Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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6 October, 1995

As the mighty oaks at Blandsdown turn a wonderful shade of burnished gold--so reminiscent of the colour of the old money coursing through the veins of its inhabitants--one's thoughts turn away from the idleness of the 'dog days' of summer, towards the more fulfilling pursuits of shorter days and longer nights.

One refers, of course, to this Saturday, when Colonel Jambly's "Memoirs of the Raj Chutney Parade" will once again be held on the broad, neatly-trimmed lawns of Blandsdown. Though senile, confined to a wheeled chair, and somewhat moist from his own drool, Colonel Jambly has lost none of the joie de vivre and sparkle that marked his time as leader of the 'Purge of Panja' in service to General Sandringham of the Raj, during those heady years in India.

"Sir Charles" one hears one's legion of ardent fans exclaim, "Is it true that your entire family has agreed to be judges this year? Surely you are too gracious! Won't the strain of the responsibility be very great?" Fear not, one's admirers (alarming in numbers, though timid in spirit). We have passed judgement before, and we will pass judgement again. The ability to opine at length with nary a thought is a well-known Grandiose trait. We shall despatch our duties with but a wave of our perfectly manicured hands.

One's ward, the gentle and delicate Penelope Windsor-Smythe, will grace the parade by adjudicating the Quince and Lime Pickle category. One does so worry about her dainty system . . . and the action that such a quantity of fibre could do to it (with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, young Penelope shares the Bowels Royale). Yet she is a trouper, and the pride of the county.

This year, the Lady Felicia has also been asked by the contestants to judge the Sour Chutneys and Prune Preserves. As the majority of entries in this category are usually submitted by Edna Thistle (Mrs.), one must assume that the request is that woman's awkward attempt at apology and reconciliation upon realizing her culpability in the Fork Luncheon Debacle. One watches in awe, as the Lady Felicia emerges triumphant while this battle of wills runs to its conclusion.

A groundswell of popular demand has resulted in both a new category and a new adjudicator. 'Tis true, this year one tosses one's hat into the ring to bring mature taste buds to bear in the analysis of Potted Meats and Savoury Jellies. The mere thought of the task ahead brings an anticipatory tear to mon oeuil.

One counts the days. Truly, one counts the days.

As a footnote, one was heartened on Tuesday, when one saw Lord Downy of Charmes walking upright again, with longer strides. One remembers a time--mere days ago--when more than a limping shuffle was beyond him, after his unsuccessful bid for the attentions of that lovely hothouse flower, Miss Latina N. Dragge. One wishes him the best in his continued recovery.

Until next week, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: Desireth thou a toffee, little lady?

Magister Artium writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

I have followed with admiration your excellent behavior as paterfamilias to the dear Miss Windsor-Smythe. And I could not help but wonder, have you considered retaining for her a private Latin tutor? In these days when the common folk have abandoned even the pretense of classical learning, of course, it is only in the halls of the not merely cultured but blooded that a young and erudite scholar such as myself can hope to (or would wish to!) find a position worthy of the status of his subject matter.

As, I'm sure, you're an excellent latinist yourself, you will appreciate the opportunity to have your young ward educated in all the artes classicae, and in the high and noble ancient poets, such as Ovid (Ars Amatoria), Catullus, Apuleius, and of course the noble Petronius, author of the Satyricon (not called Arbiter Elegantiae for nothing). I'm sure that private instruction in the nuances of these fine authors will serve to enrich and broaden the young lady's education as befits one of her rank; all necessary reference works, including my 1853 edition of the Glossarium Eroticum Linguae Latinae, would of course be available to her perusal, under my guidance.

Noble as the British tongue is, there are certain things best discussed in Latin.

Hoping you will consider this rare opportunity,
Sperens me puellam osculaturum et fortasse amplecturum et quidnon fututurum (translated, of course, "your loyal and humble servant,")
Magister Artium

Sir Charles replies:


Oh, 'tis rare that today's youth--particularly a young scholar--recognizes the value of breeding and blood! One was most impressed, most impressed indeed, by the correspondent's loquacity.

One was exposed to che bella lingua antiqua oneself in the schools, of course. Ah, the charms of Pliny! Old Cicero! And of course, that master of the Latin tongue, Homer. Rome has ne'er seen his like again.

Naturally, one did not carry one's studies too far. One was destined for far greater things than scholarship--a title, an estate, and a Gainesborough. However, one finds oneself unexpectedly sentimental at the prospect of employing a tutor for young Penelope Windsor-Smythe (who is used to tutors, being eighty-fifth in succession for the throne). Especially a tutor who will expose her to the excitement of the vibrant tongue. A tutor who will force the lass to swot up on the subject until she is its mistress. If the correspondent feels he is up to the task, one will accept him on a trial basis . . . say, for eight or nine months.

Anticipating excitedly the correspondent's references, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Concerned writes:

Dear Sir Charles

We suspect that our son is taking drugs. Whatever shall we do?

Really Worried in Wellston

Sir Charles replies:

One exhorts the correspondents to rejoice in the miracles of modern science. When one's heir, Chauncey Grandiose, informed us that he occasionally partook of drugs (designer pharmaceuticals, as he called them), the Lady Felicia and oneself were thrilled, as never had we seen him in brighter form or finer spirits.

Similarly, there are drugs, and there are drugs. The Lady Felicia is fond of the Golden Lozenges her physician dispenses to her in volume, and one finds that she is most approachable in the half hour after she has ingested one. One indulges oneself in a pinch of laudanum when one has the insomnia, as well. Our household has also found that ordering Cook to lace the servants' stew with saltpeter has reduced to a minimum any friskiness that might be expected in the kitchen of a large manor such as Blandsdown.

However, should the correspondent's spawn be one of those hemp-sniffing, rogaine-smoking 'beatnecks' that one hears reports of, one recommends immediate incarceration at the mental health facility of choice, particularly one with electric shock and illiberal visiting policies. It will be better in the end, one assures you.

Helpfully, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

One passes the quill to one's wife, the admirable Lady Felicia.

Studious writes:

Dear Lady Felicia,

Your life sounds so la-di-dah and elegant! The girls and me were sitting in Wanda's 'Salon Le Do' the other day looking at RoyaltyWatch! magazine and don't we wish we had grand titles and money and culture and stuff like you. How'd you end up with a catch like Sir Chuck anyway? Did your parents fix you up from birth, like in Downstairs Upstairs?

Tell-all in Tulsa!

The Lady Felicia replies:


No, 'twas not the machinations of one's parents that led to one's marriage. 'Twas Fate herself.

How fondly I recall the picnics in August Bank Holiday, the summer Sir Charles began courting me. Dame Fortune smiled upon us. The lady to whom his family had originally suggested he pay suit came down with a mysterious ailment mere weeks before the prestigious Lawn and Country Bowls Under-The-Chestnut Aristocrat Pique-Nique. Concomitant to that event, the Greeny-Grass Bonny Lass Madrigal Barbeque at which I had been invited to speak--one of our family, the Windovers of course, always cut the ribbon for the egg and spoon races--had me without an escort. What bon chance!

Never had sorrow one seen a more lugubrious lass, than when, upon the cusp of the ensuing soiree, this author had occasion to visit with the unfortunate girl who had set her sights, so unwaveringly tenacious, upon Sir Charles Grandiose, the event's most eligible bachelor. (One will not name names, as the unfortunately woman still lives in the vicinity. Let us call her 'E.T., Miss'.) Oh, what very palpable pain was seen in her eyes, as she bent over the bedside bucket of sick.

It was at that time that Sir Charles, always the perfect gentleman, took my hand and led me away, saying simply, "There are certain things a Lady should never need see". This author responded with but a modest smile. As I took one last look over my shoulder, I watched my erstwhile rival use the remainder of her day's allotment of strength to heave the unmentionable bucket my way. Yet, unable to let go of the handle, she swung the unfortunate implement back upon her ire-enveloped brow.

Of course, after that unfortunate tableau, Sir Charles could never have married E.T., Miss. A pity, how a year later she was forced to marry beneath her station (and pray believe me when I attest that her station was never too high to begin with).

Lady Felicia

And now, a word from young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, eighty-fifth in line for the throne.

Picture: Vanity, Thy Name Is Woman

Tabitha writes:

Dear Penny:

HELP! I think You can sympathize with my plight. You see, I have two parents, one apiece of a mother and a father, just like you do. And they never let me do ANYTHING! This college guy asked me if I could go to a frat party with him & they said over their dead bodies, which I was almost ready to arrange, if you know what I mean. How can I sneak out of the house and meet with Roger (a real babe!) without 'em knowing? (He's not the college guy. That was someone else. We're done now.)

Tabitha in Teaneck

PS What is your take on the issue of makeup? I'm thirteen and my mother won't let me wear mascara or blush.

Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:


One fears that one cannot sympathize with your plight, as one is an only child, forbidden by cruel fate from seeking refuge in the tender embrace of a brother. How one's lashes tremble with unshed tears, as one considers the love one has lacked. How one's heart quivers in one's bosom for you, that you are forbidden as I am, this fraternal affection!

With this in mind, one has arrived upon a solution. Surely your dear parents will not begrudge such a reunion as one proposes to affect. One fondly recall last week's pantomime on the Strand, wondrously executed, in which the heroine, having laced one's guardians' after-dinner liqueur with a soporific, purloined the keys to the manor. Employing a long silken cord, one bound the keys and caused it to fall from one's window. One's companion, waiting in the grounds below, retrieved the keys, in quick succession, he let himself into the house, past the sleeping guardians, up the palatial staircase, and into one's willing arms. One could not but weep at the glorious consummation of Mime!

Hoping to have been of some assistance, I remain,
Penelope Windsor-Smythe

PS: One fears that if at the tender age of thirteen, one's correspondent requires the artifice of cosmetics, surely there is something amiss in her daily regime. One recommends an exhilarating nature walk in the woods; or, for a more drastic cure, a long, relentless ride on horseback.

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