spiritual aspirants, retired French army personnel, the annual July shoppers which descended on the town with sackfuls of the green stuff, the weekend youth who popped up merely to soak in the spirited ambience of the place, heritage enthusiasts, environmental activists, busy physicians, egoistic academicians, robbers, swindlers and argumentative fishermen.

The deftness with which Psmith handles a situation which involves the use of a revolver in Leave it to Psmith does make one wonder as to the kind of weapons which the police force in Pondicherry used to rely upon to keep the ambitions of its criminals under check.

The enticing proposal of a pinching technique

A saunter down the Police Museum at Pondicherry does clarify some such doubts, as the photographs accompanying this write-up amply demonstrate.

Of particular interest to yours truly was the display of various kinds of ‘kepis’ in use by the police force in Pondicherry. One could not pinch any, of course. But a soft glow of inner satisfaction was surely experienced at being allowed to fondle one for a few minutes.

A close examination revealed what could perhaps be a better technique of pinching one of this kind, if ever one’s Guardian Angels offered an opportunity to do so – the backward shove, followed by a vertical anti-gravity push, while using one’s non-twiddling thumbs to hold the desired object from the front side.

Bertie Wooster would surely approve.

 

(Note: For a history of the Pondicherry police force, please refer to http://police.puducherry.gov.in)

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

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Honoria Glossop celebrates the Aunt and Uncle Day in a Plummy style!

Plumtopia

“That was Pongo Twistleton. He’s all broken up about his Uncle Fred.”

“Dead?”

“No such luck. Coming up to London again tomorrow. Pongo had a wire this morning.”

P.G. Wodehouse – Uncle Fred Flits By

aunts gentlemen26 July is Aunt and Uncle Day apparently.

The nub of the thing, I gather, is to commemorate the wonderful aunts and uncles in our lives. A nice idea, but it’s not an occasion I’m familiar with and I have no idea how it’s celebrated. A family dinner might be fitting. You could write or call them to say hello — or even send flowers.

Or you could try the P.G. Wodehouse method. Wodehouse created a memorable cast of aunts and uncles in his works, and it’s generally believed that he drew his inspiration from life. One can only imagine how his relations felt about being immortalised in this way.

My friends at the Fans…

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There are indeed times when one is feeling rather chuffed and believing that God is in heaven and all is right with the world, and it is precisely at times such as these that life plays a cruel joke on one. Residents of Plumsville would agree that it quietly sneaks up behind one and strikes at the not-at-all-bulging-at-the-back head of one with a hollow lead pipe, duly stuffed with cast iron pellets.

A straight forward person like yours truly would never aspire to walk in the footsteps of someone like Soapy Molloy or Sid Marks. But life recently played a prank and made me come very close to such an experience.

I had just returned to my home and hearth in Pondicherry, India, from a lovely trip to Europe, full of sweet memories of the time spent with my children and grandchildren who inhabit that part of the world. The door bell rang and, to my utter surprise and horror, I found a stern looking policeman eyeing my humble abode with a suspicious gaze. I mustered some courage and peeped out of the main gate.

‘Ashok Kumar Bhatia?’, he asked, giving me a supercilious look which would have met with hearty approval of someone like Bartholomew.

Having had a great deal of experience with dominating bosses, I did what I know best – I nodded in quiet affirmation.

‘There is a warrant for you’, said the policeman.

Even at the best of times, the long arms of law leave me twiddling my thumbs. The declaration that there was a warrant for me left me shuddering from the top to the base of my frail frame.

‘Warrant?’, I bleated.

Ignoring my nervousness, the policeman proceeded to clarify that I was wanted in the court on the given date, though not as a criminal but merely as a witness. Given that the local language is as alien to me as is Latin and Greek, and that the party of the other part had never progressed beyond the first lesson of a correspondence course in Queen’s English, the dialogue between us was sporadic.

Eventually, it transpired that I was expected to appear in a court in connection with a crime which had been perpetrated by four criminals in respect of some property of a company I had worked for more than a decade back. The wheels of justice do move rather slowly. Sixteen years after the crime took place, I was supposed to pop up and testify that the crime indeed took place.

Well, as a duty-bound citizen, I had no other option but to receive the warrant. The soul was left all of a twitter. There were sleepless nights till the date of appearance. Dark circles formed below the eyes are yet to disappear.

An encounter with Ma Bassett

When the day dawned, a hurried breakfast was put down the hatch. A rush was made to the court complex. After parking blues were faced with a chin-up attitude, the challenge of locating the court room specified had to be braved. A climb of three floors left one’s heart thumping even more than the agitated state in which the poor thing already found itself on that fateful day. Once the court room concerned had been identified, the long wait for the honourable judge began. The gang of four criminals, standing in a corner with a furtive look on their not-so-pretty faces, kept giving me dirty looks at frequent intervals.

A stern looking lady judge shaped along the lines of Mom Bassett finally arrived. I confess I have no information as to the physical features of the lady who had brought into this world a unique specimen of the tribe of the delicately nurtured, namely Madeline Bassett. Unlike her daughter, she was neither soupy nor blonde. Nor was she a breath-taker that takes one’s breath away. If her daughter was mushy and fanciful, the lady beak in question was surely not. She had a perpetual frown on her visage, leaving me wondering if she suffered from dyspepsia.

The court was called to order. Several other witnesses got called, with each one getting cross-examined by a lawyer bloke who looked at witnesses as if they were the dust beneath his chariot wheels. The local language was in use, and yours truly could hardly understand precisely what was transpiring.

When called to the witness box, the soul was in torment. I confess I felt weak in the knees. An oath of truthfulness was administered. The lady beak had to be requested to accept my use of English, to which she very graciously consented, but not before eyeing me with unmasked contempt. The typist assisting her with the help of a vintage typewriter was duly instructed.

The lawyer concerned then pounced upon me with all ferocity, desperately trying to establish that I was not present on the scene of the crime. I meekly assented, because that was indeed the case. After each of my answers, the lady beak turned to the typist clerk and repeated what I said at a very slow pace, thereby enabling the typist to do justice to the transcription. After what sounded like a few hours, but might have merely been a span of twenty minutes, the questioning ended and I was asked to get off the stand.

The allure of policemen’s helmets

The ordeal over, I heaved a sigh of relief. I was asked to wait, so I could sign my statement typed out by the court clerk. While waiting outside the court room, I ran into two friendly cops who kept me engaged with their small cross-talk in the overcrowded corridor. Unlike Sergeant Edward Voules, they were rather slim and trim and were surely not built on the lines of the Albert Hall. Possibly, they could have made a cut as his nephews, Dobson 1 and Dobson 2, in search of their respective heartthrobs.

I was sorely tempted to request them to allow me to try out their toupees, but the sinister ambience of the court complex thwarted my ambitions. Pinching was out of the realm of feasibility, simply because it entailed the risk of their apparent friendliness getting quickly transformed into a disastrous viciousness.

This was not the first time, though, that I had missed an opportunity to lay my hands on a copper’s helmet. Even earlier, while at the Amsterdam airport, I had once spotted a pair of young policewomen who sported gleaming headgear. Their smartness merely added to the gravitational forces of allure which fans of P G Wodehouse generally experience when in the vicinity of policemen’s helmets. But the steely look in their opaque eyes and the manner in which they were wielding their batons had then stopped me in my tracks.

When it comes to making court appearances and pinching helmets, I guess I need to work further on my nerves and try to pour some chilled steel into them. I wonder if there are surgeons out there who wield a scalpel and are good at such transplants.

Or, my Guardian Angels need to send in a Stephanie Byng who would keep prodding me in the ribs at frequent intervals, exhorting me to pinch a policeman’s helmet as and when the next opportunity presents itself.

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ashokbhatia

Napoleon, had he been around in our times, would have been amused upon discovering the high level of influence he exerts over the residents of Plumsville. Much like a spiritual sun which shines with equal benevolence on all, his leadership traits and planning skills provide inspiration to almost all the characters we come across in the narratives dished out by Plum. Even in defeat and disorderly retreat, he does not fail to provide succour to a tormented soul. His soft power extends to a wide variety of situations and continues to enthuse many amongst us.

When it comes to handling a difficult task, Napoleon provides the inspiration. With him around, failure is not an option. When irate nerve specialists have to be confronted, his skills in planning wars come in handy.

Members of the so-called sterner sex shudder at the prospect of being expected to carve out a Napoleonic career…

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