Monday 6 June 2011

Wooster on ‘The Master Minds’

Blimey, Jeeves, reckon the old noggin is in need of some education.

Indeed, Sir? What brings you to that conclusion?

Been watching one of my favourite Avengers episodes, Jeeves. Usual thing, mad lot of derry-do cads up to no good with King’s honourable country. Old Steed and his frilly infiltrate the bounder’s nest.

Sounds most exciting, Sir.

Indeed, Jeeves, indeed. Well… seems said establishment needs an entry exam. White papers, list of questions… usual rot. Touch of the old sixth form, smell of the polished wood floors, ticking of the old wall clock…

I understand precisely, Sir.

Exactly. Well Steed, good old Etonian, well trained in empire building, taught in the ways of diplomatic crafts, does the sporting thing…

Which is, Sir?

Cheats of course, Jeeves. What else is a gentleman of the hallowed corridors of the Drones club expected to do? What!

Most sporting indeed, Sir.

Now, no need to be sarcastic, Jeeves. There wouldn’t be any of this empire building if we’d spent our time swatting instead of throwing the leather against two foot of willow.

Interesting that you should mention cricket, Sir.

Enough Jeeves! Anyway, as I was saying, old Steed, in need of some informative solutions turns to… you’ll never guess this, Jeeves, turns to… oooh, choking on my breakfast gin and tonic… turns to…

Mrs Peel, by any chance Sir?

Blimey, Jeeves. Spot on! Lucky guess! Can you imagine? The frilly whose leather Glastonbury boots go right up to her neck! Say the wrong thing and you’d biffed into next week! Don’t know what Steed was doing.

The same Mrs Peel who beat you four times at chess, Sir? The same Mrs Peel who had to rewrite your lecture to the boys of Market Snodsbury Grammar School? Mrs Peel who had to translate the menu after you ordered two ‘serveuse’ and got, shall we say, in rather hot water? Mrs Peel who…

All right, all right, Jeeves… don’t labour your point. Anyway, to return to my argument… where was I? Oh yes. Well, there was I enjoying the charm of the episode, Steed frowning in the exam, and his smiles to the attractive fellow student, hiding the paper from peepers. Top it all, through my laughter I see his answers are ‘Dubhe, Polaris, Alioth and Schedar’!

Most droll Sir. English schoolboy humour. No doubt followed by “Achernar and Acrux’.

Indeed, Jeeves. And I’m wiping the tears from my eyes when this chappie next to me starts explaining the fundamental philosophy behind the whole scene. Well, Jeeves, it’s a shocker to discover that what you in your ignorance thought was a jolly romp is in fact a thesis in psychology and I’m taking gin and tonic by the barrel full to keep my mind cool. By the end the poor old noggin feels like it’s been bashed repeatably with a willow bat…

Or one of Mrs Peel’s specials to the head, Sir?

Hmmm. Well, now I can hardly look at the title to this episode without getting a severe headache and an urge to flee to the sanity of the Drones Club.

May I make a suggestion, Sir?

Go ahead, Jeeves.

Is a possible that this organization was devised to do just that, Sir. To distract us from empire building by turning English gentlemen into, as you so eloquently put it… swats and philosophers?

By Jove, Jeeves. Diabolical! I see your point! A country of swatting, philosophising intellectuals! Lord, it beggars the mind to think what damage that would do to global affairs. Jeeves, you are a wonder.

One must keep a steady head in such affairs Sir.

Jeeves, get the wickets out. Time for a spot of leather on willow I think.

Excellent decision Sir. I feel confident the country remains in safe hands.

‘Jeeves and Wooster’ copyright P.G. Wodehouse. This homage written and illustrated by Ian Duerden.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Avengers at the Races

Nothing like a good day at the horse races, what Jeeves?

Indeed not Sir.

Now which of these Avengers fillies is going to win the race, eh Jeeves?

I couldn’t possibly say, Sir.

Well I rather fancy that Cathy filly, plenty of bite, raring at the bit and rather a fine mane of hair, if you don’t mind me remarking.

Don’t you think she is rather short between the hock and fetlocks Sir? I mean, a good length of leg does suggest a longer stride.

Point taken Jeeves. However, a good application of the short whip on those firm hindquarters should give her a spurt. A little ‘wacky wacky’ gets the old adrenaline pumping, what ho, Jeeves.

Indeed Sir, but may I say she’s rather an excitable mare. Possibly you may get a little ‘whacky whacky’ back Sir.

Oh, don’t want that Jeeves, don’t want that at all. Well that Venus pony doesn’t seem to do much but wander off to the crowds and start neighing at them. More interested in making a dreadful noise than getting into the scrum of things.

One doesn’t wish to listen to rumour Sir, but I have heard tell there’s some shire horse in her breeding. Note her rather large hoofs, Sir.

Blimey Jeeves, now you mention it there is a touch of the broad forehead and long neck! Well, what about that Emma mare, strutting about all on her own?

Fine looking flanks, Sir, but note the nostrils in the air. It’s my opinion, Sir, that she thinks she shouldn’t be here at all but at Aintree, possibly in the Grand National!

That’s no good then, she won’t see the race to the end. Be off out of the paddock first chance she gets. There’s that young Tara, plenty of feisty energy in her. Seeing a mare like that and I’m almost tempted to throw a saddle over her myself and take her for a ride.

Hmm. May I respectfully remind you, Sir, that your last riding incident was, how shall we say, not entirely successful.

Oh darn it all, Jeeves, do you have to bring that up again? Had somebody explained to me that that Rhonda filly was an Australian pony I wouldn’t have attempted to mount her in the Drones. The corridor leading to the dining room is far too short to get up to a reasonable cantor. Personally, after that, I became of the opinion that horses should be banned from gentleman’s club! Well that leaves that long legged filly, Purdey.

Ah a true thoroughbred, Sir. May I bring your attention to her excellent legs, good short cannon bones, and springy pasterns? I have no doubt she can jump a high fence Sir.

Hold on Jeeves! They’re off and I didn’t get a chance to place a bet.

I fear Sir, that there has been some unfortunate distraction. They appear to be running, not along the track, but across to the enclosure.

Good lord, Jeeves, what’s got into them?

It would appear to be that steed, Sir, the rather fine pedigree stallion wearing the rather smart hunting saddle, head plume and riding whip. It seems to have turned their heads.

This is just not on, Jeeves, not on at all. What a goose! I say, fancy a wager on which reaches him first?

I fear Sir, we will never know. The steed has galloped off with them in pursuit. Though one thing crosses my mind, as a gentleman’s gentleman… such a well-bred steed, I wonder if he has a groom?

Now steady on Jeeves. Ah, well… what’s the next race?

I believe it’s the ‘Charlie’s Angels’.

I think we will give that a miss don’t you Jeeves?

Indeed I do, Sir. Indeed I do.

‘Jeeves and Wooster’ copyright P.G. Wodehouse. This homage written and illustrated by Ian Duerden.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Wooster on ‘A Touch of Brimstone’

The Hellfire Club

"Well Bingo says this is the best gentlemen’s club in town but it will have to go a long way to excel the Drones, what Jeeves?"

"Indeed Sir. It is most unfortunate Master Little isn’t here to accompany us. I hope he enjoys a rapid recovery."

"Indeed Jeeves. Damn rummy him loosing those fingers. Told me it was an accident with a chopping board." 

"A most dangerous place the kitchen Sir."

"Talking of chopping boards, Jeeves, you showed that rummy chap at the door with the axe a thing or two."

"I try to be of assistance Sir. I had noted he was only able to chop the pea in half but with the catering talents I have acquired in the kitchen I was able to demonstrate a quick eight-slice action. I believe he was most impressed."

"That chap with the two pronged hook wasn’t. He kept making rude gestures at me with that hook!"

"Looking at the costumes around us Sir, I fear we may have misunderstood young Bingo when he suggested we should dress as befits a ‘Hellfire Club’." 

"Too true Jeeves. I’m feeling a right fool stood here painted red, wearing horns and a pointed tail."

"I fear these pitchforks do little to assist our appearance either, Sir."

"I say, look Jeeves, everyone’s crowding around that stage. Brillo. I like a good bit of panto, maybe a bit of song and dance."

"I fear it’s likely to be neither, Sir. That’s Mrs Peel up there."

"What! Oh lord, Jeeves, we’re in for a sober time. Guess it’ll be another recital of Cordelia from King Lear. Think I would rather prefer a bit of slapstick with Miss King and her performing handbag than that. Hold on Jeeves, she’s in her undies. The blighters have nicked her clothes."

"It would appear so, Sir."

"Oh Lord, Jeeves, she must have arrived in the wrong garb too."

"I see your point Sir. It would be most unpleasant to have our costumes removed as well. Apart from the paint we are only wearing pants."

"Blimey Jeeves, there’s wild animals loose. Look, Mrs Peel is wrestling with one now."

"May I respectfully point out Sir that a snake is of the reptile family and not an animal. True to character for Mrs Peel to jump into the fray and attempt to save us all."

"Reptiles, axes, declothed members. Too much for me Jeeves. I’ll take the quiet of a rugby match in the hall or cricket in the corridors at the Drones to this place. Tell that blighter with the hook to get off my tail and let’s exit."

"I think that is a very wise idea, Sir."

‘Jeeves and Wooster’ copyright P.G. Wodehouse. This homage written and illustrated by Ian Duerden.

Monday 21 March 2011

The Avengers Weekly: "The Comic That Never Was"

The 1960s was a Golden Age for children’s comics in England… and none of them offered as many free gifts as the Avengers Weekly did.

In issue 58 (Vol. 1 No. 6) there was the “Grow your own Man-eater of Surrey Green from our Free Seed Bags.”Requires a high protein feed” it said on the packet. Too bloody true. Within a couple of weeks I had fed half the undesirables of the village to it and it was still snapping for more. In the end I had to take the axe to it.

Then there was the “Doctor Armstrong’s United Automation Pen… One click and you will never be alone again.” They weren’t joking. I was stalked for the next couple of weeks by a stiff-walking geezer in a black raincoat, black hat and an unnervingly shiny face. I was almost relieved when Danny Taylor nicked the pen one day. He must have carried it everywhere with him because, when they found him, it was lying nearer his body than his head was.

One of my favourites was “The Rotters” free gift, issue 61. “Sprinkle the contents into water and load into your water pistol. Removes unwanted trees…” And wooden garden fences, sheds, gates, pavilions, timbres to the neigbours house, two listed Elizabethan houses, a cherry orchard and five square miles of protected woodland. Whoops.

Then in issue 72 there was the “Take Me To Your Leader” carrying case with the combination lock. We gather Larry Lang must have got the combination wrong once because it not only took out his house but half the street in the explosion.

Sadly, as the sixties drew to a close so did the Avengers on TV and the Avenger Weekly. Much had changed in our little village over that decade. There was still a crater where Larry’s house used to be. The forest surrounding us was just heaps of saw dust. The Man-eater had germinated and now the population had dwindled from three hundred to five… and that included me.

I kept all my Avenger Weeklys neatly in a pile and they would be worth a fortune now. However, I spilt Issue 97’s free gift, “Get-a-Way” Chameleon brand Vodka, (“Bath in this and turn your back on all your troubles”), over them and have never been able to find them since.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Wooster on the Avenger Girls...

"You know, Jeeves, I really can't make up my mind about these Avenger fillies."

"Indeed, Sir"

"Mrs Gale shows plenty of bally ho but arrived at our picnic dressed entirely in leather… and not a horse in sight!"

"Most disquieting, Sir."

"And that's not all. The slightest provocation and she'd biff and buff some unfortunate until his sprats are over his head."

"Hardly the actions of a lady, Sir. And Mrs Peel?"

"Damn rum business that was, Jeeves. Twenty minutes of my pratter guaranteed to woe the most reserved lady and she suddenly proposes we visit her Uncles Jack's house at Pendlesham in Hampshire. Now I know I may have had a few Martinis on the way but… well, the blasted architect of the house should have been jolly well shot! Old Bertie finds himself alone and in a frightful spin. Whichever room I went into there was this confounded spinning thing and try as I did I couldn't seem to find the gentleman's closet. Well, a lesser man than me might have gone mad in such a situation, but not a Wooster! I decided to wait for help and to keep stimulated I flicked cards into my top hat."

"Most stimulating, Sir."

"Indeed, Jeeves, kept me quite sane until two months later the police broke in. And not a moment too soon… I'd eaten everything except the Queen of Clubs and the top hat."

"Most fortunate timing, Sir."

"So you can imagine I approached Miss King with some hesitation, after all the previous frilies had been of a disquieting nature. Well, she seemed most agreeable. Big droopy eyes, clearly appreciated the experienced man, bit of a hanger on but at last equal to my intelligence."

"I'm sure she is, Sir. So may I ask what went wrong?"

"It's what fell out of her handbag, Jeeves. Most disquieting for a young lady to carry such a thing around with her."

"May I ask what said 'thing' was, Sir."

"Let's just say, Jeeves, if she applies her makeup with a trowel I wouldn't be amazed. No, all in all that bounder, Steed, is most welcome to them."

"Ah, Mr Steed. There's a gentleman to be a 'gentleman's personal gentleman' to."

"Now none of this Jeeves! I have it on good account that his last butler complained; needed a commercial sander to buff the bowler hat with. Why, when I borrowed his umbrella for Henley, first spot of rain and I hospitalised three people trying to open the bally thing. There's something damn rum about a man who surrounds himself with ladies so ready to biff a chap. Now about this Rhonda… more my type is she? Petite, girlish, giggles and frocks? Send her in, Jeeves."

"With pleasure, Sir."

‘Jeeves and Wooster’ copyright P.G. Wodehouse. This homage written and illustrated by Ian Duerden.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Clowns, Nuns and Halifax

I don’t know about you but I always get unnerved when, while doing the washing up and looking out of the kitchen window, the garden motion lights suddenly come on and there, standing in the middle of the garden, is a clown.

It doesn’t matter however often it happens it always unnerves me.

Pull all the curtains, settle down to watch the telebox or read a book but you can’t help thinking he’s still out there, looking at the house.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m over sensitive. Maybe most people just take it for granted and get on with their nights’ entertainment. And I’m too scared to tell my wife incase she does something silly like invite him in. Personally I would rather he played with the garden hose than let him indoors, juggling with the ornaments. (Have you noticed that clowns seem to have a real affinity with water? Just give them a couple of buckets of the stuff…?)

But I have a solution to this phobia and I’ll share it with you…

Think about nuns

Nuns unnerve me more than clowns.

I remember a train journey in Yorkshire once in one of the last of those closed carriages, you know, a door to the outside and a sliding door to the corridor, mesh luggage rack, 5 by 12 inch mirrors above the seats and sunny posters of faraway places like Scarborough and Briglington. Oh, and of course the Communication Cord which is actually a chain that communicates only in the sense that it activates the train’s brakes.

(I once saw a chap who, while standing putting his luggage on the rack, lost his balance and unfortunately clutched this chain. As the train shuddered to an emergency stop literally yards of this chain poured out of the small grip area and he was still trying to push it back in when the conductor arrived, not, to our disappointment, to arrest him but give him a cautionary talk out in the corridor.)

Anyway, I shared this confined carriage with a nun.

When it comes to their attire nuns are the opposites of clowns. Clowns are all bright garish colours with absolutely no sense of fashion. Nuns are just black and white and quite formal in their dress design. Their hoods, however, always remind me of a chap I once saw in an Albrecht Dürer engraving, all solemn and caring a scythe. (Of course I realize you are unlikely to see a nun with a scythe, or indeed any garden implement. They are totally useless when it comes to manual labour so don’t even think about phoning up a nunnery if you want someone out to cut the grass or mend a fence.)

Anyway there I was sat opposite a nun. What’s scarier than sitting with a nun in a railway carriage? Well, sitting with three nuns in a railways carriage. Two of her sisters joined the train at Leeds.

Now there’s not much conversation you can have with a nun, particularly if they are of the Silent Order. So I was sat there, twiggling my thumbs, looking out of the window, making the odd English exclamation about the weather. I tried. “Wow, what a down pour… that’s a heavy rainfall… that will have all the clowns running for shelter” and other everyday exclamations like that.

No response.

After a bit I began to get really unnerved. Have you ever heard of that phrase The Imp of the Perverse? It’s a common tendency, mentioned by Edgar Allan Poe, to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation. It is the most embarrassing thing you can think of in the circumstances. The absolutely inappropriate thing to say.

And that’s what my brain kept telling me. 'Don’t… DON’T do anything stupid like suddenly standing up and exclaiming – "I have had sex with four women in the last three days!”' Not only is it the very last thing you want to say in front of three nuns… it’s also a complete lie. But then the truth isn’t much better. Standing up and shouting “I haven’t had ANY sex in the last three days!” I think is just as bad.

So there I was, absolutely sweating with nerves that I was going to blurt out something totally inappropriate when fate served me a good turn and before my self-control failed all three nuns ended their journey at Halifax station. (Why they should be visiting Halifax you may know better than I. I personally have never considered Halifax a haven for nuns but then I’ve never understood why Haworth was a recluse for renegade 1960s hippies.)

So there we have it… When next you are unnerved by a clown standing in the centre of your lawn, think it could be worse...

It could be a nun.