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Tripping over a ledge, we crash through a door where we come across Ken, from Dumfries.  Ken is hovering near an interesting looking machine.  Juan asks what it is and Ken tells us that it links Angus’s pendulum with Dougal’s clock and uses the energy to power Dirk’s time deblender but, at the moment, it wasn’t working.  We tell Ken that Dougal smashed his clock and Angus, when we last saw him, was practicing ear rubbing and whisker twitching, for his part as Mrs Mouse, in the Buchanhaven Play.  Ken says that that isn’t the problem; the problem was that he didn’t know if the switch to turn the machine on went up or down.


I ask Ken to explain, again, what Dirk’s time deblender was meant to do, as Juan didn’t understand what Dirk was talking about.  Ken says that very few people understand what Dirk is talking about, which is why everyone is sure that he is a brilliant scientist.  Then, to explain Dirk’s machine, Ken asks us to imagine we are at the front of a speeding train.  Juan asks where, in the front, as he prefers to be in the bar, which could be in the middle of the train.  Ken says that it doesn’t matter where; we could be on top of the train, or under it.  I tell Ken that we’ve made too many journeys, hanging on to the top, or clinging to the underside, of trains.  Ken tells us that we could be in the train if we want, as long as we are at the front, now, he says; imagine we are galloping on horses, to the back of the train.  Juan tells Ken that the last time we did that, the passengers became overexcited and he would not want to do it again.  I remind Juan that it wasn’t the galloping horses that alarmed the passengers on the 7.17 a.m. from Dumfries to Buchanhavan, it was that Sally, Juan’s anaconda, had leapt out from under his vest and attached itself to a fat woman’s nose and it was that that frightened the passengers; and scared our horses into galloping.  Juan says that Sally wouldn’t have remained quietly asleep if I hadn’t fired a blunderbuss into the ceiling. 


When we have finished arguing, Ken asks us if we arrived at our destination early or late.  We tell him that we never arrived as Sally paid a visit to the driver’s cabin and the driver’s driving became erratic, so we jumped out.  Juan says that he thinks the driver ended up in Glasgow, kept the anaconda, whom he had befriended on the journey,  and joined a circus as Chuff, the world’s only Bearded, Greasy, Snake Dancer.  Ken says that doesn’t matter, the point is that we could have galloped up and down the train all day and it wouldn’t make much difference to our time of arrival, and this, he says, is why we can’t travel in time.  We are already travelling in time, Ken explains, which is why, when people try to travel in time, nothing much happens.  And Dirk’s time machine will prove it as, he tells us, as, if it works, nothing will happen.  Juan points out that nothing was happening anyway, but Ken says that that is because he didn’t know whether the switch to turn it on went up or down.  I say that there are two choices, up or down, and ask Ken why he doesn’t try them both.  But Ken says that he had thought of that but he had reasoned that there was a third choice, which was to not switch it up, or down, just to walk away from it an pursue his interest in Morag, the stunningly beautiful but violently dangerous proprietor of the Cheeky Monkey, in Aberfeldy.  Juan reminds Ken that his previous advances to Morag had resulted in long spells in hospital.  However, Ken says that that is the choice he has to make and that, frankly, it is bewilderingly difficult to make the decision, which is why, he explains, he has been standing in front of the machine for nearly three years.  

Ken invites us to stay and keep him company while he makes his decision but we explain that we are barfishly behind schedule and, opening a barrel of Scapa Reserve toasting Ken, his machine, and wishing him the best of luck in making the right decision, we break into a wild Highland fling and, singing and shouting and cheering with excitement, we charge around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary