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Posts Tagged ‘P G Wodehouse’

When The Egg, The Bean, The Crumpet and The W-and-Soda ended up meeting each other in Bangalore recently, they met at Koshy’s, an iconic hangout joint in the no-longer-as-green-a-city. Visited in the past by such illustrious figures as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Queen Elizabeth II and Nikita Khrushchev, the place proved to be classy, sporting a stiff-upper-lip dispensation, generally brooking no nonsense.

The management of Koshy’s does not encourage guests to throw bread crumbs at each other. The reasons are not far to seek. One, they make their own bread, thereby looking askance at any attempts to denigrate the same in any way. Two, their clientele comprises the kind of intellectual coves who despise any show of what, in their jaundiced view, would amount to a dash of frivolity.

In order to ensure strict compliance with this code of theirs, they ensure that the sandwiches dished out by them are made up of bread which does not boast of a crisp crust at the edges. Also, the sandwiches are so very delicious that the mere thought of wasting even a residual scrap would not enter the minds of those who devour them.

The ambience at Koshy’s is otherwise vibrant. The decibel levels are on the higher side, thereby prompting all those who are there to engage in lively conversations with each other. This in turn ensures that smart phone addiction is kept under a strict check. Also, guests at nearby tables cannot hope to listen in when one of the residents of Plumsville decides to either sing Sonny Boy or replicate the Market Snodsbury speech of Gussie Fink Nottle.

Waiters of all hues, sizes and shapes hover in the background, serving the guests with alacrity and servitude. They also appear to be well-trained at thwarting any attempts at throwing boiled eggs at the ceiling fans merrily whirring above.

The Egg happened to be in the city on a business errand, discovered that a Plummy meet was in the offing on the day, and decided to walk in. The Crumpet was on his way from India to Norway and was keen to meet others in the fans club. Both of them arrived early and lost no time in discussing the reasons underlying the popularity of the works of P G Wodehouse.

The Bean and The W-and-S, both residents of the city, walked in soon enough, mopping their brows after having braved the challenging traffic conditions of the metropolis.

The Bean, a real estate magnate, regaled all others with his unique sense of humour. He regretted having missed out on a similar gig in the City of Joy some time back, owing to Fate having struck him with a lead pipe very close to the event.

The W-and-S, a business strategy expert, occasionally butted in with his intellectual comments, thereby spicing up the proceedings. He also narrated personal experiences from his life which keep him connected to Plum.

The Egg described in detail as to how a stern lion tamer built along the lines of Miss Mapleton was responsible for his discovery of the blissful world of Plum in his earlier school days.

The Crumpet expressed his desire to enable more of the younger lot to get introduced to the joys of reading Plum. He and The Egg recounted their Plummy encounter in New Delhi during November 2017.

Regrettably, attempts at any display of chivalrous tendencies by those present were rendered impossible, since two of those of the so-called delicately nurtured tribe, who were expected to show up, decided to accord higher importance to their familial responsibilities. The Gin-and-Tonic was busy elsewhere, fussing over her ailing mother. The Watermelon Vodka was attempting to strike a finer balance between her work and home life. The feudal spirit reigned supreme on the day.

The future offers far richer possibilities. The Jayamahal Palace Hotel is another favourite haunt of the Bangalore Plummies. Often, other residents of Plumsville keep trooping in from the City of Joy and elsewhere, thereby providing an excuse to Plum’s fans in the city to take some time off from their mundane chores and wade in Plummy waters, uplifting the spirits dulled by a relentless pounding by the harsh slings and arrows of Life.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/a-plummy-encounter-in-new-delhi-india

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

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Doggerel days

Here is a juicy description of what transpired at the last Plummy Convention in the New World, from someone whose guardian angels have conspired to bless him with a grandson (very aptly named Clarence) who shares his birthday with Plum himself.

The Traveller

Now where was I?* Oh yes . . . The Wodehouse Society convention in Washington DC, way back in October . . . hmmm. It was a big couple of days and I’ve tried to capture them in verse, given that’s less typing. My excuse for not expanding on the topic in my usual wordy way is that the doggerel ate my homework.

No really, thank you, the applause is too much . . .

PGW logo

The Stepper Goes to Washington†

What ho, old bean, they brayed
as The Stepper hove into view.
G’day, I grinned, undismayed
amid the Plummy crew.

I’m the boy from Oz, how’re’y’all
doin’ here in Washington?
What, what, what, they said ’n’ all,
just to be clear, what again?

Well, I knew I couldn’t keep this up
for a whole weekend so I reverted
to English and they offered the cup
of kindness usual to the…

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Fans of P G Wodehouse can be found all over the world. When they decide to meet up once in a while, bread crumbs get thrown. Different versions of Sonny Boy get rendered. The Gussie Fink Nottle speech at Market Snodsbury School gets recreated.

Characters and situations get discussed gleefully. The milk of human kindness flows unabated. Flowers bloom. Sanity regains its throne in one’s mental framework. God takes some time off his onerous responsibilities and relaxes in heaven. All is well with the world.

During 2017, yours truly was fortunate to have had some such Plummy encounters. The video here recapitulates the same.

Enjoy!

 

(Related Posts:

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

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/another-drones-club-meeting-at-asker-in-norway

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/a-plummy-encounter-in-new-delhi-india)

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The literary canvas of the works of P G Wodehouse is vast, drawing upon the works of several other literary figures we admire.

Here is a blog post from Plumtopia which connects our favourite author’s work to the narratives dished out by Jane Austen.

Plumtopia

pgw

“Bertie, it is imperative that you marry.”

“But, dash it all…”

“Yes! You should be breeding children to…”

“No, really, I say, please!” I said, blushing richly. Aunt Agatha belongs to two or three of these women’s clubs, and she keeps forgetting she isn’t in the smoking-room.”

The Inimitable Jeeves

Once again, Plumtopia is celebrating the romances of P.G. Wodehouse to commemorate the anniversary of his death on St Valentine’s Day 1975.

This year’s topic is the romances of Bertie Wooster. It’s a potentially controversial subject because Bertie is best known — celebrated even– as one of literature’s bachelors. Despite numerous engagements and entanglements, he always manages to slip the wedding knot.

Bertie’s romances, if we can call them that, are mostly unwanted entanglements brought about by Aunt Agatha’s efforts to marry him off, and his own chivalric code.

In Right Ho, Jeeves, Bertie makes it clear that…

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The romantic saga of Ginger and Sally has many dimensions. Here is the second in a series of three blog posts courtesy Jon Brierly, reblogged by Honoria Plum.

Enjoy!

(Related Post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/the-great-wodehouse-romances-the-adventures-of-sally-by-jon-brierley)

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P G Wodehouse handed in his dinner pail on the 14th of February, 1975. While delving into any of his narratives, one is not likely to find a single character which comes under the clutches of one of the much-despised inevitable occurrences in life – Death (the other one being Taxation, which does get commented upon once in a while).

In the narratives dished out by him, Death figures only somewhere in the background. It does not depress. Nor does it make the spirits sag. Instead, it finds mention in a positive vein. It confers wealth, castles and titles upon the unsuspecting heirs and wards, paving their way for a smoother life, thereby spreading joy and sunshine all around.

The closest one gets to morbid thoughts is when a character is fed up with facing the harsh slings and arrows of Fate and contemplates an act of suicide, which, rather understandably, never happens.

When husbands kick the bucket

Former husbands do find honourable mentions in some of his narratives. Hot Water scores on this front. So does Ring for Jeeves, where one runs into rich husbands of Mrs Spottsworth who have already kicked their respective buckets, leaving behind sackfuls of the green stuff.

Born Rosalinda Banks, of the Chilicothe, Ohio, Bankses, with no assets beyond a lovely face, a superb figure and a mild talent for vers libre, she had come to Greenwich Village to seek her fortune and had found it first crack out of the box. At a studio party in Macdougall Alley she had met and fascinated Clifton Bessemer, the Pulp Paper Magnate, and in almost no time at all had become his wife.

Widowed owing to Clifton Bessemer trying to drive his car one night through a truck instead of round it, and two years later meeting in Paris and marrying the millionaire sportsman and big game hunter, A. B. Spottsworth, she was almost immediately widowed again.

It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t. The result being that when he placed his foot on the animal’s neck preparatory to being photographed by Captain Biggar, the White Hunter accompanying the expedition, a rather unpleasant brawl had ensued, and owing to Captain Biggar having to drop the camera and spend several vital moments looking about for his rifle, his bullet, though unerring, had come too late to be of practical assistance. There was nothing to be done but pick up the pieces and transfer the millionaire sportsman’s vast fortune to his widow, adding it to the sixteen million or so which she had inherited from Clifton Bessemer.”

When the cup that cheers causes death

In Summer Lightning, Galahad is seen advising his niece about the dangers of drinking tea (instead of whisky) and recalling the death of poor old Buffy Struggles.

“’You be careful,’ urged the Hon. Galahad, who was fond of his niece and did not like to see her falling into bad habits. ‘You be very careful how you fool about with that stuff. Did I ever tell you about poor Buffy Struggles back in ‘ninety-three? Some misguided person lured poor old Buffy into one of those temperance lectures illustrated with coloured slides, and he called on me the next day ashen, poor old chap – ashen.

“Gally,” he said. “What would you say the procedure was when a fellow wants to buy tea? How would a fellow set about it?”

“Tea?” I said. “What do you want tea for?”

“To drink,” said Buffy. “Pull yourself together, dear boy,” I said.

“You’re talking wildly. You can’t drink tea. Have a brandy-and-soda.”

“No more alcohol for me,” said Buffy. “Look what it does to the common earthworm.”

“But you’re not a common earthworm,” I said, putting my finger on the flaw in his argument right away.

“I dashed soon shall be if I go on drinking alcohol,” said Buffy.

Well, I begged him with tears in my eyes not to do anything rash, but I couldn’t move him. He ordered in ten pounds of the much and was dead inside the year.’

‘Good heavens! Really?’

The Hon. Galahad nodded impressively. ‘Dead as a door-nail. Got run over by a hansom cab, poor dear old chap, as he was crossing Piccadilly. You’ll find the story in my book.’”

Tea lovers would surely get offended by the sentiments expressed herein above. But Plum had a knack of making even Death amusing.

Being mentioned in passing

Elsewhere, one finds Clarence and Gally having a conversation of this nature:
“I wish I could consult Wolff-Lehmann”
“Why can’t you?”
“He’s dead.”

In Adventures of Sally, the main protagonist writes to Ginger:

“If Gerald had died and I had lost him that way, I know quite well I shouldn’t be feeling as I do now. I should have been broken-hearted, but it wouldn’t have been the same. It’s my pride that is hurt.”

In Something Fresh, we find Ashe Marson suffering from a writer’s block. He looks blankly for half an hour in front of a sheet of paper bearing the words: “The Adventure of the Wand of Death,” and tries to decide what a wand of death might be. Joan Valentine walks in and demystifies it thus:

“Why, of course; it’s the sacred ebony stick stolen from the Indian temple, which is supposed to bring death to whoever possesses it. The hero gets hold of it, and the priests dog him and send him threatening messages.
What else could it be?”

When Uncles call it a day

Many of us successfully take off the negative emotions associated  with death by using such clichés as “kicked the bucket,” and “cashed in his chips.” In a common Wodehouse usage, an uncle generally “hands in his dinner pail.”

“I’m taking my spade and bucket and going home” is a pout spoken by a child playing at the seashore who feels he or she is no longer wanted. Instead, like in Fixing it for Freddie, he uses the term “buckets and spades.”

When suicidal tendencies evaporate

In the short story Sea of Troubles, we get to meet Mr Meggs who happens to be a martyr to indigestion. Leading a sedentary life for over twenty years, and given to the pleasures of the table, he has no hope for the future.

After much thought, he has decided to commit suicide. The knife, the pistol and the rope do not charm him. Nor do the options of either drowning or jumping from a height. The idea of consuming poison alone appeals to him.

He has encashed his assets and decided to gift the same to six of his well-deserving pals. He has prepared letters enclosing cheques to all the six. He has even thought of his Miss Pellinger, his secretary, and gifts a sum of five hundred pounds to her by way of a parting gift. After handing over the letters to her, asking her to post the same, he hands over the money. Emotionally moved, he even plants a kiss.

But Miss Pillenger is a wary spinster of austere views, uncertain age, and a deep-rooted suspicion of men. She is always ready to swing her clenched fist on any male who might cross the limits of civil behaviour.

She takes the gesture amiss and runs off from the house, startling and shocking Mr Meggs who just cannot comprehend her act of perceived insult. So much so that he scratches the idea of gifting any of his money to some similarly ungrateful friends of his.

He starts chasing his secretary so as to be able to stop her from posting the six letters he has entrusted to her. The latter, thinking he is following him for some amorous reason, creates a scene on the street. A huffing and puffing Mr Meggs, red in the face with the exertion, explains his conduct to a rozzer who has descended on the scene and retrieves the letters.

Back home, he suddenly realizes that the infernal pain in his stomach has ebbed away. He finds hope in brisk walks and decides to cancel his suicide mission.

The Making of Mac’s is another story which also appears in The Man with Two Left Feet.

Katie is in love with Andy who is ambivalent towards her. She aspires to be a first-rate dancer but damages her ankle at one of the rehearsals. This crushes her ambition. Life turns hopeless.

This is how she expresses herself:

Darling Uncle Bill, 

Don’t be too sorry when you read this. It is nobody’s fault, but I am just tired of everything, and I want to end it all. You have been such a dear to me always that I want you to be good to me now. I should not like Andy to know the truth, so I want you to make it seem as if it had happened naturally.

You will do this for me, won’t you? It will be quite easy. By the time you get this, it will be one, and it will all be over, and you can just come up and open the window and let the gas out and then everyone will think I just died naturally. It will be quite easy. I am leaving the door unlocked so that you can get in. I am in the room just above yours. I took it yesterday, so as to be near you.

Good-bye, Uncle Bill.

You will do it for me, won’t you? I don’t want Andy to know what it really was.”

Uncle Bill butts in at the last minute, consoles her, and rushes off to show the letter to Andy. Moved by the letter, Andy does not lose time and rushes to meet her. The affair ends on a positive note.

Slaying Death with his pen

Fans of P G Wodehouse are well aware that his world has different kind of challenges: Obdurate girl friends whose ambitions to either enforce dietary controls upon the parties of the other part, or uplift and refine their intellect, need to be kept on a tight leash; sartorial choices which unwilling masters bow to after having been saved from an impending disaster by their man servants; management of aunts who, when one’s Guardian Angels are busy elsewhere, are not gentlemen; tackling of stingy uncles who refuse to part with the green stuff for loftier goals in life; pigs which decide to register a protest by deciding to go in for unplanned dietary regimen; the art and science of pinching umbrellas and policemen’s helmets, and the like.

Death is on the other side of the spectrum and finds no place in his narratives, except when rich husbands or uncles decide to kick the bucket and leave a pile of money or real estate for their spouses or heirs. The D word, even if it makes a brief appearance, merely indicates a celebration of life.

A spiritual import

Incidentally, by treating Death as a celebration of life, Plum adds a deeper spiritual layer to his narratives.

In his epic poem Savitri, Sri Aurobindo, the renowned Indian seer, presents the end of a person’s life as a transformative event, a passage or a door through which one passes towards a greater life. Essentially, the poem recounts the saga of human victory over ignorance and conquest of death.

Thus, on the racing tracks of Life, Death is but a pit stop. One gives up one’s creaking old jalopy. In exchange, one gets a shimmering new vehicle. One then zooms off to a newer horizon, the engine firing on all six cylinders. With each pit stop, one evolves further.

All works of Wodehouse carry his trademark bright humour and sparkling wit. But hidden beneath the layers of his uplifting narratives are several gems of wisdom – material as well as spiritual.

He continues to live amongst us through his works. In his hands, even Death meets its own death.

(Inputs from the following fans of P G Wodehouse are gratefully acknowledged:

John Dawson, Lars Walker, Louise Culmer, Lucy Smink, Midge Coates, Murray Harper, Narayan Arvind, Pranava Singhal, Satish Pande, Subrata Sarkar and Sughosh Vardarajan.)

 

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Plumtopia

adventures-of-sallyEvery February Plumtopia celebrates the romances, great and small, in the work of P.G. Wodehouse, to mark the anniversary of his death on St Valentine’s Day, 1975. Guest contributions are warmly welcomed, and this year I’m thrilled to share a series by guest author Jon Brierley on the 1921 Wodehouse novel, The Adventures of Sally.

Jon is sound on Wodehouse and has written wonderfully in the Wodehouse style at his blog, Sloopjonb: Writing Wibble(try his Jeeves’ Christmas Carol). Jon is currently putting the finishing touches on his first novel and would love feedback from beta readers. Please do visit his blog to find out more.

The Adventures of Sally

A Romance

 “Chumps always make the best husbands. If you marry, Sally, grab a chump. Tap his forehead first and, if it rings solid, don’t hesitate. All the unhappy marriages come from the husbands having brains. What…

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