Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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24 November, 1995

Tears! Melodrama! Words of passion and ire! One is not referring to the latest installment of a radio drama, but instead the last week at Blandsdown. It is true that the hallowed halls of this mighty manor have seen many a fray through the centuries--most notably the duel in 1721 between Lord Ulfden Grandiose and Sir Evelyn Locksley when both had been spurned by the questionable Barbara Boozly (also known as 'The Bulbous Bawd of Baker Street' by those 'in the know'). The blood stains are still visible on the floor of the gallery, for those who ask to see them. (One advises one's readers, the seething masses of them, that unlike many of the mightiest homes of this land, Blandsdown has not been nor ever will be acquired by the National Trust, and is not open to tourists. So do not ask.) Yet these contretemps were but a pittance, compared to the brawl that took place in the music room this very week.

Young Penelope-Windsor Smythe, afflicted by a 'female malady,' about which one did not care to question too closely, has for the past weeks done little else between her Latin Lessons but sit at her spinet and pluck out her favourite tunes with a single finger, occasionally transposing those few melodies written in a major key into the minor. Although the exercise has been wearing on the nerves of all those within earshot, one forgives the lass her moods. She is eighty-fifth in line for the throne, after all, and a finely born spaniel of the purest breeding (if one may employ a metaphor here) will always be more temperamental than a common-bred bitch.

An elegant segue, one thinks, to the next player in our little drama: Augusta Windover-Midden, visiting stepmother to the Lady Felicia and recent bane of the family's collective existence. This old harridan--one excuses oneself . . . one meant to employ the phrase 'shriveled termagant'--had attached herself like a limpet to the girl for the past several days, as if convinced the innocent young lass was up to No Good. One can attest from personal experience that five silent minutes in a room with the woman can be unbearable enough (N.B.: The Lady Felicia begs one to amend that estimate to three minutes. And she should know.), but several days of undivided attention from old 'Gusty' would drive a saint to drink.

Picture: O Fortuna!On the evening of the Lord's Day, as it passed, the family was collected in the music room after dinner to listen to young Penelope at the spinet. One read The Sermons of Mr. Grenville T. Wylie, Minister of the Church of Littlehampden 1843-1890: The Years of Strife while the Lady Felicia perused Fear of Flying (she has always had a phobia of aeroplanes), improving tracts both. Her stepmother, the harpy, who had been breathing heavily throughout the pages of Irrigation of the Colon: Five Easy Steps to Regularity, finally stood up, threw that fine pamphlet down, and proclaimed that if she would be forced to listen to 'The Happy Blacksmith' one more time it would be her last. Young Penelope burst into tears and proclaimed that such an arrangement would be just fine with her. "You saucy minx!" screeched the family she-devil. "I'll box your ears!" Young Penelope, her eyes impassioned with fury, invited her to try.

It was an invitation that 'Gusty' could not resist. She is somewhat a slow woman, however, owing to her girth, and by the time she had reached the vicinity of the spinet and grabbed for the girl's ear, young Penelope managed to club the woman with a vicious punch to the cheekbone with her right fist, following it up with a powerful jab under the jaw with the left. One wishes one could report upon the rest of the scene, but the Lady Felicia hastily escorted one from the room when one applauded vigorously as 'Gusty' lost consciousness.

One does not normally approve of such means to settle disagreements. But the old scold had it coming.

One told Augusta, once she had regained consciousness, that one would be sending young Penelope away to Bath in disgrace with the coming of the new year, which seemed to please her, and the two have been merely growling at each other from opposite corners of the room when they meet. But young Penelope has been begging to visit her cousin Lady Weeble-Able-Smythe for some weeks now, and is so happy at the impending visit that she has returned to playing 'The Happy Blacksmith' in its original major key.

Augusta, however, had her vengeance upon one. Oh yes. She forced one to--and readers, forgive one if one shudders, here--she forced one to watch the entirety of Princess Diana's interview with the BBC. Truly a more undeserved punishment one has never suffered!

Until next week, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Needing Assistance writes:

Dear Sir Charles:

Please help me. I have fallen in love with a man who has the most erratic behavior. One day I am the love of his life, the next week he could care less if he sees me. We are in this awful cycle. I need some sound advice on why I should break this cycle.

Needing Assistance

Sir Charles replies:


One most certainly does not advocate fitful, lawless outlawry in the spurious name of infatuation! Awful it may be, madam, but one should not take one's aggressions out upon the hapless swain's bicycle. It may be his only means of transportation to his minimally-waged position as 'fry chef' at the local chip shop.

If such wanton destruction of two-wheeled vehicles is the usual behaviour of the correspondent, one thinks it small wonder that the lad in question has his doubts about his association with her. Good day, madam!

Sternly, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Help! writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

I have this problem with my family and my boyfriend. Well, actually it is like this. I have been going with this guy for 1 year and 4 months now and right now everyone wanted me to break up with him, but I don't want to because I love him too much. I can't just let him go like that. To me it seem like love at first sight, and now everything just can disappear like that--my dream, my goals, and the person I really loved with all my heart.


Sir Charles replies:


One year and four months, did you say? One entire year and four months? Why, the very fact that neither of you has employed a 'handgun' upon the other in that time bodes for a future bright and brimming with promise.

Really. One is wearied by this endless talk of 'love,' whether it be at first sight, in the air, in the popular fictions, upon the telly, or even astride a bicycle. Were love so common and attainable, the popular forms of entertainment would not focus upon it so incessantly. (Much like money and privilege, two other subjects of which fictioneers are fond.)

As one of the gentry who is so well provided for that one's every whim might be answered with the ring of a small silver bell, one is in an enviable position to inform his readers (enthusiastic as they are numerous) that 'love' is not the thing upon which to set the foundation of an alliance. What is love? Chimerical, shadowy, mercurial love! Lauded by poets throughout the ages! But can a solid marriage be based upon the emotions aroused by a fleeting glance of a shapely ankle? Can it rest firmly upon the delusions of infatuated Youth? Can a solid marriage between inequals be built upon a snog in the cloak room of the British Museum?

One thinks not. A lasting, tempered alliance can only be built upon the following things:

1) Good hygiene. Ladies, brush your hair one hundred times an evening and a morning! Gentlemen, the sight of stray bits of pudding in the mustachios does little to inspire respect in a mate! One also advocates the changing of und-rg-rments on at least a twice-weekly basis, but one is progressive in this respect.

2) A rigid resistance to vulgarity. One understands that many husbands and wives, after years of familiarity to each other's peccadilloes, will--one's readers must excuse such bluntness--scratch themselves immoderately, expel bodily vapours and effluvium to create a miasma of odor, and pick their teeth after meals. This sort of laxity will not do. One is acquainted with a gentleman who once committed an error of this sort. After dinner, while sitting in the drawing room with his family, the fellow absent-mindedly rose and began to part with the words, "Excuse one. One must void." His wife and daughter (more properly, his ward) promptly fainted, of course, as ladies of quality are wont to do, and had to revived with salts. He has never again repeated the error. His wife still gives him a grave, level look from time to time, and he just knows she thinks of the incident.

3) Finally, sound genetic sense. That is, the ability to discern when one's bloodlines are of a quality fine enough to mingle and produce offspring, rather than a mere brood of common stock. Sadly, it is this quality that the majority of people lack.

Enough, then, with this notion of romance in one's alliances. Faugh! I cry, on love at first sight. Hormones, most likely--hormones that need to be stamped out!

Advising the correspondent to pay particular attention to item number three, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: Who, Indeed?Wondering writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

Who put the bomp in the bomp-bomp-bomp-sh-bomp? Who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong? Who put the dip in the dip-di-dip-di-dip? Who is that man--I'd like to shake his hand. He made my baby fall in love with me.


Sir Charles replies:


Some garlicky Frenchman, most likely, from the sound of it.

Dismissively, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

One's ward, young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, now answers one of the many letters from her literary admirers.

Sarah writes:

Dear Miss Penelope Windsor Smythe,

You would seem to be an unusually talented and lovely individual. I would dearly love to meet you and maybe help you work on your Great British Rulers Lick and Stick Trading Stamp collection. What color are you eyes and hair? How tall are you? How old are you? Please describe yourself in detail so I can close my eyes and think about you.

Sarah (your fan)

Thank you!

Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:

Dear Madam,

It is with regret that one must confess to one's correspondent that the Great British Rulers Lick and Stick Trading Stamp Collection has been rather insipid of late. One has heard rumours of a princely stamp surfacing in Kensington, but one fears the Lady C-m-ll- has precluded one in the chase. In the interim, one is toying with the idea of starting a Great British Dukes Lick and Stick Trading Stamp Collection. When the market becomes more flush, so to speak, one will certainly consider the kind offer of one's correspondent. One has been thinking, quite frankly, that one's stamps, when in full season, are far too numerous to lick alone.

Post scriptum: One has been compared to the beloved of Ivanhoe, the legendary Lady Rowena (though one is more petite of stature and one's eyes are a distinctly rare cornflower blue).

I remain,
Penelope Windsor-Smythe

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