Dinner for Four by Trevor Plumbly
10 minutes to go; so I double-checked the booze and the seating arrangements: Micawber should sit opposite Miss Moneypenny and next to Mary Poppins, while Jeeves would fill the fourth chair.
Micawber was the first to arrive clad in a polo shirt and dress jeans; it was tough to see him as the Victorian law clerk. ‘Many thanks for your gracious invitation kind sir!’ he boomed. I decided to wait until the party had all arrived before explaining the nature of the dinner. Next in was Miss Moneypenny; she had scrubbed up remarkably well and, dressed in a simple, black, knee-length dress, she looked quite stunning. Jeeves was next, his neat, black three-piece pin-stripe suit and sober tie indicated that getting him to relax a bit could prove tough. Mary Poppins breezed in, umbrellaless, totally out of character in a scarlet silk blouse and a white mini-skirt. As soon as we were seated I explained: ‘The idea was to enjoy a meal with literary characters, but then I thought that perhaps you might feel as if you were a bit short-changed by your creators and we could use the evening to allow readers to get a better insight.’ This was greeted by an embarrassed silence which persisted throughout the meal despite some pretty hefty wine consumption.
Back in the lounge, I lined up the liqueurs, and as they sat down, said: ‘Look, if we’re going to get anything out of this evening we’ve all got to bloody well relax, no more Mr’s or Ms OK? Micawber, why don’t you start by giving us your first name?’ He shifted in his seat and muttered ‘Wilkins’. Miss Moneypenny followed with ‘I’m Celia and I shall call you Bill’. Jeeves, barely audible whispered ‘Reginald’. Mary giggled and said ‘I’ll call you Reggie darlin’.
Getting a bit more hopeful I said ‘Do any of you feel that you weren’t really given a chance to have more impact?’ Celia jumped straight in ‘Absolutely, Fleming paints me as a dried-up old bag, I could have been an important character, a mature, sexy woman, intelligent and much more believable to the thinking reader than those empty-headed bimbos James was busy shafting every other chapter. If Fleming had had a bit more imagination I could have been a… a honey trap!’ She sniffed in indignation and took another hefty slug of brandy.
Wilkins Micawber was quick to follow. In between swigs of single malt, he lamented that Dickens had placed far too much emphasis on Uriah Heep instead of broadening his role. ‘I should have been portrayed as a legal hawk with a razor-sharp brain, a point of clarity in Dickensian gloom, a man-about-town with an eye and an appetite for the ladies. But Dickens never allowed anyone to get their leg over, so I ended up as a podgy, middle-aged bumbler with too many kids and debt problems. Mercifully it was only one book though, unlike poor Celia who had to endure an entire series.’ He placed a sympathetic hand on her stockinged knee which she immediately squeezed in gratitude.
Jeeves was totally sympathetic, a few belts of Calvados had undone years of silent discretion along with a few buttons of his waistcoat. ‘I reckon Wodehouse was a vindictive old bastard, lumbering me with that obnoxious little twit Wooster for all those years. The little bugger never got his end away, not once! I reckon he slept with his golf clubs instead. It’s not as if there was any shortage of females to go round, but did I get to go where he obviously feared to tread? Not bloody likely; Wodehouse thought that ironing shirts, pouring drinks and pulling that silly sod out of the shit was enough to keep me happy.’
Mary slid across the sofa, pecked him on the cheek and loosened his tie. ‘Poor old Reggie, but at least you got a bit of booze, I got sod all in that stupid film.’ After a couple more sips of brandy she fumbled with the top buttons of her blouse, allowing Jeeves a view he’d never experienced via Mr Wodehouse. ‘God I hated that movie, talk about bugger-all on roller skates. I pleaded for a meatier role; if not a steamy sex scene, at least a heavy snog chucked in somewhere to inject a bit of reality into the bloody thing. What did I end up with? Swanning around on a frigging slate roof with a singing chimneysweep: not my idea of how to get your rocks off.’ She leant further into Jeeves for the comfort he seemed more than happy to provide. On the other sofa, Micawber had cast a protective arm around Celia’s shoulders and it seemed a good time to offer coffee.
Following a little coffee and more booze, I called the taxis and witnessed literary history. Mary Poppins hot to trot and Jeeves showing no signs of applying a cold compress. Miss Moneypenny doing a latter day Mata Hari and Micawber flexing his sexual muscle. Dinner at my place will never be quite the same.