It’s been so long since I have last read Wodehouse’s novels. I guess part of it is to cure my lovesickness resulted from my trip to England. I want to get some books full of sense of humour and British vibe, so I borrowed some works by Wodehouse last week: Love among the Chickens, Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere, and Galahad at Blandings. Love among the Chickens is the first story on Ukridge’s adventures of mercantile businesses which I as of yet untapped. Although I get rusty of not having read his works for a long time and not familiar with the innovative metaphors, informal idioms and styles, but upon my Sam! It gets better along the pages and I feel a sense of pure joy after the read.
In the first few pages, we are introduced by Lickford, who is a friend of first-narrative person (hero) Jeremy Garnet, to meet the profligate and harmless rogue named Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge:
“…S.F.U. clad in a villainous old suit of grey flannels (I’ll swear it was the one he had on last time I saw him), with pince-nez tacked on his ears with ginger-beer wine as usual…He also wore a mackintosh, though it was a blazing day.”
and yes, as Garnet the old horse says, “His whole career, as long as I had known him, had been dotted with little eccentricities of a type which an unfeeling world generally stigmatises as shady.” Ukridges always borrows couples of bobs from his friends and other parties, then slurs over and prolongs the decision of not paying them back with subtle and cunning excuses that Garnet could recall his mischievous classmate’s/colleague’s anecdotes very well.
However, just as disagreeable his character may be and no matter how cloistered friends contrive to run away from him, he is ubiquitous and none could escape on being clung by him on working in concert with his fun and whimsical thoughts. This time Ukridge is planning to operate a chicken farm in Combe Regis in Dorset.
To my opinion, I in the beginning don’t really bring myself to draw into Ukridge character, I think he, who is exactly a rogue, is not that likeable compared to other Wodehouse’s prunes. But then when I read up to this page, I realise how eccentric and wild his mental engine is absorbing, possessing information from and reacting to the outside world (which can kind of be elicited from his name), he really interests me and I couldn’t wait to see more of this chump:
(as told by Garnet)“…Have you ever played a game called Pigs in Clover? We have just finished a merry bout of it, with hens instead of marbles, which has lasted for an hour and a half…He likes his manoeuvres to be on a large, dashing, Napoleonic scale. He said, ‘Open the yard gate and let the blighters come out into the open; then sail in and drive them in mass formation through the back door into the basement.’ It was a great idea, but there was one fatal flaw in it. It didn’t allow for the hens scattering. We opened the gate, and out they all came like an audience coming out of a theatre…Then Bob, the Hired Man’s dog, an animal who likes to be in whatever’s going on, rushed out of the house into the middle of them, barking. There was a perfect stampede, and Heaven only knows where some of those fowls are now…
“We also arranged Ukridge’s sugar-box coops in a row, and when we caught a fowl we put it in the coop and stuck a board in front of it.” Not only that, other chickens are put under the basement of the house. How crazy and unconventional is the method in operating a chicken farm!
Apart from his most random thoughts and money-laundering habits, Ukridge this lunatic is also undoubtedly an accredited blighter and nuisance of what I have gathered from the story; he is no less disturbing compared to other prunes like Bertie Wooster and Freddie Threepwood. Ukridge is again another fervent and frivolous companion to other characters; he gives out the most avuncular and sunniest solution to his friends, with fulsome hope but to expect no hopeful results. He once said, “Bachelors are excrescences!” and once Garnet is on the brink of getting engaged, the advice he seeks from Ukridge to deal with the fearsome father-in-law would not be the best as we could all expect:
“Ukridge,” I said, when I got back, “I want your advice.”
It stirred him like a trumpet blast. I suppose, when a man is in the habit of giving unsolicited counsel to everyone he meets, it is as invigorating as an electric shock to him to be asked for it spontaneously.
“Bring it out, laddie!” he replied cordially. “I’m with you. Here, come along into the garden, and state your case.”
“Reviewing the matter later, I could see that I made one or two blunders in my conduct of the campaign to win over Professor Derrick.
“My second mistake – and this was brought home to me almost immediately – was in bringing Ukridge along. I confess that my heart sank… Unfortunately, all my efforts to dissuade him from accompanying me were attributed by him to a pardonable nervousness – or, as he put it, to the needle.
‘Buck up, laddie!’ he roared encouragingly. ‘I had anticipated this. Something seemed to tell me that your nerve would go when it came to the point. You’re deuced lucky, old horse, to have a man like me at your side. Why, if you were alone, you wouldn’t have a word to say for yourself. You’d just gape at the man and yammer. But I’m with you laddie, I’m with you. If your flow of conversation dries up, count on me to keep the thing going.'”
However, as most typical Wodehouse’s ending of solving a problem in the most sunniest manner and solution as well as in a rush, we may probably count on this prune Ukridge who must not be showing in despair and distrait, but to prepare an heroic and gallant action and tirade to steal the show!