Flashback of 2014

2014 is definitely a breakthrough of my life. From January to December, I had been trying out new things and embarking on brand new adventures, reuniting old and meeting new acquaintances. It has also been a year that I had ever known and appreciated myself.

From January to December, I went to see a stage performance (Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors) on my own, got to Ocean Park and stroked a dolphin, watched some good movies (PhilomenaThe Invisible WomanMagic in the Moonlight, Gone Girl, Paddington…) at the cinema that I’ve ever experienced with thrilling emotions. I watched three musicals which all were spectacular shows and won’t be forgotten in a lifetime (The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, and The Phantom of the Opera). Participating in artistic workshops and activities (folk dance, life-drawing, sculptural painting, and five-rhythm dances), concerning self-exploration and spiritual reclamation of one’s own was also an eye-opener.

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On reading, I finished 22 books this year, 4 being novels / short stories by Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone, The Law and the Lady, Man and Wife, and The Dream Woman) and 4 being Blandings Castle Series by P. G. Wodehouse (Summer Lightning, Something Fresh, Galahad at Blandings, and World of Blandings), all of which I admired very much and munched in pleasure and leisure.

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However, the most memorable and matchless event in 2014 that others could not be compared to for me is my embarking on a journey on my own to Cambridge to attend a weekend course on Wilkie Collins and sightseeing in London for good 10 days, which were the days I always will cherish. During the trip, I found myself much closer to the British culture and its people. I got accosted with both friendly locals and foreigners on streets and other places that I will always treasure. I first set out as a kind of homage to Wilkie Collins (you could say it as an excuse though; I hadn’t been returning to Britain for 7 years already and I miss the place so much!), and I didn’t expect the ramblings and other things I saw would overwhelm me so much! I hope some time or later I could return again to immerse about the places after reading more novels and history about the country!

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Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere

17609939IMG_20141223_113248Wodehouse’s earlier works on college short stories consisting of a few public schools. Before reading this book I never realised that there are such terms actually indicating the levels of education preceding sixth form: Lower-fifth, Middle fifth and Upper fifth!

To be honest, I have not read the cricket stories. I never get myself familiarised with sports from childhood. However, the stories on planks played out by fellow classmates, fagging of the lower forms for normal human being and going through adversity against the ministrations of form-, house- and headmasters are enjoyable ones to chew at bedtime! These stories bring out the reminiscence of my reading The Boy by Roald Dahl many years ago – the Great Mouse Plot to the confectionery store proprietor, the nemesis between Dahl and Captain Hardcastle (the bit which I laughed out the most); the friendly Mathematics teacher who likes crosswords and farting in the class; as well as the fagging years in Repton (make me want to re-read the book again!).

As to Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere, I like many of them; but there are some short stories and characters which are actually rooted in my mind the most, for example, Ruthless Reginald, The Politeness of Princes, Educating Aubrey, and An International Affair from Wrykyn; St Asterisks’s Rose and Wotsing in playing out parodies on Sherlock Holmes and Watson; the never-ending poignancy of Pillingshot caused by the sudden whim of the  Scott in St Austin’s; and last but not least, Thomas, the boy with angelic expression yet aggressive in mind. But to me I especially like the stories of Locksley, as I think Plum constructed an ingenious plot on the resourcefulness and cleverness of Dunstable and his fellow housemate in the stories A Corner in Lines and The Autograph Hunters.

From this book, you could be immersed in the stories and ploughed it through with fun. You can actually find out how new kids settle themselves fully into the public boy schools without a smack in the face,  junior miscreants endeavour to break the monotony of school life with the hard work, the fun and method to fawn on the masters, the pain of the imposition that teachers set them through including writing Greek numerals for a hundred lines and Greek/Latin translations (square manners are unlikely in most cases).  Happy reading!

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The Moaning of Life by Karl Pilkington

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forget the brainy quotes, embrace the Pilking quotes!

I have finished it on Wednesday, but I already got a little rusty talking about this book! Karl Pilkington gave me an impression of a presenter who got unlucky all the time, and that he ranted and ranted all along concerning his unfortunate series of events, and that I had that human nature of schadenfreude laughing at him. That’s what I thought when I listened to a podcast of Greg James’s show on BBC Radio 1 in which he had an 40-minute interview about his life. However the impression was swept away when I had engaged with this book with my train of thoughts. Actually he is just a harmless moaning person, thinking that this world and its people gradually and increasingly bear watching; he is just normal as you and me about things going on here in this planet.

Anyway, he travels around different countries and sees how peoples settle with topics regarding marriage, kids, vocation and money, happiness, and death, thereby knowing whether those experience would change his frame of mind (he has a long-term girlfriend and have been together for 20 years, never wants to get married or has kids). After seeing and getting deep about their cultures and the topics; observing at close quarters he comes up with and adopts what he thinks the best interpretations reflecting overall viewpoints and conclusion on the topics. For example, on “marriage” chapter, he has an insight to combine drive-thru marriage in Las Vegas – considered to be the most convenient yet fragile marriage procedure – with smell (the best and effective method in finding a lifelong partner) , and ditching the long hours Indian bulky marriage ceremony in holding a new way of nuptial do for a couple from the US. Clever idea.

The best stuff to make the travelling thing much more interesting is that he recounts his childhood experience and weird events along the book, which adds a strong humourous revival into the journal. There are some bits that make me LMAO; for instance, on “kids” chapter, he goes to a big fertility festival in Japan where couples get together and seek blessing for new babies. One guy is wearing a pink plastic penis on his head and gets surrounded by huge populace. Karl then recalls:

“I was sure if he was some kind of official at the festival or just a local nutter. There used to be a man on our estate called Mad John who did this sort of thing on the back of the 261 bus into Manchester, and he got put away for it.”

and after that, he attends a party held by a group of middle-aged women, and they all have talking dolls with them representing their phantom kids. He says:

“They’re odd-looking things, sort of like furry Teletubbies with a hint of Wayne Rooney about them.” 

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LOL. I think he hits on the right note!

On serious matters, he ponders some argumentative mindsets. He questions that who would be more tolerable, a grumpy considerate person or a happy selfish person? There is no way you can make all people happy at all times, but you cannot make someone mad just seeing your happy face dishing out selfish acts.

This gets me thinking that people always judge things by their clever misconceptions and experience. For example, I have a sort of mopey look. When I am not smiling, my lips curls upwards and I frown naturally that make me look like a miserable person not contented with this world, which is not advantageous for a woman, and people asks why what is wrong with you? Cheer up! Then they chat to people with happy looks. That’s annoying and as a vicious cycle this makes me an unsociable person and they think I am not sociable and some stay away from me. In this case my personality is naturally molded by them. BUT I am just a peaceful person! And you know the persons who look happy probably think of plotting against you!

At the end of the day, I think he is just a practical and down-to-earth bloke trying to live in a world which he wants to be more moralised, so there is a probability that you will get bored at the end of this journal like eating roughage at lunch time, but it will cheer you up at midnight after all the backlog of daily work, and when you read that in bed, it’s like listening to a pleasant old chap in the pub ranting about this miserable world, whether he is thinking your thing or change your old ways of thinking.

Galahad at Blandings by P. G. Wodehouse

87-11Tally ho! Great frivolous follies! Exuberant Amusement! The eccentricity of characters, their roles and merits to me have reached another whole new level from other Wodehouse’s books I have read! I think at this stage I may not laugh in stitches but left with a warm feeling and blithely mood with full of imagination of the Castle. Really admired his beautiful English writing, in my lifetime don’t think I would be up to par with this level.

Checklist of characters to uphold Lord Emsworth’s nightmares and get his pince-nez go into jazz dance routine at Blandings in Shropshire

Faces like prunes ran over by a motor bus: Huxley Winkworth (much annoying and irritating than Edwin the boy who does Friday Acts of Kindness from Jeeves and Wooster)

Autocratic chatelaine: The redoubtable Lady Hermione (Apart from Sisters Constance and Dora, this woman is second-to-none according to her determination and practicalities in attempting to get her brother Clarence fixed and sound, waylay her enemies in actions rather than words)

Curious zeal: Butler Beach in replacement of Efficient Baxter in carrying out his justice and crash the impostor in pieces, snorty and smug than ever

Exuberant/Distraited gents (or in other words, the dull-eyed stripling): Wilfred Allsop (also functioned as a victim of fearsome aunt Lady Hermione; poignant in love); Sam Bagshott (also functioned as the impostor (Augusta Whiffle) of the novel, repairing the rift of love); Tipton Plimsoll (blithe chap from America)

Helpmates: Sandy Callender (red-head insidious secretary); Monica Simmons (a new favourite in lieu of George Cyril Wellbeloved); Veronica Wedge

Eyesore: Daphne Winkworth (a sparkler for old romance, ready to be hummed Indian Love Lyrics)

Hero to save the day: Galahad Threepwood, younger brother of 9th Earl of Emsworth, with gleaming spectacles in spellbinding qualities

While checklist is complete, I could go on with my drooling parts of the novel, one of which is the telling of anecdotes about the members belonging to Old Pelican Club by Galahad. He is really an amazing raconteur of tale telling, the anecdotes sprout up here and there in the stories that make the novel much more entertaining provided with the easy-to-guess-long plots:

  • The stakes and game of guessing which member would be the next to die
  • Abdominal belt worn by Chet Tipton (Uncle of Plimsoll)
  • Puff Benger (the member who admits defeat to Indian Love Lyrics)
  • Buffy Struggles (picked up by Galahad on his theories of weakening the system and reaction of dodging by having tea rather than alcohol, surely been mentioned in Summer Lightning already!)
  • Freddie & Eustace in Hedgehog incident, another example of good potation

Another bits are the sardonic dual rivalries, the stitch-ups to one another and interactions between the characters, for example, the mission conducted and plotted by Aunt Hermione to Wilfred the nephew:

“Lady Hermione had often heard of secret societies where plotters plotted plots together, but she wondered if any plotter in any secret society had ever had so much difficulty as she was having in driving into the head of another plotter what he, the first plotter, was trying to plot.”

Wilfred is actually stunned and shocked that his aunt would not be equal without a supporting assistance and accomplice for her required mission, and thinks she wants him to waylay the plank with an axe!

Apart from that, there is an interesting confrontation between Huxley and Wilfred when he caught him drinking. That little brute is the most annoying kid I have ever come across in Wodehouse’s novels.

The conversations between Monica and Tippy are good ones in which he tries to lay all cards on the table and talks turkey to her about Wilfred.

As usual, there are false starts and imbroglios happening in the Castle till the last page but all resolved in merrily sentiments without abrupt endings. The rewarding point is that I could finally recall and get the resonance mentioned in this book concerning the plots of other stories preceding this one, for instance, the short story of Pig-hoo-ey from The World of Blandings. I am in love with Blandings Castle with its residents and guests. It is my future stamping ground for many years to come!

By the way, I really like the covers of Wodehouse’s works by Everyman’s Library, because when you finish the story and close the book, you would be reminded of the plots and the good bits of it! (Exactly true with this one!) However when I was wandering through Waterstones of my recent trip to England last month, the prices of these publications are a bit expensive because they are hardbacks? Never mind! all Wodehouse’s works are stocked and piled up in line on the shelves make the overall effect look so amazing!

The next one by Wodehouse I am going to read is The Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere, hope it is fun!