Professor Humperdink III

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20.5.09

Cheryl leaves

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Fortunately, the driver of the first train to arrive is Cheryl’s cousin, Alan, from Buchanhavan.  He tells us that this is the Newcastle - Lubumbashi Express.  This is convenient for Cheryl, who has to resume tests on aunt Humperdink’s experimental engine.  Alan is one of our top drivers, trained by Bakulebe himself, with years of experience with the elite Subterranean Section of the Special Train Service, more importantly; he is also a true aficionado of single malt.  We are all delighted to see Alan and we know that Cheryl will have a safe, fun-filled journey.  To celebrate, Juan opens barrels of Vintage Tullibardine, Glen Elgin, Longmorn and Glenrothes Gold Reserve and we sit down to relax and drink each other’s health and salute all miners and miner’s wives, and miner’s husbands, if the miner concerned is a married women, but Cheryl says that there are very few female mining engineers, because, away from sunlight and fresh air, the job is bad for the complexion. 

Juan, half way through the barrel of Vintage Longmorn, told Cheryl that she shouldn’t leave, as he can't live without her, and he asks her to marry him.  Cheryl tells Juan that every time they meet, he asks her to marry him.  Juan says that there’s nothing wrong with persistence, if the goal is noble.  Cheryl tells him that everyone knows he is in love with Mahalath.  Juan says that that’s beside the point, besides, he adds, Mahalath is testing one of aunt Humperdink’s experimental airships, which, by now, has probably blown to smithereens, so Mahalath might be unavailable.  Cheryl says that he has a cold-hearted approach to marriage, but Juan defends himself saying that he is merely hedging his bets, Cheryl looks offended and says that, personally, she takes marriage very seriously.  Juan tells her that, strictly speaking, this is not true, as she had married the Lithuanian Treasurer shortly before all the funds in the treasury mysteriously vanished.  Then she divorced the treasurer as his treasury, lamentably lacking treasure, made him depressed.  In addition, being thrown in Lithuania’s deepest dungeon, made him inaccessible.  Cheryl divorced him on grounds of abandonment and left for Monte Carlo as soon as was polite.  Cheryl shouts that that was just business. 

Alan stands up, vomits, staggers back to the train and, after unloading some barrels of vintage malt for us, he starts the engine and blows the horn.  Cheryl kisses me goodbye and says that, as always, it has been a lot of fun; we arrange to meet in Buchanhaven, for the Buchanhaven Play, and, as a going away present, I give her a mossy heterodactyle.  Cheryl is very kind and tells me a cold, squishy, slimy, tentacly anemone was just what she always wanted.  Then she kisses Juan goodbye, then Juan kisses her goodbye, then they kiss for no reason at all.  Alan, waiting for Juan and Cheryl to finish kissing each other farewell, asks me why I gave Cheryl the heterodactyle and I tell him that the only other anemones I have is an opelet and a slimy corklet, the corklet is too slimy to carry easily and tends to ooze, and Cheryl prefers real opals over opal derivatives. Alan tells me that, since the time he was climbing a cliff in Norway and found a bag full of opals, he is superstitious about them and thinks they bring bad luck.  I say that, for most people, finding a bag full of opals is a lucky thing, but Alan explains that, just after he found the opals he was knocked off the cliff by falling lemmings, and broke every bone in his body.  

I wrench Cheryl and Juan apart and remind them that we are geriatrically behind schedule; Alan throws the train into gear, and Cheryl leaps on board. Cheering, and shouting goodbye, we run after the train until, yelling with excitement, and offering toast after toast to the success of our mission, Cheryl and Alan clank off into the stygian darkness, leaving us to blunder around in befuddled circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary                       

18.5.09

Leaving Newcastle


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Juan claims that the women of Newcastle are the most beautiful women in the world; this is possibly true, but, although Cheryl and I see no evidence of this, we both agree that the people of Newcastle are amongst the friendliest people in the world and, in every pub we visit, we have a wonderful time sharing out our gold and vintage malt and drinking their extraordinary brown ale, which, despite looking, and tasting, like the liquid secreted from the lower end of a pig’s intestines, is a powerful, hearty, brew.

Eventually, however, Cheryl reminds me that we are outlandishly behind schedule and, reluctantly, we say goodbye to all our new friends and head back to meet Juan.  We hope that he is quietly getting on with some good-natured darts games with the local players, and not causing any trouble.  However, staggering towards the pub, we hear police sirens, and see crowds of people brawling on the street.  Stumbling into the bar, we find Juan, flailing his bagpipes around his head, beating back a group of enraged men.  He shouts that they accused him of cheating, this is typical of Juan’s behaviour and, after helping him beat back his opponents, I remind him that his attitude is less than professional.  Juan says that he isn’t the only person at fault and that the man Cheryl injured turned out to be the chief of police and the entire Newcastle police force is out for her blood.  Cheryl protests, saying that she was only acting in self-defence.  I tell them both that, to save more trouble, we should get back to Aunt Humperdink’s mine.  Energising ourselves with Vintage Bruichladdich, Lagavulin, Tomintoul and Mortlach Private Reserve and quaffing pints of Newcastle Brown Ale, drinking toast after toast to the famous Geordie hospitality, we fight our way back to the safety of Aunt Humperdink’s mine.

We have had a lot of fun Newcastle and we are sorry to be leaving so quickly, however, back down the mine, we discuss our options and decide the best thing we can do is to wait for a train.  Because the Special Train Service provides an excellent service to all aunt Humperdink’s mines, we won’t have to wait very long, so this is a good decision.  To celebrate, Juan opens a cask of his Special Reserve and, singing ‘Bobby Shaftoe’ and ‘Keep Yor Feet Still Geordie Hinney’ at the top of our voices, we link arms and charge around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

14.5.09

Darts in Newcastle



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Because of our time in the mine, we are sweaty, stinking, thirsty, and black with filth, so we are able to blend in with the locals easily.  However, in the first pub we visit, because of Juan’s stupidity, we quickly attract unwanted attention.  Pushing our way through the grubby crowd of customers, on our way to the bar, to buy some of Newcastle’s famous ale, Juan blunders into some young men playing a game of darts; Juan asks them which dart game they are playing, ‘Oxo’, ‘Round the Clock’, ‘Darts Shove Ha’penny’, ‘Darts Cricket’, or ‘Shanghai? 

The men have never heard of any of these games and tell Juan they are playing 501, so called because the first person who scores five hundred and one points is the winner.  Juan says the game sounds stupidly easy, and he is surprised when the men take offence and challenge him to a match.  Juan explains that he cannot actually play the game, but, if he just keeps hitting the bull’s eye, he would only have to throw ten or eleven darts to win.  The men say nobody can hit the bull’s eye every time and, anyway, the winner has to score exactly five hundred and points.  Juan says that these rules are stupid, but I point out that he only has to throw nine darts to win, as long as he scores an average of fifty-five point six points with each dart, which is easy, so Juan agrees to a game.  Unfortunately, by the time he has thrown seven darts, he is helplessly muddled and doesn’t know whether to aim for a triple eighteen and a double twenty, or a triple twenty and a double nineteen.  He loses the game, shouts that the rules are stupid, and demands another match.  The men seem happy to have another game, especially as Juan bets everyone in sight that, if can work out the maths; he will score 501 points with nine darts.  Cheryl says she’s thirsty and bored with watching darts, so we fight our way through the filthy throng to the bar. 

I order ale for everyone and Cheryl asks for bottles of Vintage Aberlour, Oban, Glencadam, and Strathisla Special Reserve.  The landlord says he doesn’t have any of those malts so, disappointed, Cheryl offers to buy all the whisky he has, arguing that what you lose in quality it is possible to make up in quantity.  The landlord wants to see our money before he agrees to sell us all his whisky.  Cheryl says that this is typical of the distrustful northerner.  Through the crowd, I can hear Juan shouting, and tell Cheryl to pay the landlord quickly, so we can get back and calm things down at the dartboard.  Cheryl says she doesn’t have any money.  I look in my bag but I can’t find any English coins or notes.  

Digging out three sacred kola nuts and two royal cowrie shells, I offer them to the landlord instead of money.  I am surprised when he gets irritated and shouts at us to leave his pub.  I explain that, with these nuts and shells, he would be fabulous wealthy in Ghana, but Cheryl asks the landlord if he would take gold instead of money, I always keep an ingot or two, for these occasions, and when he asks to see the gold, I drag out a large bar of gold and place it on the bar.

An astonished silence quelled the babble of the rabble in the pub and only the sound was of Juan, yelling for whisky, to calm his nerves, and screaming that scoring an average of fifty-five point six per dart is too complicated for a human to do.  The barman grabs the gold and runs out of the back door, shouting that we can have whatever we want.  Cheryl and some other customers dive behind the bar and hand out ale and whisky to everyone in the pub.  Everybody seems very happy with the arrangement and there is a lot of cheering and general bonhomie all round.

Cheryl and I, hearing Juan screeching with anger, return to the dartboard where we find him waving darts around and screaming that a triple seventeen and a double eighteen wasn’t going to work and the game was for morons.  Juan always claims that malt makes his aim better as, seeing double, the target is twice as big.  Looking at the scores, I realise that Juan is not only mathematically confused but also handicapped by lack of malt.  The only whisky available from the bar is a degraded, blended, slop, not fit for swine, so I pass Juan a flask of Duff’s Defiance Founder’s Reserve and follow that up with a flask of the Macallan and a glass boot, full of Vintage Auchentoshan.  

After finishing the Auchentoshan, Juan declares that he feels much better, throws back a couple of pints of Newcastle Brown Ale, for good measure and, loudly betting large amounts of money that he can score five hundred and one points with nine darts, he stumbles around in circles, singing ‘Hi, Canny Man, Hoy A Ha’penny Oo’ at the top of his voice.  Cheryl, who was the overall winner at the Buchanhaven Darts Festival for three years in a row, decides to help Juan but, just before she can tell him what numbers to aim at, a man standing behind her, pinches her bum and said something remarkably impolite.

Cheryl is very good natured and friendly, for a woman from Buchanhaven, but she takes unkindly to being assaulted by a stranger. She is slightly handicapped as her hands are full tumblers of whisky and pints of Newcastle Brown Ale, but her kneeing and kicking techniques are very effective and she doesn’t spill a drop. Looking down at the groaning, injured, man, I tell Cheryl that he needs medical attention but, probably, Juan was the only doctor in the house and, looking at Juan, bellowing and reeling around in circles, knocking over chairs, bouncing off tables and chucking darts in all directions, we decide not to ask for his assistance.  We kick the injured man under a table and forget about him.  Cheryl shouts at Juan to, at least, face the dartboard before throwing a dart.  Juan swivels around until Cheryl shouts at him to stop, because the board is, more or less, in front of him.  I tell him to hold the dart with his hand, rather than balancing it on his nose, then, when he has done this, Cheryl has to tell him to turn it around so the pointed bit faces the dartboard.  Juan swaying from side to side, shouts that the dart is too small, and complains that the feathers are tickling his hand, and he can’t hold it properly. 

This is such a pathetic excuse that everyone starts to laugh at Juan, but Cheryl looks worried, as Juan doesn’t like being laughed at, and, sensing a brawl coming on, we shout encouragement to Juan, check our weapons, and settle down to fortify ourselves by drinking blended malt which, as it tastes vile, we wash down with pint after pint of Newcastle Brown Ale, the ale also tastes disgusting and, to get rid of the taste, we drink more whisky, which requires more ale; after a short time, Cheryl says she is fed up with watching Juan trying to throw a dart and yells at him to aim for the bull’s eye and throw the thing.  Juan leans forwards and peers at the wall beside the dartboard; Cheryl looks alarmed but I explain that, by now, Juan will be seeing double so all he has to do is aim between the two boards.  Cheryl looks doubtful but I assure her that it will be perfectly okay; however, after looking at the wall for a long time, Juan starts to gyrate.  I tell Cheryl that, to Juan, the dartboard probably appears to be spinning, so he is spinning in the other direction, to counteract the effect.  Cheryl says that watching Juan trying to play darts is very irritating.  I remind her that Juan is a very irritating person. Some time later Juan is bunny hopping in circles, loosening his knees for the match, he claims, then he starts doing cartwheels and back flips, smashing into the furniture and bouncing off the walls, bawling that he needs to limber up.  I tell Cheryl that a lot of the men, who are waiting to win their money, are getting agitated and, unless Juan throws a dart soon, there will be trouble.  

We decide that, although we are chawningly behind schedule, we are in the beautiful city of Newcastle, and it would be silly not to visit more of their wonderful drinking establishments.  Cheryl shouts to Juan that we will meet him later.  He replies by screeching the Highland war cry and hurling darts into the ceiling, this indicates good spirit so, wishing Juan the best of luck and offering toast after toast to all our new friends, we tumble out of the door, link arms and, singing ‘The Neibors Doon Belaa’ and ‘The Lambton Worm’ at the top of our voices, we stagger down the street, looking for another pub, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

8.5.09

Under Newcastle

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Juan wants to know if opals are black, as he thinks he has found some.  Cheryl says she thinks that they could be any colour.  Looking closer, I tell Juan that he is an idiot; hasn’t found opals, but coal.  Remembering that all aunt Humperdink’s mines are linked, we check our map and realise that are under Newcastle.  This is confirmed when we bump into our old friends, George and Butterfield, from Callerton.  We ask how they are and George tells us that, because of the amazing success of the mine, they are living comfortable, easy lives.  George asks us what we are doing and Juan says that we are looking for opals, but mining is hot, tiring, work, and we all need a drink. 

George says that we are in the right place, as Newcastle brews its own ale, and recommends that we head for the surface and find a public house.  Cheryl reminds us that we are mumptishly behind schedule and I point out that the recruits I abandoned in the Desert of Angad urgently need rescuing.  But Juan says that the recruits, if nothing else, have hundreds of barrels of whisky, and, if they can’t live on that, they’re not fit to become agents, and, he adds, the women of Newcastle are the most beautiful women in the world and we should meet them all.  Cheryl agrees, saying that spending some time enjoying good ale will make a pleasant change from scrabbling around in black dirt, miles underground.  To celebrate a good decision, we open barrels of Vintage Cardhu, Strathisla, and Glencadam Special Reserve and, dancing the Jesmond Jig and singing ‘Blaydon Races’ and ‘Cushy Butterfield’ at the top of our voices, we hack our way up through the tough northern earth, and race to find a pub, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

6.5.09

Lubumbashi


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Cheryl, looking down into aunt Humperdink’s Lubumbashi mine, reminds us that we are numptishly behind schedule and will have to work quickly.  Juan, says that, as mining can be hot, we should refresh ourselves before starting work, and opens a barrel of Vintage Glenfiddich Private Reserve.  Now, after offering toast after toast to the health and happiness of all cobalt and radium miners; befuddled, but shouting and singing and berserk with excitement at the possibility of finding precious, glowing, gems, we stumble down into the mine, as fast as we possibly can. 

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

2.5.09

To Lubumbashi


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Expecting to hike through hundreds of miles of trackless, primeval jungle, stumbling on a major arterial motor road is irritating as it means we are lost.  We flag down a passing car, to ask directions, and we are delighted to find that the driver is our old friend Cheryl, from Buchanhavan, one of our top agents.  Cheryl tells us that she is on the way to Lubumbashi for more tests on aunt Humperdink’s experimental car engine, and asks us if we would like to come with her.  We thank her for the offer but explain that, although we are periclitationally behind schedule and would appreciate a lift; because experimental engines tend to explode, we have found that, generally, it is safer to walk.  Cheryl says that this engine runs on termite spit, extracted from termite mounds, and, although it stinks, it is perfectly safe.  Reassured, we accept Cheryl’s offer. 

To celebrate, Juan opens a barrel of his Special Reserve and, offering toast after toast to Cheryl and termites; we dive into the car, bellowing with excitement and brawling over who gets the front seat.  Cheryl slams the engine into gear then, to the accompaniment of the squealing brakes, singing ‘Highland Laddie’ and ‘The White Cockade’ at the top of our voices, we scream around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

1.5.09

Up the Mungo



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Looking into the distance, Juan says that deciding not to wait for the train was a good idea, as hacking through hundreds of miles of dense jungle is always more interesting than waiting for a train.  I agree, and add that, in any instance, heading up the Mungo River and climbing Mount Cameroon is always more fun than enduring an omphalopsychitically tedious train journey.

To celebrate, we open barrels of Vintage Laphroaig, Benrinnes, Glenmorangie and Tamdhu Private Reserve and offer toast after toast to macaroon makers everywhere.  Then, remembering that we are rampantly behind schedule and have to leave immediately, we blow up our bagpipes and, playing the ‘Highland Walloch’ and ‘The Canty Quean of Aberfeldy,’ we blunder up the Mungo, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary