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Monday, August 03, 2009

The way we were, the way we are

I’m bound to say that, as a general rule, my idea of a large afternoon would be to keep as far away from a village school-treat as possible. A sticky business. But with such grave issues toward, if you know what I mean, I sank my prejudices on this occasion and rolled up. I found the proceedings about as scaly as I had expected. It was a warm day, and the hall grounds were a dense, practically liquid mass of peasantry. Kids seethed to and fro. One of them, a small girl of sorts, grabbed my hand and hung on to it as I clove my way through the jam to where the Mothers’ Sack Race was to finish. We hadn’t been introduced, but she seemed to think I would do as well as anyone else to talk to about the rag-doll she had just won in the Lucky Dip, and she rather spread herself on the topic.

‘I’m going to call it Gertrude,’ she said. ‘And I shall undress it every night and put it to bed, and wake it up in the morning and dress it, and put it to bed at night, and wake it up next morning and dress it –‘

I cut the pestilential infant off in mid-flow. The situation which had developed was, I realised, one to be viewed with the gravest concern and alarm. Visions of Bertram languishing in durance vile swam before my eyes.

‘Now look here, young lady’, I said, extricating myself from her grip and fixing a basilisk-like gaze upon her, ‘Are you aware that firstly you have no business wandering around unaccompanied by a carer, teacher or other responsible adult, secondly I haven’t got police clearance for contact with children, let alone conversations about naked dolls, and thirdly any form of physical contact between you and self is totally inappropriate? Don’t they teach you anything about Stranger Danger at this beastly school of yours? I suppose the next thing will be that you’ll want me to take your picture, forsooth! Kindly make yourself scarce before you get me arrested.’

[Even the most imperishable classics may need updating to make them appropriate to changed and more enlightened cultural contexts. Here Mr Grumpy (inspired partly by this) gives the Master a helping hand in The Inimitable Jeeves.]