Front page


Has the whole world gone completely dotty?

14 Mar 17 | Re: Catchy phrase | Link-U-Post

That’s the question, isn’t it. A technical error has sadly led to the disappearance of the legendary blog I wrote anticipating the rise of Corbyn, but while I may have harbinged that moment of brief sweetness I was as in the dark as anyone about the chaos that would come along with it. Now between the left going into convulsions, the right grimly pushing through with Brexit, and Ed Sheeran turning the singles chart into a massive cheese sculpture of his own head, perhaps the world has gone completely dotty.

But that’s not what this blog is about.

What I want to discuss instead is Hugh Laurie’s audiobook of The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl. My boy loves his Roald Dahl audiobooks and listens to them often, and for my money the best narration (amid fierce competition from Andrew Sachs, James Bolam and his own Stephen Fry) comes from Hugh Laurie. He’s particularly good doing the super-rich Duke of Hampshire, and never better than when he interprets the Duke’s line “Has the whole world gone completely dotty?” So much so that that one line has stuck in my head and caused me to spend entire days thinking and occasionally saying it over and over again, which I would be doing whether the world had really gone completely dotty or not.

The line’s not just super-catchy. It’s also a very good example of how a deft author can give depth to a character with a few well-chosen words. This is the Duke’s reaction to a situation that isn’t going his way, and it gives a lot of insight, I think, into how the rich and powerful think. Here is a man whose life has been lived in such a state of privilege that he’s come to believe that him getting his way is the natural order of things. When that doesn’t happen, he doesn’t just see personal adversity, he sees an upsetting of the natural order. If I’m not winning, as I always do and always should, then the world itself must have gone mad.

You hear the same world view in upper middle class complaints about poor service. You know, people who use “ridiculous” to mean “mildly inconvenient”. Why, why, why can I not get what I want? They are the Duke of Hampshire and a pelican is stealing their cherries.

I’m not a big Roald Dahl fan, generally. He delights in creating monstrously cruel characters purely so that he can be cruel to them in retaliation. I find it irksome that the narrative of The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me starts with the sweetshop being derelict in the present, and ends with it being renovated in the past. I find it implausible that a tortoise owner wouldn’t notice that their tortoise, who they’d had for ages, had started changing into a completely different one every day. But he connects with kids, he sounds majestic in the larynx of Laurie, and I do like that quote.

Posted by ANDY KAGLE at 22:06

[Back to main blog]

[Or dive into the blarchive...]

Take me home