I turned to P.G. Wodehouse when I very quickly decided to give up trying to read something heavier, I just wasn’t in the mood for reading something I had to concentrate on. I already had Right Ho, Jeeves on my Kindle, if you want to have a go at it you can get it free here.
You know what’s coming, which of course is part of their charm. Bertie Wooster has been in the south of France, spending a lot of time with his cousin Angela. On his return to Blighty, Bertie pays a visit to Angela’s mother, his Aunt Dahlia. A couple of Bertie’s friends are included in the house party, Augustus Fink-Nottle and (gosh I’ve forgotten the other chap’s name, that’s Kindles for you! ) are both in need of help. Their love lives are not going well and Bertie is determined to sort them out. He advises them on how to win the hearts of their girls, you can imagine how well that goes!
Jeeves does his best to rein in his young master but of course Bertie thinks he knows best.
The BBC recently aired Wodehouse in Exile, with Tim Pigott-Smith playing the part of Wodehouse and Zoe Wanamaker as his wife. It was really well done and if you are interested in Wodehouse I think you’ll enjoy it.
I hadn’t realised that Wodehouse had neglected to leave his home in Le Touquet, France before the Nazis got there in 1940. The upshot of which is that he was sent to a prison camp, but when the Germans realised that he was a famous author they decided get him to broadcast talks on the radio which could be interpreted as being pro-Nazi.
It makes you think that Wodehouse himself resembled Wooster far more than Jeeves – how he could have been stupid enough to get himself into such a situation, and not even realise it, beggars belief – but he did. Anyway, you can view the programme below if you’re interested. I hope people outside the UK are able to view this too, but it might be blocked.
Did you know that the BBC has been busy putting all the British paintings which are in public ownership onto a website? They have just completed the mammoth task so all of the paintings which are owned by local authorities are now available for viewing online. You can see them here.
I’ve been snooping around on that site for quite a while and have pinned some of the paintings already, particularly ones which feature scenery which is dear to me, it’s that ‘hills of home’ thing, but I see that since I last visited the site quite a few more local scenes have appeared, I’ll have to get pinning.
This is one of my favourites. It’s the Cloch Lighthouse at the Tail of the Bank on the Clyde estuary. It dates from the 1930s and is by Norman Wilkinson. I love that 30s style.
This one was painted in about 1853 and is of the town I grew up in, albeit more than 100 years before I got there, it’s Dumbarton from Kirktonhill, by David Octavius Hill.
If you have some spare time you should have a wander around the site you never know what you might find.
I had only read some Jeeves and Wooster stories by Wodehouse previous to this, and that was way back, so long ago I can’t really remember them. Anyway I bought an omnibus edition of three Blandings books last year and then it immediately got lost in the stacks and resurfaced just before Christmas, just in time for me to read the first one before the BBC Blandings series was broadcast.
These books (I’ve just finished the second one Summer Lightning) are at the same time completely daft but vital antidotes to the cruel world, so essential reading if it’s all getting too much for you.
Wodehouse wrote for himself the perfect setting for loopy characters, mainly members of the Emsworth/Threepwood family, but the servants have their moments too. Lord Emsworth has an appalling memory and information seems to sail through his ears, bypassing his brain completely. This is fine for people who know him and realise that he has just pocketed the cutlery absent-mindedly and not nefariously.
Most men have an obsession apparently, for Lord Emsworth it’s his beloved pig the Empress of Blandings and her weight and welfare. However for the American millionaire Mr Peters it’s rare scarabs which get him excited, he’s the father of Aline Peters who has just become engaged to Freddie Emsworth, (not the heir but the spare). Imagine his reaction when he realises that his best scarab has disappeared, and he knows who has it! Mr Peters is determined to get his scarab back where it should be – in his collection.
This book is an absolute hoot and in parts I was actually laughing out loud, it’s not only silly slapstick but witty repartee too. The Efficient Baxter, Lord Emsworth’s hated secretary is hilarious and as I’ve been watching the BBC Blandings series too I have to say that for me anyway the casting of David Walliams as Baxter is just perfect.
This book is available free from Project Gutenbery under the name of Something New
If you want to read something different by P.G. Wodehouse have a look at what else is available on Project Gutenberg here.
I bought an omnibus of Blandings books last year and it almost immediately went AWOL and only surfaced when I was getting the house ready for Christmas. By that time the BBC was advertising their Blandings series which started last night, so I didn’t get a chance to read any of the book before viewing it.
I think it was well done though, and even if you just love pigs it was well worth watching just for the lovely big porkers featured in it. Jack even laughed out loud a few times, and that doesn’t happen too often!
Saturday’s Guardian review had an interesting article about Wodehouse and Blandings which you can read here.
I was watching the Scottish news on the TV one evening last week when an article came on about the fact that Scotland doesn’t have a national tree. It had never occurred to me that we were missing a trick there, after all we always think of England’s tree as being the oak, I think America has the giant redwood as its national tree, for Canada it’s obviously the maple. Is it eucalyptus for Australia? Lebanon has the cedar and off the top of my head I can’t think of any others.
The chap who was speaking about it wants the Scots Pine to fit the bill and I must say I did totally agree with him at the time, after all they are beautiful so it would be a great emblem for us. They give shelter and sustenance to our native red squirrels and pine martens, and lots of other beasties too I’m sure.
Then I thought about it and it seemed to me that it would be a shame not to have the rowan tree (mountain ash) as an emblem of Scotland too. So, from having no Scottish national tree I think we should go the whole hog and have two, one evergreen and one deciduous, and I can’t think of any other trees which would represent Scotland so well.
I always think of rowans as being particularly Scottish, and they’re steeped in Celtic mythology. If a garden of mine didn’t have one when I moved into it, it was never long before I planted one, to keep the witches away, and provide food for the birds.
You can have a look at a BBC report on the subject here.
Apparently there are 70 countries in the world which have trees as symbols, at the moment I’d be hard pushed to name 70 countries, never mind their trees!
I caught the back end of a Radio 4 programme last night, it was something about sounds which instantly take you back to another time. There was a woman saying that the sound of an old push along lawnmower takes her back to memories of her father in the garden when she was a very young child and he was only about 25. I thought – how strange to remember your dad being just 25, my first memories of my dad, he must have been around 40, and that was old in the 1960s.
Anyway, when they played the sound of an old lawnmower, so much nicer than the violent noise of a Flymo, I was back in my childhood garden where I spent plenty of time cutting the grass, I could almost see and feel that big circular dip in the middle where the ground had sunk, presumably a previous gardener had had a round flowerbed there.
By coincidence Chris Evans played the original 1960s Doctor Who music on the radio early this morning. I knew that the music had been re-arranged a few times over the years, but I thought that it was just age which had sort of inured me to that sound. It doesn’t seem nearly so scary now, however when I heard the 1960s version it all came back, if I hadn’t already been under the covers, I would have just about been hiding behind a sofa, my usual position when Doctor Who started! Have a listen, I think the first version is by far the most menacing one. What do you think? I am just old enough to be able to remember all of the Doctors.
I was listening to Radio 4 Extra this afternoon whilst making a pot of lentil soup, as you do, well it has suddenly got really cold, I got caught in a hailstorm today and it’s going to be icy overnight apparently, so soup is a necessity!
Anyway, at the end of ahem Dick Barton Special Agent, the presenter mentioned some of the up and coming attractions in the shape of an Eric Ambler thriller, Sherlock Holmes and much more. I’ve just realised that I missed a Jill Paton Walsh thing so I’ll be listening to that via the iPlayer soon too. Have a look here if you haven’t already!
I also saw an episode of the Martin Clunes programme Islands of Britain on the telly last night and wondered if some of it might be on You Tube and sure enough it is. I thought it might be of interest to some people who can’t get it on their TV.
The other thing which I thought folks might like to see is good old Tom Weir. I think I saw that Peggy Ann was watching him. You might never have heard of him before, he died a couple of years ago but he was a good age and about 30 or 40 years ago his short TV programmes used to be on a lot. I was amazed when I looked in on my insomniac then teenage son some years ago to see that he was watching an ancient Weir’s Way at about 3 o’clock in the morning. Tom had a big following with the insomniacs I think.
Although Tom had climbed all over the world, even up the Himalayas, it was always the hills of home which were his favourites and they happened to be in the area which I grew up, he was a a bit of a local hero and could often be seen on the hills. If you’re interested in some Scottish scenery there are loads of clips of Tom. Here’s one for a starter!
This programme is just about the only ‘must watch’ one for me at the moment but I was sad when Cathryn had to leave last week. Obviously I was hoping that James the young Scottish chap with the lovely hand-knitted Fair Isle jumpers would win.
But Cathryn came a close second for me because not only is she a great baker but she has a lovely habit of giving a running commentary on everything and talking to inanimate objects.
I loved her reaction to things going wrong – no black belt cursing and swearing on the BBC of course but she did say: Oh my giddy aunt! – a lot, and there’s not enough of that one around to suit me. Last week she even resorted to Heavens to Betsy! The only person I’ve heard saying that recently is myself and I even give Heavens to Murgatroyd an airing now and again.
I’m reserving my black belt cursing for all the ghastly politicians who are cluttering up our TV screens at the moment, on both sides of the pond.
Anyway, here’s a wee taster of the Bake Off, as you can see, Cathryn is the young woman at the beginning of it. She has gone back to looking after her young family but I’m sure she’ll end up using her talent for baking somehow in the future.
Jack got to the Guardian before I did this morning – as usual – and when he reached the obituary page he said, Angharad Rees has died. I was/am really sad about that, I thought she was a great actress who never seemed to get the fame which she should have. It’s as the red-haired, fiery Demelza in Poldark which most of us will remember her. You can read her obituary here.
The BBC aired the Poldark series in 1975-77 and it was wildly popular. Set in Cornwall (I’d watch anything set there I think) just after the American War of Independence. Poldark was based on the books by Winston Graham, who had been a history teacher before taking to writing, he was a rattling good storyteller and as a bonus, his books are factually accurate too.
I first read the novels years ago and re-read them all not all that long ago, they were still real page-turners so if you haven’t read them you might want to try them out. I know that Evee loved the books too as she has mentioned in the past how she raced through them while she was going through a terrible time in hospital. Did you watch the TV programme too Evee? Half the female population seemed to fancy Robin Ellis (Ross) while the other half were all for George Warleggan (Ralph Bates).
Poor Angharad, she was 63 but she’ll always be Demelza to me. What’s going on up there? Yesterday it was the actor Simon Ward who popped off. Who’s the third one going to be?