Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Baxter’

Those of you who watch the career achievements of the Empress of Blandings with keen interest may already be aware that the silver medal in the Fat Pigs class at the one-hundred-and-seventy-fifth annual Shropshire Agricultural Show held in 2023 has been won by the Earl of Emsworth’s black Berkshire sow.

Very few people, however, are aware how near that fine specimen of the porcine species came to missing the coveted honour.

Now it can be told.

This brief chapter of Secret History may be said to have begun on the night of the 6th of February, when news trickled in that the Animal Welfare Board of India (an advisory body under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying), in its infinite wisdom, had issued a diktat exhorting all the lovers of ‘Gau-mata’ (cow mother) to celebrate the upcoming Valentine’s Day as ‘Cow Hug Day’. It extolled the many virtues of this much-revered animal, describing it as the backbone of Indian culture and even claimed that hugging with cow will bring emotional richness to the hugger, thereby making their life happy and full of positive energy.

As luck would have it, starting on the 13th of February, Lord Emsworth was away to the metropolis for a trip which was supposed to last three days. He hated being in London, but when one has to be a worthy descendant of one’s ancestors and duty calls, one has to take the rough with the smooth.  

While he was away, the Efficient Baxter hatched a juicy scheme in connivance with Lady Constance Keeble. An ingenious plan to boost the revenues of the Castle was unleashed. Learning from the unique initiative of the Government of India, a promotional poster went around on the social media announcing that, for a nominal charge, a person could walk into the Castle and hug the Empress on Valentine’s Day. As an exception, on the day, visitors were permitted to pose for a selfie with the regal animal. Of course, flash photography was not permitted, lest the Empress lose her sense of equanimity and sang froid.

Given the sound reputation of the Empress in the nearby counties, a good many people landed up on the day, and went back with big smiles on their faces, having just clicked a selfie of their having hugged the famous personality. Some even purchased different kinds of mementos, duly cast in ceramic and papier mâché, which were put up on sale on the occasion, depicting the Empress of Blandings in different poses. Special balloons shaped like her were eagerly lapped up by parents who were relentlessly pestered by their obdurate kids.    

At the end of the day, Lady Constance Keeble was delighted when The Efficient Baxter reported back on the magnitude of collections made. She was chuffed that she could not only manage to pay the exorbitant power charges for an entire year of operations at the Castle, but also execute the much-delayed plans for repairs and upgradation of facilities for all its guests, visitors, and impostors.

On the 15th of February, Empress of Blandings, always a hearty and even a boisterous feeder, for the second time on record, declined all nourishment.

On the 16th of February, George Cyril Wellbeloved, the pigman in the employ of Lord Emsworth, sent a telegram to Lord Emsworth which caused many at the local post office to raise their eyebrows by at least a quarter of an inch. The communication read thus:

Empress refuses feeding. Urgent. Need doctor immediately.

Lord Emsworth made an urgent call to the veterinary surgeon, cut short his visit to London, and rushed back to the Castle.

And on the morning of the 17th of February, the doctor called in to diagnose and deal with this strange asceticism, was compelled to confess to Lord Emsworth that the thing was beyond his professional skill.

To recapitulate the events so far:

February 6 – ‘Cow Hug Day’ notification gets issued in India.

February 7 – The Efficient Baxter comes up with a revenue-generation model by declaring the upcoming Valentine’s Day as the ‘Empress Hug Day’.

February 8 – Lady Constance Keeble, anxious about the finances at the Castle, approves the plan.

February 9 – Unbeknown to Lord Emsworth, a poster promoting the gala event gets released on social media.

February 10 – The Animal Welfare Board of India issues a terse notification declaring that its appeal for celebration of Cow Hug Day on 14th February stands withdrawn. Rupert Baxter promptly reports this to Lady Constance Keeble. Nevertheless, both decide to go ahead with their plans.

February 13 – Lord Emsworth leaves for the metropolis.

February 14 – ‘Empress Hug Day’ gets celebrated.

February 15 – Empress lays off the vitamins.

February 16 – Veterinary surgeon gets summoned.

February 17 – Veterinary surgeon baffled.


The effect of the veterinary surgeon’s announcement on Lord Emsworth was overwhelming. As a rule, the wear and tear of our complex modern life left this vague and amiable peer unscathed. So long as he had sunshine, regular meals, and complete freedom from the society of his younger son Frederick, he was placidly happy. But there were chinks in his armour, and one of these had been pierced this morning. Dazed by the news he had received, he stood at the window of the great library of Blandings Castle, looking out with unseeing eyes.

As he stood there, the door opened. Lord Emsworth turned, and having blinked once or twice, as was his habit when confronted suddenly with anything, recognized in the handsome and imperious-looking woman who had entered – his sister, Lady Constance Keeble. Her demeanour, unlike his own, betrayed the inner sense of gratification she was experiencing, having made a substantial contribution to the Castle’s coffers.

‘Clarence,’ she chipped in, ‘have you heard the good news?’

Lord Emsworth looked at her doubtfully.

‘What could be good these days? That man is an ass.’

As frequently happened to her when in conversation with her brother, Lady Constance experienced a swimming sensation in the head.

‘Will you kindly tell me, Clarence, in a few simple words, what you imagine we are talking about?’

‘I am talking about Smithers. Empress of Blandings is refusing her food, and Smithers says he can’t do anything about it. And he calls himself a vet!’

‘Then you haven’t heard? Clarence, Baxter, and I have managed to make a hefty collection on this Valentine’s Day. You no longer need to worry about our backlog of power bills and the critical repairs you were dreaming of carrying out at the Castle. Are you not happy?!’

‘And the Agricultural Show is already upon us!’

‘What on earth has that got to do with it?’ demanded Lady Constance, feeling a recurrence of the swimming sensation.

‘What has it got to do with it?’ said Lord Emsworth warmly. ‘My champion sow, with less than ten days to prepare herself for a most searching examination in competition with all the finest pigs in the county, starts refusing her food—’

‘Will you stop fussing over your insufferable pig and give your attention to something that really matters? I am trying to tell you that we have made a big pile of money while you were off to London to take care of some legal work.’

There was a silence. Brother and sister remained for a space plunged in thought. Lord Emsworth was the first to speak.

‘We’ve tried acorns,’ he said. ‘We’ve tried skim milk. And we have tried potato-peel. But, no, she will not touch them.’

Conscious of two eyes raising blisters on his sensitive skin, he came to himself with a start.

‘Pile of money, you say? How?’

Lady Constance spilled the beans. As she went on spilling the beans, the colour of her brother’s face started changing from a dull pink to a dark shade of red. His physical frame shuddered. His eyes, normally dull, looked like something out of an oxyacetylene blowpipe. As far as he was capable of being disturbed by anything that was not his younger son Frederick, he was disturbed. Somehow controlling his rage, he enquired.

‘Where is Rupert Baxter?’

‘He has gone off to the bank to deposit the amount we collected.’

‘I would surely like a word with him the moment he is back. If he thinks he can go about the place playing fast and loose with the Empress, exposing her to the trauma of getting hugged by all and sundry, and leading her to a mental state where she would refuse her daily quota of fifty-seven thousand and eight hundred calories, he is sorely mistaken. Absurd! Ridiculous! Did he think of seeking her consent before exposing her to such a preposterous arrangement?’


Lord Emsworth blinked. Something appeared to be wrong, but he was convinced that he had struck just the right note – strong, forceful, dignified.


‘We had only worked for the overall good of the Castle.’

Lord Emsworth reflected.

‘But we have to take a strong line,’ he said firmly. ‘When it comes to her, I stand no nonsense. We have no right to deprive the Empress of her right to privacy. I am now going to the pigsty to see how to go about soothing her frayed nerves.’

There is no doubt that, given time, Lady Constance would have found and uttered some adequately corrosive comment on this imbecile suggestion; but even as she was swelling preparatory to giving tongue, Lord Emsworth looked wistfully at the door.

It was smoothly done. A twist of the handle, and he was where harmony prevailed. Galloping down the stairs, he charged out into the sunshine and rushed to the Empress’ abode. Each step that took him nearer to the sty where the ailing Empress resided seemed a heavier step than the last. He reached the sty, and, draping himself over the rails, peered moodily at the vast expanse of the pig within.

The imperial residence of the Empress of Blandings looked very snug and attractive in the mild sunlight. But beneath even the beautiful things of life there is always an underlying sadness. This was supplied in the present instance by a long, low trough, plainly full to the brim of succulent mash and acorns. The fast, obviously, was still in progress.

Not surprisingly, he found George Cyril Wellbeloved on duty there, wistfully viewing the untouched trough.   

‘What does she convey, George?’

‘Sir, I have an impression that it is a matter of time before Reason returns to its throne.’

‘But time is what we do not have’, pointed out Lord Emsworth gloomily.

‘From what I could gather from her grunts and oinks, and also from her body language, she is quite upset at being exposed to so many hugs on a single day. However, she is also happy that she could spread some sweetness and light in the lives of the common public reeling under the impact of unemployment, inflation and the harsher slings and arrows of Fate which are the lot of the lower and the middle classes. She feels that by permitting people to hug her, she has contributed towards bringing about societal change and motivated many to choose the path of universal peace and harmony on a day which celebrates love.’

‘What a fine soul she has!’, quipped Lord Emsworth. ‘I wonder if she has caught the Indian craze of females of all kinds inwardly aspiring to attain what is euphemistically alluded to as Size Zero. But she has never entertained such ambitions. Those who keep a track of her dietary habits already know that she is a hearty and boisterous feeder. You know very well that she lives to feed, thus fulfilling her innate desire to drink deep from the fountain called Life. She has never cared about looking like a balloon with two ears and a tail. She lives a blissful life without bothering about her Size Infinity looks. I daresay all this hugging business has left her totally shaken and stirred, right from her snout to her tail.’

‘Indeed, sir.’

‘It fails me as to how you permitted her getting exposed to such a traumatic experience.’

‘Lady Keeble instructed me to give the Empress a nice bath for the occasion, sir. Mr. Baxter asked me to make a temporary enclosure for people who came over and waited for a long time to do the honours. I merely followed my orders, sir.’

Lord Emsworth drew himself up and adjusted his pince-nez. He felt filled with a cool masterfulness. He felt strongly tempted to fire the pig man. But an inner voice reminded him of the impending competition due to take place in a few days. He also recalled his having had to eat humble pie in respect of Angus McAllister when a favourite pumpkin had to win a prize.

‘Orders, eh, what, what, what? How many times do I have to remind you that when it comes to the Empress’ welfare, you take orders only from me. No one else, and I repeat no one else, is permitted to do so. If you do not see eye to eye with me in this matter, Cyril, say so and we will discuss what you are going to do about it. I value your services highly, Cyril, but I will not be dictated to in my own Castle in any matter, especially anything pertaining to the Empress. Do I make myself clear?’

George Cyril Wellbeloved stood aghast. He thought he had done an outstanding job by following his instructions. He knew the unpredictable temper of Lord Emsworth and wondered if he was about to get sacked. He disliked the idea very much. Blandings Castle was in his bones. Elsewhere, he would feel as if he were in exile.

‘Indeed, sir’, said the pig man sheepishly.

‘You know you have a way of saying, “Indeed, sir,” which gives the impression that it’s only your feudal sense which prevents you from substituting the words, “Says you!”’

‘Is that so, sir?’

‘But how are going to get her to start feeding again? Being an expert at pig rearing, surely you can resolve this issue without further delay? We run the serious risk of her losing out on a medal at the upcoming Shropshire Agricultural Show and instead being relegated to the mean obscurity of merely an ‘Honourably Mentioned.’

‘Sir, I have a suggestion for you to consider. You may remember the time when I was arrested by police constable Evans of Market Blandings for being drunk and disorderly at the Goat and Feathers. I was then jugged for fourteen days without the option of a fine.’

‘What has that got to do with this?’, Lord Emsworth enquired, blinking his eyes. The agony of having to rejig his memory cells showed on his face.

‘But you had then managed to persuade the Empress to approach the trough?’, he said, brightening up a wee bit.

“Oh, is it?” said Lord Emsworth, and paused awhile in thought. He had a vague recollection that someone had once told him to do something – what, he could not at the moment recall – about someone of that name.

Beach was duly summoned to resolve the mystery. He reminded his employer rather frigidly that his previous attempts at pig-calling in his company, duly aided by Angela, had failed to deliver the goods. He went on to point out that what had eventually brought home the bacon then was a pig-call made by James Belford.

The expression on Lord Emsworth’s face was that of a drowning man who sees a lifeline. He fumbled in his trouser pockets and, duly aided and abetted by Beach, could locate his smart phone. He lost no time in getting James on the line. Once the preliminary greetings had been exchanged, the challenge was brought to James’ notice.

‘Most people don’t know it, but I had it straight from the lips of Fred Patzel, the hog-calling champion of the Western States. It is a traditional call which all pigs instantly recognize and respond to. Can I get to speak to your pig-man on the line? I shall explain it to him.’

‘Splendid idea,’ said a cheered-up Lord Emsworth, handing over the instrument to Cyril Wellbeloved.

After a brief exchange, Cyril repeated what he was told.   


‘Nothing like it,’ James said. ‘You want to begin the “Hoo” in a low minor of two quarter notes in four-four time. From this build gradually to a higher note, until at last the voice is soaring in full crescendo, reaching F sharp on the natural scale, and dwelling for two retarded half-notes, then breaking into a shower of accidental grace-notes.’

Cyril went on practising the same till the time James approved of the outcome. The call was terminated, with Lord Emsworth offering profuse thanks to James and even inviting him and Angela to visit the Castle sometime soon.

The moment of reckoning had finally arrived.

Resting his hands on the rail before him, Cyril swelled before their eyes like a young balloon. The muscles on his cheekbones stood out, his forehead became corrugated, his ears seemed to shimmer. Then, at the very height of the tension, he let it go, as advised.


Slowly, fading off across hill and dale, the vast bellow died away. And suddenly, as it died, another, softer sound succeeded it. A sort of gulpy, gurgly, plobby, squishy, wofflesome sound, like a thousand eager men drinking soup in a foreign restaurant. And, as he heard it, Lord Emsworth uttered a cry of rapture.

The Empress was feeding.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Regrettably, both the unique ideas – whether that of a ‘Cow Hug Day’ or of a ‘Pig Hug Day’ – now remain consigned to a dustbin. Perhaps the ideas were a little ahead of their times. Were these to ever get revived, Valentine’s Days in future would witness disgruntled denizens experiencing a surge of positive energy and an inner glow of joy and satisfaction. Physical contact with a member of another species could work wonders for the psychology of an individual. Such initiatives would surely enthuse people to choose a more peaceable and wholesome approach to life, while keeping them away from such inane acts of mischief as aggression against some movies, coffee shops, fashionable retail outlets and even shops selling potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers.


  1. Based on the story of the same name by P. G. Wodehouse.
  2. Also, inspired by https://thewire.in/humour/cow-hug-day-cancelled
  3. Illustration of the Empress courtesy Shiva Kumar.

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My nerves are all of a twitter these days.

I learn from reliable sources that some time back, David Bennett, a resident of the USA, has had his ailing human heart replaced by a porcine one.

Of course, I wish David all the very best. May he remain in the pink of health for a long time to come and keep vanquishing any cardiac Goliath he comes across. May he even develop such traits as having an insatiable appetite and a penchant for rollicking in the mud. May he relish his moments as a Pig-hearted person of eminence and remain a metaphor for medical triumph amongst the Homo sapiens.

Some of you may know that the kidneys of my species have already been transplanted amongst humans, thereby enabling them to live a wee bit longer. Few others may recall that the first insulin used to treat a diabetic patient was derived from one amongst us. Assorted chemicals used in vaccines and medicines are formulated from different organs of ours. Speak of items ranging from gelatin and anti-coagulants to digestive supplements, and you will find us contributing to the general well being of all humans.

Those who do not mind their stomachs being treated as a graveyard of the animal kingdom would be aware that my species yields ham, bacon, spar ribs, loins, sides, shoulders, trotters and even heads. We add a unique allure to the pleasures of the table, something which can only be overcome by those who have nerves of chilled steel.  

But the latest development is worrisome. Given the innate greed of humans, the time is not far off when an entrepreneur in the mould of Ukridge would start pig farming in a big way, specializing in supplying genetically modified pigs which would be ready-to-use for the heart transplant industry.

I accept that our hearts are more readily acceptable by the human frame. Also, that we are easy to raise since we happen to be open to devouring all kinds of nourishment. Besides, we have a rather healthy litter size and lesser gestation periods. But the prospect of being reared in bulk in a genetically modified mode merely for our organs to be harvested so the human race may lead a happier life leaves me shaken from my snout to my tail.  

This is the nightmare which is making me lose my sleep these days. Soon, I intend to follow the fine example set by Mahatma Gandhi and start refusing my daily quota of 57,800 calories. This time, I am determined not to get swayed by a call of ‘pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey’ and give up my protest. Pepping me up without addressing my genuine concerns on the subject of xenotransplantism, the art and science of using animal organs for human purposes, will just not work.  

I do hope Lord Emsworth would rise to the occasion and order Rupert Baxter to start an intense campaign on social media against any such onslaught on me and my kind. The Shropshire Agricultural Show is just coming up and I am certain he would like me to win a prize without fail.  

If this does not happen, the development has to be faced by those of the porcine species with an upper stiff lip. I wonder why we can’t have wings.

(PS: Am sorry to note that David survived only two months after his surgery. RIP.)

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