Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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January 10, 1997

And thus one begins yet another year of providing refined and dignified advice to the unwashed masses.

One is always optimistic, at the start of the year, that one's correspondents will have made resolutions to perform the following ministrations to themselves each morning: to affix to themselves the braces of good etiquette, to daub themselves with eau du self-restraint, and to gird their loins--if one might be permitted the liberty to use so intimate a word--with the pantaloons of propriety. As the months drag on, however, and one reads more and more of one's letters, it becomes more and more apparent to oneself that the average orangutan has a better schedule of mental grooming.

"Then how, Sir Charles," one hears the clarion cry of one's legion of adherents (who, one has it upon the most authoritative of authorities, are so numerous that were each one merely the smallest speck of sand, the volume would be enough to irritate the skivvies of Paul Prudhomme himself), "How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? How do you select the fine vintage from the vins ordinaires? In short, how do you pluck a few letters from rank obscurity into publication and instant fame from the massive volume of correspondence that you receive twice daily from the pathetic hordes who look to you and you alone for guidance?"

Picture: Small Wonder The Volga's Not A Tourist AttractionOr rather, giving a vague nod in the direction of Dame Truth, they actually say, "Hey Sir Charles, how come you don't pick mine?" But one's readers fail to understand that the process of picking representative letters is not simple. One does not plunge one's hand into the stack, 'bingo'-style, and draw out a grubby, sticky envelope.

Oh no! One's readers should understand that there are what professional writers call the 'eternal verities'. There is a certain ineffable universal truth, in some missives one receives. There is an aching representative quality so human, so naked, so undeniable in its cry to be heard. . . . Of course, one discards these sorts of letters immediately. There is no sense in meddling with that literary nonsense. Besides, those eternal verities give one, as one's quaint young gardener boy is wont to say, the 'hibby-jibbies'.

No, when one looks for certain qualities in one's correspondents, one seeks upliftment above all. One's own upliftment, that is. When one finishes reading a tender tale of woe--whether it be a plea for help after the death of a beloved one, or a cry for sympathy on a 'bad hair day', or a request for enlightenment, one desires above all to have that warm, fuzzy feeling within that bespeaks of the certainty that no matter what one's own personal problems may be, they are at least not as bathetic, ludicrous, and inane as the problems of commoners.

One also particularly enjoys, as observant readers will notice in this week's installment, letters written by garlicky foreigners. How quaint their idiom! How certain their grasp of the greatest of all tongues known to man! How glad they make one to be a British citizen and not some inhabitant of a foreign land where they wear but tatters of clothing and have even more tattered common sense.

But one admits, one especially has a tender spot in one's heart for the weaker s-x. A letter from a damsel in distress will always bring a tear to one's eye, and frequently a spot upon one's breeches. (From the tear, of course.) How sweet are a young lady's feminine fears! How abidingly fragrant her implorings! One never feels anything but fatherly towards these budding blossoms of impending womanhood, of course. It would not do, otherwise. One is certain that there are vile predatory men--one hesitates to use the word 'gentleman' in this context--who would not hesitate to lure the young lady into his web of trickery and sensual delight, who would allow their thoughts to linger over the mental image of the tender woman's bosom, heaving, heaving, heaving with anguish, vibrating with passion, rising and falling and rising and falling in a rhythmic pattern of heated, wanton gasps . . . oh, to be that sweet bodice, tied only with a single lace, holding its sweet sweet treasure within! Oh, to be a whale bone in the lady's corset, nuzzling against her . . . ahem. At any rate, one is certain that there are men like that, but one is, of course, not one of them.

Yes, it is for these reasons that we read the agony columns, is it not? After all, it's certainly not for the advice.

Still feeling somewhat optimistic about the New Year, although one will just see how long that lasts, one remains, as ever,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: Small Wonder The Volga's Not A Tourist Attraction

Mikhail writes:

Sir Charles Grandiose,

Am Mikhail Grigoriev, of Russian Navy. Situation in Russia terrible. However, am Captain of ballistic missile nuclear submarine Novograd, so still get special privileges. Such as Internet service, when submarine in port. I have made to try to learn proper English by studying your weekly column. Is good stuff!

Have always liked Englishmen, even during cold war. When I was cadet at Naval Academy, Kruschev himself told us that just eight hydrogen bombs could destroy England. Eight! Why, Novograd alone carry sixteen missiles. Is frightening. Such a horrible thing that would be, yet so easily done. Our world is sad. Russian people go hungry, old people's pensions worthless, but still Russia has nuclear submarines, so we still go on patrol half of year. Such a waste. Yeltsin sick, no one in charge. Any Russian commander could launch missiles on his own! Terrible that country great as Russia should fall so low.

Sorry if Mikhail stray from point. Point is, column is good. Now I have question. Officers and crew of Novograd not paid for three months. Gospodin Charles, you are rich and generous man. Can you buy officers and crew of Novograd 80 cases of vodka (prefer "Finlandia" brand)? Will pay back every ruble as soon as Russian Navy pay us back salary.

Mikhail in Murmansk

P.S. Novograd sets sail in two weeks for six month station in North Sea east of Scotland. Crew and I eager to hear from you on Internet before we leave. Thank you.

Sir Charles replies:

Dosvedanya, you babushka-wearing bolshevik,

Flattered as one is to have one's personal prose studied by a herd of yoghurt-eating mustachioed Russkies, one is affronted at the blatant extortion of a mediocre brand of distilled spirits that, no doubt, your borscht-belching brethren will guzzle within forty-eight hours of receiving. Oh, one knows how that little game works. One fine gentleman hastily sends the submarine vodka. Another sends a six month supply of caviar and melba toast. A third supplies loose, wanton, gyrating, scantily clad dancing girls. And so on.

Ahem. Actually, in the spirit of international good will, one believes one will supply that fine Finlandia to the crew. Tell one, do you offer tours to interested parties, commander?

Boning up on the history of the Czars, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

A Postscript: One would appreciate it, when Commander Mikhail is on duty, if the missiles were to point only in the direction of France. After all, no person of true quality actually enjoys Paris.

Pierre DePue writes:

Belated Seasons Greetings Mon Cher Charles,

I must beg your forgiveness for not writing sooner. As purveyor of the world's finest arte d'erotique, dedicated to customer satisfaction, one expects to see the customary holiday increase in demand, and I have been inundated with the responsibilities of the season. I, of course, tip my hat to you. Your personal referrals to 'see the garlicky little Frenchman' have meant a record-breaking year.

The gentry's demand for my wares seems to be insatiable. My only regret was that I did not foresee the popularity of this year's top seller, 'Spank Me Eleanor'. I could have sold thousands! But I ask you, who could have guessed that a life size, anatomically correct, blow-up doll that moaned 'More, more, more!' when its derriere was struck, would have been this year's 'Pet Rock'? C'est la vie. (By the way, I personally made sure that your order was delivered to the Fishampton Mailboxes-R-Us address before the holiday. Bon appetit!)

I do have an announcement to make. I have taken a new employee into the firm. With the increase in demand, I cannot let the level of personal service, customer satisfaction and quality of the product fall. With that in mind, I have named Madame Babbette Au Jourdui, as Regional Manager. Madame Babbette has worked under me for the last year (tirelessly) and has dedicated herself to the level of satisfaction that my customers demand. She will be in charge of our new line of Personal Restraint Products. I hope you would be so kind as to grant her a few moments of your precious time for a private showing. She has heard my many stories and is anxiously looking forward to meeting the legendary bon viveur.

Her selling skills may need some honing but her commitment to satisfaction is beyond reproach. 'Je guarantee it.'

Best regards, Pierre (Pepi) DePue

Sir Charles replies:


In our unfortunate association--purely imagined on your part, I am afraid, you have taken many liberties I would not have allowed most men. You have sent one publications through the post that, were they to fall into the hands of a Holy Man, would condemn him to the fiery pits. You have delivered to one's residence a thirty-five volume autographed 'autobiography' of a woman who, if she had truly done everything she had claimed on a day-by-day basis, would surely have to lived to the ripe old age of seven hundred and three. And on a more recent basis, you have put the Fishampton post building into an uproar. When this 'Spank Me Eleanor' contraption of yours made its way across the (admittedly ancient) conveyor belt, the mechanical cries of 'More, more, more!' convinced the dim-witted wage-earners that a live person had mailed herself to one, resulting in yet another a little 'talk' from the postmistress.

In short, sirrah, one here once again publicly disclaims any familiarity with your oleaginous French self, your 'assistants', or your highly-touted 'products'. Fini. Kaput. It is done.

(One supposes, however, that if one must continue receiving the vile catalogues you continue to send, well, that will be one's cross to bear.)

With a firm farewell, and definitely not a mere au reservoir, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: Well, At Least This Part's Jolly

Distressed writes:

Dear Sir,

Having perused the literature in your December preamble, I take with great disdain the manner by which you refer to the oh so jolly residence of Weston-Super-Mare. If you had ever taken the time to visit this resort of such stunning beauty you would surely see that the residents are far above the menial task of packing Harrods hampers. Surely this pitiful task befalls those who reside in Milton-Keynes!!

I trust your apology to the residents of Weston-Super-Mare will be gracious and rapid in delivery.

Yours Faithfully,
Mr Fortisque-Smythe
(Distressed in Weston-Super-Mare)

Sir Charles replies:

Mr. Fortisque-Smythe,

Of course one apologizes. Most humbly. See how one abases oneself before you, on bended knee, one's eyes bedewed by a moisture that bespeaks of true, honest, vivid sentiment. See how one even creases one's brow in an approximation of sincerity!

What one really meant to say, of course, is that the residents of 'jolly' Weston-Super-Mare would be only truly suited at Harrod's cleaning out the gerbil cages.

Most gratified to have made the apology, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

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