Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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May 9, 1997

One must thank one's audience for the brief respite last week. The prospect of a Labour government gave the family Grandiose the vapours. But we shall put that aside. One firmly believes that if one ignores a thing for long enough, it will go away. After all, it worked with 'Fergie.'

But one digresses. One has received several letters from readers (and one has it upon the greatest of authorities that one's readers are so numerous that were they each a single dried pea placed beneath the famed twenty mattresses upon with the princess sleeps. . . . But one can see this analogy will not work. One has heard Diana snore. One suspects one could throw a flannel over a bed of spikes and she would lose no sleep) complaining that one is too 'mean.' "Sir Charles," they say. "We love you so. Who could not? But sir, if you'd just soften up a little. . . ." Of course, one throws such reprehensible suggestions in the fire grate. But then this week one received a most interesting offer from a publisher. Yes, an American publisher. One need not name names. Let one reproduce the salient bits:

Dear Sir Charles:

We've been reading your column for some time now with an eye to producing a mass-market paperback. . . (and so on) . . . choice . . . wit . . . stunning . . . perception . . . and . . . charm . . . (Of course one must excise a bit, but one assures one's readers that the words were all part of one sentence or another.)

Of course, it would be much easier to market said work if--and let us be frank here, Sir Charles--you were a bit nicer to your correspondents. Telling them that they 'have as much wit and charm as a cinder block just used for a pissoir by a mixed-breed pooch' is borderline rude, don't you think? And surely speculating that a correspondent has 'Mexican jumping beans for brains' is libelous.

We feel a deal could be made, Sir Charles, if we notice a marked improvement in your attitude over the next few columns.

To which one can only reply: Oh, you do, do you?

What a popular thing it is, these days, to be 'nice,' particular in the Americas. "Have a nice day," they say there, assuming smiles so thin and transparent that were they clothing, they would be absolutely banned for indecency. "Gee, you look nice!" they exclaim with greasy obsequiousness, and then the moment one turns one's back, they whisper terrible things. And then on the talk shows: "He was convicted of beating the three wives to whom he was married simultaneously, but he's such a nice boy!"

Picture: Now There Was A Good Queen Nice, nice, nice. Who needs niceness?

Was Queen Elizabeth a 'nice' woman? Why no, she certainly was not. She chopped off more heads than a fishmonger on a busy day, all while expanding the greater glory of our nation. Was poor Richard the Third a 'nice' man? Certainly not after the bad press following his little experiment in discipline with his nephews. Was Queen Victoria a 'nice' queen? Why, certainly not. A flatulent queen, yes. But certainly not 'nice'. Was Margaret Thatcher a 'nice' Prime Minister? Gracious, no, and one still has the slap scar to prove it. (It was an honest mistake. One thought one was pinching the upholstery of the ottoman.)

Was Lucrezia Borgia 'nice'? Why certainly not. And do we remember her younger, nicer sister, Fifi? While Lucrezia attended her parties, enrapturing men with her magnificent eyes and hearty, lusty laugh, Fifi was in the background, wasn't she, nervously wringing her hands and saying thing like, "Oh, she really doesn't mean to poison you, sir!" and "Oh, Lucy, not another batch of stewed nightshade again!" Poor Fifi. Poor, stupid, nice, dead Fifi.

But we don't remember Fifi, do we? Before we all go scuttling to our histories, let one emphatically say: No, we do not. We remember those personages throughout history who were bold enough, when the occasion called for it, to be unpleasant. We remember those who were unafraid to be unpopular, in order to be Right. They stand out, they command our attention.

Thus the inevitable conclusion: If one receives a letter from a drivelling idiot from time to time who needs to be put in his place, one will do so with glee. 'Nice' is for adolescents who vainly wish to be universally admired. With this particular baronet--a baronet destined for greatness in the memory of the human race, modest though he may be--what one sees, is what one regrets.

No. Wait. That is not quite right. What one seizes, is what one gets. There. That is much better.

Until next week, one remains, as always,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: Ah Oui, Si Bon

Pierre DePue writes:

Mon Cher Charles,

In an effort to expand the global reach of Pierre DePue Enterprises. I embarked on a world wide marketing blitz. Disaster! I am arrested! I sit in a stinking jail cell, in a stinking country, stinking! I have been treated like a common criminal. I sit in a jail cell with the most unscrupulous characters ever to infest the earth. (Although, some of them have become franchise owners.) It is an outrage. There has been a terrible error. Arrested for Distribution of Pornography? There is no justice. Don't these people know the difference between smut and Art d'erotique? Quelles buffoons!

Mon cher, cher, ami, Charles. As a man who has also been flattened by the runaway wheels of justice, I beg you to help me with this unpleasant situation. The warden (a sadist) has forbidden any contact with the outside world. If you received this letter, it is the result of my, so called, attorney's (Mr. Chico Gonsalvez of Gonsalvez and Gonsalvez) return to reality from his extended cocaine binge.

To proceed at this point, I will need a substantial amount of hard currency (please use American dollars, $20,000) for the customary bribes. Do not give the money to Mr. Gonsalvez. The last of my discretionary funds were sucked through Mr. Gonsalvez's deviated septum, putting me in this vile situation. I suggest a solicitor of your choosing (First Class airfare) to handle all financial transactions. Mr. Gonsalvez will know the appropriate officials whose filthy palms must be greased.

I must also ask that a contingency plan be prepared. One cannot predict the outcome of even the best placed bribes with these savages. I suggest a small, well armed, highly trained force of commandos to storm the prison. I suggest you consult the "Services Offered" section of Soldier of Fortune Magazine for recruits. A midnight attack with diversionary explosions and automatic weapons fire should do the trick. A helicopter might add a nice touch, as well. I will be in the solitary confinement area, under a bunk.

I understand that I am asking a lot of you, my good friend. I will immediately repay all debts incurred upon release. I will also remain always and forever in your service for helping me in this time of need. Please hurry, Sir Charles. I do not want to become anybody's "bitch boy".

Your Friend,
Pierre DePue
Federal Prison
Bogota, Columbia

Sir Charles replies:

Dear Frenchie,

So we're in le clapper, are we? Quelle pity. A word of advice, old chap. Don't drop le soap.

Always happy to dismiss one's unfavourite purveyor of les magazines naughty, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Rodney writes:

Dear Sir Charles Grandiose,

Just last evening, dear Twila (wife of thirty years) called me to the kitchen where she was preparing another batch of her delectable Prune and Cashew Compote in Horseradish Sauce. She showed me a copy of the Lady Felicia's comments on Peterson's Perspiration-Pruf Pit Pomade, and said, "You know, Rodney dear, how my personal daintiness suffers whilst making these delicacies you so like. Could you possibly obtain a packet of Peterson's Perspiration-Pruf Pit Pomade for me?"

I went at once to our usual chemist, the Jolly Mariner here on the high street in Weston-super-Mare and asked for a packet. Much to my surprise, Gordon, the chief chemist, became livid and began to sputter. When he had regained his composure, I asked whatever could be the matter. He related that I had been the eighty-seventh person that evening to enquire regarding Peterson's Perspiration-Pruf Pit Pomade, and that so far as he could determine, neither he nor the wholesale chemists with whom he deals had any supply of the product.

When I asked if there was some other source from which I might obtain the product, he began to splutter again and to make threatening gestures. Knowing where I am not wanted, I left. But now I am at a loss as to how to proceed. Twila expects a packet of Peterson's Perspiration-Pruf Pit Pomade, and I have been unable to find one anywhere in Gloustershire. (Fortunately the Rover was returned from the repair depot last week.)

Can you advise, by return mail, of a chemist or other retail outlet which stocks Peterson's products and in particular their Perspiration-Pruf Pit Pomade? Failing that, have you the address of Peterson's home office, that I may enquire of them? I would not wish to make too much of it, but dear Twila is quite correct in her assessment of her personal daintiness after a round of marmalade boiling. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

Again trusting in your all-encompassing knowledge and generosity, I remain,
Rodney Henne-Pecke
The Hennery

Sir Charles replies:

My good Mr. Henne-Pecke,

Goodness gracious (and excuse one's strong Language, there). When one agreed to endorse products, one hardly knew that one was to be expected to become an expert on the vendors that carry them. Much less use them. And yet here one is, dispensing 'practical' information like a gum-chewing secretary. It goes against one's grain, one tells you. And then there are all those cases of Pit Pomade in the stables. . . .

Well, Mr. Henne-Pecke, out of a keen sense of duty (and an even keener desire to avoid future questions of the sort), one has determined that Peter's Perspiration-Pruf Pit Pomade is sold in the country's finest chemist's shops. Note the use of the word finest. Specifically, your lovely wife might find the product in Peterson's Prescription Palace of the tiny village of Poddington-on-Slossip in Cornwall, and additionally at Peterson's Perpetual Parlour of Periwigs and Prophylaxis in the (delightful, if remote) town of Dustcough Abbey in Mortshire.

One would have offered some of the cases from one's own stables, but the Lady Felicia and young Penelope Windsor-Smythe (who is, if one has not mentioned it of late, eighty-fourth in line for the throne) find it quite an effective repellant against small to medium-sized insects.

Still able to smell the concoction's curious floral scent (exactly what flower, one wonders . . . the giant flesh-eating sort from the Amazon?) even from a distance of several hundred yards, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Lester writes:

Picture: A Jolly Holiday at Weston-super-Mare Dear Charles,

Many thanks, old chap, for extolling the many virtues of this lovely town of Weston-super-Mare. You were absolutely right about Cheeke--I heard the Lady Godiva re-enactment was a huge disappointment this year; so happy I took your advice and avoided it. Heard some other member of our peerage made a laughing stock of himself as the judge.

As for myself, the locals gave me the great honour of acting as judge for their delightfully spiffing bathing beauty contest.

Your old chum,
Lester Smythe-Piggot

Sir Charles replies:

Dear Lester,

Many virtues of Weston-super-Mare? One extolled the many virtues of Weston-super-Mare? And precisely which virtues were those? The fact that the Ebola virus is not quite yet running rampant there? The fact that when a full moon rises over that seaside town, the inhabitants (most of them, anyway) refrain from beating their breasts, howling, and making a human sacrifice? Or are we speaking of Weston-super-Mare's singular virtue of restricting public nose-picking to every other Wednesday, Thursday, and Sun. . . .

Wait one moment. Did you say bathing beauty contest? At delightful and jolly Weston-super-Mare? An outright bathing contest with no horses, handwriting contests, or surprise entrants? Delightful, sunny, salt-water-and-funny Weston-super-Mare, one's favourite holiday spot?

Hoping the Council of W-s-M noticed that totally gratis and yet, one fancies, rather subtle endorsement, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week