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HomeThat Reminds MeThat Reminds Me: The Molesworth Cronickles, Part 2

That Reminds Me: The Molesworth Cronickles, Part 2

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WE left Nigel Molesworth at the end of the first St Custard’s bookDown With Skool, a brilliant and sardonic evocation of life as a prep school boarder and an instant best-seller for author Geoffrey Willans and illustrator Ronald Searle.

This was published in 1953 and followed the next year by How to be ToppA Guide to Sukcess for Tiny Pupils, Including All There is to Kno about Space. As before, Nigel’s thoughts are a stream of consciousness often, but not always, misspelt.

We join our hero on the skool trane after the summer holidays. ‘There are lots of new bugs and all there maters blub they hav every reason if they knew what they were going to. For us old lags however it is just another stretch same as any other and no remision for good conduc.

‘Who knows what adventures in work and pla the next term will bring forth. And who cares, eh?’

Under the heading HOW TO SUCCEED AS A NEW BUG Molesworth writes: ‘Paters at the moment are patting the blubing maters. “It is all right old gurl”, they sa. “Skools are not wot they were in my day. Boys are no longer cruel to each other and the masters are friends.” “But my Eustace hav been taken away. He is only a baby.” (You are dead right he is. Fancy sending him to skool with a name like Eustace. They deserve it all.)

‘Pater stare at his glass of gin reflectively. It will be peaceful at home now. He can relax at the weekends and if it is a good skool Eustace will soon be strong and brainy enuf to bring in the coal. He sa: “Now in my day it was different. When I first went to Grunts they tosted me on a slo fire. Then I ran the gauntlet being flicked with wet towels. Then they stood me aganst the mantelpeace as I am standing now – ” BANG! CRASH!

‘Mater gives him sharp uper cut followed by right cross then zoom up to bed leaving pater wondering why women are so unpredictable. Glumly he pours himself another gin.’

MEANWHILE AT ST CUSTARDS . . .

‘Eustace hav been trussed to a chair and a pair of socks are stuffed in his mouth to stifle his desperate cries. “Now,” sa molesworth the Pukon, “we will submit you to three trillion volts of the nuclear torturer”.’

DOWN BELOW IN THE HEADMASTER’S STUDY . . .

Tinkle, tinkle.

‘It is mrs togglington to enquire after Eustace. Oh yes he hav setled down very well. He was as quiet and as good as a lamb. (Thinks: Which one was he?) Yes, there is no need to wory. He have no spots his head do not ache his knok knees have given him no trouble. He is as far as we kno unlikely to develop a disease tonite. He hav changed his socks and cleaned his fangs. I have put him in the charge of a v. reliable boy e.g. dere little nigel molesworth.

‘Eustace mater ring off very relieved cheers cheers and telephone all the other lades about it. Headmaster and wife continue to make wool rug. Masters shiver in their cells. An owl hoot and Eustace is insensible. St custards hav begun another term.’

Molesworth observes that ‘some new bugs are so well educcated at their dame skools that they can read when they get to st custards. They will soon forget after a term or 2 give them time give them time.’

In a chapter about Latin, there is a play called The Hogwarts, by Marcus Plautus Molesworthus. And the headmaster of the rival school Porridge Court goes by the name of Hoggwart. J K Rowling once claimed in an interview that when she was trying to think of a name for Harry Potter’s school, Hogwarts just drifted into her mind. ‘I had no idea where it came from.’ A likely story.

According to Richard Jenkyns, an Oxford classics professor, there are other parallels with St Custard’s. ‘Even Harry Potter’s appearance, with his round glasses and perpetually untidy hair, seems to be modelled on Molesworth as drawn by Searle.’ Rowling later admitted she had read the Molesworth books and concluded an essay for the Exeter University journal Pegasus with the words ‘as any fule kno’.

How to be Topp chapter about the various categories of pupil at St Custard’s includes the heading GOODY-GOODIES.

Our Nigel claims ‘there is no beter xsample of a goody-goody than fotherington-tomas in the world in space. You kno he is the one who sa Hullo Clouds Hullo Sky and skip about like a girly. i mean you are just zooming about taking pot shots at various new bugs with your catapult when fotherington-tomas sa Do you think you should be doing that, molesworth, is it kind. Can you not hear the shrieks of agony? To which I repli If i had a germ gun i would blast them with 5 trillion bakterial volts so they are getting off litely. But somehow the plesure has gone.’

Under the heading BULIES Molesworth writes that ‘there are 2 kinds of buly. There are fat bulies who can run fast and fat bullies who cant run for tooffe. There is nothing to be done about fat bulies who can run xcept to be polite to them e.g. good morning grabber you bilge rat pax pax pax pax i didn’t mean it i didn’t ow ow paxpaxpax.

‘Bulies who can’t run are beter. You can watch them swanking up the coridor then zoom past them chanting Look at the clot-faced wet. Buly turn red as a beetroot and stump after you like a giant but too late you have melted into the distance hem-hem. 3 days later buly come up to you when you are sitting at your desk. He sa Look here molesworth you called me a clot-faced wet wot do you mean by it? Then you shake your head. Me? No dash it honestly word of honour (fingers crossed) i would not dream of using such uncouth words. Somebody else must have thought you were a clot-faced wet as well. WAM. But the nimble molesworth hav skipped litely away the buly is left cursing. Bulies are pathetic objects whom i discard. There is only this. Just let a junior tick call me a clot-faced wet in 2 years time and you’ll see what i’ll do.’

On the cricket pitch, Molesworth finds himself last in to bat. ‘Captain come up to you and sa BLOCK EVERYTHING molesworth and do not slosh we need 6 to win. Of course it is the fast blower you have to face he is waiting there at the other end of the pitch looking very ferce. PLAY! Fast blower retreat with the ball mutering and cursing. He stamp on the grass with his grate hairy feet he beat his chest and give grate cry. Then with a trumpet of rage he charge towards you. Quake quake ground tremble birdseed fly in all directions if only you can run away but it is not done. Grit teeth close eyes. Ball hit your pads and everyone go mad. OWSATSIR OW WASIT EHOUT! Umpire look for long time at last he lift one finger. All the juniors sa ya boo sucks couldn’t hit a squashed tomato. It is no use saing you were not out by a mile team give you the treatment behind the pav just the same. There is only one consolation you can give it up when you grow up. Then you rustle the paper and sa Wot a shocking show by m.c.c. most deplorable a lot of rabits ect, ect.

SNAKES AND LADERS

‘If you have a quiet half hour with one of your dear companions what is nicer than a game of snakes and laders? Aktually quite a number of things are nicer like a film of marylyn monroe a quiet cig or a plateful of roste turkey but you do not get these things at skool chiz so it have to be snakes and laders.’

When term is over, Nigel and his younger brother Molesworth 2 go home for Christmas.

‘Xmas day always start badly becos molesworth 2 blub he hav not got the reel rools-royce he asked for. We then hav argument that each hav more presents than the other. We call each other clot-faced wets so are you you you you pointing with our horny fingers it is very joly i must sa. In the end i wear molesworth 2’s cowboy suit and he pla with my air gun so all is quiet.

‘Then comes DINNER. This is super as there are turkey crackers nuts cream plum puding jely and everything. We wash it down with a litle ginger ale but grown ups all drink wine ugh and this make all the old lades and grans very sprightly i must sa. They sa how sweet we are they must be dotty until pater raps the table and looks v. solemn. He holds up his glass and sa in a low voice THE QUEEN. Cheers cheers cheers for the queen we all drink and hurra for England. Then pater sa in much lower voice ABSENT FRIENDS and everyone else sa absent friends absent friends absent friends ect. and begin blubbing. In face it do not seme that you can go far at xmas time without blubbing of some sort.

‘Still xmas is a good time with all those presents and good food and i hope it will never die out or at any rate until i am grown up and have to pay for it all.’

Next in the Molesworth Cronickles, book three, Whizz for Atomms.

Old jokes’ home

I saw this bloke chatting up a cheetah and I thought: ‘He’s trying to pull a fast one.’

A PS from PG

‘She had wanted to borrow my aunt’s brooch,’ said Ukridge, ‘but I was firm and wouldn’t let her have it – partly on principle and partly because I had pawned it the day before.’

PG Wodehouse: Ukridge

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Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth is a former national newspaper journalist now retreated to the Ribble Valley, where he grows cacti and tramps the fells. He and his wife Margaret run a website, A-M Records , which includes their collected TCW columns plus extra features including Tracks of the Day. Requests, queries and comments can be sent to alanj126@yahoo.co.uk

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