Jeeves and the Aspiring Novelist

honoria plum:

I’m an aspiring novelist myself, with several unfinished adventures under my belt. I tend to get carried away with a new idea and leave the old one behind before it’s finished, but still I bash away at the keyboard every morning before work (from about 5am) in the hope that one day an idea will come together into a finished piece. So I was delighted to discover this piece by ‘SloopJonB’. He captures the tone of Wodehouse very well, while his Jeeves makes some astute observations about modern writing. Enjoy!

Originally posted on SloopJonB:

“Jeeves,” I said, “rally round. I have been struck by a not inconsiderable idea.”
“Really, sir? Not the pink tie, sir.”
“Do you think not? Oh, well, you know best. No, my idea is, that I should write a novel.”
And dash it if he didn’t raise an eyebrow a good half inch. I bridled at him.
“I am perfectly capable of writing a novel, Jeeves,” I informed him. “Everybody is doing it these days, and I jolly well think I should have a go, too.”
“As you say, sir, it is certainly a popular pastime, especially in November. What would the purport of your literary endeavours be, sir?”
“Run that by me again, Jeeves, you lost me somewhere in between November and the porpoise.”
“What would you hope to achieve by writing a novel, sir?”
“Well, I thought I could make pots of money at it, and not have…

View original 1,071 more words

Hard knocks: Wodehouse, cricket and me

By T. M. R. Whitwell (see File:Mike (Wodehouse).djvu) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

‘Reginald, mark you, whose normal batting style was a sort of cross between hop-scotch, diabolo, and a man with gout in one leg trying to dance the Salomé Dance.’

‘Reginald’s Record Knock’

Reginald’s Record Knock’ first appeared in Pearson’s Magazine in 1909. When I encountered the story in Murray Hedgcock’s delightful collection Wodehouse at the Wicket (1997), it instantly struck a chord. You see, my first love, long before I discovered P.G. Wodehouse, was cricket. When I was young, my parents would drop me at the Oval (they having no interest in the game) where I would spend the day watching cricket and keeping score in a little notebook.  My greatest wish was to play professional cricket, but tragically, like Reginald Humby, I was an indifferent cricketer:

‘When a boy at school he once made nine not out in a house match, but after that he went all to pieces. His adult cricket career was on the one-match one-ball principle. Whether it was that Reginald hit too soon at them or did not hit soon enough, whether it was that his bat deviated from the dotted line which joined the two points A and B in the illustrated plate of the man making the forward stroke in the ‘Hints on Cricket’ book, or whether it was that each ball swerved both ways at once and broke a yard and a quarter, I do not know. Reginald rather favoured the last theory.’

Unlike Reginald, who we shall return to anon, my story is a painful one. As a young girl in 1970s Australia, finding an opportunity to play cricket was challenge enough. I joined the school team of course, but was never allowed to bat or bowl in the nets at practice. My duties were restricted to fetching wayward balls. My name was usually omitted when the weekly team notice was posted, although occasionally I was named 12th and my parents would drop me at some far-flung suburban ground to spend a day watching others play.

I was named in the first eleven once, when an outbreak of cholera or dengue fever or some such disease gave the coach no other choice. He put me at the bottom of the batting order and sent me to field in the car park, where I could not adequately return the ball. To my lasting shame, I also dropped a catch. Wodehouse knew this feeling, which he described in the poem ‘Missed':

Oh ne’er, if I live to a million,
Shall I feel such a terrible pang.
From the seats in the far-off pavilion
A loud yell of ecstasy rang.
By the handful my hair (which is auburn)
I tore with a wrench from my thatch,
And my heart was seared deep with a raw burn
At the thought that I’d foozled that catch.

Missed (1903) (Full text at www.madameulalie.org) 

Batting last, I made four not out in the last two desperate overs of our innings, but my poor showing in the field reinforced the coach’s prejudices and I was never picked again.

As a young woman, no longer dependent on the benevolence of adults, I worked hard to learn the game with the assistance of talented cricketing friends. When no friend was to hand, I spent hours alone in the local nets, bowling at an empty wicket. I played indoor cricket several times a week, wrote match reports for a newsletter, and enjoyed every opportunity for a social game. As a bowler, I developed a knack for ousting over-confident batsmen. Their faces would light up like a child’s at Christmas when I came on to bowl, for in addition to being a girl, I was also short, pudgy and wobble-breasted. The decent players would pretend not to have noticed, but more ordinary batsmen looked on me as their big chance – like Wodehouse’s Reginald when he discovers Blagdon is bowling.

The sight sent a thrill through Reginald. He had seen Blagdon bowl at the nets, but he had never dared to hope that he might bat against him in a match. Exigencies of space forbid a detailed description of Blagdon’s bowling. Suffice to say that it was a shade inferior as bowling to Reginald’s batting as batting.

And later, when Reginald faces Westaway:

Scarcely had Reginald recovered from the pleasurable shock of finding Blagdon bowling at one end when he was amazed to find that Westaway was bowling at the other. Critics had often wrangled warmly as to the comparative merits of Blagdon and Westaway as bowlers; some thought that Blagdon had it, others that Westaway was the more putrid of the two; a third party called it a dead heat.

The prospect of my bowling evoked similar joy in opposing batsmen. Even before my first ball, hitherto unpromising players would be seen scoping-out gaps in the field and practicing wild hook shots in the air. By the time I waddled up to release my ball (which I insisted was medium pace, however slow the act of delivery appeared) the batsman would have invariably run out of patience and danced up the pitch to meet the anticipated long-hop, full toss, or whatever feeble delivery he’d mentally prepared to score off. I was wise to this and never pitched short. The over-confident amateur would find himself stranded a long way from home with no time to make alternative plans for dealing with unexpected deliveries. Every wicket claimed felt like a great triumph.

In describing Reginald Humby’s emotions on the occasion of his unexpected century, Wodehouse shows us again the depth of human feeling he was capable of bunging into his art.

Wodehouse at the Wicket coverThe ordinary batsman, whose average always pans out at the end of the season between the twenties and the thirties, does not understand the whirl of mixed sensations which the really incompetent cricketer experiences on the rare occasions when he does notch a few. As ball follows ball, and he does not get out, a wild exhilaration surges through him, followed by a sort of awe as if he were doing something wrong, even irreligious. Then all these yeasty emotions subside, and are blended into one glorious sensation of grandeur and majesty, as of a giant among pygmies.

Buoyed by these minor successes I decided to join a local cricket club, where I was permitted to carry the drinks and keep score for F Grade (or perhaps it was Q grade). It was a starting point, and the players welcomed me, a 19 year old girl with limited cricketing experience, more warmly than I expected. A little too warmly in fact. It became quickly and painfully clear that they did not take my interest in playing cricket seriously, and that I was considered something of a groupie, ‘hanging around’ the team, presumably in order to bed them.

The team in question were, arguably, the most unattractive assortment of male specimens ever gathered together; lecherous gout-ridden has-beens, beer swilling could-have-beens, and arrogant thought-they-weres. The only player whose personality would not make his own grandmother wince was the wicket-keeper, who was permanently stoned and saving his personality for special occasions. Their collective lack of hygiene and inability to keep whites white (members opting instead for a shade of fungal yellow to match their teeth) would have repelled even their staunchest admirers. The idea that I would set my heart on bedding a team of cricketers is insulting; that I would then proceed to select this bunch of degenerates, is astonishing. And yet, this deluded idea they undoubtedly had.

Encountered on the field, they would have given Wodehouse’s Psmith, always sensitive to vulgarity, a shock from which he might not have recovered. As he confessed to Mike:

‘The last time I played in a village cricket team match I was caught at point by a man in braces. It would have been madness to risk another such shock to my system. My nerves are so exquisitely balanced that a thing of that sort takes years off my life.’

Mike and Psmith (1909)

Now if our team had contained a man in braces, it would have raised the tone considerably and helped draw the eye away from the fungal yellows.

My remaining romantic ideals about cricket were eventually shattered by meeting some of my cricketing heroes, who were similarly inclined to misinterpret my enthusiasm for cricket as an invitation for lechery. The scales finally fell from my eyes, and it’s now been some twenty years since I played or watched a game of cricket. Reading one of Wodehouse’s cricket stories is the closest I get, but it’s a bittersweet experience because Wodehouse captures everything I believed cricket was about, but was never able to experience myself.

Even now, I would love to return to the game, but if the chaps couldn’t accommodate me in my girlhood or playing prime, they’re unlikely to indulge me in flabby middle-age. Yes, women play cricket these days – and good luck to them – but they won’t have me either. Women’s cricket is competitive, for skilled and serious athletes. There is no tradition of laid-back social cricket, where women of advanced years and limited abilities can still combine their love for the game with a long lunch break and a few pints. In short, we ladies have no team that compares with Reginald Humby’s club, The Hearty Lunchers.

‘They belong to the school of thought which holds that the beauty of cricket is that, above all other games, it offers such magnificent opportunities for a long drink  and a smoke in the shade. The Hearty Lunchers do not take their cricket in that spirit of deadly and business-like earnest which so many people consider is spoiling the game.

A Hearty Luncher who has been given out caught at the wicket does not explain on arriving at the pavilion that he was nowhere near the ball, and that the umpire has had a personal grudge against him since boyhood. No, he sinks into a deck chair, removes his pads, and remarks that if anyone was thinking of buying him a stone ginger with the merest dash of gin in it, now is his time.’

The Hearty Lunchers don’t mind that Reginald can’t bat, they make room for him anyway, giving ‘Reginald’s Record Knock’ a special place in my heart.

But Wodehouse goes further. Reginald’s betrothed, Margaret Melville, is unmasked as a cricket lover who plays in ‘the ladies match’. Wodehouse gave us many female golfers, but she is the first cricketer I’ve come across. Wodehouse depicts her enthusiasm for the game as genuine, perfectly natural – even admirable. Nothing sordid or unseemly is suggested when we learn Margaret regularly attends the Chigley Heath matches, with a crowd ‘…mainly composed of small boys and octogenarians…’ The fact that Margaret plays in ‘the ladies match’ also suggests the presence of other lady cricketers  some 17 years before England had a Women’s Cricket Association (www.womenscrickethistory.org). Once again I feel compelled to note how often Wodehouse’s ‘treatment’ of women betters not only his contemporaries, but often our own.

If only the world of cricket was as Wodehouse painted it.

Writing this piece has brought back some painful memories, but looking to Wodehouse I have found a potential source of balm for my spiritual wounds. The clues are everywhere. Returning to the poem ‘Missed':

Ah, the bowler’s low, querulous mutter
Points loud, unforgettable scoff!
Oh, give me my driver and putter!
Henceforward my game shall be golf.
If I’m asked to play cricket hereafter,
I am wholly determined to scratch.
Life’s void of all pleasure and laughter;
I bungled the easiest catch.

I think it’s time I tried my hand at golf!

HP

(c) Copyright. My original writing at Plumtopia is subject to copyright. You are welcome to quote from my writing with permission, acknowledging me as the author.

Happy Birthday, P.G. Wodehouse

Wodehouse's birthplace, 59 Epsom Rd Guildford

Wodehouse’s birthplace, 59 Epsom Rd Guildford

‘P. G. Wodehouse was born on 15 October 1881, at 1 Vale Place, Epsom Road Guildford  in Guildford’ begins Frances Donaldson in her 1982 Authorized Biography, summing the matter up rather neatly. The house in Surrey was not the Wodehouse’s home; the family lived in Hong Kong, where P.G.’s father Henry Wodehouse was a magistrate in the Colonial Civil Service. His mother Eleanor was visiting England, staying with her sister in the neighbouring village of Bramley. Eleanor was visiting friends in Epsom Road when out popped the infant Plum (see*). Nonetheless, the house is remembered with a blue plaque over the door. You can read about my visit there in ‘The Wodehouse Trail: Birth’.

To commemorate P.G. Wodehouse’s birthday, tomorrow I will be picking up the trail with a visit to his first home, and I look forward to sharing that adventure with you shortly.

*I’m very grateful to have received detailed information about Wodehouse locations in England from Wodehouse expert N.T.P Murphy, whose essential work on this subject includes Three Wodehouse Walks and In Search of Blandings. If you fancy marking the occasion of Wodehouse’s birth with a little gift to yourself, I can recommend these books, as well as Murphy’s other Wodehouse related writing.

At my house, Wodehouse’s birthday provides the perfect excuse for me to stake a rare claim over the television and spend an evening revisiting one of the better adaptations.  Tonight, I’m planning to watch the excellent 1995 BBC adaptation of Heavy Weather, which is distressingly unavailable on DVD, but some worthy humanitarian has made it  available via You Tube.  If you’ve not seen it already, you have a real treat ahead of you. Enjoy!

HP

French Leave

French Leave

I recently took a well-thumbed copy of Wodehouse’s French Leave on holiday to Paris, a city famed for its literary connections. P.G. Wodehouse was briefly a resident, and opens the second chapter of French Leave (1956) there:

As the clocks of Paris were striking eleven on a morning three weeks after the Bensonburg expeditionary force had set out for Europe, a tall, willowy, elegant figure dressed in the extreme of fashion, turned the corner of the Rue Belleau and entered the Rue Vanaye. It was Nicholas Jules St Xavier Auguste, Marquis de Maufringneuse et Valerie-Moberanne, affectionately known to his friends, of whom he had many in all walks of life, as Old Nick.

ThisBensonburg expeditionary force’ are three Trent sisters, chicken-farmers from Long Island USA. Having received a modest lump sum, they decide to take a well-earned jaunt to the French resort towns of St. Rocque and Roville. Our heroine is Terry (short for Teresa), who falls in love with Old Nick’s son Jeff (short for Jefferson, courtesy of an American mother), who earns his living as a writer. Wodehouse is in top form, expertly employing all the usual comic devices to bring our lovers together. As we expect from Wodehouse, the marriage quest involves overcoming a lack of money and parental objections, as well as painful misunderstandings, and other romantic entanglements.

But French Leave also deviates from the classic Wodehouse novel. It is set in France, with a French and American cast. The French flavour includes a summer festival, a corruptible Commissaire of Police, and even a risqué bedroom scene. Terry Trent is the central character, and although she is not Wodehouse’s only female lead, we are more accustomed to following the hero. It is clear that in French Leave, Wodehouse is trying something a little different – and he does it superbly.

French Leave was not universally well-received back in 1956, and it seems modern readers are (judging by ‘Good Reads’ reviews), similarly inclined to prefer Wodehouse when he sticks to his established formula and characters. This seems a shame, because there is much to enjoy in Wodehouse’s stand-alone novels. One of the delights of French Leave is the Marquis de Maufringneuse et Valerie-Moberanne. Impecunious ‘Old Nick’ steals the show with a terrific personality reminiscent of Ukridge.

Old Nick quivered at the magic word. Americans were always rich. God bless America, he had often felt, unconsciously plagiarizing the poet Berlin.

‘She has a suite on the first floor.’

Old Nick quivered again. He knew what those suites on the first floor of the Hotel Splendide cost.

‘Looks a nice girl,’ said Jeff carelessly. ‘I’ve seen her about the place. I’ve wished occasionally that there was some way of getting to know girls at a seashore resort.’

‘Some way?’ Old Nicks voice trembled. ‘There are a hundred ways of getting to know girls at a seashore resort.’

‘Such as —?’

‘Save her from drowning.’

‘She’d be much more likely to save me. She’s a wonderful swimmer. I’ve—er—happened to see her once or twice. But she goes out too far, much too far,’ said Jeff earnestly. ‘It’s dangerous. Suppose she got a cramp? It makes me anxious. Any other suggestions as to what I could save her from? Fire? Runaway horse? Assassins?’

‘Don’t treat this thing with levity,’ said Old Nick severely. He was still thinking of that suite on the first floor. ‘I don’t like to feel that a son of mine is lacking in enterprise. Get into a conversation with her—casually, as it were.’

My favourite passage in French Leave is an excellent example of Wodehouse demonstrating (again) a depth of understanding he is rarely credited with. Here is Old Nick, explaining a prolonged absence from work to his employer:

‘What happens? I wake. I rise. I shave. I bathe. I breakfast. I take my hat and cane. I say to myself ‘And now for the bureau.’ I go out into the street, and at once I am in a world of sunshine and laughter and happiness, a world in which it seems ridiculous to be shut up in a stuffy office with the senile Soupe and the homicidal Letondu. And all of a sudden. . . how it happens I couldn’t tell you . . . I find myself in a chair on the boulevard, a cigarette between my lips, coffee and a cognac in front of me. It’s a most mysterious state of affairs.’

‘A state of affairs which cannot—’

‘But I am strong,’ proceeded Nick. ‘I take out my watch and lay it on the table. ‘When the hands point to eleven,’ I say to myself, ‘Ho for the bureau.’ And when they point to eleven, I say ‘Ho for the bureau when they point to half past.’ And when they point to half past—’

‘You wait til noon and then go off to lunch?’

‘Exactly.’

Old Nick, unaccustomed to office life, finds the prospects of a fine day cooped up at work unendurable. Instead of enduring, as we workers do, he bucks. We can only dream of following his example. My own life is ebbing away inside a tiny, windowless office — designed by the sort of people who feel that a combination of soviet architecture, concrete and asbestos makes the perfect work environment — and not a day passes when I don’t feel it. Old Nick’s defiance brings us both pleasure and a reminder of our pain. Nor is this a one-off. Wodehouse (who was once a bank employee) releases many captive workers in his stories, and there is a depth to this recurring theme that both critics and fans overlook — especially if they are readers who lead easy lives. There’s nothing wrong with an easy life. But for those less fortunate, Wodehouse gets to heart of our plight; it’s no surprise to us that George Orwell was a Wodehouse fan.

Similar sentiments are expressed by the chicken-farming Trent sisters :

‘Here we are, young, ardent idealistic, yearning for life and love and laughter, and what do we get? Eggs.’

What is it about eggs that has Wodehouse characters dashing off to France? Like the Trent girls, my trip to Paris was a fleeting escape that drained the Glossop coffers, but worth every penny. While strolling through the Latin Quarter, I spotted a man who might have been the Marquis himself, long haired in the style of Louis the Somethingth, wearing flamboyant purple trousers  and a pair of preposterous gentleman’s heels. His face was furnished with a dashing moustache. I don’t wish to give the impression that all of France was got up in this sort of fancy dress, but I was delighted to encounter such a character in 21st century Paris. I do hope he was bunking off work!

HP

(c) Copyright. My original writing at Plumtopia is subject to copyright. You are welcome to quote from my writing with permission, acknowledging me as the author.

Wodehouse misremembered

(Bestsellers, by Clive Bloom)

Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900 (2002) by Clive Bloom

In many respects, Clive Bloom’s ‘Bestsellers’ is an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the history of publishing, reading, and the emergence of ‘the bestseller’ in the twentieth century. Happily for me, Bloom also chooses some of my favourite authors (P.G. Wodehouse, George MacDonald Fraser, John Buchan, Agatha Christie) to illustrate his points.

Bloom tracks the development of ‘the bestseller’ alongside increasing literacy levels in Britain, showing how new literature classifications emerged (high-brow and low-brow) to keep class distinctions alive in literature (previously the lower classes had been illiterate). Bloom exposes ‘literary fiction’ as (arguably) little more than snobbery. ‘Serious literature, made purposefully unfathomable and dire, ensure that it remains the province of an expensively-educated elite. As Bloom says:

No use of literary language can claim, ab initio, an aesthetic principle that is superior per se and no such claim can avoid the acrid whiff of moral, class and personal superiority. What emerges is a test of psychic health and moral eugenics rather than literary judgement. What is left is condemnation dressed as artistic judgement, and in each condemnation the unwashed smell of the popular creeps through.

This is top stuff!

As a newcomer to Britain, I was surprised (usually bemused, but sometimes shocked) to find class distinction’ still pervades British life. Almost everything one does in Britain – where you shop, what you wear, eat and drink, how you speak, the paper you read – mark you out for approval or condemnation. I was fascinated to understand how class distinction has also been transposed to the world of literature classification and genre.

It was a freeing revelation for me as a reader. Discovering that literary elitism is rooted in class snobbery adds to my pleasure in snubbing pretentious ‘must read lists’ and reading what I enjoy. And for the same reasons, I now feel guilty for having looked down on romance fiction and ‘chick-lit’. Bloom shows (whether he intended to or not) that disparaging these genres is effectively  disparaging working and middle-class women. I have vowed to do this no longer!

As you see, I found Clive Bloom’s Bestsellers well worth reading and reflecting on, but there was one fly in the ointment that must be commented on. In the second half of the book, Bloom lists the best-selling authors of the twentieth century, along with a precis of their life and work. In his discussion of the author P.G. Wodehouse, Bloom states Wodehouse ‘broadcast for the Nazis’, but after a time ‘the public seemed to accept him’ again. To present this episode in Wodehouse’s life in such a way does great disservice to the author – and is no credit to Bloom either.

There has been a wealth of material written on the subject of Wodehouse’s wartime broadcasts, particularly since the relevant war office archives were released*. Apologies to long-time readers and fans for reviving the matter again here, but I think it’s worth reiterating once more: repeated researchers and biographers have found, as did MI5, that Wodehouse was not a Nazi sympathiser or collaborator.

Wodehouse was living in France at the outbreak of WWII, and spent part of the war in a German prison camp. After his release, he was approached by a former Hollywood acquaintance to record some humorous broadcasts to America.   There was nothing pro-German in the content of the broadcasts, which gently mocked the Nazis in the same comic style for which Wodehouse is so admired. The broadcasts were also in keeping with a British tradition for humour in the face of adversity, exemplified during the previous war by The Wipers Times (which was well received in Britain).

Few people in Britain heard the broadcasts. The denunciation of Wodehouse that followed was an orchestrated response, led by The Daily Mirror columnist William Connor (pen name ‘Cassandra’). The British public, who hadn’t heard the broadcasts for themselves, accepted ‘Cassandra’ at his word. Wodehouse’s error was in broadcasting humour  from Germany at such a time. His supporters, like Orwell, have suggested Wodehouse was politically naive. He was certainly no Nazi. Before the war, Wodehouse famously lampooned influential British fascist Oswald Mosley, in the character of Roderick Spode (in The Code of the Woosters, 1938). Wodehouse’s Spode was a ridiculous bully, amateur dictator and leader of the ‘black shorts':

The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting “Heil, Spode!” and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: “Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?”

Wodehouse’s anti-fascist credentials stand up to scrutiny far better than the newspaper responsible for denouncing him. The Daily Mirror had actively supported Mosely’s Blackshirts under Lord Rothermere, who counted Hitler and Mussolini as personal friends. The paper was presumably disinclined to write columns of scathing bile about itself, and the Wodehouse story must have seemed like a gift.

When Wodehouse made the broadcasts, he had just been released from a long period of internment where he had been isolated from the events of the war. Much had changed during that time – including the public mood in Britain. He had no cause to suspect that a gently amusing, stiff-upper-lip account of his own capture and imprisonment would be received so badly. Wodehouse intended no harm in broadcasting, and was no harm was caused – apart from the lasting damage to his own reputation.

Under such circumstances it has been easy for Wodehouse readers to not only forgive (as Bloom indicates), but to also feel aggrieved when we encounter examples which perpetuate mistaken beliefs that Wodehouse was in any way connected with Nazis or their ideology. It was disappointing to find in Bloom’s otherwise excellent book.

Don’t let this put you off reading Bestsellers by Clive Bloom. It’s a terrific book. But I think it’s important that we continue to put the record straight.

*For more on Wodehouse’s wartime broadcasts, try Ian Sproat’s (1981) ‘Wodehouse at War’ and Robert McCrum’s (2004) Wodehouse: A Life. You can also read the fulltext of the broadcasts online.

HP

(c) Copyright. My original writing is are subject to copyright. You are welcome to quote, with permission, acknowledging me as the author. This review was originally post at my book review blog, Honorias Notebook, which has been decommissioned.

Jeeves and Worcestershire

honoria plum:

What Ho! What Ho! What Ho! For all the budding Anatoles our there, I heartily suggest trying this recipe from ‘The Book Cook’. Her blog is terrific fun!

Originally posted on The Book Cook:

When I was a young girl, I would watch my dad laughing out loud as he read P.G. Wodehouse. Wanting to be in on the joke, I would flip through the pages of the Jeeves and Wooster stories, laughing out loud in imitation even though I didn’t understand what was going on. As I got older and both my love of literature and sense of humor developed, my enjoyment of the books became authentic. Wodehouse’s writing style is light and his character descriptions are hilarious, and because of that, Jeeves and Wooster have long been my favorite literary duo.

Hollandaise perfectly describes the relationship between Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves. This sauce has so much potential to go wrong – too much heat and it can split, and too little heat and it won’t get cooking. It takes the sharp attention of the chef’s eye to keep it together. In each…

View original 227 more words

Joyeux anniversaire à moi

WP_20140828_12_23_02_ProWhat Ho!  Or as we say in France, ‘Bonjour!’

Usually at this time of year, I mark my birthday by lazily by re-blogging an old piece, The desert island pickings of a quadragenarian, which is beginning to date me in a rather unflattering manner. This year, I’d like to share a few snippets from my birthday celebrations, in Paris. It’s a slight deviation from the usual Wodehouse, but the occasional binge is an essential part of the Plumtopian experience.

My present this year was a copy of Wodehouse’s Performing Flea, which my eight year old daughter inscribed with birthday wishes. We spent the day walking along La Seine and exploring the Latin Quarter.  It was good to visit the famous ‘Shakespeare and Company’, teeming with American college graduates, although the nearby Abbey Bookshop – quieter and quirkier – was more to my liking. One of nature’s extroverts, I enjoyed the opportunity to practice my appalling phrasebook French. I suspect Wodehouse was being typically modest about his abilities when he wrote, in the Preface to a new edition of French Leave:

I never succeeded in speaking French, but I learned to read it all right, which is all I need, for now that I am 92 and shall never leave my Long Island home it is improbable that I shall ever have the opportunity of kidding back and forth with a Frenchman, and my views on pencils will remain unspoken.

Pencils, owing to my instructress at Berlitz, were the only subject on which I was able to speak with authority. She taught me all I know today about pencils (or crayons as we call them in France). ‘Le crayon est jaune ‘, I learned to say. ‘Le crayon est bleu’. ‘Donnez-moi le crayon de ma tante’, and lots more on this fascinating topic. If some French manufacturer of pencils had happened along, I would have held him spellbound with my knowledge of his business, but in general society the difficulty of working pencils into the conversation was too much for me and after a while I gave it up and stuck to the normal grunts and gurgles of a foreigner who finds himself cornered by anything Gallic.

I didn’t get to chat pencils with the Parisians either, but the day was not without it’s Wodehouse sightings.

WP_20140829_11_30_01_ProHP

(c) Copyright. My original writing and images at Plumtopia are subject to copyright. You are welcome to quote from my writing with permission, acknowledging me as the author.