Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A sporting great

Readers will eagerly have opened this page, its title inviting them at last to expect something sensible and serious on an issue which is of abiding concern to them - sporting endeavour. 'No more about biscuits', is the cry that has increasingly been heard in the better parts of Edinburgh society and beyond.  Even Haris Aslam's interest in biscuits is reported to be waning.

Fantasy Bob can only bend the knee, tug the forelock and oblige.  Putting all further talk of biscuits well behind him, he wishes to use this precious space to encourage his readers - all 3 of them - to share his admiration and enjoyment of a true sporting great - PG Wodehouse.

A number of PG Wodehouse's early works are based on or make reference to cricket.  These are regretably hard to come by in bookshops, although the excellent Gutenberg project recognises their worth as great works of literature and has prepared on line versions.  Reputedly the finest of Plum's cricket works, 'Mike' can be found on this link.

But FB thinks that Wodehouse's long series of stories on golf are the pinnacle of his sporting output.  In these stories he describes the impacts of sporting activity at all levels on the human psyche in a masterly fashion.  In the week that sees the Ryder Cup the attention of even the most resolute of Carlton's cricketing minds may be distracted by events on the links.  It is therefore appropriate to look to Plum's work for some wisdom.  Here are a couple of shining examples taken from a formidably wonderful short story called 'The Magic Plus Fours'

'Sudden success in golf is like the sudden acquisition of wealth.  It is apt to unsettle and deteriorate the character.'

'[Golf's] great service to humanity is that it teaches human beings that, whatever petty triumphs they may have achieved in other walks of life, they are after all merely human.  It acts as a corrective against sinful pride.  I attribute the intence arrogance of the later Roman emperors almost entirely to the fact that , never having played golf, they never knew that strange chastening humility which is engendered by a topped chip-shot.  If Cleopatra had been outed in the first round of the Ladies' Singles, we should have heard a lot less of her proud imperiousness.'

Eternal truths - and for Fantasy Bob equally true if you substitute batting for golf. 

There are pages and pages of this stuff.  A true master.   In FB's opinion, as stylist of the English language, Wodehouse's command of line and length is bettered by only a very few players.  Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh and possibly George Orwell.  Test quality players all.  Do try him.  He is also very funny.

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