How weird, would you say – at a guess – is your family? Compared to the generality of families, are they:
a) so eccentric you’d never get away with it in fiction;
b) moderately weird;
c) fairly average; or
d) so normal as to be almost suspicious?
Please note: pseudonyms are perfectly acceptable in the comment section for those wishing to protect the privacy of their families (or avoid their families hunting them down, bent on revenge).
I, however, shall fling aside the cloak of concealment and say that my family is probably a solid b: moderately weird, but not legendarily so (though others may wish to dispute this).
As evidence, I submit the following conversation, the result of us going out for a family dinner:
INT. PUB KITCHEN. DINNERTIME.
Waiter: (entering) A troupe of Russian folk singers has just walked in!
Chef: Ah, that’ll be my flatmate’s family.
One of my favourite eccentrics of all time is Psmith (“In conversation, you may call me Rupert (though I hope you won’t)…”), a creation of the late nonpareil P.G. Wodehouse. “There is a preliminary P before the name. This, however, is silent. Like the tomb. Compare such words as ptarmigan, psalm, and phthisis.”
His upper-class version of Socialism consists of addressing everyone as Comrade, and giving other men’s umbrellas to pretty girls who get caught in the rain. “I’ve just become a Socialist. It’s a great scheme. You ought to be one. You work for the equal distribution of property, and start by collaring all you can and sitting on it.”
Witty, courteous and faultlessly dressed, he is ready for any escapade that presents itself. Turn a kiddies’ magazine into a red-hot weapon of investigative journalism? Yes. Masquerade as a Canadian poet in an English stately home in order to pinch a diamond necklace (strictly from the best of motives)? Absolutely. And all without turning a hair, since he is constitutionally incapable of taking almost anything seriously.
Psmith can be encountered in Mike and Psmith, Psmith in the City, Psmith Journalist and Leave It To Psmith. I highly recommend them all, naturally – I even at one point considered changing my name to Psmith.
Who is your own favourite eccentric (fictional or otherwise)? Be so good as to introduce us in the comments section below.
“I am not mad. I am eccentric perhaps–at least certain people say so; but as regards my profession. I am very much as one says, ‘all there.”
Hercule Poirot in The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie