Professor Humperdink III

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29.1.09

Missing Philadelphia

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Just before crashing, Barry and Tam, two young stewards, crawl onto the flight deck shouting that they could help.  I asked them if they could fly the craft, they said that they could certainly fly it better than Juan.  Juan, hanging on to the wheel, claimed he just needed a few more minutes to get the hang of it, I tell him that, in a few more minutes, he won’t need to know how to fly as we will be a tangled wreck in the middle of Philadelphia and I relieve him of his command with a sharp blow to the head. 

The two young stewards are as good as their word and immediately turn The Lion the right way up.  Juan, regaining consciousness, complains that our new pilots might have the aircraft under control but they weren’t flying with any exuberance or passion.  I tell Juan that that sort of thing is for playing Scottish reels, rather than flying a huge aircraft, and tell him to stop complaining and thank the two young aviators for saving our lives.  Juan is not entirely ungracious and promptly opens a barrel of vintage Laphroaig.  Raising our glasses to salute the skill and bravery of our new friends, Juan says he will definitely arrange for them to meet some beautiful Philadelphian women, but they tell us that Juan must have smashed the accelerator as we can’t slow down, and we aren’t over Philly any more.  I tell them not to worry, for, as we are cattishly behind schedule, the faster the better, and, as long as we flying over, rather than on, the ground, there is nothing to worry about.  However, Barry and Tam, wildly pointing ahead, shout that there is something to worry about.  Juan and I look out of the window and can see we are heading directly for a very high building.  Juan shrugs and says they shouldn’t build buildings that high so it’s not his problem.  As I am not flying the aircraft I don’t see that it’s my problem either so, leaving Tam and Barry to deal with the situation, we blow up our bagpipes and, considering that we are about to make a high building somewhat shorter, we play The Jacobite Sword Dance with as much passion and exuberance as we can muster.


Professor Humperdink's Diary


28.1.09

Missing Humperdinkadad

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Heading to Humperdinkadad, Juan, looking out of the window, observes that the desert above us appears to be moving very quickly.  I tell him that we are travelling too fast, and upside down and, I remind him, that, when he lands, not only will The Lion be turned into a mangled heap but that we are likely to lose a great deal of our vintage malt.  Looking up at the rapidly approaching landscape, I can’t help but remember that Juan’s hapless inability to fly an airship is only matched by his hopeless inability to land an airship.  However, as the prospect of losing single malt is enough to make a Highlander eat his cromach in distress, to escape the danger of losing any of our precious malt, Juan uses the only method he knows, accelerates, and spins the steering wheel like a maniac, his theory being that, if you spin it the wheel hard enough, and wait long enough, eventually, you will find yourself heading in the right direction, at high speed.  The engines roar, The Lion spins over and over, and we catch a glimpse of Humperdinkadad as we are thrown backwards across the flight deck.  By the time we crawl back and peer through the window, we are over Philadelphia.  I tell Juan that this is irritating but Juan says that Pennsylvanian women are the most beautiful woman in the world and Philadelphian whisky is the most disgusting slop imaginable so, if we happen to crash in Philadelphia, we can share our malt with their women to mutual advantage. 

I remind Juan that we are pullescently behind schedule and that we have to return to Humperdinkadad as I am meant to be instructing recruits in desert survival, but Juan points out that the recruits who find their own way out the Unknown Region by themselves will gain a lot of useful experience in desert survival, without any instruction.  I tell him that, although this is true, recruits who have tried this before tend to undergo terrible hardships and die, where, under my instruction, they would live and travel in ease, comfort and safety.  Juan, who considers luxury to be necessity, agrees that agents who work in hostile environments should not waste their energy or skills on survival as this can be a distraction to the main objective.  However, as we are about to crash on Philadelphia, the discussion seems academic and, quickly raising our glasses to salute the Philadelphians, we throw malt in all directions as we spiral downwards, yelling with excitement and looking forward to having a lot of fun in Philly.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

26.1.09

Humperdinkshu

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Juan, looking at my pictures of the sea, says they stink.  I tell him this is unsurprising considering I made the paints from the dye of old robes, which I extracted by tearing up the robes and soaking them in camel’s urine, beside which, I point out, I’ve been looking at the desert, and disagreeable camels, for so long that I’ve forgotten what the sea looks like.  Juan agrees, saying that while having ones home on the back of a camel has a lot of advantages; the fact is that women often get disappointed when you invite them round for dinner and they have to accommodate themselves to a very small house and a bad-tempered camel.  Discussing this further, we decide that, as we are chimpishly behind schedule, it would be useful to travel in something faster, and with room for guests.  Accordingly, we call into Humperdinkshu, aunt Humperdink’s village on the way to Humperdinkadad, where we are delighted to find that a new whisky intake valve has been placed on the nose of The Lion and, seeing that it has a nice new dining area, we give our camels away, borrow the aircraft and, cheering and singing and toasting the health and happiness of all our friends in the Unknown Region, we take to the air and sweep through the sky to Humperdkinkadad, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

24.1.09

Filtered malt

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Looking at Juan’s sketch of a snake, I point out that it doesn’t look anything like a real snake.  Juan, glaring at my pictures of camels, shouts that they don’t look like real camels either as, in his view, if doesn’t have a hump, it’s not a camel.  I tell him that his own camel, a female Humperdinkus named Maltarina, who, created through Juan’s camel breeding programme to carry whisky, is not a proper camel either, and she has three humps.  Juan says this is not the point and that the breeding programme didn’t work out anyway as the extra hump will not store whisky, although, he says, he has discovered that malt, filtered through a camel’s digestive system, although it makes the camel befuddled, becomes exceptionally potent and gains an interesting, tangy, flavour. 

I suggest that customers, knowing that the malt has been filtered through the kidneys of a camel, and, considering the taste, might think they were drinking unadulterated camel’s urine, rather than single malt.  Juan says that many people, at the first try, think that beer, coffee and cigars taste disgusting but, being essential to life, they quickly adapt and come to enjoy the flavour.  He offers me a dram of the filtered malt, and I can see immediately that the effect on the nervous system is so traumatic that the peculiar things that happen to one’s brain compensate for the horrible flavour, this is a sign of good malt and, singing, cheering and shouting with excitement, we stumble on through a malt enhanced landscape, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

22.1.09

Landscape improvement

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It is always a lot of fun in the desert but, dozing in the sun, watching Johara dancing, something woke me up and, rather than enjoying the vision of Johara’s dance, I find myself looking at a camel.  This is annoying.  Rubbing my eyes and looking around at the landscape, which isn’t full of attractions, it occurs to me that a night out in Rio would be nice.  However, single malt always improves things, and a dram or two of Juan’s Special Reserve quickly makes everything more interesting.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

20.1.09

Ghaniya and Johara

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Bump into two of our top agents, our old friends Ghaniya and Johara.  They tell us that they are working undercover as travelling belly dancers, but that their camel has broken down.  Juan inspects the camel and says there’s nothing wrong, the beast is just grumpy and lazy, and he whispers into the camel’s ear that, if he doesn’t condescend to pull the carriage, he would be sent to Azibo’s farm where, rather than hauling two beautiful belly dancers, he will be hitched to a plough.  The camel moans and grumbles but reluctantly gets to its feet.  Johara and Ghaniya are very impressed that Juan got the camel going and asks if we can accompany them, in case the camel breaks down again.  I start to tell the girls that we are heading for Humperdinkadad and, as we are dwaumishly behind schedule, we can’t travel with them, but I notice Juan looking at me fiercely and drawing his finger across his neck.  I realise that he thinks that accompanying two gorgeous belly dancers is a very good idea and any other idea is a very bad idea, so I say we would be happy to travel with them for a short distance.  To celebrate, Juan breaks open a barrel of vintage Laphroaig and, drinking toast after toast to all belly dancers, shouting and cheering with excitement, with Juan promising to teach Ghaniya some wild Tzigani songs, and to show Johara some wild Tzigani dances, we follow a miserable camel across realms unknown, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

19.1.09

Ibrahim helps

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Chatting with Ibrahim and his family, we tell him that we are heading for Humperdinkadad, but that we are cataleptically behind schedule.  Ibrahim invites us to join him, as, he says, he will be passing near Humperdinkadad.  The road is very busy as a lot of agents are attending the Humperdinkiog, but, fortifying ourselves with Balblair Special Reserve, Glenrothes Private Reserve and vintage Dailuaine, and drinking toast after toast to the health and happiness of Ibrahim, his family, and all who traverse these empty miles, we endure the traffic.  Now, singing, dancing, and teaching Ibrahim’s children appallingly rude sea shanties and horrifying Glaswegian football songs, we head down the Unknown Highway, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

The Humperdinkiog

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Arrive for the Humperdinkiog.  The Humperdinkiog, the encampment set up when aunt Humperdink is in the area, is always a lot of fun and aunt enjoys the chance to personally thank her agents for their wonderful work in the Unknown Region. 

When aunt arrives, with Mahalath, Juan apologises to Mahalath, for letting his dog eat Wobble, Mahalath’s cat, and gives her Gizmo, another cat, which he always keeps for such occasions.  Mahalath, happy to see Juan, is very gracious, she says that Wobble was too trusting for her own good and any cat that irritated a dangerous dog called Gulp was asking for trouble.  I say that Gulp is more than dangerous, he’s murderous, and that Wobble was just a friendly cat, but Juan says that he, too, thought that Wobble was too trusting, Mahalath hands me Gizmo and takes Juan away, to talk about it in private.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

18.1.09

Mahmud

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Come across our old friend Mahmud and his camel, Almaz, Mahmud tells us that he has been manning this observation post for nine or ten years, but nothing has happened and he hasn’t seen anyone, so there’s nothing to report, except, he adds, that, after a few years of staring across the desert, he became blind.  Juan asks him if he would like to be replaced, Mahmud says that Juan will have to speak louder as the sandstorms and hot winds have damaged his hearing.  Juan shouts the question again, several times, when Mahmud gets it, he replies that he is perfectly happy to stay here, at least for another few years, as, if anything did happen, he would not want to miss it.  Juan asks Mahmud if he ever gets lonely, but Mahmud explains that he taught Almaz to play chess, which keeps his wits sharp and, and they play chess until the moon rises, the sand dunes glint silver and rivers of stars flow over the arc of the desert.

I wonder if Mahmud has been doing this job for too long.  Juan shouts that, even though Mahmud is blind and deaf, if something did happen, he would be able to smell it happening, but Mahmud says that the scorching desert heat dried up his nasal passages and he cannot smell anything at all.  I shout that he is lucky, as his camel stinks, but Juan, trying to be positive, yells that, if anything happened, at least Mahmud could feel it, but Mahmud says that, after years of exposure to the desert sun and the rasping of millions of storm-flung grains of sand, his skin is so damaged that he can’t feel a thing.  Mahmud is one of our top agents and it would not be professional of me to ask him what he is expecting to happen or how he is going to know if it happens or, indeed, if it might not have happened already. Juan offers Mahmud some Special Reserve but Mahmud says that the malt would sear his taste buds and, as the sense of taste is the only sense he has left, he declines the offer.

After offering a few toasts to Mahmud’s success, we yell at him that it has been a lot of fun, but that we are draffishly behind schedule and, promising to come back and visit him in a few years time, we head on into the great unknown, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

17.1.09

Unflagging

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Heading across the Unknown Region, direction unknown.  Although we are lost and dyvourishly behind schedule, Juan claims that it is better to be lost in a good condition than to be found in a bad condition.  I tell Juan that Mahalath believes that that most agents are lost most of the time because they don’t observe their surroundings carefully enough, particularly flags.  Juan says that, although Mahalath is highly intelligent as well as being stunningly beautiful, on some subjects, the woman is completely nuts.  Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, we look at Mahalath’s book of flags and try to memorize a page of flags from the British Commonwealth.  Then, to test ourselves, we tear up the page and, using camel spit, we attempt to stick it together again.  The results demonstrate that neither of us can remember what a single British Commonwealth flag looks like, and all we have done is produce landless flags.  None of this helps anyway, I point out, as the territory is not the flag, so, giving up, Juan breaks open a barrel of vintage Glen Scotia and, drinking to Mahalath’s health and happiness, singing wild Tzigani songs, dancing wild Tzigani dances, cheering and whooping with excitement, we stumble on, over the hissing, unknown, sand, through a flagless land, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

16.1.09

Humperdinkahat

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We are toddlerishly behind schedule so, stumbling across Humperdinkahat, aunt Humperdink’s township on the outskirts of the Unknown Region; we borrow some camels and a map.  Juan complains that the map is useless as it doesn’t have latitude, longitude, scale, or compass bearings, but I remind him that,  in a sand storm, a map is useful for covering the face, and can also be used as toilet paper, preferably in that order.  Juan says that the same could be said of kittens, and that he normally keeps one for each day of the week, but they are useless for navigation. 


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Nephoscope seat


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Looking forward to some climbing, Juan examines a piece of equipment we rescued from the crash and asks if it is a compass, as a compass would be helpful.  I tell him it’s a nephoscope, which measures the height of clouds, and, as it is indicating zero, it means the clouds are very low.  Looking around, we are not sure what do with this information.  Juan says the instrument is pointless and uses it as a seat, and we lift our glasses and salute a new sun.  Now, shouting with excitement, singing wild Tzigani songs and dancing wild Tzigani dances, we charge at unnamed peaks, into distances unknown, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Into the Unknown Region


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Flying towards Humperdinkadad, in the heart of the Unknown Region in the desert of Angad, Juan, waving his arms around, describing the attractions of Unknown women, who, he claims, are the most desirable women in the world, crashes the aeroplane.  This is another irritating example of Juan’s ineptitude and I can only hope that he doesn’t pass on his bad habits to the new recruits. However, although we lost several barrels of Talisker to the initial fire, and the explosion that followed vaporised a percentage of Auchentoshan, we do rescue the rest of the malt.  To celebrate, we crawl from the wreckage, and although we are badly burned, raise our glasses and drink to the health and happiness of all unknown women.  Now, crassly behind schedule, befuddled, hopelessly lost, yelling with pain, but very happy to be far from the lunacy of war, singing and cheering and yelling with excitement, we crawl towards a blasting sun, into the region of the unknown, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary

14.1.09

Stoking

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We call in to see Matt who, checking on the flow of malt, tells us that steward’s quarters are not receiving enough Knockando, the smoking rooms are low on Lagavulin, the state rooms are having trouble receiving enough Fettercairn, the game rooms are only getting a trickle of Glenlossie, the dining saloon’s supply of Caperdonich is fluctuating badly and state rooms aren’t getting any Bunnahabhainn at all.  Matt explains that the stokers who stoke the boiler that drives the malt through the ship are tired and emotional after Juan gave them some barrels of his new batch of Special Reserve.  The idea of the passengers and crew being short of single malt is distressing and we immediately join the stokers and help them get the furnace up to full blast.  After only a few hours stoking we can tell, by the cheering and singing that resounds throughout the ship, that normal supplies have been resumed. 

Although we are delighted with the results of our efforts, it does not alter the fact that we are adolescently behind schedule and, having no choice, we borrow another aeroplane from Ropkind Scharf and, a little sooty and very befuddled, we head for Humperdinkadad as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

12.1.09

Still floating

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We call into the wheelhouse to explain that we are malefically behind schedule, and ask the captain to speed the ship up.  The captain  tells us that it’s Juan’s fault we are travelling so slowly as, although the ship is fitted with perfectly good diesel engines, the last time Juan was aboard, he noticed the engines contained miles of copper tubing and insisted on utilising them as stills so, now, we have the largest, but slowest, floating distillery in the world.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

11.1.09

Silent electronics

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After losing sight of the ships we were following and ditching Ropkind’s aeroplane, we swim back to land.  Now, dyslogistically behind schedule, we have no choice but to join aunt Humperdink’s ship The Scavenger.

Calling in to see Gordon in the testing laboratory, we find him surrounded by interesting looking electronic machinery, he tells us that a lot of electronic testing equipment is too noisy, especially for fitting on submarines, when silent operation is vital, and that he is working on a beeper, used for testing a pinger, an advanced piece of electronic testing equipment, used for testing beepers which, if the beeper is broken, goes ping.  Juan asks him how he knows if the pinger is working.  Gordon explains that he has a ping-testing device, which, if the ping doesn’t work, goes bong.  On top of that, Gordon explains, he has a dedicated bong tester which goes buzz if the bonger doesn’t work and, as an additional back-up, he uses a buzz tester that goes pop if the buzzer isn’t working then, for absolute surety, he tests the popper with a pop tester that rings a bell if the popper is broken, but, as there is absolute silence, the beeper must be working correctly.  Just then, a bell goes off, swiftly followed by a cacophony of pops, buzzes, bongs, pings and beeps.  Gordon yells that the beeper is broken and rushes around soldering things, Juan shouts to me that, if this is how our top electricians are spending their time, it isn’t surprising that we are losing the war.  I remind him that we are not losing the war, but he brushes this aside as being beside the point, and, covering our ears over the horrendous noise, we wish Gordon the best of luck and leave the laboratory as quickly as we can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary