Professor Humperdink III

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27.8.09

To the Buffalo Plains










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My method of locomotion is extremely swift and easy but has, I discover, a disadvantage in that, bounding backwards at high speed through unknown territory, to an unknown location, without a map, makes navigation difficult and, although I have covered hundreds of miles, when I pause and look around, I am certain that I have gone around in a great circle and am back where I started. This is irritating and I remind myself that, the next time I am visiting Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring, I must look up my old friend, Maheketan Pema, who constantly bounces around Tibet delivering mail, and ask him how to proceed forwards, rather than backwards. The trouble is that I know Pema will insist that there is no easy way to learn how to leap forwards and, if I want to do it properly, I will have to complete my training in lun-gom-pa, which means that I have to spend thirty-nine months confined, without a single barrel of single malt, in a freezing cell, meditating on arcane things and doing peculiar and difficult exercises in the dark.

After doing this, assuming one survives, a person has the power to travel for hundreds of miles at high velocity, with their feet barely touching the ground, at which point they can apply for a job as a mail carrier with the Tibetan Postal Service. However, after a few days in my cell, I was bouncing off the walls and clawed my way out, then, to recover from my deprivations, I had to spend the next three years carousing in Paris, partying in Jamaica and living it up in Buenos Aries. However, never having fully mastered the method of superhuman forward motion, the best I can do now is keep on springing backwards over the Unknown Region, hoping for the best.

Glancing around, looking for a sign that might help me determine my exact location, I notice some markings on a nearby rock and, on closer examination, I notice that, within the marks, there are distinct shapes, and I recognize aunt Humperdink’s secret code. Aunt’s cipher is cunningly contrived to appear either to be natural mineral stratifications, the meaningless doodlings of Alphonse Louis Constant, the famous French cartoonist, the signatures of ordinary demons, or nothing but random squiggles on a piece of rock, in any event, the script will be ignored; however, I immediately decode the message to read:

‘Dear Andrzej,
Sorry to have missed you, cancel your plans, meet me in Colorado.
Love,
Aunt H.

P.S. Your cat has had quintuplets.’

This is wonderful news and, to celebrate, I break open the kegs of Vintage Linkwood, Lochside, Springbank, Caol lla and Lagavulin Founder’s Reserve, which I keep for such occasions, and offer toast after toast to the well-being of all the recruits that I have abandoned here and whom, unfortunately, I will not be able to rescue.

Now, bellowing with excitement and singing ‘Bonnie Bessie O’ Boltachan‘, ‘My Heart is Sair for an Aberfeldy Lass‘ and ‘Fly to the Hills in the Morning’, I bound for the Buffalo Plains, as fast as I possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

19.8.09

Nearing the Unknown Region


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Running dangerously low on the Macallan, and urgently in need of more Vintage Brackla, Aultmore, Balvenie and Highland Park Private Reserve. Fortunately, I can see, by the configuration of the sand dunes, that I am nearing the Unknown Region, where, after rescuing the recruits that I abandoned, I will be able to replenish my rapidly diminishing supplies of single malt.

To celebrate, I break open the cask of Vintage Bunnahabhainn Private Reserve, which I keep for such occasion, and, offering toast after toast to everyone called ‘Sandy’, I continue to bounce across the fiery Desert of Angad, singing “Caller Herrin’” and “The Laird O’ Aberfeldy” at the top of my voice, and keeping myself cool with a fine spray of Vintage Springbank, Blair Athol, Talisker and Tamnavulin Special Reserve.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

17.8.09

Leaving the tartans


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Inexperienced desert travellers occasionally complain that, because sand yields under the feet, walking across a sandy desert can be arduous. Nonetheless, stupidly, it is only when they are very tired that they resort to the easier and more efficient method of crawling. When standing or walking, all the weight is concentrated on the relatively small surface area of the feet, which causes the desert traveller to sink into the sand; when crawling on all fours, the weight of the body is evenly distributed. Supported by the arms and legs, the traveller will not sink, with less friction to overcome, they can proceed with ease. As it is ridiculous to wait until exhaustion forces them to conserve energy by crawling, more experienced travellers traverse entire deserts on their hands and knees.

Although crawling across the desert is easy and pleasant it can be quite slow and, because I am blisteringly behind schedule, I employ another, far superior, technique; a carefully guarded secret only known to Bedouins and elite desert warriors. Because of the balance of the body, in the squatting position, gravity has a tendency to pull the body backwards, squat jumping forward is necessarily energy consuming and inefficient and the squat jumps or ‘bunny hops,’ that are an integral part of the training regime of all armed services don’t, at first sight, appear to be a useful exercise, and bunny hopping into battle has never been a recommended tactic. However, as the Bedouins discovered thousands of years ago, squat jumping backwards over the desert plains is both speedy and requires little energy, makes ascending sand dunes a simple, natural, exercise and, necessarily losing one’s balance and tumbling backwards, the descent from even the highest dunes is swift and efficient.

Oddly, after only a few days travelling in this manner, I am feeling mildly fatigued, and can only put my weariness down to the tedium of looking at the tartans from clans of no interest to anyone. Deciding to pass them to my old friend James Haggart, of Aberfeldy, and his son, Peter, whose knowledge of the subject far exceeds mine, I dump the tartan samples in a heap, for James and Peter to collect, the next time they are in the area, then, to celebrate a good decision, I reinvigorate myself with flasks of Vintage Tobermory, Rossbank, Tomatin and Inchgower Private Reserve.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Macleod of Macleod


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Looking at the tartan of the peculiar Macleods of Harris is uninspiring. I can think of nothing interesting about the Macleods, except that the Macleod of Macleod’s claim that they are half fairy and half Harris and that they own a Fairy Flag. The flag is believed by the deluded Macleods to have been a fairy-crafted bed-cloth, which, when waved in battle, or placed on a bed, is meant to save the clan from their own stupidity, ensure the fertility of the chief, and attract herring. The clan’s legends are only ever repeated in public bars by mumbling, confused, drooling, whisky-sodden Macleods, often to fellow Macleods, who, in a similarly befuddled condition, are always prepared to believe them and, indeed, to amplify upon them. Most people, however, on hearing that, for instance, the clan’s fourth chief was unfaithful to a fairy, their fifth chief bred fairy snowballs, and Alister Crotach, the eighth chief, span on his hump to entertain guests, tend to back away in alarm.

I know little of the true history of the Macleods as, in the nature of inebriated stories, repeated ad nauseum in dark, horrible, Scottish public houses, the oral tradition of the clan includes many diversions into utterly unrelated subjects and consists entirely of uninformed opinion, ridiculous boasts, offensive language and a great deal of confused, angry, shouting, from which it is impossible to extract any meaningful information.

Tired of looking at the ridiculous Macleod’s tartan, I throw it aside, for future use as a fly swat, and energise myself with hearty swigs of Vintage Tormore, Craigellachie, Bunnahabhainn, and Macduff Private Reserve

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

15.8.09

Clan Macmillan



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I know very little about even the most important clans, and even less about insignificant clans and, certainly, the tartan of the Clan Macmillan doesn’t ring any bells with me. I do know that individual clan members are referred to as MacMhaoilein or ‘Bald Mac’; this is a reference to the clan’s one famous chief, Mac ‘The Bald’. During their night attack at the battle of Arkaig, Mac’s head, glinting in the light of the moon, alerted the enemy to their presence, resulting in the wholesale massacre of the Macmillans. Vowing that this would not occur again, the few survivors determined that there should never be a repeat of this calamity and dedicated all their resources to the production of head paint. This industry supported the clan for some time but, when wearing wigs became the fashionable way of concealing baldness, rather than smearing the head with Macmillan’s black, sticky, stinking goo, made from herring oil and cow dung, the Macmillans, losing their income, became effectively extinct. Chucking their tartan aside, for future use as a spittoon-cleaner, I revive myself with Vintage Cragganmore, Bowmore, Glenfarclas, and Strathisla Special Reserve.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

14.8.09

Clan Johnston


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Because there are only two or three tartan designs belonging to clans that actually matter, there are hundreds of tartans that belong to clans that do not matter. Of these unnecessary clans, the useless Clan Johnston ranks as the clan of the least import. It is a remarkable fact that while the gallant Clan Gordon and the ever-valiant Clan Macgregor, for example, could not go a week without being deeply involved in a glorious battle, or a terrible betrayal, and the genius and heroic persistence of Clan Macduff created Duff’s Defiance, the legendary single malt; for hundreds of years, the Clan Johnston avoided glory, sacrifice, invention, or any achievement of any kind whatsoever.

Although the noble Macdonalds of Sleate still keep a few members of the Clan Johnston, as they make very good pets, the Johnstons eventually lost interest in Scotland entirely and, after generations of taking everything they could, while contributing absolutely nothing at all to wealth and culture of their home country, they moved to America, where people don’t care about such things.

I put their tartan aside, for future use as a poodle-coat, and relax with a few drams of Vintage Aberlour, Oban, Benrinnes and Mortlach Private Reserve.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

13.8.09

Macdonald of Clandranald


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In great grand aunt Euphemia Humperdink’s great treatise on the subject of box pleated kilts, ‘Under the Kilt with Euphemia’ she claimed that the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald had a great hoard of gold, but they lost it when Ranald Macdonald, the only person who knew where the treasure trove was hidden, mysteriously vanished after visiting The Cheeky Monkey in Aberfeldy. However, great grand aunt says that the tartan of Clan Macdonald contains a secret message, which reveals the location of the treasure; this message, she says, can be read by folding and pattern-matching the sett in a certain way. As generations of Macdonalds have devoted their lives to hysterically folding and re-folding their kilts in the hope of cracking the code, they were particularly irritated, I remember, when Juan, in the middle of a brawl with Jamie Macdonald, noticed that Jamie’s kilt, crumpled by repeatedly being stamped on and kicked around the floor of the Cheeky Monkey, clearly spelled “Mòran taing. Mar sin leibh an dràsda.” Roughly translated as, “Thanks a lot. Ciao”.

In the sixteenth century the clan, rather foolishly, slaughtered Dougal Macdonald, their Chief, as Dougal was the last in the line of the Macdonalds of Clanranald, after his death, the clan history became somewhat muddled, to the point that the Chief of Clanranald became known as Gallda , meaning “The Stranger,” because nobody knew who he was.

Putting aside the tartan of this unremarkable clan, for future use as a doormat, I fortify myself with vintage Glentauchers, Glenfiddich, Benrinnes and Glencadam Special Reserve

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

12.8.09

Clan Kennedy


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I am not sure whether to recommend the Kennedy tartan to aunt Humperdink, I know she admires the Kennedy sett, but the clan hails from a particularly filthy tribe of bog-trotting Picts. Lacking battle skills, rather than fight for land, young Kennedy men traditionally increase their landholdings by marrying old women, with vast estates. Elderly women, they have discovered, are less critical of their behavior, which, in spite of having risen in society, has not improved since leaving the stinking Galloway bogs. On the one occasion a Kennedy ensnared a young bride, Lady Jean Hamilton, she was so horrified by the scandalous behavior of the revolting family, she ran away with first band of gypsies she saw.

Sadly, as everyone knows, the clan’s name is linked with tragic assassinations, most famously, those of Gregory, 2nd Earl of Cassillis, and Gilbert, 3rd Earl, although it is possible that that Gilbert was not, in fact, poisoned in Dieppe, but that, because his diet consisted primarily of porridge, haggis and whisky; when presented with gloriously variegated French cuisine, and a selection of fine French wines, his digestive system exploded. In spite of this alarming introduction, having been to introduced to finely cooked food, greed became the distinguishing characteristic of Clan Kennedy, epitomized in the personage of John, 4th Earl of Cassillis, who, in an urge to taste ever more varied flavours, rather overstepped a culinary mark by roasting the Abbot of Crossraguel.

Considering these facts, I decide not to recommend the Kennedy Clan's tartan to aunt Humperdink, throw the cloth aside, for future use as an armpit wiper, and refresh myself with vintage Laphroaig, Benrinnes, Glenmorangie and Tamdhu Private Reserve.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

7.8.09

The Drummonds


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The next tartan is that of the diminutive Drummonds. The clan’s decline came about because their ancestor, Malcolm Beg (‘The Little’) Drummond, married Wee Ada of Lennox. Malcolm and Ada’s combined stature was the same as the average sized man so, when attending public functions, Malcolm would stand on Ada’s head. Unfortunately, Malcolm and Ada’s children, John (‘The Tiny’) and Malcolm (‘The Miniscule’) Drummond, grew to be even shorter than their parents.

From that time, the diminishing trait appeared consistently and, with every generation, the Drummonds became ever smaller until the last Chief of the Drummonds of Blair Drummond, Blair (‘The Bantam’) Drummond, fell through a crack between floorboards in his bedroom in Drummond Castle. He survived the fall, landing safely in a bowl of porridge in the kitchen below. However, when Brian climbed out of the basin he was covered in porridge and Frangag (’The Furry’) failed to recognise him and immediately attacked. The Drummonds were once a clan of great stature, but, as they have diminished to the extent that last Chief was eaten by a cat, I don’t feel I can recommend their tartan to aunt Humperdink; putting the Drummond tartan aside for later use as a toe-rag, I fortify myself for the next tartan with flasks of Vintage Bruichladdich, Glentauchers and Glenfiddich Private Reserve.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

6.8.09

Clan Cameron

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The other tartan is that of the peace-loving Clan Cameron. Hundreds of years ago, their eleventh Chief, Donald Dhu, fought in a battle, but he didn’t like it. From that time, the Camerons avoid conflict and concentrate on breeding like rabbits.

Few Camerons are well known; great grand aunt Euphemia Humperdink, in her wonderful book, ‘The Scottish Clans & their Tartans’, does mention Donald, ‘The Gentle Locheil’, but omits James ‘The Soft Locheil’, Lachlan ‘The Docile Locheil’ and Colin ‘The Timorous Lamb of Letterfinlay’.

However, the Camerons do have one ancestor of note, ‘The Black Tailor of the Axe’; Aunt Humperdink supports all forms of craft, so, despite the lamentable battle history of Clan Cameron, I know, at least, that aunt will appreciate the clan’s sewing skills, so I put their tartan aside for further consideration and refresh myself with Vintage Glenmorangie and Benrinnes Private Reserve.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Separating tartans



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Separating the tartans, I can see that one is of the hapless Clan Arthur of Tirracladich. I remember that, after many generations as hereditary servants to the noble MacDonalds of Sleat, the MacScullions, wanting to boost their moral, attempted to link their clan with someone famous, changed their name from MacScullion to Macarthur, and claimed that they were the direct descendents of one of the sons of Arthur Humperdink, a local king who has been characterised by some second-rate writers as a hero but who, if the truth be told, was little more than a rapscallion. Although Clan Arthur’s claim is utterly spurious, they insist on backing it up with a vast amount of genealogical detail; a monotonous recitation of births and marriages and deaths and names and dates, so mind-implodingly tedious that many people who hear it chew their own legs off. Because nobody is interested in their ridiculous story, to seek an audience, Clan Arthur formed a shambolic society, and, once a month, after asking permission from the MacDonalds, they stumble around Sleat, shouting the Clan’s war cry Eisd! O Eisd! (“Listen, O Listen!”), looking for someone to talk to. I decide not to recommend their tartan to aunt Humperdink

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

5.8.09

Muddled Tartan


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Walking across the incomparable Sahara is always fun. The nights are chilly, but the unique warming effect of Vintage Glenlossie is remarkable; during the heat of the day, experienced travellers recommend regular, cooling, sips of Vintage Glenlossie, alternated with drams of Duff’s Defiance Founders Reserve. Considering the amount of sand and sun available, I am surprised the place isn’t hopping with tourists; I am certain that they would enjoy having lots of space, compared to the claustrophobic life led in cities, where many of the populace, in order to simply turn around, have to stand on their heads and gyrate.

A lot people say that the solitude and silence of the desert allowed them to contemplate profound things. Disappointingly, although I have crossed all the deserts, I have never thought of anything very important. Despite this, I cannot ignore that I am profoundly behind schedule and urgently need some transport. Fortunately, through the sun-baked air, I hear the sound of someone singing, and see a balloon floating over the horizon. I immediately recognize Juan. He drifts overhead screaming that he can’t stop, because he being chased by Mahalath, then, yelling that aunt Humperdink wants my advice on a tartan design, he throws down a few cases of Vintage Malt and some pieces of cloth, as samples, yells that he will meet me in the next town and drifts over the horizon, singing ‘An Aberfeldy Lass’ at the top of his voice.

After enjoying the serenity of the desert, this sudden activity is irritating. However, picking up the whisky and the material, I can see the cloth is a muddled tartan design. There are few things as profound as tartan, so, pleased to have something worth thinking about, I refresh myself with the Vintage Highland Park and Pulteney Special Reserve that Juan delivered, shout “Chlanna nan con thigibh a so ‘s gheibh sibh feòil”, for good luck, and attempt to unmuddle the tartan, as fast as I possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

4.8.09

Back to the Unknown Region


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The passengers, being experienced English commuters, carry sturdy umbrellas that acted as effective parachutes when we leapt from the balloon and, now, serve as excellent sun shields, so everyone is quite comfortable. I tell everybody that aunt Humperdink’s Special Train Service will be along in a short while to carry them back to London, if they don’t mind waiting. They tell me that waiting on the cold, wet and utterly inhospitable train stations in England is such a miserable experience that a lot of people simply lose the will to live but that here, in the warm, dry, Sahara, waiting for a train will be a pleasure.

Reassured as to their well-being, I explain that, although I would like to wait with them, I am vexatiously behind schedule and, before returning to England, I have to return to the Unknown Region to rescue the young recruits who I abandoned on their desert survival exercise some time ago. The passengers thank me for an interesting journey and insist that I visit them when I return to England: I leave them barrels of Vintage Glenburgie, Rossbank, Tormore and Tobermory Special Reserve, to keep their spirits up and, waving goodbye and wishing them the best of luck, head off to the Unknown Region as fast as I possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary