There comes a time in every man’s life when the expression ‘Tinkerty Tonk’ can no more be called into action to describe the course upon which one’s life is set than it can be used to respond to an enquiry regarding the quality of life of a patient scoring highly on a LUTS questionnaire. Though only yesterday I had left my home with a spring in my step and lightness of spirit that would have left nobody in any doubt that the bells were ringing out in celebration of all that was propitious in the world of Mr B. Wooster, this morning, that world was found to be an altogether less joyous place. Today, ‘Boos’, ‘Tickerty’ or otherwise, were nowhere to be heard.
It all began to go wrong whilst I was seated in the dining room perusing the national papers. I had finished breakfast when the finest gentleman’s personal gentleman in the Home Counties, if not all England, glided into the room. I greeted him cordially and, eager as ever to hear what a man with a brain the size of a planet thought concerning the issues of the day, proceeded to regale him with what I had gleaned from my review of the headlines.
‘I say, Jeeves’, I began, ‘it says here that one now has to wait an average of over two weeks for a routine GP appointment and, furthermore, that there’s a national shortage of HRT.’
‘Indeed so, sir. It is a concern for us all.’
‘A concern for us all it most certainly is, Jeeves, and a bally sizeable one at that. One dreads to think how Aunt Agatha will cope if deprived of her hormonal replacement. The aged relative is barely human when she’s taking the dashed pills, imagine how she’d be without them. Make no mistakes Jeeves, the thought itself is enough to make a grown man don a disguise of a mountain goat and head for the hills. There’s not a nephew in all the world who will be safe within a hundred miles of her.’
‘An encounter with Lady Worplesdon in such a state would, undoubtedly, be one that was best avoided, sir. Perhaps it is for the best then that she has sent a note.’
‘A note, Jeeves? What note?’
Jeeves did not answer but instead extended his gloved hand and passed me the piece of paper that he had been carrying on the tray with which he had entered the room. It is a well established fact that the Wooster’s are renowned for their bravery – in the face of danger they laugh with ne’er a care, in the moment of crisis they rise to the challenge, but I don’t mind admitting that I was made to physically stagger by what I now had cause to read. I was left, not only speechless and open mouthed but in such a state of tremulousness. that it was as much as I could do to avoid spilling the morning Darjeeling down my as yet undivested nightwear.
The piece of paper that Jeeves had handed me was the right hand side of a prescription. On it were printed the words Elleste Duet Conti. Alongside was a box that had been ticked and below, in a hand befitting one well practiced in the training of her evil acolytes in the dark art of advising on medicines management, were scrawled the words: ‘Obtain these for me Bertram – or I’ll see to it that you marry Madeleine Bassett The choice is yours’. A large letter ‘A’ confirmed, if confirmation was ever needed, who had authored such a minacious ultimatum.
‘Is anything the matter, sir?’, enquired Jeeves. I couldn’t help sensing though an air about him that suggested he already knew the contents of the note he had conveyed.
‘Not at all, Jeeves, not at all.’ I spluttered, struggling as I did so to regain my composure. ‘Aunt Agatha can attempt to put the frighteners on me all she likes but I happen to know that the Bassett has eyes, and heart, for just one man. And that man is Augustus Fink-Nottle. There’s no uncertainty about it – Gussie’s the chap for Madeline, always has been and always will be. Theirs is a love which acts as a constant in a world of ever changing health service management structures, an engagement as unshakeable as the mind of an administrator who has determined that a breach has occurred in a two week wait referral. Without doubt Aunt Agatha’s threats are as empty as a health secretary’s promises.’
‘One would like to think so, sir’ replied Jeeves in that tone he employs when he knows something that others do not. ‘But the word is that Miss Bassett is not as enamoured with Mr Fink-Nottle as was once the case’
‘Madeline not enamoured with Gussie! She is as besotted with Gussie as Gussie is with newts. And greater love has no man than that which Augustus Finknottle has for all things amphibian.’
I had hoped that Jeeves would have remarked favourably on my knowledge of taxonomy but he continued on, barely seeming to have noticed.
‘Mr Fink-Nottle’s love for members of the subfamily Pleurdelinae is undoubted sir; as, indeed, is his love for Miss Bassett. But, alas, that love no longer finds itself requited. It is a matter of regret that Miss Bassett has ended the agreement that once was in place.’
To say I was shocked would have been an understatement. But dealing with the unforeseen was something that I was becoming increasing used to, as I now proceeded to explain to Jeeves.
‘Well I don’t know Jeeves – is nothing sacred anymore? Can’t a man depend on anything? Only yesterday I was treated in a most unexpected manner. As is my custom on a Thursday afternoon I had it in mind to drop in at the Drones. As I arrived, Bates, the hall porter, ushered me to one side and asked if I would be so kind as to leave. He informed me that Bingo Little had, for reasons I cannot begin to imagine, turned against me and engineered a vote of the members, the upshot of which was such that I have been barred from the club for behaviour unbecoming to a gentleman. Bates was clearly ill at ease as a result of the whole dashed business. Usually, to borrow a phrase from old Bill Shakespeare, he is as polite as a pineapple, but yesterday, his manner was decidedly offish’
‘Sherry what, Jeeves? To what are you referring?’
‘Sheridan sir. ‘As polite as a pineapple’ – a phrase coined by Mr R. B. Sheridan in his 1775 play ‘The Rivals’. The phrase was not one of Mr Shakespeare’s’
‘Well thank you for that Jeeves. Here am I facing potential disaster in the form of a marriage to Madeline Bassett without so much as a bolt hole to escape to as a consequence of my having been mysteriously excluded from the Drones, and all you can see fit to do is to correct my knowledge on matters literary. Thankfully, I have this to cheer me in the hour of my distress’
With that I lifted from the chair next to me the fine Stetson hat that I’d previously ordered and which had arrived from the United States by that morning’s post. I placed the item on my head all the while ignoring Jeeves’ obvious displeasure.
‘I trust sir is not considering wearing such an item out in public. I feel to do so would be less than wise. It makes you look somewhat…’, he hesitated for a second, ‘…American.’
‘It’s all very fine you taking that attitude Jeeves. As you well know I once wrote a piece entitled ‘What the Well-dressed man is wearing’ and I am here to tell you Jeeves, that a certain well-dressed man will most certainly be wearing this very fine hat – and I’ll not have you suggesting otherwise. Arriving at the Drones with this on my head will ensure that the unpleasantness of yesterday will be cast aside in an instant. I’ll be ushered in once more, greeted with open arms like an adventuring hero returning from distant shores’.
‘If you say so, sir’
‘I jolly well do say so Jeeves, and there the matter must end. Your comments regarding what I choose to adorn my head were unsolicited and they have only added to the stress this mornings revelations have caused me. It’s all beginning to make me feel quite unwell. In fact I’ve not felt this nauseous since Madeline Bassett once described the stars as God’s daisy chain. If it wasn’t so difficult to get a doctors appointment I’d have half a mind to seek urgent medical advice’.
‘I’m sorry to hear that sir. If sir would like, I’d be happy to be of service to you and enquire into whether an appointment might not be forthcoming for you this morning. Perhaps sir could enquire regarding your Aunt’s medication at the same time.’
‘Haven’t you been listening Jeeves. Doctors appointments can’t be had for love nor money. It’s true Jeeves that, over the years, you have managed the seemingly impossible on more than one occasion, but not even you could secure a tête-à-tête with my doctor today. But try if you wish, I’ll not deny you the opportunity of making yourself look a fool!’
Jeeves silently left the room and I took the opportunity to assess how I might don the Stetson so as to maximise the air of jauntiness that I hoped to achieve. Within a few moments, Jeeves was back.
‘The doctor will be pleased to see you this morning sir’
I was dumbstruck. It was clear that Jeeves was pleased with himself and though aware that to do so would only serve to increase his sense of self satisfaction, I couldn’t help but ask how the devil he’d managed it.
‘I simply dialled 111 and told the young lady who answered my call that I was concerned that you might do something foolish’. He paused for a moment to cast a censorious glance at the hat that continued to bedeck my head. ‘The recommendation I was afforded was that you should see a doctor within two hours. On relaying this information to the receptionist at the practice at which you are registered, an appointment was duly offered. Apparently they have a new doctor in post. He can see you at noon.