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 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.
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.