My Valentine climate

Today is St Valentine’s Day, or increasingly just Valentine’s Day, invented by modern marketing ostensibly to commemorate love. It is also the day in 1975 when Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse went to his reward after a lifetime spreading sweetness and light. Real love, not the greeting card variety.

I’ve been more than a bit flat lately, what with the pestilence, the totalitarian political response to it and the decline of civilisation in general. So it brightened at least this day when I opened my e-mail to find a notification from fellow Wodehousean Ashok Bhatia of his latest blog post – a poem to a grandchild, not his but one named John Jasper, a descendant of another Wodehousean. John Jasper is one year old today, for which Ashok began:

Allow us to welcome you belatedly to this wonderful world on a special day,
When you turn one and fans in different continents are celebrating Plum;
For this is the day he decided to hand in his dinner pail,
Leaving a rich legacy of joy, should we ever become glum.

In 2016 when one of my grandchildren happened to have been born on Wodehouse’s birthday – and his parents unknowingly named him Clarence, the same moniker carried by Lord Emsworth, seigneur of Blandings Castle – Ashok penned a poem not merely of welcome but also of inspiration. I hope I live long enough to present it to Clarence one day.

One wishes you a long and healthy life, full of laughter and love,
A sunny disposition to face the harsh slings and arrows of life;
A chin-up attitude, a song in the heart, a prayer on your lips,
Guardian Angels who fuss over you and protect you from many a strife.

Then, lo and behold, came a note from blogger Biff Sock Pow in normally sunny Texas wondering what happens when paradise freezes, as it is threatening to do. Apparently, winter in Dallas is not just cold at present but absolutely frightening its brass monkeys. Londoners to whom I have been speaking are fretting over inches of snow in the streets. Snow is late but metres deep in northern California. I love it when global warming kicks in.

I am unsurprised, though, at events in the northern hemisphere – because here in Melbourne, where February usually features a run on airconditioners, autumn leaves are appearing, weeks ahead of their time. I am sensitive to these seasonal changes because I am a northerner. Over more than half a century here I have never failed to be amazed by spring’s uplifting life and autumn’s brilliant decay. Where I come from there’s hot and less hot. You need a jumper for a few weeks in the middle of the year, that’s all. I once, only once, wore an overcoat in Brisbane and got looked at in a manner that suggested I was overdoing it a bit, mate. Young ladies in that part of the world refuse to consider a climatic imperative to dress in anything but the barest minimum. Trees are the opposite – they are always covered.

In Melbourne, summer has been cool this year, apart from one or two days – not weeks, days – and, after bountiful winter and spring rains, the vegetation has been exceedingly and enjoyably lush. My lemon and olive trees are hung heavy with fruit. Something is NQR, though. I inspect my produce every day for signs of ripening but skins remain frustratingly green and foliage is thinning. I suspect my little grove is joining the plane trees and the elms and the laurels around the suburb in seeking an early bed.

What can it all mean? Nothing, precisely nothing.

There’s a word we’ve been hearing over and over again during The Pestilence and it’s this: unprecedented. Don’t believe it, neither with the pestilence nor with that other alarmist joy, climate change. It’s all happened before and it – whatever “it” might be – will happen again.

Cheer yourself instead with sunny Ashok, and a plentiful portion of Plum wine.

16 thoughts on “My Valentine climate

  1. Noel
    It was lovely to read your tender, heartfelt plaintive St Valentine’s missive. That tough old pachydermal journalistic carapace is all blatherskite, fooling no-one; we all know beneath it beats the heart of a warm old tree-hugging softy.
    keep going, old pal, we need you now, more than ever

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks again Noel for a very welcome message. I too have been down.
    Not that a PGW can’t share a name, but I thought that your Clarence had borrowed his name from another writer with several to spare, including the surname “Dennis.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Dear Noel, so effortlessly do you weave together the warp of harsh realities and the weft of Wodehousean humour. Remarkable that you whipped this one up so very quickly even before Jasper’s grandmother could say Gungadin. Absolutely chuffed at being honoured thus by someone like you.

    Thanks a lot. May the Plummy sun keep shining benevolently upon all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Noel!

    First off, thank you so much for the pingback! It is very much appreciated, and I am very honored to even be mentioned in a blog post from someone whose writing I enjoy as much as yours. And secondly, I can’t believe I was mentioned in the same blog post as Ashok, a writer whom I very much admire. And Wodehouse, too! I really believe I must be dreaming.

    And secondly, I wanted to congratulation you on a wonderful post. I think we are all feeling a bit weary of the craziness that is foisted upon us daily, in larger and larger servings every day. The “unprecedented” cold-and-snow event here in Dallas was more or less the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. It was hard enough to keep “A chin-up attitude, a song in the heart, a prayer on your lips” BEFORE snow-mageddon. But after being subjected to a week of rolling electrical blackouts, a busted water pipe and two days (and counting) with no water, I have to believe that there are no longer any guardian angels making a fuss over me.

    But then I stop to think that I have it SO much better than a majority of my fellow Dallasites. I have food and shelter and (intermittent) warmth and a job. So maybe there ARE angels fussing over me. I just can’t hear them over all of my bellyaching.

    And then there are the myriad things that bring me joy every day, such as your blog post, that point to an approaching spring and perhaps an end to the madness we’ve all been subjected to over the past year. One can hope.

    Keep up the great writing! The world needs more of that right now.


    • Dear Biff, thank you for the compliments. A bit embarrassing, but I’ll take all I can get at the moment. I’ve been following the snowy travails of Texans with some interest — the weather is interesting but the really serious bit is the almost instant failure of so-called renewable energy to deliver the goods. I’ve been involved in this whole climate-energy debate for 30 years and have become so tired of it that I try to ignore most of it now. Exasperation, combined with anger at the monumental failure of government to manage the pestilence properly, is not a good way to be. Wodehouse has rescued me for many years, though, and continues to do so, along with Ashok, Mrs Plum and a Pow. Keep smiling.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. From the bleachers at Wordsmith Stadium I too thank BS Pow – may I call you Biff? – for his thoughts. They fortify me, putting as they do the local state of play in perspective, starkly contrasting against that of Mr P’s presently lack-lustre Lone Star State.

    A scout whistles and smiles under all difficulties. Did you just try? Hard, isn’t it? So as Noel our gun starter at the stadium says, just keep on smilin’. And don’t get an achy-breaky heart.

    May the sun come shining through for y’all soon.

    And now to the Coronavirus Free Batcave.


      • No. “Lots”? “n” (where n is an unspecified large number)? Boy Blunder can only wonder.

        “Forget that” said Prolix Palmer when I called him on the covid free batphone. That call was my initiative, an aufstragtactik approach. Prolix maintains, not unusually for him: “The more the better”. Commissioner Gordon says: “Go with that. We don’t have time to count them. There’ll be more incoming soon from The Traveller, and he gets a priority response”.

        See, Biff Sock Pow already has me in a happier more focused frame of mind.


    • We live in a mad world, Ashok. I’ve tried without success to put my finger on just when things changed. Now that I am not paid to worry on someone else’s behalf I should be more settled but, no, I must have my nightly dose of Plum just so I don’t lie awake gazing at the ceiling. That’s why I try to avoid serious subjects in my commentaries — so many others are out there dealing with the Big Issues, why add my voice to the cacophony? On a brighter note, you and Biff will be pleased to know that the inevitable has happened. I knew my cool weather report would do it . . . We’ve had a late burst of summer, a couple of hot days, and the lemons on my tree are at last ripening. Soon be enough for a bucketload of G&T to go with Plum and electronic train rides (I have, inter alia, a download of a magical steam-hauled trip up the hill to Darjeeling).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow….the chin up attitude prevails! Perhaps what also helps one to maintain one’s sang froid is a soothing touch of Nature, a hobby to pursue sans distractions, satisfying nourishment and a dose of Plum, though not necessarily in that order. Thank you.


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