John Buchan parody by AI and a Clo-Kepp attendee

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Illustration from DALL-E when asked for a book cover for Buchan’s The Three Hostages. It doesnt seem to understand his name..

I asked Chat GPT to come up with a John Buchan parody. The brief was to write a piece with the context of rain outside, a man and wife inside and an unexpected visit by a friend. This had been the brief for a parody found in the annual school magazine of Clovelly-Kepplestone (1930) a private boarding school for girls in Eastbourne, Sussex. It flourished from 1908 until 1934 and was familiarly known to staff and pupils as “Clo-Kepp”. There is a very comprehensive piece on it at Wikipedia.

The Clo-Kepp John Buchan parody, probably by a school girl, is an amusing and well tuned effort:

    “The night was wild and rainy and reminded me of the time when old Hatiron and I were engaged in that business of the Forty-second Psalm. My wife, who was busily employed in the stitching and repairing of one of my shirts, torn during the day’s shooting at Clan Haggis, remarked upon the persistently bad weather we had been experiencing of late, and wondered, the streams being then in spate, whether I should not take a week off to try the mettle of the fish in the Ben Slioch burns.

    I opened The Times, and, glancing casually through its pages, noted with surprise that Flaxman had resigned his post in the Ministry. He was always pretty keen on politics, though strangely recondite in his views on Empire Policy, which he declared was sheer jingoism and inflated proletarianism.  However, it seemed strange that he should leave the Ministry at a time when Burton was intent on seeing that England got what she wanted.

    ” Well, what’s the news ? ” inquired my wife.

    ” Oh, very little,” I replied, ” the usual things ;  I see Flaxman has retired.  I can’t help thinking there must be something to it.”

    Just then the bell rang, and after a moment Breeves came in to ask if we were at home to Mr. Thoughtnot.

    ” Why, Jimmy,” I cried, ” this is a marvellous surprise.”  The last time I had heard of him he had been wandering about Samarkand disguised as a Shiari ; and had you spoken of him in a certain hovel where the mountains dip down beside the valley, which runs towards Tashkent, you would have heard strange things of him.  For Jimmy was a Lawrence in those parts, and there is not a wandering pedlar on the Kirgiz Steppe who will not give a night’s lodging to him who mentions Raskashpol.

    ” It’s about Flaxman,” said Jimmy.  ” I am to go with him to Borneo, where he is afraid something may be brewing.  For one thing, they are not sufficiently represented on the Board of Empire Economics, and there are other indications of an abstract kind of feeling out there which is making the big-wigs in Whitehall think a bit.  Now you know something about those parts,–tell me a likely spot from where we might get a line on business.”

    ” Undoubtedly amongst the Telantan Hills.”

    Jimmy looked at me sharply.

    ” You feel that, too? ” he said. ”  Well, that’s not so dusty for a start.  Excuse a hasty intrusion, but I must be off.  There’s my dossier to arrange, and an old natie toeken pasar of a Murut who lives in the shadow of Kinibalu, with whom I must get in touch.”  And thereupon without another word, he left us.

    In bed that night I lay awake some time thinking.  The rain had died down, and the wind had dropped to a soft swishing amongst the tree-tops.

    I could not help feeling it was symbolical..”

Our request to ChatGPT was “Please do a parody of John Buchan’s writing with the context of rain outside, a man and wife inside and an unexpected visit by a friend.”  The following came in less than a minute..

In the cozy confines of their country cottage, nestled amidst the rolling hills, Sir Reginald and Lady Evelyn found solace from the relentless deluge outside. Raindrops tapped incessantly against the window panes, conducting a symphony of gloom. The fire crackled and danced in the hearth, casting flickering shadows across the room as the couple huddled together, seeking warmth and companionship.

Lady Evelyn sighed, her delicate hand gently clasped in Sir Reginald’s sturdy grasp. “Oh, my dear Reginald, this rain seems relentless, casting a pall of melancholy upon our humble abode. I fear our plans for a pleasant stroll in the meadow have been thwarted by this tempestuous assault from the heavens.”

Sir Reginald, a stout gentleman of distinguished demeanor, stroked his neatly-trimmed mustache and peered out the rain-streaked window with a thoughtful gaze. “Indeed, my dear Evelyn, it seems as though the skies have conspired against us. But fear not, for within these walls, we can create our own little haven of warmth and cheer.”

Just as Sir Reginald finished his comforting words, a resounding knock echoed through the cottage, shattering the tranquil atmosphere. Startled, the couple exchanged puzzled glances, for no one was expected to brave the storm and seek their company on such a dreary day. Sir Reginald rose from his chair and strode purposefully toward the door, his wife trailing close behind.

With a flourish, Sir Reginald threw open the door, revealing a bedraggled figure standing on their doorstep. It was none other than their dear friend, Lord Percival, his clothing drenched from head to toe, water cascading off him like a waterfall. He wore a sheepish smile that did little to mask his disheveled state.

“Good heavens, Percival!” Sir Reginald exclaimed, his voice laced with both surprise and concern. “What brings you to our humble abode on this inclement day? Pray, do come in and warm yourself by the fire. We shall fetch you a dry robe forthwith.”

Lord Percival gratefully accepted their invitation, stepping over the threshold with a grateful nod. “I apologize for this impromptu intrusion, dear friends. I was caught unawares by this downpour whilst on my way to the neighboring estate. A sudden change of plans forced me to seek refuge here.”

As the trio gathered around the hearth, laughter and camaraderie filled the room, pushing aside the dreariness that the rain had imposed upon them. They shared tales of past adventures and recounted amusing anecdotes, their spirits rising with each passing moment.

Outside, the rain continued its relentless assault, drumming against the windows as if begging to be let in. But within the cottage’s cozy embrace, Sir Reginald, Lady Evelyn, and Lord Percival found solace and mirth. Time seemed to slip away as the hours flew by, and the downpour outside, once an unwelcome visitor, became a mere backdrop to their delightful gathering.

And so, amidst the rain’s persistent symphony, the man, the wife, and the unexpected visitor forged a bond, united by the warmth of their friendship and the respite they found from the tempestuous world outside.

The rain was pelting against the windowpane with a persistence that matched the nagging of my dear wife. “George, do something about this dreary weather!” she exclaimed, casting a disapproving gaze towards the gray skies.

I sighed, resigned to my fate as a mere mortal who couldn’t control the heavens. Little did I know, fate had a cruel joke in store for me. Just as I settled into my armchair, a knock echoed through the house. Startled, I glanced at my wife, who wore an expression of mild annoyance mixed with curiosity.

With a quick motion, I opened the door to find our dear friend, Harold, dripping wet on the doorstep. His mustache drooped like a sad willow tree, while his bowler hat resembled a miniature swimming pool.

“Good evening, old chum!” he proclaimed, water cascading off his coat in a rather dramatic fashion. “I was just passing by, and as luck would have it, I found myself in need of shelter.”

My wife shot me a glance that could curdle milk, as if to say, “You better have some extra biscuits hidden away for unexpected visits.” With a forced smile, I welcomed Harold inside, knowing well that the chaos had only just begun.

Little did we know, the rain was only the prelude to a tempest of witty banter, misplaced umbrellas, and soggy tea biscuits that would forever cement this evening as the most absurd gathering in the annals of our existence.”

The parody by the Clo-Kepp girl or woman is, of course, superior — it is clever and has moments of humour that actually make you smile and also it is by someone familiar with, and appreciative of, Buchan’s work. The AI parody is an amazing effort but has no real humour and does not gently and affectionately mock the great Buchan. As the Dr Johnson said (in about 1760) of women preachers: “Sir…(it)is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” At present AI assistants are not great on humour but they may have the last laugh…

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