Tag Archives: Australia

How to pronounce Wodehouse

A kindly soul once corrected my pronunciation of P.G. Wodehouse, and I’m profoundly grateful to him for saving me from making a complete ass of myself when I began mixing in Wodehouse Society circles (if only he’d taught me how to use cutlery as well).

I had been pronouncing Wodehouse as if it rhymed with road-house and toad-house. Whereas the ‘wode’ in P.G. Wodehouse should rhyme with good. Here’s a little mnemonic to help you remember.

Every good house has some Wodehouse.

Not only natty, but true. Every good house really should have some P.G. Wodehouse to help the inmates from sinking too deeply into despair.  So it was only natural that, having recently returned to Australia, I set out to compile an ‘emergency’ Wodehouse kit to keep me going until I’m reunited with my books.

This simple task has proved more difficult than you might expect. Adelaide was once a city with so many bookshops that my friends and I designed pub-and-bookshop-crawls around them. But when I recently attempted a nostalgic pub-and-bookshop tour, I discovered Something Fishy. Adelaide has fewer bookshops than it used to, and most of them have little or no Wodehouse.

One of the reasons for the lack of P.G. Wodehouse in Adelaide’s bookstores is, I suspect, a tendency on the part of local readers to take our Literature seriously. Too seriously perhaps, but we’re a serious-minded lot. We take great pride in our Writer’s Week, which The Adelaide Review describes as ‘deep and worldly‘ (although it’s much better than that).

It was one of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.

From: The Girl in Blue (1970)

For budding Wodehouse readers in Adelaide, and other places suffering a Wodehouse shortage, there are several ways to get hold of his books.

  1. Ask your nearest bookstore to order a specific Wodehouse title for you.
  2. Haunt second-hand bookshops and swoop on any Wodehouse you find.
  3. Explore your local library (if you are lucky enough to have one).
  4. Order your Wodehouse books online.
adelaidelibrary
Adelaide Library’s small (but pleasantly surprising) P.G. Wodehouse selection includes some hidden gems

Browsing the shelves in a bookshop or library, not knowing what you’re going to find, is one of life’s great pleasures. Ordering a book, online or in person, reduces this experience to a commercial transaction, but if you are looking for a specific title it’s sometimes the only way.

I’ll be placing my future orders in person because it’s an opportunity to discuss Wodehouse with booksellers, and hopefully persuade them to stock more of his stuff. If I’m successful, perhaps one day some lucky person will find a Wodehouse book while browsing, take it home, and discover the unmitigated pleasures of the world he created — a world Evelyn Waugh once compared to Eden, and that I call Plumtopia.

Happy book hunting!

HP

The Adventures of Honoria Plum

He was sorry, he wrote, that he would be unable to see Miss Petherick-Soames on the morrow, as they had planned, owing to his unfortunately being called away to Australia. He added that he was pleased to have made her acquaintance and that if, as seemed probable, they never saw each other again, he would always watch her future career with interest.

‘The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner’ (Mr Mulliner Speaking)

Like Osbert Mulliner, I was recently compelled to compose a similar communication to friends and well-wishers in the United Kingdom and prepare for an antipodean journey of indefinite duration.

But wait…. I’m getting ahead of myself.

The adventure started, you may recall, in the March of 2012, with some harmless musing on the Plumtopian dream. Later that year my family and I left Australia for the UK, and I’ve enjoyed some wonderfully Wodehousian experiences in the years that followed.

We were welcomed to England with warmth and generosity by three distinct Aunts (not a cloven hoof in sight) and a cast of relations to whom I’m greatly indebted. We lived in a Berkshire country vicarage, an Oxfordshire town, and Georgian Bath — where a young Wodehouse once loafed. I experienced English life through the seasons, rambled in Somerset, met Gudgeons in Wiltshire, conversed with Mulliners in country pubs, and drank at Ukridge’s Coal Hole — in the footsteps of P.G. Wodehouse and his characters.

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Emsworth, Hampshire (image by Honoria Plum)

I was fortunate enough to visit Wodehouse’s birthplace in Guildford (Surrey) and his former home in Emsworth (Hampshire). We saw adaptations of his work on stage – in Perfect Nonsense and A Damsel in Distress — and attended a musical celebration of his career as a lyricist.

Best of all, I had the opportunity to meet other Wodehouse lovers in London, Amsterdam, and PSeattle U.S.A. I went on one of Norman Murphy’s famous Wodehouse walks, and had the honour of visiting P.G. Wodehouse’s step-grandson, Sir Edward Cazalet and seeing his family’s impressive Wodehouse archive collection.

The friendship and generosity I’ve encountered among fellow Wodehousians has been incredible, and so it was with heavy heart that I informed friends of my impending return to Australia. The reasons for my return are complex – ‘wheels within wheels’ — but my Wodehouse chums rose to the occasion. We were treated to wonderful farewells by Tony and Elaine Ring, Hilary Bruce (P G Wodehouse Society Chair), and Elin Woodger Murphy, who also saw us off to Heathrow in great style.

All of these wonderful new friends and experiences I owe to Wodehouse.

Building a new life in Australia will be challenging, but I’m returning with renewed determination to find fellow Wodehouse lovers, and introduce his work to new readers. Once the dust has settled, I’ll continuing writing on the subject of Wodehouse — here at Plumtopia.

I hope you’ll continue to follow my adventures.

HP

PHOTO CREDIT

Wodehouse at the British Silent Film Festival

The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. WodehouseLast weekend, the 2017 British Silent Film Festival featured three silent film adaptations of Wodehouse stories as part of the programme. Regrettably I wasn’t there, but a kindly blogger (I thank you Arthur) has written about it in ‘Oooh, Betty!! A Sister of Six (1927) with Neil Brand, British Silent Film Festival Day Four.’

I suppose I had known, in a dim sort of way, that Wodehouse had been adapted for film from an early age, but the information that British film company Stoll Pictures made a Clicking of Cuthbert series of six short films in 1924 was news to me.

The films produced were:

  • The Clicking of Cuthbert
  • The Magic Plus Fours
  • The Long Hole
  • Rodney Fails to Qualify
  • Ordeal by Golf
  • Chester Forgets Himself

The films are not available online, but lucky guests at the British Silent Film Festival were shown three of them: Rodney Fails to Qualify, The Clicking of Cuthbert, and Chester Forgets Himself.

The Clicking of Cuthbert is one of Wodehouse’s best loved short stories, for good reason. The 1924 silent film adaptation starred Peter Haddon as Cuthbert, Helena Pickard as Adeline, and Moore Marriott as Vladimir Brusiloff. Harry Beasley appeared as a caddy in all six films.

Doubtless with the best motives, Vladimir Brusiloff had permitted his face to become almost entirely concealed behind a dense zareba of hair, but his eyes were visible through the undergrowth, and it seemed to Cuthbert that there was an expression in them not unlike that of a cat in a strange backyard surrounded by small boys.

The Clicking of Cuthbert (1921)

The films are not strict adaptations of the original stories. Stoll Pictures introduced new characters such as the caddy, and new scenes to incorporate visual gags involving trick golf balls and the like. The stories have also been substantially modified. For example, The Clicking of Cuthbert includes a flashback scene involving bearded midgets on a snowy Siberian golf course, and a shooting.*

The following review of the series appeared in Kinematograph Weekly*

’The P.G. Wodehouse Series’ are certainly the most amusing two-reel comedies that Stoll’s has Trade shown, each one being based on golf but not limited to the golfer in their humorous appeal . . . Andrew P. Wilson has directed them fairly well. If at times they become mild and a little thin as regards humour, this is partly due to the rather uncreative adaptations, but they should entertain, especially in high class halls.

Review in Kinematograph Weekly*

The British Silent Film Festival programme included a reading of another Wodehouse golfing story ‘A Woman is Only a Woman’. The title is borrowed from a line in Kipling’s humourous poem The Betrothed about a man whose fiancé asks him to choose between her and smoking cigars –he chooses the cigars.

Open the old cigar-box—let me consider anew—
Old friends, and who is Maggie that I should abandon you?

A million surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke;
And a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke.

Light me another Cuba—I hold to my first-sworn vows.
If Maggie will have no rival, I’ll have no Maggie for Spouse!

(from: The Betrothed by Rudyard Kipling)

In Wodehouse’s A Woman is Only a Woman’, golf partners Peter Willard and James Todd fall in love with the same woman, putting a temporary strain on their friendship until each realises the object of their affection holds regrettable views on the subject of golf.

Miss Forrester swung her tennis racket irritably.

“Golf,” she said, “bores me pallid. I think it is the silliest game ever invented!”

The trouble about telling a story is that words are so feeble a means of depicting the supreme moments of life. That is where the artist has the advantage over the historian. Were I an artist, I should show James at this point falling backwards with his feet together and his eyes shut, with a semi-circular dotted line marking the progress of his flight and a few stars above his head to indicate moral collapse. There are no words that can adequately describe the sheer, black horror that froze the blood in his veins as this frightful speech smote his ears.

From: A Woman is Only a Woman (1919)

It’s easy to imagine an artist of the dramatic silent film genre doing justice to this scene.

The Clicking of Cuthbert film series is not readily available to Wodehouse fans online, but we can console ourselves with an excellent Wodehouse Playhouse television adaptation of Rodney Fails to Qualify (John Alderton and Pauline Collins never fail to please in this series).

We’re also fortunate that many silent films are available to view online and my “research” (cough, cough) for this piece involved viewing a substantial number of them. It’s easy to understand their appeal to festival goers. In lieu of a Wodehousian example to share, I’d like to recommend a favourite from my own country.

Australia had an outstanding early film industry and The Sentimental Bloke (1919) is one of its best-known examples. This film adaptation of South Australian poet C.J. Dennis’s verse novel The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke was the collaboration of two great figures of the Australian silent film era — Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell. ‘Do yourself a favour’ as the saying goes, and have a peek.

If you’re interested to know more about Longford, Lyell and early Australian cinema, have a look at this piece by William M. Drew.

And if you’re unacquainted with P.G. Wodehouse’s golf stories, The Clicking of Cuthbert is a fine place to start.

Fore!

HP

*POSTSCRIPT: This piece has been edited to incorporate addition information about the Wodehouse golf movies, made available by Morten Arnesen, via his excellent website, Blandings.

 

 

Introducting the Plumtopians

I have reblogged a few Wodehouse pieces in Plumtopia, which I like to think of as a little haven for like-minded readers.  This week’s piece is an appetite-whetting encouragement to new readers from Zanyzigzag.

It’s also a great read for affirmed Plum lovers. Zanyzigzag’s piece has special significance for me as I prepare to leave for England in less than a fortnight. The seeds of this journey, and years of thinking and planning, have been strongly influenced by my love of Wodehouse. I especially loved hearing about Norman Murphy’s Wodehouse Walk, which is on my list of top 10 things to do when I arrive.

I have been criticised for expecting to find England as Wodehouse knew it. This is a ridiculous suggestion, although I’m secretly hoping the Shropshire Agricultural Show will offer a hint of Plumtopia. What I do expect England to offer – that is deplorably lacking in my own country – is the capacity to appreciate, share and celebrate Wodehouse together. This piece affirms my belief that I am right.

There is not a single Wodehouse Society in Australia. I’ve tried on several occasions to start one, but it’s hard to conduct a society on one’s own. And I can not recall a single Australian thinker or entertainer mentioning P.G. Wodehouse in any capacity. Our thinkers are too anxious to appear serious, our comedians too inclined toward the witless. Wodehouse’s champions are elsewhere in the world, and I must look for like-minds there.

My grateful thanks to Zanyzigzag for permission to reblog this excellent piece. Perhaps we shall meet one day in Plumtopia.

Musing on the Plumtopian dream

What ho, everybody!

If indeed there is an everybody.

Of course I know there is an everybody, but I can’t help feeling that you have better things to be doing – mouths to feed, bills to pay, toenails to clip etc. You don’t? Well, you know best of course ….

A great inertia has come over me of late, as I’ve been focused on real life, rather than writing. I know some people write about their lives online, but that was never the purpose of Plumtopia. However, I am renewing Plumtopia for the year with some personal reflections.

A few years ago I described myself as

“…an ordinary sort of chapette, looking for an idyllic, peaceful rural life, living simply, growing vegetables and keeping pigs and hens. In the afternoon, I might sit in the dappled shade of a tree, reading Whiffle on the Care of the Pig.”

Having since attempted to live a ‘simpler life’, I’ve learned that it’s not so simple after all. Whether by nature or lack of nurture, I am an utterly impractical being. Simple tools – no obstacle to Palaeolithic man – are a complete mystery to me. In a civilised society, this problem would be resolved by getting ‘a little man’ in to do the practical work. But we live in complicated times, where even simple household maintenance is accessed via a 1800 number.

So I have been mulling over the dream and revising it accordingly.

Village, City or Suburb?

I have lived in some very remote places, and loved the landscape, but I’m too social to seek permanent isolation.

City life can be fair or foul, but much depends on the city. Pollution, noise, traffic, commuting, high-rise, poverty, homelessness, anti-social behaviour and violent crime etc.etc. are present to some degree in all of them.  Cities are too big to operate as caring, connected communities, so people who are vulnerable – in one way or another – struggle to survive.

And I can not abide suburbs. Even as a child they depressed me. P.G. Wodehouse was a great lover of suburbs and painted an idyllic picture of suburban life in ‘Valley Fields’, but the suburbs of Wodehouse’s acquaintance were in a different time and class from the barren, charmless developments assaulting the Australian landscape in the 1970s of my childhood, which have sadly continued, unrelenting, ever since.

Charmless really is the word.

I think a Village is the ideal sized community. It doesn’t follow that every village is ideal, but I’m keen to try village life and the best place to do this is in Europe.

Next stop, England?

There are all sorts of reasons for not moving to England. I know, because people list them every time I mention the idea. The first time I visited Europe my Grandmother advised against it.

“They crap in the streets,” she told me.

I didn’t believe her at the time, but I’ve since seen some episodes of Ladette to Lady and I believe she may be right.

I’m not expecting to find Wodehouse’s idyllic fictional world, or a better life. I know the UK faces tough social and economic issues, and that I’ll be giving up a lifestyle that many people would find enviable. But after years immersed in reading, viewing and listening to all manner of things British, it’s time experience the life and culture of Britain for myself. It was once home to generations of my family, and my holidays there are never long enough, or frequent enough.

There are advantages that I’m really excited about: access to the British Museum, historic sites, and proximity to the rest of Europe. It’s more than enough to feed my mind for a hundred lifetimes. I haven’t even touched on the music, arts and cultural menu. Best of all, I can share these experiences and opportunities with my family.

Living in England won’t be like a holiday. Like most people, I’ll be working, parenting, and worrying about everyday things – money, drains, dentists. The challenges of life are portable, but fortunately, so are the works of P.G. Wodehouse.

I’m absolutely terrified – and excited!

Plumtopia as a state of mind

There is a certain school of thought that argues that I am the problem, and that Plumtopia is a state of mind which can only be achieved by adopting a more positive attitude to life. There’s some truth in this advice, but I reject the suggestion that often follows — that I would be just as dissatisfied somewhere else because I can’t escape the real problem, which is apparently me.

This argument is based on the premise that I have a problem, but I’m not sure I do. I’m not content, but I am not looking for contentment. Nor do I expect to find it by changing my address. Contentment isn’t for everyone. The things that drive me are an appetite for knowledge and experiencing the world. My wanderlust can be a burden (four years without much traveling and I’m a near wreck), but one that’s easily resolved.

The fact that some people are happily settled in one place, admiring dew drops and giving thanks for their daily organic spelt, does not make it right for me.

Positivity is portable too, surely.

HP.