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)

by Elin Murphy

Another Fine Old Time, Albeit with Footnotes

Each of our Society meetings is enjoyable in its own way, having some unique element that sets it apart from the others, but there is also a reassuring sameness to our gatherings. For myself, there is always an element of pleasant surprise as I arrive early to a nearly empty room, start chattering away with somebody, and then suddenly look up to find myself surrounded by a sea of Wodehouseans – and laughter. There is always lots of laughter.

The meeting on February 28 2012 at The George certainly was no different that way, but there was one jarring aspect to the evening: our Chairman was not among those present. Down for the count with some sort of nasty bug, Hilary Bruce missed her first-ever Society meeting – not the sort of distinction we want a meeting to have! We missed her terribly.

But the usual procedure prevailed all the same, and after the initial socialising and sluicing, Tony Ring stood in for the Chairman and called the meeting to order for Parish Notices – of which there were, apparently, a record number. These included news of the Wodehouse Weekend in Norfolk, for which a few (very few) places are still available. This special excursion takes place the weekend of May 25-27, and if you might be interested in taking part, then get in touch with Hilary at chairman@pgwodehousesociety.org.uk. [Report here.]

Other news shared with the masses included how to order Maria Jette’s new CD of Wodehouse songs (information about which will be put on the website soon, we promise); the availability of three silent films of PGW golf stories on videotape (VHS) – apply to Tony if interested (tonyring@pgwodehousesociety.org.uk); the dates of the two main Gold Bats matches in June (see Future Events) – and if you plan on attending the Dulwich match and taking part in the tea, you will need tickets (to be included in the March issue of Wooster Sauce); and word of our biennial dinner at Gray’s Inn, this year to be held on the 25th October (application forms in the June issue of Wooster Sauce).

And that wasn’t all. Tony told us of a wealth of recent and future TV and radio programmes featuring Wodehouse in some way or another. In terms of what lies ahead, on 29 April and 6 May, there will be a two-part Radio 4 broadcast of Uncle Fred in the Springtime, adapted and directed by Society patron Martin Jarvis; and later this year we will see a new BBC television series of the Blandings stories, starring Timothy Spall as Lord Emsworth. We look forward eagerly to these productions.

Tony then handed the reins over to Entertainment Impresario Paul Kent, who began by mentioning something his predecessor at the microphone had modestly failed to speak of – to wit, Tony is in the final stages of preparing a book on Wodehouse’s straight theatre. It will be published later this year, so do stay tuned for further details, as this book will contain a lot of new and fascinating information for PGW aficionados regarding Our Hero’s theatre work. I should mention that Tony has spent more than ten years researching and pulling together this important new addition to Wodehouse scholarship. It promises to be a corker of a book. (If interested in getting a copy, apply to Tony at tonyring@pgwodehousesociety.org.uk.)

Finally, it was time for the Entertainment, courtesy of John Voce and Peter Wear of the British Comedy Company, who performed an adaptation of the foreword to PGW’s Over Seventy. Peter took on the role of the narrator (that is, Wodehouse), while Jon played – the footnotes. Yes, that’s right, he voiced the footnotes, in a hilarious dialogue with Wodehouse that is very hard to describe – you had to be there. Think of a literary cross-talk act, and you get the general idea – or simply read the foreword to Over Seventy. The adaptation was very cleverly written by Paul Kent, and I can only add that if you weren’t at the meeting, you missed something very special. The laughter really shook the rafters.

Following their brilliant performance, John and Peter were presented with well-deserved copies of PG Wodehouse: A Life in Letters. Paul then closed the official part of the meeting with thoughts regarding entertainments at future meetings. One idea is to put on a balloon debate, wherein debaters representing Wodehouse characters would argue why they shouldn’t be thrown out of a balloon. Paul asked for volunteers for such a debate; if you’re reading this and think you might want to take part, email him at paulkent@pgwodehousesociety.org.uk.

The official part of the festivities concluded, many of us continued to linger on for some time afterwards, enjoying drinks and conversation with like-minded souls, all of us united in admiration of the finest writer of the English language who ever lived. Not that we’re at all prejudiced, mind you!

Next meeting: July 10 at The George, 213 Strand, from 6 pm.

A Wodehouse impostor and his footnotes:

Peter Wear (right) and John Voce