| LIFE AT Blandings: (From left) The Empress, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Mark Williams and Jennifer Saunders
The return of balm at Blandings
P.G. Wodehouse has always had a loyal following in India so it is likely that the latest television adaptation of his novels set in Blandings Castle will attract a niche audience if and when it gets to India.
The writer, Guy Andrews, sums up the basic plot: “Clarence Emsworth, the ninth Earl at Blandings Castle, yearns with all his soul to be left in peace; preferably in the company of his beloved pig, the Empress. But he never is. Presiding over the blitzkrieg on his equilibrium is the baleful figure of his sister Connie, with whom he shares the house; at her shoulder is Clarence’s brainless younger son Freddie and panoply of friends, enemies, servants, spongers, private detectives, bookies and confidence tricksters.”
The new series, set in 1929, has not met with universal approval. Some critics argue that it is just not possible to adapt Wodehouse, with his mastery of the written word, for the screen.
Actor Timothy Spall, who plays Emsworth, explains why Wodehouse’s writing has endured so well: “Because, apart from the baddies, all his characters are incredibly warm. Evelyn Waugh writes brilliantly about the aristocracy, but he revels in their cruelty. He pricks every snob. Wodehouse, on the other hand, revels in their goodness and eccentricity and hilarity. Like Charles Dickens, one of my greatest heroes, Wodehouse has the ability simultaneously to make you laugh out loud at the ludicrousness of aristocrats and celebrate the goodness of people.”
I enjoyed the first episode last Sunday: Emsworth is preparing for the local agricultural show where the fattest pig will be declared the winner. The problem is the Empress will only be fed by her keeper, Cyril, who has been jailed on trumped up drunkenness charges by the cunning local magistrate, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, who has a competing pig of his own.
Despite the carping from reviewers, I would like to side with Jennifer Saunders, who has been cast as Constance, and who believes the series will strike a chord with modern audiences. “It’s pure escapism and people love pure escapism, especially in the current economic climate.”
In England women cricketers are never referred to disparagingly as “Eves”. But even in these days of “gender equality”, Sussex County Cricket Club appears poised to attempt a bold experiment.
Hopes have been raised that Sussex Second XI, which is short of a wicketkeeper for the start of the season, will recruit Sarah Taylor, who plays for the England women’s team.
| Beyond the boundary: Sarah Taylor in full flow.
Sussex were obviously inspired by a brilliant Bollywood movie called Dil Bole Hadippa! in which Rani Mukerji disguises herself as a young man before carting opposition bowlers to all corners of the ground.
Sarah won’t have to dress like Rani but she will have to train with the men before her selection is confirmed.
Head of England Women’s Cricket Clare Connor welcomed the “hugely positive step” taken by Sussex which was “indicative of how the women’s game has progressed in recent years”.
Giles Clark, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, also applauded “the sensible initiative of Sussex CCC in leading the way to explore this kind of opportunity for our outstanding women cricketers. Many of them played with boys in young age and developed faster for that. I have had the privilege of playing with Sarah and she is a magnificent player.”
Where England goes, India ought to follow, with women being brought into the BCCI and the men’s teams. After India’s recent Test match performances, it seems unlikely the women players would fare any worse than the Indian Adams.
There was another Sarah I once had to face — red-haired Sarah, daughter of the eminent playwright Dennis Potter, was a left-arm fast bowler for the England women’s team.
On instructions from my then editor, David English of the Daily Mail, I trudged off reluctantly to the Indoor School at Lord’s to do a “first person piece”.
I came back and wrote exactly what English wanted. He was delighted. It was a vivid (but imaginative) account of how facing the demon Sarah had been the most frightening thing I had done in my life. English rewarded me by sending me to cover the altogether less scary Hezbollah in Beirut.
“Indian parents!” we agreed.
I had a word with Shiv Thakor just before he left for the U19 England tour of South Africa where he will captain the side. The captain of Uppingham School until last summer has plenty of leadership skills. Still, his parents, Jay and Daxa, will also be flying out from their home in Leicestershire to give their son support. But I am sure they won’t gesture frantically from the stands with field placing suggestions or tips on the best batting line-up.
It was useful consulting Shiv on why he thought England now had a strong side and was also building up a large pool of talented young cricketers by putting them through various academies and performance regimes. Not only that but they were being given the chance to play competitive cricket on a variety of pitches in many other countries.
“I have been to South Africa, Sri Lanka and India,” says Shiv. “I wouldn’t have the chance otherwise.”
He is also playing for Leicestershire and has discovered that “county cricket is a lot more professional”.
Having obtained 3As and B in his A-level exams, he intends to study PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) at either Loughborough or Durham University but has deferred admission by two years. It’s no coincidence both have excellent cricket teams.
If all goes to plan, Shiv should be at Eden Gardens in a year or two batting like Rani Mukerji in Dil Bole Hadippa!
If Tesco comes to India, as the British supermarket chain is threatening to do, will Indians get a taste of horsemeat?
I ask because a number of British supermarkets — Tesco, Lidl, Iceland and Aldi — have withdrawn millions of hamburgers from shelves after tests showed they contained up to a third of horsemeat which the Brits find repugnant.
In France, there are butcher’s which sell only horsemeat. China, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina and Mongolia are also big producers and consumers.
“Why are horses different from pigs and lambs?”wonders Dr Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist.
Part of the reason is people see horses as pets, and humans tend to attach “extra qualities and values” to animals they call pets. “As soon as you give an animal a name, how can you eat it?”
Meanwhile, the popular English expression — “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” — has taken on new meaning.
|Test run: A Dassault Rafale flying over Mali
Since India is said to be procuring 126 Dassault Rafale fighter jets in a deal worth $10 billion, the war in Mali gives the prospective buyer a chance to assess how well the aircraft performs in the war against the Islamists.
The French air force, which has deployed both the Mirage 2000D and the Rafale fighter jets — they were used in Libya as was their UK rival, the Eurofighter Typhoon — will be keen to impress the Indians.
Until last week, most of us thought Mali was someone who watered the lawn.