Meeting Jerome

Jerome K Jerome is an author I like to read as well as emulate. Growing up, a couple of passages from Three Men in a Boat were mandatory reading in English class, and that’s where I first came across him. While these passages were consumed with glee, it was not until many years later that the full revelation of Jerome happened!

The year was 1999, and I was engaged in running a school trying to teach English ‘as she is spoken’ to the fair citizens of my hometown. Looking back, I can hardly see what made me confident in my own ability to make such an attempt. But we must have been doing something right – we were tasked by the local police department with getting a few constables conversation ready, and a couple of local colleges with helping their students with their English communication skills.

It was during this interesting phase of my life that my good friend, whom we shall call D., in true Jeromian fashion, introduced me to the good books. Boat and Bummel, as we referred to the hallowed texts in the typically callous nature that infects youth of all countries and times, were constant companions. We carried them around and read aloud passages to each other, much to the joy — rather less of the time — and chagrin — most of the time — of the other wayward youths who made it their mission in life to associate with us, often participating, in real life, in the activity that is in these days reduced to the mere typing of a few letters of the modern version of us in 1999 – ROTFL.

This was also the time of the fledgling internet, and while others of our age were downloading lascivious pictures of people in various poses who seemed to have forgotten their clothing somewhere, we were engaged in downloading the texts of the various other works of Jerome K Jerome. This was the age before smartphones and the only available portable reading devices were battery-free, hand-operated and made out of dead trees. So we made the most of our friendships and acquaintances — and my father — who had access to printers and printed out copies of most of his other works. Given that the only things in print at that time were the Boat and Bummel, we really had no other choice. And so we read Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow and the other lesser known works.

Like all good things, this Golden Period ended rather abruptly — for reasons I cannot clearly recall after all this time, we had to close down the school and I moved cities. Thankfully, I never forgot Jerome, and reading him has always been an experience that brings great delight and calm. In the years 2000 to 2007, my wife and I ran an online creative writing magazine, and I wrote regularly for my own pleasure as well as for business. I slowly realized that in my writing, especially for my own pleasure, I could detect the distinct influence of Jerome, and that made me elated. Of course, the emulation is flawed, and at times is just bad writing, but the sheer thought that I was writing in a way that I think Jerome would have written brings me great joy!

In a way to pay homage to Jerome, I’ve started serializing one of his lesser-known works, Diary of a Pilgrimage, to make it more accessible, and provide you with a weekly dose of Jerome, one chapter at a time!