‘How old are you?’ ‘Twenty -six.’ ‘You are twenty-six and you call yourself a failure? I think that is a shameful thing to say.’ ‘What would you call a man of twenty-six whose only means of making a living was the writing of Gridley Quayle stories? An empire builder?’ ‘How do you know it’s your only means of making a living? Why don’t you try something new? ‘Such as —‘ ‘How should I know? Anything that comes along. Good gracious, Mr Marson, here you are in the biggest city in the world, with chances of adventure simply shrieking to you on every side—-‘ ‘I must be deaf. The only thing I have heard shrieking to me on every side has been Mrs Bell – for the week’s rent.’
P.G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh
And that is how it came to be that Ashe Marson finds himself answering to an ad in the Wanted column of the ‘Morning Post’ for a ” Young Man of good appearance, who is poor and reckless, to undertake a delicate and dangerous enterprise…“, which promises a thousand pounds as its reward. The ‘delicate and dangerous’ task turns out to be that he has to help his American millionaire employer recover (by way of stealing) a prized scarab ( I wonder how many of you knew that scarabs are actually Egyptian hieroglyphs in the form of beetles?! I certainly did not) from Lord Emsworth’s personal museum at Blandings Castle. To do so, Marson has to pose as a valet to the American millionaire, whose daughter has just been engaged to marry Lord Emsworth’s son, and has been invited for a stay at Blandings Castle.
And this is where the fun really starts, as we follow Marson’s little adventure into the world of life Below Stairs at Blandings Castle, subjected to the watchful eyes of Mr Beach, the butler. Having just recently finished watching Season 2 of Downton Abbey, I find the domestic scenes being played out vividly in my mind and I couldn’t help but keep picturing Mr Beach looking like Mr Carson from Downton. The first interview Marson has with Mr Beach produced what to me is the funniest scene in the book.
‘You have been with Mr Peters some time, Mr Marson?’ ‘Eh? Oh! Oh no, only since last Wednesday.’ ‘Indeed! Might I inquire whom you assisted before that?’ The question placed him in an awkward position. If he lied, and credited himself with a lengthy experience as a valet, he risked exposing himself. If he told the truth, and confessed that this was his maiden effort in the capacity of gentleman’s gentleman, what would the butler think? There were objections to each course, but to tell the truth was the easier of the two, so he told it.
‘Your first situation? said Mr Beach. ‘Indeed!’ ‘I was, er – doing something else before I met Mr Peters.’ said Ashe. Mr Beach was too well bred to be inquisitive, but his eyebrows were not.
‘Ah!’ he said. ‘?’ cried his eyebrows. ‘? ? ?’ Ashe ignored the eyebrows.
Hahah, that really had me laughing out loud. 🙂 Helping Marson manoeuvre his way around those eyebrows Below Stairs is Joan Valentine, the girl who had earlier shaken Marson out of his complacent living with her inspiring speech. The girl also happens to be vying for the same scarab and thousand pounds, and has made her way into Blandings castle by posing as a lady’s maid. What happens thereafter, I leave it to you to find out for yourself. If you have the chance to grab hold of a copy of this book, please do. You have to read it for yourself in order to appreciate the full wit and humour of P.G. Wodehouse.
Something Fresh turned out to be more than just a very entertaining & delightful book for me. Reading it, I could identify with Ashe Marson’s feelings of failure and inadequacy. Of being complacent and contented, to a certain extent, with life’s lot (though I don’t mean contentment is a bad thing). It’s just that starting the year with this book does in a way inspire a sense of desiring “something fresh” and wanting something more, out of my lot. What exactly that “something” is, I do not know. But hey, it’s a brand new year after all, anything is possible, is it not? 😉