Professor Humperdink III

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31.10.08

Kenton

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Stop off in Kenton for some dancing with our friends, the Kenton Morris Men.  Because Morris dancing, a traditional English form of dance, involves men wearing bells on their legs and leaping around waving handkerchiefs, visitors from overseas, like ourselves, can be given to understand that the English, although barkingly eccentric, are a peaceful, fun-loving race.  However after performing dances like Gathering Peascods, Leap-frog, The Gallant Hussar and The Running Set, the Kenton Morris Men show us the Ampleforth Sword Dance in which they first plait their swords into a star shape, which they call a rose, or lock, and then ritually sacrifice one of their members by cutting his head off.  This demonstrates that the impression we have of the English being peculiarly odd but generally peaceable is entirely wrong and shows them to be, in fact, bloodthirsty maniacs, who, for the safety of the larger world, should be confined to their island for the rest of time.  Now, somewhat alarmed and lethally behind schedule, we rush on, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

30.10.08

Stanmore


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Visit aunt Humperdink’s Stanmore ironworks; after running across rather too many odd rural pursuits for comfort, it’s wonderful to be back amongst good, healthy, urban industry for, as Juan says, all the magical rites in the world can’t compare with the workings of a blast furnace, people can summon up as many stupid demons as they want, he says, but, if they can’t transmutate ore into commercially viable steel, they’re simply addled.  To celebrate the Bessemer process, we break open barrels of vintage Littlemill, Glenesk, Glen Grant and Oban and, drinking to the health of foundry workers everywhere, reekingly behind schedule, we rush on, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

29.10.08

High Wych

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Travelling on a donkey cart full of barrels of vintage single malt is a wonderful way to see the glorious Hertfordshire countryside.  Approaching High Wych, I wonder if ‘Wych’ has anything to do with witches, but Juan indicates the beautiful elms that grow hereabouts and tells me that they are called ‘wych’ elms as the word comes from the Old English word ‘wice’, meaning ‘pliable’, the branches being particularly pliant and supple, a quality shared, he claims, by the beautiful Hertfordshire women.  Juan’s knowledge of Old English and of the women of Hertfordshire is unsurpassed and I accept his explanation without question until, entering High Wych, we see some pictures, tied to a tree, advertising the annual village fair and inviting visitors to join in with the traditional village sports and games.  This casts an entirely different, and worrying, light on Juan’s explanation.  Alarmed, we shout and yell at Neddy who breaks into a gallop.  Out of courtesy, we open a barrel of vintage Jura and, toasting the well-being of the High Wychians; necromanically behind schedule, we charge through the village without stopping and head for the bright city lights, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Spellbrook

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Arriving at Spellbrook, Juan remarked that a lot of English place names seem concerned with magic but, talking about it, we decide that the word ‘spell’ might be to do with orthography or, more likely,  means ‘spell’ as in ‘he got caught and did a spell in prison’ or ‘he felt unwell and had a funny spell’, both of which circumstances we are familiar with, but, calling into the local shop, The Spellbrook Wand, we noticed they were selling their local newspaper, ‘The Spellbrook Pentacle’ and, glancing at some of the pictures on the front page we realise that we are entirely wrong.  Now, thaumaturgically behind schedule, we rush on to High Wych as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

28.10.08

Ugley

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Passing through Ugley, Juan comments that it is an unfortunate name and, glancing at my sketches of some of the people here, says that, whilst they might not seem to be the most handsome of men, they don’t necessarily represent the male citizenship as a whole, I point out that my sketches are of the Ugley women, compared with which the men are truly horrible.  Juan says that, that being the case, the hamlet is probably very well named.  Now, repulsively behind schedule, we carry on to Spellbrook, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Gog Magog Hills


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Stop in the Gog Magog Hills to visit Lolita and her cousin Jemma.  On arriving, we wonder if the name has any mystical significance, but decide that it probably doesn’t, however, after a few hours with Lol and Jem, we change our minds.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

26.10.08

Cambridge


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Arrive in Cambridge piggishly behind schedule; delighted to find Neddy waiting for us, fully laden with Inverleven, Glen Garioch, Allt a Bhainne and Fettercairn.  Dive into Senate House to give my annual Cambridge lecture.  Fortunately, my wonderful assistants have arrived before me and, knowing my audience have absolutely no interest in my subject, to keep them all happy, they have already distributed fine port and Cuban cigars. 

It’s nice to see Bertie, Winston and Eugenio sitting in the front row.  The last time I saw these three together was quarter of a century or so ago, crawling up Denman Street after a rough night in Soho after some Eucharistic Congress.  I also remember Eugenio moaning that if anyone recognised him, his career would be over; nobody did recognise him but, with admirable foresight, Bertie took a photograph which clearly shows Eugenio throwing up over a cat, a photograph which Bertie has used to persuade Eugenio to hand over Lady Humperdink, the sobriquet given to the beautiful violin Antonio Stradivarius made in honour of aunt Humperdink’s illustrious ancestor, which he gave to Giovanni Albani, one of Eugenio's predecessors.  It has been knocking around the Vatican for hundreds of years doing nothing useful, much like the rest of the inhabitants of the city, so I’m delighted when one of Bertie’s servants passes it to me.  To warm the fiddle up, I play a quick rondo by Fernando Carulli and I can see by the glazed expressions of my audience that it produces not an iota of interest, this, of course, is only to be expected, considering the incredible lack of talent of that miserable composer, so I quickly swing into a traditional Andalusian farruca and the instrument and the audience instantly brighten up.  This augers very well for another successful lecture and, rather than spoil the mood by requiring that my audience sit back and listen to my lists of statistics and propositions which aren’t very interesting, even to me, I launch into a wild Tzigani dance, my gorgeous assistants start dancing, clapping and singing and invite members of the audience to join in.  Juan takes the opportunity to unload Neddy’s cart and distributes fine single malt amongst my distinguished guests, which,  with the music, the dancing and the general excitement that normally accompanies my lectures, creates the perfect atmosphere for a truly frenzied party during which, demonstrating a Dervish spinning dance which, I believe, originated from a Luri celebratory dance performed by my Adsincani ancestors, I spin off the stage and, crashing onto the front row, reduce the fiddle to splinters. Winston chuckled and Bertie howled with laughter but I noticed that Eugenio, despite the composure for which he is renowned, definitely winced.  

Juan dragged Nan’s Kampong war drum into the hall and started banging on it with huge exuberance, forgetting completely that the drum serves, not only as a call to arms, but as a primitive acoustic weapon, the vibrations being kept within the body of the drum until they exceed a certain volume at which point they are released, in one huge surge of sound which resounds up and down Senate House Passage, Trinity Lane and King’s Passage like an enormous clap of thunder, ripping plaster from walls, knocking down chimneys and tearing the slates from the roofs of these beautiful buildings.  By this time, everyone is having too much fun to care and although the police arrive very quickly, seeing the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Pope and the King of England kicking up their heels with exotic Tzigani dancers, understanding that discretion is the better part valour, they withdraw quietly.  The remainder of the evening is somewhat of a haze. 

Wake up in Neddy’s cart, bumping up and down, bleeding, bruised and feeling dreadful, Juan informs me that the evening was a huge amount of fun, however, at some point, to avoid further carnage, he deemed it expedient to leave the area.  To celebrate another successful lecture, we break open a barrel of Fettercairn and now, collapsed in the cart, being hauled along by Neddy, our wonderful donkey, toasting the health of all our friends in Cambridge, we clatter down the road to London, as fast as we possibly can.

 

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

25.10.08

Tips End


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Stop in Tips End to see uncle Phil who, once one of the great aficionados of single malt, has given up drinking whisky and become an expert on water.  He waxes lyrical on the comparative virtues of Lancashire and Lincolnshire water, talks in glowing terms about the sweetness of the water of Yorkshire and the full-bodied water of Scotland, praises the softness of the water of the West Country and the smooth, clean flavour of the water of Cambridgeshire.  Although it is very nice to see uncle Phil, to hear water talked about in such terms, especially from a man steeped in the profundities of single malt, is deeply disturbing and, bidding Phil a hasty farewell, we rush on to Cambridge, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

23.10.08

Leaving Skegness

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If you can’t have fun in Skegness, you can’t have fun anywhere and, as we try and have fun everywhere, we have a terrific time in Skegness.  We stay just long enough to see the first of this year’s edition of Juan’s memoirs roll off the press and, before leaving, we just find time to visit aunt Humperdink’s Skegness museum to see the mammoth Juan and I killed in Rumania when we were children.  Now, of course, we are very sorry for exterminating one of the last of these wonderful creatures, but, as aunt Humperdink says, boys will be boys and, at least, the skeleton of the great creature has been preserved for everyone to wonder at. Now, pruriently behind schedule, we head for Cambridge as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

21.10.08

Skegness

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Arrive in Skegness dismally behind schedule and perilously low on Tamnavulin, Dailuaine and Lagavulin.  Make a quick visit to aunt Humperdink’s printing works where they are busy printing this year’s edition of Juan’s memoirs.  Juan claims that his hundreds of thousands of subscribers are eagerly awaiting his recent observations on tropical medicine, but I suspect he knows very well that they have little interest in his medicinal knowledge but, rather, they have a fascination with his latest revelations on the intimate details of the beautiful women of Hollywood and salacious stories about the various queens, princess and other female members of the aristocracy, who, for reasons that are beyond my understanding, seem unreasonably besotted with the man.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

19.10.08

Mablethorpe


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Stop of in Mablethorpe to watch some of our young agents boxing.  We have a lot of fun watching the youngsters fight but, when we have a go ourselves, we discover that, with boxing gloves on, it is impossible to cause any damage and, being on the receiving end of  a punch is like being attacked by sponge. After fifty-eight rounds, both absolutely unharmed but totally exhausted and seriously dehydrated we have no choice but to repair to the local public house and, after drinking the health of all of our agents, we demonstrate some serious Scottish brawling which is a lot of fun and very educational but leaves a lot of our young recruits requiring hospitalisation.  Now, frenetically behind schedule, we rush on to Skegness as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

16.10.08

To Skegness


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Stop off  to visit Aunt Humperdink’s Lincolnshire farm where we have a lot of fun pulling beet with aunt, Penny, Mandy, Paula, Anne, Julia, Lyn,  Karen and Marianne.  Aunt tells us that Neddy has fully recovered and gone on to Cambridge.  To celebrate, Juan opens barrels of vintage Glenkinchie, Convalmore and Ardbeg.  Toasting everyone’s health, Juan tells them they are not only the  most beautiful women in the world, as are all women who come from Lincolnshire,  but pulling sugar beet has made them particularly sweet natured and wonderfully bendy.  However, our own backs have seized up completely and, revoltingly behind schedule, bent double, befuddled and aching in every muscle, we hobble on to Skegness, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

15.10.08

Grimbsy

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Arrive in Grimbsy unhingingly behind schedule.  After the wild empty moors, it’s wonderful to see some industry, not only that, but Juan claims that the women of Grimbsy are the most beautiful women in the world, although, to be fair, he doesn’t say the same thing about their mothers.  Some people say the buildings in Grimbsy are incredibly grubby and grimy, hence its name, other authorities claim it is the people who are dirty and grim, yet others claim that the name comes from the pointless old Scandinavian term, ‘Gryme hathor stuukhelda’, ‘Brother, your horns are on fire’.  We both agree that, with the town council providing excellent emergency air and whisky delivery services, which we take full advantage of, Grimbsy is, in fact, a wonderful, friendly town.  Although we would love to stay, as Juan says industrial smoke is good for the hair, it makes it thick and greasy, and that he needs a rest as he is totally fugged, hearing that Neddy has gone on to Skegness, to recover from bronchial pneumonia, we have no choice but to shuffle south as fast as we can, wheezing and coughing and covered in filth.  We had a lot of fun in Grimbsy and promise to come back as soon as we recover the use of our lungs.

Professor Humperdink's Diary

14.10.08

Leaving Scarborough


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Before leaving Scarborough, At Juan’s insistence, we use his empty Special Reserve barrels as part of an obstacle race for the teachers and students in Aunt Humperdink’s Scarborough primary school.  This turns out to be a stupid idea as the competitors, overcome by the fumes, become befuddled and, as Mr Jennings, the History master, demonstrated, hopelessly stuck, or became intolerably dizzy and violently sick.  This stupidity, typical of Juan, drivellingly delays us once again but, flummerishly behind schedule and desperate to catch up with Neddy, very sorry to leave Scarborough, we toast the health of all our friends in North Yorkshire, and reel down the road to Great Grimsby as fast as we possibly can, singing and dancing and swearing and brawling and suffering frequent falls.

 

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Archery in Scarborough

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Having a wonderful time in Scarborough and, although Neddy has gone on to Grimsby and we are curmudgeonishly behind schedule, we just have time to spend an afternoon with Aunt Humperdink’s archery club.  Edward II required that every Englishman who was not a priest or a lawyer practise shooting every Sunday, but aunt believes that, since this is no longer common law, English men have turned into defenceless idiots and English women must take the place of men in obtaining martial skills.  Juan is entirely in agreement with this, but he is unhappy at the women shooting at static objects and thinks that it would be more realistic, and benefit the nation, if lawyers and priests acted as targets. 

All the women in the club are fine shots; however, despite being very responsible with their dangerous weapons, after breaking open several barrels of Brackla, my old friend, Joan Jefferson, because of Juan’s over-obvious attraction to Janet, Joan’s younger sister, rather than aim at the target, takes it into her head to shoot at Juan.  This is not the first time Juan has been fired upon by an angry woman and immediately takes flight. 

After a very pleasant afternoon, Joan shows me around Aunt Humperdink’s farm and introduces me to her four new porkers, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

13.10.08

A letter from Jo


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Arrive in Scarborough kakistocratically behind schedule.  Delighted to find a letter from Jo Bran waiting for us.  Jo tells us that he has completed his research in the Himalayas.  He says that, much to his surprise, he found that some monks can levitate but that it requires a huge amount of dedication and many rites and rituals and the result, a monk floating a few feet above the ground for a few moments, seems hardly worth the effort.  Jo points out that the children’s party game that everyone knows is far more effective, the one where a volunteer is told to feel as light as a feather and then, probably through auto-suggestion, can be easily lifted, we try this out on some trainees as it seems a good way for our agents, when required, to quickly and effortlessly scale walls and other obstacles.  Unfortunately, the levitation effect wears off after a few seconds and we seriously injure two recruits.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

10.10.08

Leaving Riggs Head

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The Great Bunco, the magician we engaged to entertain the children, turned up with a bad cold.  Although, through the wonderful effects of fine Scottish single malt, Juan and I are impervious to colds and other illnesses, we know that spreading germs around a hospital is stupid.  Accordingly, so as not to disappoint the children, I run to the library for some conjuring books, while Juan rushes around the wards collecting cards, an old hat and other bits and pieces.  Juan isn’t competent to perform a magic show and I am out of practise, so we grab our old friend, Doctor Andy Carmichael, make him read as many conjuring books as he can during his lunch hour and, before his first operation in the afternoon, perform as The Great Bunco. 

Although Doctor Andy is a great surgeon, and his haircut made some of the children laugh, he is excruciatingly shy and his skills at performing sleight of hand turn out to be lamentable.  Eventually, pulling some cards out of the hat, when he had rather expected a rabbit, he forgets his lines and what trick he is doing, then, staring maniacally at the bemused children, he freezes up completely.  The children, very politely, clap and cheer when we carry him off.  To make up for such a useless magic show, Juan throws on some rags and leaps around singing 'The Farmer’s Boy' and performing traditional Yorkshire Morris dances, which I find to be objectionable, but which the children, doubtless because they are sick, seem to enjoy very much.  Outside, the nurses carry Juan to the Rig’s Head for a leaving party.  The Rig’s Head is the best, and only, public house in Riggs Head and we have a wonderful time there, now, befuddled, marasmusly delayed and marcescently  behind schedule, we stumble towards Scarborough, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Riggs Head

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Visiting aunt Humperdink’s Riggs Head children’s hospital.  We have a lot of fun helping the nurses turn their revolving ward, designed by aunt Humperdink’s so the children can always benefit from the direct rays of the sun.  Juan leaves the nurses a case of vintage Balvenie, telling them that it will give them extra energy, and then we take turns trying out the miniature radiograms that our friends, Alagendi, Kavan and Theeran, recently brought over from Anuradhapura.  Before leaving, we visit Vicky and her two friends, Bess and Carol.  Vicky has just been transferred from the revolving ward after hurting her head when the nurses, energised by vintage honeyed single malt, spun the revolving ward a little too energetically and little patients flew in all directions. 

 

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

9.10.08

Silpho

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Stop off in Silpho where, concerned about the collapse of Hythe Bank, we quickly build a tractor for cultivating sloped fields, ideal for holding the soil in place.  However, after overturning it several times, we realise that we need two tractors, one for each direction, which would be too expensive for the average hill farmer.  Giving up on the idea, we quickly build a wind plough then, setting the blades to catch the wind from the moors, rigwiddlingly behind schedule, singing The Sinking of the Goathland Plough and other Yorkshire field shanties, we sail on to Scarborough, as fast as we possibly can.

 

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

8.10.08

Lythe Bank


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Heading towards Lythe Bank at high speed, Juan yells that the bank is collapsing and that the name comes from the old Scandinavian word ‘hlith’ meaning ‘collapsing bank’ I shout back, telling him that it’s used in a Novial tongue twister, ‘hlithimen fusen thihltheroo, hlinthihem vusen hlitheroo’, or, ‘excuse me, my dear, your husband looks like a pollack’ which suggests that ‘hlithi’ originally meant ‘fish’.  Juan yells that Otto Jesperson, who invented the Novial language, didn’t know a pollack from a sprat, not only that, but Sven Nilsson named the pollack the pollack after Frank Lillie Pollack, who was a science fiction writer and everyone knows that you can’t believe science fiction and anyway, Sven just made up fish as he went along, whereas great grand uncle Alphonse had named it ‘hilth’, which means ‘fishy banking’ and that Frank  wrote a story called ‘Finis’ and that that proved it.  I scream that I have absolutely no idea what he is talking about.  Speeding into the wind, we find that shouting ‘hlith’ too many times has dried our mouths out and we are forced to open the last barrel of Cao Ila and, losing control of the speedboat, arrive on shore without slowing down.

Luckily, coming to a halt in a field near Lythe, we come across our old friends, Harold, George and Barney, on leave from the Munatafiq donkey division (Secret Intelligence unit no. 9).  Harold tells us that Neddy has gone on to Scarborough but, thoughtfully, he left two barrels of Tamnavulin for us, and a case of Braes of Glenlivet for George and Barney.  To celebrate, we drink toast after toast to all our friends here in North Yorkshire, now, stonkingly behind schedule; we stumble on to Scarborough, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary