Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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August 17, 1998 Picture: I'm An Old Farm Hand...Few can deny the attractions of the warm weather. What can be finer, one asks, than a clear dawning summer's day, a brilliant blue sky, nature's canopy providing a cool shade, and the sounds of birds chirping to greet the new morn?

Apparently several readers agree. (And one has it upon an unshakable authority that one's readers are so many in number, that were each given a top hat and cane, the resulting kickline would stretch from the theatres of the West End across the ocean to the haunts of Broadway, sending Miss Liza Minelli into a frenzy as she attempted to sashay down the line.) Quentin in Quantico writes:

Dear Sir Charles,
My dad says that if you'd been a Boy Scout you wouldn't have been such a pansy ass. But I think you're ripping. You were a Boy Scout, weren't you? Did you go camping back then, or did you have to stay home because Queen Victrola wasn't amused?

Well, Quentin, my lad. One was never a Boy Scout. Nor was the Lady Felicia a Girl Guide. You see, my boy, there are just certain things a Baronet and a future Baronet's wife ought not subject themselves to.

It was out of the primordial muck that man arose, gasping and choking for breath. Out of the ancient ooze did his ancestors struggle, living in trees and making squalid quarters from caves, grottoes, desert cliff faces, and semi-attached homes in Soho. For centuries he struggled with the elements, only gradually mastering Fire itself, and even more gradually bringing it into the home to create warmth, safety, and the occasional burnt leg of roasted sabre-toothed tiger.

Furthermore, for centuries mankind's best and brightest have laboured to refine the elements of science itself. Only think of the toil and tears that have gone into the harnessing of energies of an abundance and power of which our ancestors could only dream. From the Womb of Invention have our men and women of science delivered the electric bulb, the refrigerator, the aeroplane, the motorcar, and most importantly, that smashing stuff that gives soda water its fizz.

Consider this analogy, young Quentin. Let us say you live in a repressive country in which you are forced to eat highly spiced foods of a dubious cleanliness, dressed in rags, and ruled by a zealous dictators. That is, imagine you are from any country in continental Europe. Yes, that's right, my boy. Imagine the filth and uncertainty under which you live your horrid little existence. Imagine the nights praying that your life is short and painless as possible. Now imagine that suddenly, the dictator (perhaps motivated by a jolly good toffee) changes his mind and hands you a passport with your name on it, a train pass to a civilised country, and a few thousand quid for spending money. Naturally you accept. But for heaven's sake, lad, once in the safety of a clean, well-regulated land would you waste any time haunting the railway stations scouring the schedules for a return ticket home?

What one is saying, Quentin, is this: When so much of mankind's attention and energy has been spent finding ways to extend and improve our lives and comfort, why should one rudely rebuff the efforts? Why is it that people have an overwhelming desire to get 'back to nature' when so much of mankind's history has been spent wrenching ourselves out of nature into safe air-conditioned homes replete with servants, a good glass of port, a freshly-pressed copy of the Times, and a bit of Elgar on the BBC?

If one really wanted to 'rough it,' one would check in for a week at Claridge's. Until that extremity, however, one will admire nature in the way that God himself intended: upon the faces of threepenny picture post cards.

Noting that it wasn't the Boy Scouts who rejected him, but he who rejected the Boy Scouts, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Undecided writes:

Picture: A Unsavoury SortTo the Honorable Sir Charles:

I know that it is something of a drain upon your well-pedigreed sensibilities to be put-upon for advice, particularly when it is on such a banal, tedious topic as 'Affairs of the Heart.' But I fear that you alone have the innate knowledge of what is right, what is good, and (above all) what is socially acceptable in such delicate situations -- and so I do appeal to you for succour.

I have a suitor who is a respectable, well-read don at the academy close to my home of Poddington-on-Slossip (Magnusson College) who has proffered to me 'tenders of his affection.' He is just the sort that my mamma should love to have as a son-in-law, I am certain. And yet . . . well, to be horribly uncharitable, I find him rather dull. Kind, but unexciting.

Alas, it would appear that my own interests lie in favor of another member of the aforementioned college -- a tutor who is devastatingly handsome, with a glorious speaking voice, a poetic sensibility . . . and much to my chagrin, something of a drunken cad. A truly Byronic fellow, being "mad, bad, and dangerous to know."

Sir Charles, am I a fool to pine after the less reliable of these two academians? Should I sacrifice my youthful desires on the altar of officious practicality and accept my first suitor? Or throw caution to the wind and pursue the second, as Helena did her Demitrius?

Of course, if either gentleman were a baronet like yourself, my choice would be clear. But I fear that such is not the case -- more's the pity. Oh Sir Charles, what am I to do?

Horribly Undecided

Sir Charles replies:

My dear girl,

One must break the news to you in a gentle manner. Though a lovely young lady such as yourself could never be a 'fool,' it is possible that you have been somewhat misguided in your choice of romantic partnerships.

Foremost in your mistakes--and it was something of a whopper, my girl--was attempting to choose between two book-fed milksops. These academic types are scarcely worth your attention. All they know has been culled from an over-reading of Grey's Anatomy and the poetry of effete Frenchified Bunthornes who have been thankfully dead for over a century.

If it is True Love that the correspondent seeks, then she must make a resolution to move in entirely different social circles than those she hitherto occupies. She must find a dashing man, a man of wit and sophistication, a man whose maturity is contrasted by her naive beauty and innocent appreciation of life. Yes, perhaps even an older man. That is what she must do.

Casually noting that he will be at Fishampton's Bucket & Squid Inn this Friday evening at 6:45 in the evening, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Perplexed writes:

Dear Sir Charles:

Being a loyal reader of your column for several years (especially in college when, heaven knows, I could have been doing other things), I thought your sound logic could assist me in a dilemma I am faced with.

After being a high-caliber Executive Secretary for many years and becoming quite adept at that avocation, I returned to college and acquired a Bachelor's degree in Business Management.  I then went an additional year to become a Certificated Legal Assistant (paralegal).  Upon graduating college, I find that lawyers do not want to pay even what I received for being an Executive Secretary (of the high-caliber variety) prior to college.  I find that other potential jobs in the area of Business Management are much more lucrative and seem on the surface to be much less depressing and stressful.

I have received several telephone calls from a divorce lawyer that seems to be nearly at his wits' end and inundated with work, seemingly sincere in his need of my services. However, he simply cannot afford to pay me the money I demand for my services.  He states that he could possibly pay me to work part-time at the hourly wage I demand, but not full-time.  I, of course, need full-time employment.  If I work full-time as a manager during the week at a salary I deserve and part-time as a paralegal on the weekends in a job that makes me feel more fulfilled (however depressed), I feel I will have no leisure time for myself.

What, Sir Charles, would you do in my place (I am, of course, taking into account that, being in your position, you have never had to resort to being employed)?

Perplexed in Phoenix

Sir Charles replies:

Dear perplexed girl,

It is a pity that you have to work. But then, if most of the world didn't, who would one have to pleasantly contrast oneself against?

Though one would rather consider prostituting oneself to the devil himself rather than offer one's services to a divorce lawyer, one appreciates that the correspondent might not find the former prospect any too agreeable. Yet is it not a truth that lawyers make money hand over fist? And still your prospective employer claims he cannot pay you what you are worth?

Luckily, the other truth about lawyers is that you cannot swing a cat without hitting one. One thus suggests entering the employment marketplace once again, resume firmly in hand, to find an employer who can meet your demands. And one does mean demands, mademoiselle. If one creeps into an office with a kick-me attitude and lickspittle upon your lips, cringing for mercy, you're sure to be taken advantage of. March into that office and behave as if you're doing the fellow a favour by merely being there, and he'll appreciate your services accordingly.

Noting that one only has lickspittle upon his lips in the presence of the Lady Felicia, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Lord Maurice writes:

Picture: After The PartyDear Charles,

By an unfortunate chance I have run across a rather risque missive from you to my lady wife, and am, in a diplomatic sense, in something of a quandary. Lord knows that I am thoroughly bored with the woman, but I can't very well have you flouncing around indiscreetly with my wife. One does have a reputation to maintain, you know.

Tell you what, old man, if I tell you how to get to Binskley Hall will you promise on your life to be really discreet and careful? Any talk getting around and I'd be forced to shoot you. We don't want that do we?

So be cautious and you'll find our Hall off Shropshire near Hampton River. I think if you check the Royal Gazetteer you'll have clear directions. Do take care not to let anyone see you and you may 'respond to' my wife's anguish to your heart's content. Personally, I think it remiss and rather rude that she hasn't written back to you at all.

Oh, and by the way, would you be so kind as to ask your good wife how she removes her makeup? I having problems every time I go home and try to remove this "Sticky Cherry" colour from the Maybelline brand. I know, old bean, it is American. I can't for the life of me say why I've taken a fondness to it, but perhaps your ward Penelope might be able to suggest alternatives.

Give my regards to Chauncey. Tell him I just love his dress at Lady Winslett's cocktail party.

Yours sincerely,
Lord Maurice Chatterly of Binskley Hall.

Sir Charles replies:

Lord Maurice:

One has no idea of what you speak. One does not flounce with other men's wives. At most, one merely 'comforts' them. Usually from afar. Say, the other end of the divan.

As for the question of lip rouge: One's wife wears none. The Lady Felicia's lip colour only seems redder than it is because of the preternatural pallour of her skin. It is much the same principle as an ivory handkerchief dropped upon a field of snow--the contrast makes the handkerchief seem positively scarlet.

With utter respect, one remains
Sir Charles Grandiose

P.S. Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe notes that 'Virgin's Blush' is more of an 'in' colour these days. And she should know, being eighty-fifth in line for the throne.

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