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 PG Wodehouse Society (UK)

By Mike Swaddling

On Your Mics, Get Set …

For July’s Club Evening, Paul Kent came up with an original idea yet again – only this time as simple in concept as the previous ‘Wodehouse Bingo’ had been felt by some to be a tad on the complicated side. The ‘Open Mic’ evening invited any foolhardy soul willing to stand up in front of his or her peers and read their favourite piece of Wodehouse – and ten FS’s did.


Despite the somewhat oppressively high temperatures outside, our regular venue, the upper room at The George, was its usual ambient self thanks to those useful ventilation devices known as windows. As usual, when she felt she had as much of the attention of those present as she was probably going to get (a bit like the starter at the Grand National) Chairman Hilary Bruce stepped up to the microphone, adjusted it in a downward direction by a small distance, and gave us the usual ‘parish notices’.


Most interesting amongst these was the possibility of a Society tie, an idea that has been bobbing to the surface at committee meetings at regular intervals for some time. In the true spirit of member participation, she invited ideas from the floor as to its design, and was rewarded with some highly original suggestions. The final outcome is still a closely guarded secret, but I did hear the words “Pigs Have Wings” being mentioned …


During the ensuing short break, the ‘contestants’ for the Open Mic were then summoned to the end of the room by Mr Kent, who asked for a clean fight with no spitting or gouging. It was at this point that the time limit of 5/6 minutes became known, to some rather surprisingly, and too late to edit their offerings. Names were entered voluntarily on a running order, and after last minute instructions from the trainers, the first FS took his place at the open mic.


Breeding and impeccable manners preclude me from making any comments about individual performances (except to say that the bloke just before the interval was brilliant). For the next hour and a half, including the break, we were treated to some highly entertaining readings, some predictable (though no less enjoyable), and some completely unexpected. A special mention in despatches must go to new member Tim Foote who was attending his first club evening.


A mystery judge was then asked to pick a winner, and the choice was Ellie King for her spirited rendition of the Vladimir Brusiloff scene – “I spit me of Sovietski” – from “The Clicking of Cuthbert”.


Below is the list of participants and their offerings:


Peter Thompson, reading from “The Unpleasantness at Bludleigh Court”

Paddy Briggs – “Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey!”

Mark Taylor – Ice in the Bedroom

Simon Gordon-Clark – The Mating Season

Mike Swaddling – Jill The Reckless/Heart Of A Goof


BREAK


Paul Kent – The Luck of the Bodkins

Tim Foote – Laughing Gas

Ellie King – “The Clicking of Cuthbert”

Norman Murphy – Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

Andrew Parker – Joy in the Morning


There then came a surprise item. The other half of our esteemed Chair, Robert Bruce, rose from the ‘top’ table behind the microphone with a piece of paper in his hand reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain, claiming that this was the manuscript of a till-now undiscovered PGW story. Plum had written any number of golfing stories, but why, Robert asked, had he not penned a single one about cricket? After all, he had played it in his youth, and was a regular spectator (including the famous match where he first saw Percy Jeeves).


Well, claimed RB, he had written one.


A yellowing and dog-eared document, apparently buried in a dusty corner of the Cazalet archives, had come to light. There were pages missing, but there was enough to give those assembled a flavour of this unique masterpiece. And without further ado, he regaled us with a tale that tasted very much of Plum, of Lord Emsworth’s exploits in a cricket match both as batsman and umpire, in which a bowler with the name of Wodehouse was given a bit of a pasting. Whilst there may have been some nagging doubt as to the origin of the story (I checked my diary to make sure it wasn’t April 1st), there was none about its entertainment value.


If you haven’t been to a Society evening yet, why not bring your New Year resolution forward and come to the next one on October 29th? It may be a bit of an effort, especially in unpleasant weather, but there is no doubt among the regulars that a few hours in the company of fellow Wodehouseans is almost as uplifting as a dose of Buck-u-Uppo.

The vote for a Society tie

Simon Gordon Clark reading