Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


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Tuesday 26 August 2008

The "Goriller of 3B"

Image source: "Whizz for Atomms" (Willans & Searle
Pub William Collins Sons & Co Ltd 1973)

The magnificent specimen you see above is, as any fule kno, the splendid Nigel Molesworth, pupil at St Custard's. It is perhaps my favourite image of the young gentleman - he who has given me so much reading pleasure over the years.

Geoffrey Willans, who created the appalling - but equally entertaining - Nigel, died tragically young at 47, so the last book was published in 1959. As one who was a contemporary of Nigel, I rather feel that although in principle, Nigel is eternal, he is really a 1950s character.

The 1950s to me, and perhaps to you (if you were around then) was a time of great optimism, and much of this is reflected in the four books in the series. These were:
  • Down with Skool! A Guide to School Life for Tiny Pupils and their Parents (1953)
  • How to be Topp: A Guide to Sukcess for Tiny Pupils, Including All There is to Kno about Space (1954)
  • Whizz for Atomms: A Guide to Survival in the 20th Century for Fellow Pupils, their Doting Maters, Pompous Paters and Any Others who are Interested (1956)
  • Back in the Jug Agane (1959)
The titles and descriptions themselves provide a fine introduction to Nigel's eccentric spelling; "as any fule kno" has become a standard English expression, frequently found in press articles.

Willans was clever indeed: he managed an excellent and invariably funny blend of Nigel's brutishness and a veneer of British public-school classical education.

And it was Ronald Searle (creator of the girls of St Trinians) who produced the splendid illustrations. Here is Phineas Grimes the positively ante-deluvian headmaster, a magnificent piece of work:
Image source: "Whizz for Atomms" (Willans & Searle
Pub William Collins Sons & Co Ltd 1973)

Grimes, according to Nigel ,was ever keen to increase his income and to this end was alleged to run a whelk stall as a sideline.

There is an entertaining website for those who would like to share Nigel's skool experience; it is of course named after Nigel's skool: St Custard's.

Wikipedia has a good entry covering Nigel for those who would like a general background; there are numerous other sites too.

Proof that Nigel has outlasted his period may be found in a splendid parody Ho for Hoggwart's in which Nigel attends Harry Potter's famous school, written by Alice Dryden. It helps to kno Nigel a little (which is quite enuough!) first, but this is a very funny piece in its own right.

Tragically I cannot find a picture of Basil Fotherington-tomas "who skip around like a girly saying 'hello trees, hello sky'." He was just one of a rich cast of characters who together made my visits to St Custards so rewarding: Nigel, Molesworth 2, Fotherington-tomas, Grabber (jolly tuough), Grimes, Sigismund the mad maths master, and not to forget Nigel's best friend (who hav a face like a squished tomato) Peason, and of course Matron.

Until the next time

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