Professor Humperdink III

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31.12.08

War Party


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The authorities insisted that, this year, the Black Watch hold Company Sergeant Major Jock Black’s birthday party behind enemy lines as the damage caused would assist the war effort.  I can remember very little of the party but, although there were the usual amount of casualties, this morning, I can see that holding a Black Watch shindig in enemy territory is a very effective weapon and brings a lot of much needed fun to an otherwise miserable war.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

30.12.08

Back to Europe


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After celebrating our arrival at Humperdinkadad, we leave our new agents, to acclimatise, borrow an aeroplane from Ropkind Scharf and, somewhat befuddled, head back to Europe, for Jock Black’s party.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

28.12.08

To Humperdinkadad

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Stop to visit our old friend Ali.  Ali tells us that his snake supply business is going very well and that only fourteen of his sixteen children have succumbed to snake bite.  Juan is surprised to hear him claim this as a success but Ali explains that although he lost seven eighths of his offspring, his hated brother, Amir, also in the snake business, lost eighteen of his twenty children to snake venom and seven eighths, by any estimation, is a lot better than nine tenths and the two and a half percent margin he has over his brother is, in this business, a considerable amount and something to be proud of.  Wishing Ali, and his children, the best of good fortune for their continuing business success, we head on to Humperdinkadad, Aunt Humperdink’s township in the heart of the Unknown Region in the beautiful Desert of Angad, where I will train our new agents in desert survival and Juan will expose them to a range of fine single malts, the knowledge of which is an essential component in the making of successful and happy agents.

 

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

26.12.08

The Desert of Angad


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In the Desert of Angad, heading into the Unknown Region; I tell Juan that Mahalath’s cat, Wobble, is simply friendly, but Juan says that the cat is too trusting, and, to prove his point, he introduces Wobble to his dog, Gulp.  I say that Mahalath is going to go crazy; fortunately, Bakulebe turns up with a new train.  After leaping on board, we break open Juan’s Special Reserve, to celebrate, and offer toast after toast to Bakulebe, our incredible train driver.  Now, yelling, cheering, and bellowing at each other in excitement; singing wild Tzigani songs and dancing wild Tzigani dances, we thunder across the burning sands, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

25.12.08

Happy ruins


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Heading inland; stopping in some ruins, I tell Juan that Mahalath thinks ruins are miserable, so we spend some time cheering them up.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

24.12.08

Suez Canal

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Stop off to pick up some of our Indian agents and my old friends, Ki and Poi, recipients of aunt Humperdink’s Hat Design Endowment Fund, hitching a lift to Jock Black’s party, to show off their latest creations.  Juan joins us as we enter Lake Timsah.  We load some vintage Tobermory, Mortlach, Tomintoul, Bummahabhainn, Aberfeldy and, to be on the safe side, several barrels of The Macallan, and wave goodbye to Ki and Poi, who, along with the Indian agents, when they realised that Juan was going to sail with us, leapt overboard.  We sail a very short distance when, raising our glasses to offer a toast and lighting cigars, to celebrate, Juan ignites the whisky fumes.  This is typical of Juan and a few minutes later, when we crash down into the canal, I feel moved to observe that, although the water tastes pleasantly malty, the loss of vintage whisky is enough to make a Highlander eat his sporran in despair. 


Now, dementedly flailing around, taking deep draughts of whisky-enhanced canal water, surrounded by stunned, befuddled, fish, splashing hysterically and filling the air with fountains and bubbles of malt, singing carols, cheering and shouting season’s greetings to all our friends, we flounder on, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Rare meat

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Feeling a little peckish, I contemplate tucking into Snack, a small food-dog I carry for such occasions.  However, as I can’t quite bring myself to lunch on my happy little companion, I drop off at the first island I come across which, fortunately, provides an excellent selection of rare meat.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

23.12.08

Radio chatter

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My radio is covered with whisky and the reception is terrible but, listening in on the chatter, I learn that Tom, one of our top agents, has had his hat stolen by a big bird, that Juan’s bagpipes have exploded again, knocking a chimney over, and that Neddy has reached Europe and is waiting for further instructions.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

22.12.08

To Kămbrinum

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When I’m lost at sea, I always find a useful survival method, apart from staying with the ship, when I have a ship, is to head for Kămbrinum.  When I arrive in Kămbrinum, I know that Pullea, to celebrate, will insist on dancing the traditional Papuan masked ‘butterfly’ dance with me.  Remembering that, for the ‘chrysalis’ stage of the dance, I will have to hang upside for a long time, I make a reversible mask.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

20.12.08

At sea


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Being at sea again is a lot of fun and we beat towards the nearest horizon, singing, cheering, offering toast after toast to all seafarers, and trust, even if they are lost and cretiniously behind schedule, that they enjoy a safe voyage and always see over, rather than under, the thundering waves of the deep.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Leaving the fleet

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I cannot keep up with the fleet and, when they vanish over the horizon, I sail around in confusion.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Rescued by Ajnure

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Carrying a slumbering bear slows us down.  The doves we are following, Coup and Flappy, have flown on far ahead and, and, unless we catch up, we will get lost and miss Jock Black’s party.  Fortunately, aunt Humperdink’s Agent Rescue Service is on the lookout and Juan’s cousin, Ajnure, and our old navigators, Donald MacTavish, and Donald McTavish, spotting us stumbling along, burdened with a dozing bear, kindly offer to take us the rest of the way. 

Looking down, we are surprised at the amount of warships.  Ajnure tells us that Jock Black’s birthday party is not being held at the Cheeky Monkey in Aberfeldy and that the authorities, in trying to help the war effort, and, surveying the damage caused by previous parties, told Jock, rather than inflict more destruction on Perthshire, he has to hold this year’s birthday party in Europe, behind enemy lines. 

After thanking Ajnure for picking us up and toasting everyone’s health, Mahalath says how our rescue proves the advantages of a professional attitude towards flag recognition, and, to demonstrate, she starts producing flags and asking us which ones are the odd ones out.  As flag recognition makes my brain turn to sludge, I leap out, borrow a sailing dingy and, unbothered by flags, sail with the fleet to a party. 

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

19.12.08

Taking a nap


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Nap, our sloth bear, is so slow and sleepy that, during his afternoon siesta, he has to be carried.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Jacinta and Zindelo

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Finding a cave, we are delighted to come across Juan’s sister, Jacinta, and her husband, Zindelo, making a fire for some hot toddy.  Zindelo tells us that they had to leave Biskra in a hurry because Juan turned up and caused a riot.  Mahaleth shrugs and says that this is typical of Juan, and adds that Juan is another hopeless case who should learn to recognise more flags, a skill, she claims, that is necessary for all agents.  To test us, she produces some flags and asks which are the odd ones out.  This is easy and I point to the flag of the Commissioner of Lighthouses, saying that the other two are for the Bureau of Fisheries and Bureau of Lighthouses so, with two bureaus and one commissioner, the commissioner must be the odd one out.  Mahalath tells me that I’m wrong, as the odd one out is the flag with a fish on it.  Then she shows us another selection of flags, Jacinta says that the odd one out is the letter ‘M’ in the international code of signals. Zindelo guesses it’s the flag of Majorca, as it’s the only one with stripes.  Mahalath tells them they’re both wrong, as the other flags are of Morea, Montenegro, Malta and Ceuta, so, not beginning with an ‘M’, the Ceutan flag is obviously the odd one out.  This is so leg-chewingly dull that, before she can produce more flags, I tell her that I have to take Nap for a walk.  Fortunately, as Nap is a Bhutanese sloth bear who moves very slowly, we can take a very slow walk and avoid further flags for hours and hours.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

18.12.08

Bad security


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While our guides, Flappy and Coup, roost, we explore the local area.  Mahalath thought that travelling with Duke, Ivan and Nap, three wild bears, would provide a degree of security; however, disappointingly, coming across an unfamiliar animal, they run away, as fast as they possibly can. 


Professor Humperdink’s Diary 

Flag recognition






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Because we haven’t been navigating, we don’t know where we are.  This, sadly, is a common occurrence amongst senior agents.  Mahalath tells me that, in a recent survey, when asked to state their exact location; ninety percent of senior agents couldn’t even understand the question and, of the remainder, only two of them knew what side of the planet they were on, with any precision.  Mahalath sketches some flags, which, she says, might help befuddled old agents.  I consider myself an expert at flag recognition and, when Mahalath asks me to pick the odd one out; I have no hesitation in choosing the flag that is upside down.  However, Mahalath tells me that I am wrong, as this flag is flown when an American vice admiral stands on his head. I say it is a stupid test and, to divert her attention, point out that we are being charged by large and unusual wild animals.  Mahalath says that this is another common occurrence amongst senior agents, which proves, she says, that flag recognition is a vital survival skill.  I don’t understand what she is talking about, however, recognising that, when in dangerous situations, to stay and argue an obscure and meaningless point is not a proven survival technique, we run away and hide, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Following doves

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Mahalath kept three bears for, despite their strength and ferocity, they are, in between attacks, very good-natured companions.  Now, following Coup and Flappy over the site of Capernaum, with Ivan, Nap, Duke and Mucky, my mouse, we raise our mugs, filled with Juan’s Special Reserve, and drink to Flappy and Coup, our wonderful guides, and Ivan, Nap and Duke, our new friends.  Mahalath reminds me that Flappy and Coup’s ancestors strutted with crowds in this city.  I asked her why the crowds were strutting, telling me not to be stupid, she offers toasts to the health and happiness of three bears, two doves, one mouse and all our good companions. Now, staggering through the ruins of yet another broken empire, cheering and singing and hoping for the best, we follow doves. 


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

17.12.08

Collecting doves

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The bears are a nuisance.  My reserve of fresh bamboos shoots, which I keep for such occasions, is running low, and Mahalath is worried that Zanda, the panda, who only eats bamboo shoots, is going to get hungry.  I tell Mahalath that the bear can adjust its diet to lizards and skinks, for the duration of the journey, but she tells me that they would not provide sufficient energy and we would have to carry Zanda up every sand dune we encounter.  The bears are getting hungrier and, fending off another bothersome bear attack, Mahalath decides that enough is enough, and signals aunt Humperdink’s ship to deliver the bears back to wherever they came from. 

On board, Marija tells us we just missed Aunt Humperdink, Victoria and Algernon, who were in the local town, but that they left Juan’s homing pigeons, Coup and Flappy, for Mahalath.  Mahalath is excited, as she hasn’t seen the birds since their last mission in the east, and insists that we immediately collect them.  This is a good idea, it will be nice to see them and, if we follow them, they will lead us directly home, without us having to worry about navigation, and unburdened by bears.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Overland

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Mahalath is not entirely happy about flying in an experimental vessel with a crew and captain who, according to Mahalath, are obviously deranged.  She says that she would rather travel overland and reminds me that the trader, John, exchanged a large, worthless, candle, for a small, valuable, candle, that he traded for an old manuscript, which he exchanged for a consignment of pears which, he said, he could swap for a house which would raise the money to buy camels, so, thinking that John may have some camels, we drop down to land.  

We find John with some camels but he tells us that they aren’t his camels as, because of an error, when he traded the manuscript for pears, bears arrived instead, the owner of the house wouldn’t accept bears in return for the house, in fact, he didn’t want pears either, as the house wasn’t for sale, which means, he shouts, that after all the effort he has made on our behalf, all he has is some borrowed camels and too many bears.  Before we have a chance to say that we never asked him get camels in the first place, John heads off over the desert, leaving us with the bears.  Mahalath, looking at the bears, says that John must be the worst trader in the world, I agree with her but, having no choice in the matter, we set off across the desert, a journey which, with a group of bears in tow, is likely to be slow and somewhat irritating.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary