An Introduction to Uncle Fred II

To complete the introduction to Uncle Fred….. I was in midst of giving a synopisis of “Uncle Fred Flits By”, his first appearance in the canon. I will continue…..

As the Parkers enter,  Fred tells Pongo that  they would know he has no son and he should go back to being the veterinarian’s assistant. The Parkers are chary of speaking before him but Fred tells them Pongo is stone-deaf.

They tell the story of the eel-jellier wooing their daughter, and Julia insists she loves him, on which the man leaps from behind the couch and kisses her. Uncle Fred rubbishes the Parkers’ insistence that their family is superior to his, by claiming that various cousins and uncles made their money in immoral and even criminal ways. Though Mrs Parker denies all, Robinson sees it as vindication of his own family background, and claims all he needs is a hundred pounds to buy a share in a business. Uncle Fred provides the money at once, and Robinson and Julia leave delighted, the pretty girl peppering Fred with kisses as she leaves.

Fred and Pongo leave the Parkers’ drinking a reviving cup of tea after their bizarre ordeal, and in the street meet Mr Roddis, the owner of the house. Fred intrduces himself as Mr J. G. Bulstrode, a neighbour on the street, and Pongo as Percy Frensham, a dealer in lard and imported butter. He tells Roddis he has seen some people breaking into his house, points through the window to the tea-drinking couple, advises Roddis to call the police, as he and a shaken Pongo head back to town.

(This bald synopsis does no justice – neither to the uncle nor to his creator… I will advise that find the story and read it for yourself)

Thus is Pongo’s demeanour, on hearing he has to face another visit from his uncle, explained.

Uncle Fred is a tall, slim, distinguished-looking man, with a jaunty moustache, and an “alert and enterprising eye”.

As the story I have cited shows, as a child he gambolled at Mitching Hill, his Uncle Willoughby’s estate just outside London, which later became the suburb of Valley Fields; it was there that he shot the gardener in the trousers seat with his bow and arrow, and threw up after his first cigar. He was a younger son, and therefore not expected to inherit his present title; he spent much time in America, working variously as a cowboy, a soda jerk, a newspaper reporter and a prospector in the Mojave Desert, before a number of deaths in the family left him heir to the Earldom.

In later youth, he became a member of the riotous Pelican Club, and a good friend of Galahad Threepwood, in whose stead he is occasionally called to Blandings, to help Gally’s brother Lord Emsworth out of a jam.

Uncle Fred says there is nothing he cannot achieve in the spring and as he sears through the stories, it is like a rocket let off horizontally rather than vertically.

With enough money not to worry, a bossy American wife and the house in the country with ‘too many nude statues’, his explosive energy clearly builds up till Uncle Dynamite, as one of the novels is titled, is ready to detonate.

Uncle Fred probably does not hold with the  ‘if I’d known then what I know now’ way of thinking. He is not unlike the school boys who broke out of bounds and liked to see the rules and regulations disrupted, but the  difference is that he now has the means, experience and confidence to carry the caper off.

He loves helping the people he loves, particularly when it comes to match-making. But he also looks after himself and even everyday pleasures are imbued with grandeur.

His home is in Hampshire, where he lives quietly with his sponge Joyeuse and his wife Jane, who at first permits him the occasional day or two in town, but later takes control of the family finances, leaving him only enough for “golf balls, self-respect and tobacco”, and insists he stay in the country. This injunction comes as a relief to Pongo, who dreads his trips to London.


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