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)

The July 2017 meeting of The P G Wodehouse Society (UK) will, I suspect, be long remembered by an intimate circle of attendees (writes Jen Scheppers)

Wodehouse Society Confounds the Stuffed Eel Skin with Progressive Quiz Night

In years to come, we shall hail each other with hearty “What Ho’s” and say:

“Do you remember that bit when the gang of fiends in human shape burst into the room and tried to take it by force?”

“Rather! Remember how marvellously the Chair stared them down, without even a lorgnette?”

“And do you remember when a certain lady member claimed it was the first time she'd been evicted from a pub, and how everyone politely shuffled their feet and pretended to believe her.?”

“I shall tell my grandchildren about it.”

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I attended my first meeting of the Wodehouse social on 12 July 2017, along with several other newcomers and international guests. We, along with a cast of regulars, were treated to the Society’s first progressive quiz night.

It began along traditional lines at the Savoy Tup. Chairman Hilary Bruce opened the meeting with parish notes that included information on Wooster Sauce now being produced in colour, encouragement to renew our membership of the Society now, an update on the status of the Society’s new tie, and the news that the Society now has over 500 followers on Twitter. I was introduced as the new Chair of the International Wodehouse Association, and I spoke briefly about what the IWS has been and will be up to in its mission to use social media as a means of reaching out to younger people. (See Wooster Sauce, September 2017, for more on all these items.)

Then Entertainment Impresario Paul Kent took over and commenced the quiz, which began innocently enough. My team had confidently scribbled a Pshrimp and Ptarmigan alongside Question 1, and the feast of reason and flow of soul were in full swing. But …

It has been well said that in this world there is always something. A moment before, Lady Wetherby had been feeling completely contented, without a care on her horizon. It was foolish of her to have expected such a state of things to last, for what is life but a series of sharp corners, round each of which Fate lies in wait for us with a stuffed eel-skin?

(Uneasy Money)

The Savoy Tup is a modern pub and, like other modern pubs, its proprietors no doubt feel the pressure to be innovative. The Tup’s latest innovation, if the events of 12 July are any indication, is to tickle things up with a bit of free entertainment.

The quiz was just reaching a critical stage, involving pale parabolas and fretful porpentines. The air was tense – practically a pea-souper – of members biting pencils and exchanging meaningful looks. It was into this atmosphere of intellectual fervour that a certain anonymous group arrived with the claim that they had booked the room.

To say that the Society members present were unappreciative of this departure from the original bill of entertainment would be unfair. We watched and listened with rapt attention. Personally, I was inclined to be sympathetic. Other groups are entitled to their leisure pursuits, like the rest of us. Although their art tended to stress the dramatic, with the lead character rather overplaying his part, we were a model audience displaying great suavity and tact. You can’t beat suavity!

Much like Poppy Kegley-Bassington of Kings Deverill (“one of those girls who do rhythmic dances at the drop of a hat and can be dissuaded from doing them only with a meat-axe”) the central character was disinclined to cease performing. His work had a message, and he wanted us to get it. He put the full weight of his personality into the thing, demonstrating excellent grounding in the Three Ps of Performance: Pitch, Projection, and Pestiferousity.

This led to some polite disagreement between the central artiste and his audience, who were only interested in his message if it contained hints as to the name of Angus McAllister’s predecessor as head gardener at Blandings Castle, or whether Frankenstein had been a Harrow man.

A polite appeal was made to the proprietor of the Tup, who decided in favour of the artiste’s right to self-expression, so we took our beverages and half chewed pencils, and made a dignified exit to the historic, very Wodehousian, surroundings of The Strand. Fortunately, the sprightly membership of The PG Wodehouse Society is equally able to innovate and adapt. It was a fine evening and the answer to Question 14 (Charlotte Mulliner in ‘The Unpleasantness at Bludleigh Court’, if you missed it) could be appreciated just as readily in the fine outdoors.

This sort of discombobulation might have thrown a lesser society off its stride. The Florence Cray Society is well known for creating disturbances in venues across the city. Members of the Rodney Spelvin Society, a jittery lot, scatter home to their padded cells at the slightest provocation. But the Wodehouse Society bats on! A successful second innings was conducted around the corner at the Coal Hole.

I can’t wait to do it again!

– Jen Scheppers

A quiet after-note: It turned out that the intruders’ group had booked the pub for the next evening, and the Society should not have been forced to remove, given that we had a legitimate booking for the entire evening. Another venue for our meetings is being searched or assiduously.

Members gather in the Strand for the resumption of the quiz (picture: Jen Scheppers)

Paul Kent tots up the quiz results, with hopeful members looking on (picture: Elin Woodger Murphy)

The winning team with their prizes (picture: Peter Read)