Quotations from P G Wodehouse are copyright of, and reprinted by permission of, the Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate © 2017 The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

A report of the Society’s meeting on February 11 2015

by Elin Murphy

Relapsing into Laughter

No doubt it was the cold weather that accounted for fewer numbers than are normal at our regular meetings. Nonetheless, among the folks gathered at the Savoy Tup on February 11 were some new faces, which is always a Good Thing. And, as always, the room was filled with much jollity.


However, there were two familiar faces missing: where on earth were our Chairman, Hilary Bruce, and her Consort, Robert? Filling in for Hilary when the meeting got under way at around 6.45 pm, membership secretary Christine Hewitt explained that Hilary and Robert were both under the weather. Hilary, in fact, had recently been hospitalised for more than two weeks (she had thoughtfully sent along a detailed explanation of what had happened), and Robert had come down with the flu on the very day that Hilary had come home from hospital. Since Hilary’s immune system was still in a vulnerable state, it meant the two having to occupy separate floors of their house and communicating with each other by phone and email. Happily, the situation is now improving and both are on the mend and able to talk face-to-face. But they were missed.


Christine pointed out the two piles of Wodehouse books beside her and informed us that they were from the estate of a deceased member. The Everyman edition volumes were £5 each, the remaining paperbacks and worn hardbacks were being given away. Christine fervently hoped we would avail ourselves of this excellent opportunity; first to acquire more books for their own collections and second to save her from having to lug the whole lot home again.


Next, Christine introduced Norman Murphy, who spoke briefly about how he came to write The P.G. Wodehouse Miscellany for History Press. This excellent little book – a potted biography of Wodehouse, a précis of his works, and so much more – will be available for sale online and at major retailers by the end of this month. Hurrah for that!


Christine then provided us with dates for the next two Society meetings, both to be held at the Savoy Tup: July 22 is a firm date, and our entertainment impresario, Paul Kent, has promised another Fiendish Quiz to stimulate the masses. Hurrah again! The date for the autumn meeting has been provisionally set for November 18; check Wooster Sauce and the website for further details as they are known.


We learned that no date has yet been set for the Gold Bats cricket match against the Dulwich Dusters, but we know it will be some time in June; again, check Wooster Sauce and the website for this. The date for our annual match against the Sherlock Holmes Society of London has been set for Sunday, June 21, in West Wycombe as usual. The Gold Bats will also be playing in a charity event at Audley End this summer, and that date also will be announced when it is known.


Christine repeated the appeal for somebody to step forward and take over from Jeremy Neville as Treasurer. Jeremy now has two young daughters and an increasingly demanding job (thanks to well-deserved promotion), so the time he can devote to Society matters is understandably limited. Please, if you have the time and the inclination, get in touch with Hilary Bruce: chairman@pgwodehousesociety.org.uk.


Christine told us about two shows currently on tour: Perfect Nonsense and Anything Goes (with original book by Wodehouse and Bolton). We also learned that the American Wodehouse Society is having a convention in Seattle, Washington (state), October 29 to November 1 – click here for information about this great event, which is a hugely enjoyable experience – and that our own Society’s Biennial Dinner will be held sometime in October 2016 (mark your calendars!).


Finally, with Valentine’s Day looming, Christine recommended the most romantic of gifts: a one-year membership of The P G Wodehouse Society (UK). This was met with a huge round of applause – after all, what could be better for a loved one? (Click here to take advantage of this opportunity.)


Christine then handed over to Paul, who first read some extracts from an article by John Simpson on Wodehouse’s view of A. A. Milne, who had viciously attacked PGW for the Berlin broadcasts. Despite wishing Milne to be boiled in oil, Plum admired his fellow author’s writing. Nonetheless, his resentment resulted in the wonderful short story satirising Milne, ‘Rodney Has a Relapse’.


Having supplied the background, Paul introduced our guest speaker – or, in this case, reader – the actor Alex Harcourt Smith. There is nothing quite like listening to a trained actor read a Wodehouse story, and Alex is up there among the best. He had his eager audience awash in laughter as he related this last in a cycle of stories featuring Rodney Spelvin, William Bates, and their partners in love and golf, Anastatia Bates (later Spelvin) and Jane Packard (later Bates).


So how has Rodney relapsed? After listening to William Bates describe his brother-in-law’s recent strange behaviour, the Oldest Member knows the answer: “It seemed to me only too certain that Rodney Spelvin was in for another attack of poetry.” But Rodney is not so far gone that he neglects his golf, and after some harrowing moments – including William’s son Braid demanding his father write poems for him as Rodney has been doing for young Timothy Spelvin – all comes right in the end when Timothy ruins his father’s chance to win the Rabbits Umbrella cup. Golf once again saves the day and preserves the family’s peace and happiness.


The joy of the story (which appears in the collection Nothing Serious) is not the plot but the way Wodehouse tells it. And in this particular story, he gets his revenge on Milne in a big way, satirising the Christopher Robin poems by having Rodney write poetry centred on ‘Timothy Bobbin’. When presented with examples of Rodney’s verses on this subject, the Oldest Member can hardly contain his horror – and we, listening to Alex read the story, could hardly contain our laughter. One set of verses culminates with:


Timothy

    Bobbin

        Goes

            Hoppity

                Hoppity

                    Hoppity

                        Hoppity

                            Hop.


Wodehouse writes: “With this Rodney appeared to have been dissatisfied, for beneath it he had written:


Reminiscent?


As satires go, this story is among Wodehouse’s very best, and Alex’s superb reading made us appreciate it all the more. Our applause was heartfelt, and we yearned for more. Fortunately, I was able to pick up a copy of the Golf Omnibus from among the books Christine had brought, so I will be well supplied for a while.