The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week
June 27, 1997
A fortnight ago, one wrote a stunning precis upon no less than the Creation of the World by Our Most Holy And Revered Lord. And oh, how the letters poured in. "Sir Charles!" they exclaimed. "It is obvious that you have never read The Holy Bible! What right have you to tell Our Lord what to do?" Why, one received word that a group of common folk--Southern John the Baptists, or some such--voted to boycott one! One was flattered, of course, but friends, one is scarcely at a stage of life when one can truthfully be called a 'boy', though one retains one's youthful good looks, certainly.
One can only say the following to one's readers (and one has it upon an authoritative authority that they are so many in number that were each a strand of wool dyed an individual shade of day-glo colour and woven into a clan tartan, even the most avid Scotsman would hesitate before donning it): For what else did one attend no less than thirty-six of Great Britain's finest public schools? For what else did one matriculate at Balliol for no less than five months? For what else did one assume the weighty mantle of the baronetdom, than to criticise anyone up to and including The Creator Of Us All?
As for the other charge, that one has never read the Holy Bible, one has this learned, erudite response: Piffle!
Why, as a boy, one won fifth place in the local parish's Annual July Bank Holiday Toddlers And Tots Intercounty Bible Verse Competition. A solid fifth place! And one might add proudly, the three other contestants mostly likely cheated. Even at that tender age, one thrilled to the stories found in the Old Pestilent. Adam and Eve! Abraham and Isaac! Cain Unable!
One has always prided oneself on one's grasp of the Bible's drama. How one cheered to the story of little David and his battle with the giant, Golgotha! Oh, the tears one shed when Delilah shaved Samsonite and threw his locks into the fiery furnace where they did not perish because of the presence of the Lord! How one wept at the beneficence of Our Saviour when he transformed a few scraps of food into a massive fish and chips dinner for the masses! And in perhaps the most stirring story of all, how one panted when Lot fled the evil cities of Sodom and Gloccamorra to safety, leaving behind his wife to be turned into a salt cellar!
And then, when one is in a reflective mood, one turns to the more tender stories. Gentle Sarah, who encouraged her husband to consort with the hired help. The Virgin Mary, turned away from the best hotels of the region. And who could not benefit from the tale of Sweet Ruth, who encountered aliens in the corn?
One thinks one need say no more to justify one's love of and expertise in matters biblical. Whether it is a recitation of the Ten Commendments, or a recollection of the Sermon on the Mountie, or merely an impromptu recitation of the twenty-third Psalm ("I shall not want my lord to be a shepherd. . . ."), one has no equal.
Of course, the truly nice thing about winning fifth place in the Intercounty Bible Verse competition is that one never need read the (bloody long) book again.
With true reverence, one remains for yet another week,
The International Index of Absolutely Fabulous Poetry writes:
Dear Esteemed Occupant of Blandsdown,
We of the International Index of Absolutely Fabulous Poetry have reviewed your original poem--yes, YOUR POEM!--for our current International Index of Absolutely Fabulous Poetry Contest competition, and while your poem--yes, YOUR POEM!--was examined closely and critically by our panel of distinguished expert judges (many of whom have attended a college or university), we were so inundated by poems of superior wit, cleverness, aesthetic appeal, artistic expression, creative depth and/or imagery, originality, sensitivity, perkiness, legibility, sufficient postage, adherence to the 19 line limit, and various other ethereal poetic qualities too numerous to mention, we regret to inform you that your poem--yes, YOUR POEM!--did not actually win one of our prizes. However, rest assured that, thanks to your generous advance order of 300 copies of the book, it will indeed be published in our absolutely fabulous volume, DREAMS OF POETIC POSTERITY IN THE ESSENCE OF THE ETHEREAL SANDS OF TIME, VOL. 6, and that in itself is an accomplishment of which you can be proud.
However, we are honored to announce our winner, Otis Smedley, a chip shop employee from East Southwark, whose ethereal and sensitive poem, "Losing It," contained the immortal lines: "My watch fell from out my pocket/If I hadn't lost it, I could hock it." Our judges felt that the metaphor of losing one's watch represented the average person's inability to grasp the importance of time (especially the passage of time); contained references to certain universal human conditions such as poverty, alienation, humility, and powerlessness in the face of overwhelming odds; and was quite perky and catchy in its own right. Mainly, each of our judges, having lost something at one time or another, could relate to it and were impressed by its simplicity.
In second place is an anonymous poet, known to us only as "Colin B." We feel that he is no doubt a famous classical scholar who prefers not to flaunt his scholarship, since his poem seems to be fraught with obscure allusions to the return of Ulysses (though Ulysses himself is not directly mentioned. The poem seems to be written from the viewpoint of one of the suitors ('Oh, my fair Penelope/ my heart burns for love of thee' was the tip-off) who--there is some disagreement here by our judges (some of whom have actually attended a college or university)--is quite possibly Hephaestus, smith of the gods, for there are numerous "smithy" references ("Forged in the heat of wild desire/Our love is hotter than the fire" and something about "hammering all through the night." The only reference to an aging Ulysses is no doubt in the last line, "The thick old coot doesn't suspect a thing." How original to link a man who has been sailing for ten years to a type of duck! (Our judges were quick to spot the common element—water.) Colin B.'s poem is noteworthy for its classical references as well as its perkiness. The judges unanimously felt that the numerous classical references gave the contest a classy tone.
In third place was the short and snappy entry by Mrs. Millicent Dalrymple, a housewife from Dunwich, who penned the perky little poem, "Some say it's fate, but it's a mystery/Why we keep on repeating history./If we got it right the very first time/I wouldn't have a reason to write this rhyme." So simple, so profound, so thankfully short!
Your literary colleagues at the International Index of Absolutely Fabulous Poetry
(Personal note to Occupant of Blandsdown: It is obvious to all of us here at the International Index of Absolutely Fabulous Poetry that you have put a great deal of rather unusual effort into composing your poem--Oh, God! YOUR POEM!--and we would like you to know that in all our history of publishing, we have not quite seen anything to compare to it. Indeed, upon reading it, some of our judges succumbed to fits of weeping and were rendered quite unable to read any more poems for the rest of the week. As your poem--Augghhh! YOUR POEM!--is so very "different" from what we usually receive, we felt compelled to exempt it from competition altogether. We are sure you understand. Please note that we have pasted it with high-quality official library glue inside the back cover of DREAMS OF POETIC POSTERITY IN THE ESSENCE OF THE ETHEREAL SANDS OF TIME, VOL.6. (Please do not think that we deliberately intended the book jacket to completely obscure your poem. We like to think it merely marks your poem's--Gasp, Gag! YOUR POEM's--place, and thus makes it easier for you to find. After all, you did order a record number of copies of our anthology, so we naturally couldn't ignore your contribution.) We're unsure if we'll publish a DREAMS OF POETIC POSTERITY IN THE ESSENCE OF THE ETHEREAL SANDS OF TIME, VOL. 7, so do not send us any more poems at this time. Or in the ethereal future.
Sir Charles replies:
Dear Fishampton Lending Library:
How one realizes that one was remiss, all these years, in ignoring your pleas for assistance. Of course it is right that the village should have an expanded library. Of course it is right that the village should commune with the great authors of the ages (although not with George Eliot. One has recently heard that Mr. Eliot wore women's clothing when not writing his 'novel' about dental floss). Therefore, in lieu of the one hundred thousand pounds your library has requested, one is enclosing two hundred and ninety-nine copies of works poetical and posteric, not to mention essentially ethereal, for the Sir Charles Grandiose Memorial Wing.
Wondering why young Colin Bates is whooping in the yellow parlour, one remains,
My most esteemed Sir Charles,
Although I am certain that you have never felt such a want of material goods to force you into an occupation, your impeccable authority on all things relating to social class will allow you to answer this question.
I am an elite young man myself, but my parents, wishing to "build" my "character," have forced me to accept a job as a summer intern at a computer software company, until I enter University in two months. While the mind-numbing drudgery of the labour is not as objectionable as I thought, I am embarrassed to reveal my shameful occupation to my Public School friends.
What shall I tell them occupies me from the hours of eight in the morning until nine at night, sir?
Sir Charles replies:
Believe it or not, one's own father once forced one into brute labour.
Yes, one was a youth when one's Pater, one fateful morning, fixed one with a steely eye, after one had been diligently informing him of the Duties and Responsibilities of the Landed Gentry, in order to make one's case before asking to borrow the horsewhip to punish Millicent Simpley for calling one 'Pasty pasty rich boy.' One can remember how clearly he said "Is the boy still talking?" before he ordered one to go muck out the stables.
"Pater!" one said, shocked. "Surely we employ a number of servants to. . . ."
"Go!" he thundered. "And you'll be mucking out the stables for the rest of the summer, too!"
Of course, such happened to be the same, sorrowful, unfortunate day that Pater forgetfully took his electrical toaster into the bath with him. One nearly mucked out the stables in his hallowed memory, but frankly, as a father, he was not, to employ some 'slang,' all that 'hotsy-potsy.'
Educatively, one remains,
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