Professor Humperdink III

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28.8.08

Baalbek


Our block
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Nahr el-Auwali
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Land in Baalbek witlessly delayed; just have time to hew out a building block for aunt Humperdink’s temple, to celebrate, Juan opens a barrel of his Syrian Special Reserve. We pride ourselves on our carving skills, but heading down Nahr el-Auwali for Jezzin, we can’t help but observe that, when it comes to carving, the river beats us hollow. Humbled, befuddled and snookingly behind schedule we head on, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

To Baalbek


Ziggurat of Ur
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Mosque of Al Mutawakkil
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Valley of Mina campsite
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Fire altars
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Mir Arab, the Tower of Death
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Tomb of King Kabus
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Camping in Mina
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Ropkind’s aeroplane
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After celebrating our arrival at the Ziggurat of Ur, we are leaving Ur of Chaldees in a sorry condition, and desperately low on Balvenie, Clynelish and Dalwhinnie. Although it is a privilege to see so many extraordinary buildings, stopping at the same campsite twice, we realise that, following the direction indicated by the Mosque of Al Mutawakkil, we are travelling in ever decreasing circles and have no choice but to jump aboard one of Ropkind’s aeroplanes and, fifishly behind schedule, fly to Baalbek as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

26.8.08

To Ur Kaśdim


Schrodinger and springless Jack's-in-the-Box
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Cheap Jack-in-the-Boxes
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Sad-Satun
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Blue Mosque, Tibriz
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Friday Mosque, Yezd
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Bokhara
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Nakshi-i-Rustam
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Takht-i-Jamshid
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Juan’s Jack-in the-Box shop in Aberfeldy is the best Jack-in-the Box shop in Aberfeldy because of the wide, up to date, range and reasonable prices. To keep his prices down, the less expensive Jack-in-the-Boxes are gravity operated and have to be held upside down, and Juan's range of Schrodinger, Zen and Nihilist Jack-in-the-Boxes, don’t necessarily contain a Jack at all. Opening a barrel of Bunnahabhainn, to fortify ourselves, bickering about whether his sign should read Jack-in-the-Boxes or Jack’s-in-the-box, we rush from one magnificent building to another. Unfortunately, approaching Takht-i-Jamshid for the second time, we realise that we have travelled in a circle. This is typical of Juan and now, scaramouchingly behind schedule, we head to Ur Kaśdim, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

23.8.08

To Persia


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Although the cockpit contains a bewildering amount of switches and dials, Juan finds a switch marked ‘autopilot’: this is very useful as the aircraft can now fly itself. As we can ignore the instrumentation, and, apart from switching off alarm bells, sirens, claxons and flashing red warning lights, there is little to do, I catch up on my memoirs while Juan opens a barrel of Pulteney and sketches some new Jack-in-the-box designs, for his Jack-in-the-box shop in Aberfeldy.
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Unfortunately, the autopilot doesn’t turn out to be as useful a device as we thought and we crash into a mountain. This slows us down, and rescuing the malt from the burning wreckage delays us even more. Now, arguing about who was meant to be flying the plane, mumpsimusly behind schedule, befuddled and somewhat singed, we stagger on to Persia, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

The Hindu Kush


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It is normally a lot of fun, crossing these beautiful mountains, but, frighteningly low on Clynish, Dalmore and Balblair; we can’t carry on much longer without imposing a rationing system. As great northern malts must never be rationed, we have no choice but to finish the remaining barrels, borrow an aeroplane from Ropkind Scharf, and, befuddled and moideringly behind schedule, head for the Highlands, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

22.8.08

Benares


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Borrowing a boat in Benares, Juan insists on fighting over which one of us is going to row and which one is to sit around doing nothing. Using the oars to beat each other over the head makes rowing difficult. Typically, Juan’s stupidity delays us once again, so, platycephalously behind schedule, trusting in Mother Ganges, admiring this beautiful, sacred, city, shouting and singing and brawling, we splash unsteadily north, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink's Diary

21.8.08

To Benares


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Consistently delayed by Juan, who refuses to pass through India without falling in love with, and pursuing, every woman he meets. He claims that this is an Indian tradition and that he is merely showing respect for the culture. To catch up on my memoirs, I retreat to Aunt Humperdink’s Amber palace, in the deserted city of Amber, but Juan arrives, with beautiful women and a new batch of his Indian Special Reserve. To celebrate, we hold the first party to be held in the deserted city for hundreds of years. Now, because of Juan’s persistent idiocy, lecherously delayed and facinorously behind schedule, we head for Benares as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

19.8.08

Ramanathaswamy Temple


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Arrive at the Ramanathaswamy Temple gurningly behind schedule. With its thousands of sculptures and long pillared halls, the temple makes us feel small and insignificant. Somewhat overwhelmed and feeling spiritually squished, we leave the temple and gloomily walk around aunt Humperdink’s vegetable market. Fortunately, a smile from Sakunta, unlike sculptures, carvings and pillared corridors, brightens up the whole day and reminds us how lucky we are to be back amongst the beauties of India.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

18.8.08

Rangoon


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Stop by the Shwe Dagon Pagoda to explain to the monks that we can’t immediately return the one thousand five hundred silver and gold bells that normally adorn the top of the building, which they very kindly lent us for uncle George’s handbell choir. We tell them that Juan’s cousin, Pueblo, attended the choir’s annual performance and, afterwards, inspired by their music, and a barrel of Juan’s vintage Knockando, he led a mass deconstructive chiming session, which damaged the bells. We tell the monks that the bells will be restored but, for the inconvenience, we give them enough gold to gild the entire pagoda every year for the next millennia. The monks are very gracious and tell us that fervently rung bells are inspirational. I tell them that, in the instance of uncle George or Pueblo, this is not true, nonetheless, to celebrate, Juan opens several barrels of Tomatin.
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The monks explain that, although they do not normally drink whisky, this is a special occasion. A short time later, understandably, considering their suddenly having become ridiculously intoxicated and fabulously wealthy, they are whooping, singing, and dancing around, waving flowers; they do this for hours. It is always fun, visiting the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, but, again, stupidly delayed by Juan’s witlessness, befuddled and nithingly behind schedule, we rush on to Rameswaram, as fast as we possible can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

16.8.08

Mingun


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Arrive in Mingun to replace the bell we borrowed. As enthusiasm for the carillon should never be hampered by lack of well-wrought bells, or talent, we make sure uncle George always has top quality bells for his annual performance. His reputation is as a chocolatier is glorious and we would like him to be equally renowned as a great carilloneur. Unfortunately, claiming the natural flow of music would be stifled by formal lessons, he refuses to learn to play the instrument. This attitude, whilst commendable, occasionally makes hauling bells around the world a tad irksome. To celebrate returning the bell to its rightful location, we open a barrel of Glenfarclas, now, again, nauseatingly delayed by Juan’s lack of sense, peevish and ill, brawling, befuddled and frampoldingly behind schedule, we head for Rangoon as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

P'harum Caves


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Cave pearls lose their shine when they dry out. Professional cave pearlers have their own techniques of maintaining the shine. Juan steeps his cave pearls in the seasoning that he uses for his bagpipes, a mixture containing vintage White Label from Aberfeldy, honey from aunt Humperdink’s Ballindalloch hive, and a pinch of Ashirbu’s smoking mixture, this keeps the bags supple and, when not being blown, they can be sucked, for nourishment. In the desert campaign, Juan, cut off from supplies for four months, lived entirely off his bagpipes. After being soaked in seasoning, dry cave pearls keep their lustre. Juan has recently seasoned his pipes so, as we are in the area, we call in to the P'harum Caves for some cave pearl diving.
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Although we are in a desperate hurry, we stop to open a barrel of Balvenie and admire a Pagoda, carved from a stalagmite. Juan commented that it must have taken generations of monks to create this beautiful thing, and it was fortunate that, safe in these caves, the pagoda could come to no harm. Bowing to the pagoda as we leave, Juan accidently squeezed his bagpipes. The wailing sound, amplified and distorted by the cave, found the resonant frequency of the stalagmite, which made the pagoda vibrate. At first, it gave off a pleasant humming noise as it vibrated, but, responding to the dissonant echoes of the bagpipes, it vibrated more and more violently until, with a terrible screeching noise, the entire structure collapsed in a heap. Again, because of Juan’s idiocy, we have wasted time, we don’t have any cave pearls, lustrous or otherwise, and angry monks are chasing us. Now, stumbling around in guano and rubble, claustrophobically behind schedule and downright befuddled, we make for Mingun, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

15.8.08

Kuthodaw Pagoda


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Cutting down the south-east side of Mandalay Hill, we cannot resist visiting the Kuthodaw Pagoda, to read the Buddhist scriptures engraved on seven hundred and twenty nine large stones. Normally it’s enjoyable to get lost in a book, but, as we have just opened Juan’s new batch of Mandalay Reserve, we are somewhat befuddled and become so hopelessly lost that we have to be rescued by a monk. To thank him for leading us out of the Kuthodaw, we insist he tries some malt. The monk explains that, although it against his beliefs, out of respect to us as honoured guests, he felt that, on this occasion, to taste the beverage would not be too great a sin. He took a tiny sip, instantly turned green, clutched his throat and fell to the ground. This is the sign of a good malt and, to celebrate, we offer some to the monks who arrive, running to help their fallen colleague, they, out of courtesy, taste the whisky and immediately confirm the quality of the brew by bursting into rowdy songs, hurling insults at each other and brawling. This, the typical result of Juan’s irrational behavior, means, again, we are squintingly delayed and, brachycephalously behind schedule, press on to Mingun as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

14.8.08

To Mandalay


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Passing through the Kelasa hills; stop to check that our scaffolding is still supporting the Kyaik-hti-yo Pagoda, after aunt Humperdink’s dance. Dances in the pagoda are traditionally slow and stately, befitting a sacred building. However, after several barrels of Longmorn, Juan picked up his bagpipes and struck up the Lewis Bridal Song. It is impossible not to dance enthusiastically to the chorus: ‘Step we gaily, on we go, heel for heel and toe for toe. Arm in arm and row on row, all for Mairi’s wedding!’ All the guests, charging backwards and forwards to the whirl of the pipes, made the boulder sway violently, which caused structural damage to the pagoda. This is typical of Juan and now, unbalancingly delayed and vertiginously behind schedule, we head for Mandalay, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

13.8.08

Humperdinkterygii


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We are worryingly low on Auchroisk and Laphroaig; this is making us bad tempered. Despite being goatishly behind schedule, Juan wastes time doing sketches for his memoirs. I criticize them for being ridiculous. Juan shouts that he can’t be expected to remember irrelevant details such as the clothes people were wearing, or what was happening, and said that my sketches of fish were equally inaccurate. I inform him that they are of the class Humperdinkterygii and that I have drawn each of the Humperdinkterygians perfectly. Arguing and bickering, cladistically behind schedule, we sail on, a speck on the vast ocean, windborne, on the great reach back home.
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Professor Humperdink's Diary

South Nias


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The sound of bagpipes has been known to make enemies flee in terror. The temporary paralysis caused by Juan’s rendition of The Fidgety Bairn has been successfully taken advantage of by the Black Watch on many occasions. Talking about war musicians, Juan says that our friend, Nan, of the Kampong people, wanted to give us a war-drum, so, as we were being blown in that direction, we call in to South Nias. Nan explains that everyone is away on a head-hunt, but, after the hunt, there would be a feast. Thinking that the main course might be the original owner of the head presently being hunted, we explain that we are in a desperate rush and have to leave immediately.
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I suggest that, when we get back to Aberfeldy, we keep the drum in the Cheeky Monkey. As I am due to give my annual lecture in Oxford, I volunteer to pick up Neddy, to carry the drum. Juan asks if the drum can be filled with whisky as, if Neddy is to carry the drum, he says, he may as well carry whisky as well. To test this, we open a barrel of Dailuaine and transfer the contents into the upended drum. Taking turns pretending to be Neddy, we discover that the drum does not leak at all, but that it particularly heavy. We lighten it by toasting absent friends. Now, ill and befuddled, excited and nervous, panophobiacally behind schedule, shouting insults, banging the drum and brawling over nothing at all, we sail on, over the beautiful Indian Ocean, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Bali


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Covered in ash, we make our way back down the mountains, through aunt Humperdink’s rice fields and arrive at the coast limicolously behind schedule. Fortunately, our old friend, François, invites us to sail with him to Bali. We remember François from when he was a successful, although somewhat licentious, diplomat and we are surprised at his having become a pearl diver. When we arrive in Bali, he shows us the Sangsit Temple at Boeleng and explains that his interest in Indian carvings originally brought him here on holiday and, falling in love with the place, he decided to stay. Although the temple is undoubtedly wonderful, neither Juan nor myself can remember François ever expressing the slightest interest in Indian carvings or temples; then he introduces us to some of his young friends and his reasons for remaining here become clear. Indeed, reasons for Juan and I to stay here suddenly become compelling; unfortunately, we receive word that we are to return to Europe immediately. This is distressing as staying in peaceful, beautiful Bali, with peaceful, beautiful Balinese women is an infinitely more attractive proposition than returning to the miserable war zone that Europe has become. However, we have no choice and, stopping only to have a long farewell party, we head west, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

11.8.08

Java


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After a long swim we arrive in Java, desperate for a drink and especially looking forward to trying out Juan’s latest batch of single malt, fermenting in his secret distillery, hidden in a mountain in the interior. After stopping to look at aunt Humperdink’s rice fields, which are doing very well, we travel on inland. Unfortunately, approaching Boro, we realise that the distillery has exploded, ripping the top off the mountain and destroying the entire stock of whisky. This is very irritating and, irksomely behind schedule, thirsty and very cross, we head for Bali as fast as we possible can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Gallery

9.8.08

Miniature bridge


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Juan is fed up because aunt Humperdink won’t let him steer the ship. To make up for this, I set up a miniature bridge in his bunk. He does not think this is funny and, sulking, opens a barrel of Auchentoshan, which he refuses to share. When I return, I find him hanging on to the wheel shouting that that the ship was not responding, that there were islands dead ahead and that we should immediately abandon ship. Unfortunately, having spent the afternoon in a saloon, and somewhat the worse for wear, I failed to remember that this was a mock-up, and we both ran, screaming, and leapt over the side. Watching the Potter sail away into the distance is sobering. Now, again, stupidly delayed by Juan's idiotic behaviour and doltishly behind schedule, we swim on to Java, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary

8.8.08

Crossing the line


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Visit a workshop on flag making. Juan, finding pieces of cloth with a harp, leopards and a lion on them, sewed them together, to form a Royal Standard. I pointed out that the Scottish lion was the wrong way round. He said that, if it were the right way round, it would have to appear upside down, or on the back of the flag, or the leopards would be upside down, or, if the lion was the right way up and facing the right direction, the standard would have to be flown upside down, and he asked me if I didn’t have something to do, somewhere else. I suggested that he had encountered a problem with cutting and sewing four pieces of cloth, which was pathetic. He challenged me to do better, handed me some cloth with pictures of lions and castles on it, and tells me to cut it into four equal pieces, each piece the same size and shape, and each piece containing a lion and a castle. This turns out to be impossible. Then he shows me how to do it. This is irritating.
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Crossing the equator, in the traditional celebration on crossing the line, Juan splashes whisky on the more attractive passengers, while I put on my Neptune costume, to preside over the games and, from my elevated position, enjoy the wonderful view.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary
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6.8.08

To Java


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To celebrate Merdzan’s success, Juan opened several barrels of Lagavulin. This, together with Merdzan’s product, caused great hilarity and fun, but leaves us ruined. Merdzan reminds us that the Potter was almost ready to be launched, and that aunt Humperdink has arrived, to launch her. He adds that aunt is going to tow the ship to the dock herself. The last time aunt towed a great ship, she swerved, to avoid a pigeon, and the ship fell over.
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Although we are unable to function naturally, we claw our way back to the docks, to stop her, but, sick and befuddled, by the time we arrive, we find that aunt has launched the ship successfully and we just have time to leap on board, injuring ourselves. For this, I blame Juan.
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To celebrate being at sea, Juan opens several barrels of vintage Balblair. This, for cuts, bruises, sprains and general degradation, is an effective external and internal liniment. To hasten our recovery, we stand on deck in the refreshing sea breeze, toasting the health and happiness of all our friends in America. Now, excited, befuddled and ravingly behind schedule, we head for Java, as fast as we possibly can.
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Professor Humperdink’s Diary