My Man, Felix

I sprinted up to my sister’s front door and rapped the knocker.

Behind the door an unseemly scuffle was ensuing.

It sounded like a small mute hobgoblin was repeatedly jumping for the handle on the other side. Or doing a soft-shoe-shuffle, defying gravity, on the vertical surface of the door. I boggled.

Finally, the hobgoblin succeeded in reaching the latch. The door swung open revealing an apocalyptic scene: one of my stunning little nieces, the princesses, had been vying with what does sometimes indeed seem like a very small hobgoblin, my four-year old nephew, Big Al.

They both wanted to open the door.

And somewhere in the melee, Al had fallen and banged his head on the lintel. His mouth was a huge round capital ‘O’. A furious princess had stormed off to her tower.

I am rarely at a loss for words, but watched as Al’s Mum calmed the stormy waters with her customary ease. And with a certain discreet tact, my son melted into view.

He waited until there was an opening in the conversation, which was some time. He turned large solemn eyes on my sister and intoned: “Auntie Libby, I should tell you that Al has been trying very hard to annoy his sister for a while now.”

My sister nodded, pocketed this piece of intelligence which would undoubtably help the fiery princess’s cause.

We took a hasty leave. We had a coach to meet. I sat in the car, and Felix walked around to the passenger side.

And he announced: “I’m trying to be a bit more like Jeeves.”

I shook my head. Maybe it would clear out my ears a little. Did my son just declare he was modelling himself on a fictional manservant?

“Jeeves?” I said, “You mean, Bertie Wooster’s Jeeves?”

“I call him Mr Wooster, Mum, because it’s more formal.” he said.

“But why on earth would you want to be like Jeeves?” I stuttered. As a role model, this character blindsided all the obvious choices for the hero of a nine-year old boy.

Felix has been listening to PG Wodehouse’s work on audiobook and knows much of it by heart. It appeals to his sense of humour.

“He’s so calm, and he always knows the answer, and he’s always coming up with solutions for everything,” Felix rejoined.

You’ve got to hand it to my son. He chooses his role models with meticulous care.

Jeeves is a Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman. He is set up to serve, but through dint of being a bally genius at everything from dressing to betting on the horses to handling monstrous aunts, he emerges far superior to his employer Β in every conceivable way.

Indeed, he is far superior to us all. As Jeevesologist, journalist and writer Richard Usborne put it, he is a ‘godike prime mover.’

“One of the rummy things about Jeeves,” observes Bertie in “My Man Jeeves” , “is that unless you watch like a hawk, you seldom see him come into the room. He’s like one of those weird chappies from India who dissolve themselves into thin air and nip through space in a sort of disembodied way and assemble the parts again just where they want them.”

Jeeves reads Spinoza and Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare. He is a whizz at gambling, and car maintenance, and managing women. But little boys choose superheroes, central characters, for their idols: not servants.

What gives?

I have yet to fathom what Felix sees in a man who is omniscient, yet chooses to work in a role of service. But I do think, as Bertie Wooster might say, that Felix is spot-on.

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40 thoughts on “My Man, Felix

  1. Don’t forget there is honor in serving. And far more honor–and power–in being the intelligent, useful servant than in being an ignorant, hapless…er…servee? I agree with Felix entirely.

  2. I have never read the book, but somehow Jeeves has made it into the culture so that I immediately knew who you were talking about. And what a wise and sensitive Felix! I think for him to be drawn to the superior sensibilities in Jeeves rather than show any concern for his station, seals my already strong impression that your son is really quite incredible all on his own! I’m even impressed that he is listening to Wodehouse on audiobooks! I’m intrigued enough that I may try to do the same! You have piqued my curiosity, Kate. Debra

  3. I believe Jeeves is real. He is an alien, of superhuman intelligence, who is visiting to study humans. He finds the whole human condition amusing, therefore he amuses himself in solving all manner of problems encountered by poor old Bertie and his chums.

  4. Spot on, indeed. I’m sitting here, reading, astonished at the knowing of Felix and that he is actually listening to Wodehouse at the ripe old age of nine – and that he “gets it”. Remember, dear Kate, that the movers and shakers of this world are not necessarily the ones we see on the television screen.

    You really had me giggling with the picture you painted on your side of the door, with the hobgoblin at the handle and the miffed princess. You set this up well, in that way that you do, and made my day as I start to once again catch up.

    1. It was such a funny moment, Penny, all the scrabbling, and me there wondering what on earth was going on. I don’t think I would have been surprised if t had turned out to be a hobgoblin!

  5. I’m going to take a different route and posit that Felix is preparing you early to trust his teenage self. “Why, Felix would NEVER do that – insert horrible teenage thing here. He’s been at the library all afternoon.”

    He’s very smart, that one. πŸ™‚

  6. “chooses to work in a role of service” – ‘chooses’ being the operative word, I think – it’s obvious Jeeves is his own man in a way that Bertie Wooster never will be… and somehow your son at his young age has seen through an illusion that, face it, most adults never seem to…

  7. I should be on my guard, Kate. These Felix’s they have a sly twinkle in their eyes every now and again, and a young man who can enter a room “like one of those weird chappies from India who dissolve themselves into thin air and nip through space in a sort of disembodied way and assemble the parts again just where they want them” is a daunting prospect πŸ˜‰

  8. I know where that boy is coming from – haha – I was pretty impressed with Jeeves myself when I first came upon him, and you must admit his master is a bit of a dweeb in comparison! Jeeves is like the puppet master!

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