In the blasting heat of the desert, with our train corsnedishly behind schedule, our absolute priority is to build a comfortable shelter, as a waiting room. We decide to begin building immediately and, to celebrate a good decision, we break open barrels of Vintage Aultmore, Linkwood, Talisker and Allt a Bhainne Private Reserve and, after offering toast after toast to everyone who has had to wait for a train, Juan lies down and makes another attempt at writing this year’s edition of his memoirs and, remembering that my annual recital is coming up, I look for Tiddles, to help make some fiddles.
Normally, I only perform recitals with a Stradivarius; however, having smashed the last three, people are reluctant to lend me another one. Some inexperienced desert travellers say that good wood can be hard to find, however, it is a basic survival skill to carry enough wood to make a decent instrument. I dig some planks from my bag, knock together some fiddles, and play one for Juan. He listens for a few seconds but, as the tune progress, he loses interest and returns to his writing. When I have finished, and ask him his opinion, he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I remember that this is the reaction most people have to hearing any of the pointless etudes by the useless Fernando Carulli and, throwing the fiddle away, I pick up another one and play Paganini's Caprice no. 24. Juan says it sounds flat. I explain that, as I couldn’t find Tiddles, I didn’t have any catgut for the strings and had to use old bootlaces.
Chucking that fiddle away, I pick up another one and bash out Ravel’s ‘Tzigane’. It sounds wonderful, but Juan says it stinks. I protest, saying that it was sublime; Juan agrees that the music was angelic, but the fiddle smells like rancid cat’s vomit. I explain that Antonio deliberately refused to house train his pets, and kept wood in his bedroom for three years before making a fiddle as, during that time, the wood was liberally doused with the excretions of Giorgio, Enrico and Consolata, Antonio’s three cats. Antonio claimed that Enrico’s various discharges and Consolata and Enrico’s tiddles gave an unmatchable quality to his fiddles, and often said that he only varnished the instruments to cover the stench: as my planks come from Antonio’s amazingly stained bedroom floor, the tone it produces is glorious, but the odour emitted is hellish. Hurling that fiddle away, I grab another instrument and belt out the Rannoch Reel, Juan brightens up, blows up his bagpipes and, now, blasting ‘Twa Recruitin' Sergeants’ and ‘Hielan Laddie’ into the flaming desert air, we blunder around in noisesome, sickening, circles, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary