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 D├╝rer 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.