Quotations from P G Wodehouse are copyright of, and reprinted by permission of, the Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate © 2019 The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

Mike Swaddling reports

Society Evening – February 2014

For some of us – mainly the committee members present – the air was a-buzz. We had been involved in the early discussions, we had seen the advance press release, and some of us had even seen the Times diary section that day – so we knew what was going to be announced. For only the second time in the Society’s history, a new President was going to be unveiled.

I’m not sure if the Times article counts as a ‘leak’, but of course it was possible that some members who turned up at The George knew already that Sir Terry Wogan had accepted our invitation to succeed the late Richard Briers. Leaks are, of course, so common as to be barely newsworthy these days. Maybe that explained the slight lack of whooping, whistling and foot-stomping that Hilary might have expected her announcement to receive.

Madame Chairman had kept her powder dry by leaving it till the last of her ‘parish notices’. The first item up was a reminder that the second series of Blandings had started, which was greeted by what can be best described by borrowing a phrase from that other comic maestro, Alan Ayckbourn – a chorus of disapproval. And talking of Empresses (as I was in a loosely-connected way), she then moved on to an email from the Swedish PGW Society, advising us that their own porcine matriarch had recently given birth to eight piglets – four boys, four girls – and they would like our help in naming them. A suggestion sheet circulated for the rest of the evening, providing, as you can imagine, some very inventive monikers!

Fully justified plugs for two books, produced by our two prolific authors, followed – Tony Ring’s anthology of Plum’s verse, and Norman Murphy’s Phrases and Notes. Tony also urged anyone who still wanted to attend the Poet In The City event on April 14th to extract their digits, as tickets were going fast.

Illustrating The Master’s ability to produce an apposite quote for any occasion, Hilary had even found one pertinent to the current weather situation. Taken from Ring for Jeeves, when Rory Carmoyle, dim but helpful brother-in-law of the Earl of Rowcester, says when describing Rowcester Abbey to prospective purchasers that “… in summer the river is at the bottom of the garden, and in winter the garden is at the bottom of the river”. Our sympathies were nonetheless expressed to those actually in that situation.

And so we came to the big news. Announcing that there had been “a puff of white smoke”, the news that Sir Terry had agreed to assume the mantle was disclosed (see here for the full story). Hilary confessed to having had a few palpitations about the timing, it being almost a year to the day that Richard Briers had died, but his widow Ann had dismissed Hilary’s concerns, and even stated that she felt that her late husband would have approved our choice completely. There is a lovely picture of our presidents past and present in the forthcoming Wooster Sauce, taken from the BBC’s Wogan On Wodehouse in 2011, with Richard reading an excerpt from “Jeeves Exerts The Old Cerebellum”. Thanks were expressed to Hilary, Elin, and members Jo Jacobius and Patrick Kidd for getting everything put together.

As this was the concluding item, there was then a very dignified stampede to the bar in order to drink to the very good health of our new president.

Reassembled, we then spotted a familiar presence at the microphone, that of Paul Kent, our entertainments maestro, with that slightly despotic look on his face that one only sees in quizmasters.

The rules for the latest mindbender were explained – teams, team names, captains, etc – and then after another short break we knuckled down to exerting our own cerebellums (cerebella?).

A few heads dropped when Paul announced that he had received a few comments after the last quiz that the questions had been too easy, so this time he had ratcheted up the difficulty level. Six rounds followed, some general, some specific eg. asking for the UK equivalents to some US titles, and naming all of the drink(er)s at The Angler’s Rest (there are fifteen, I would have you know).

A tense atmosphere prevailed while the answers were marked and ‘papers’ collected in, before it was declared that Chimps & Twists had come third, and Beach’s Bullfinch second. But the worthy winners by four points were Wogan’s Heroes, whose prize was a free round of drinks – cue another stampede, this one lightly less dignified.

And there we were at booting-out time again. Hilary thanked Paul for his time and effort with the quiz, and reminded all and sundry that the next meeting was on July 15th. Glasses were drained, fond farewells were uttered, and another highly convivial evening was consigned to history. Keep meaning to come? There’s always room for one more.