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Haala, Kahina and Jabirah

The first thing I do, on entering Humperdinkazuq, is to visit my friends Haala, Kahina and Jabirah. They tell me that I just missed Juan. I tell them that I am very happy to have missed Juan. They tell me that he is on the way to Colorado but he also avoiding Mahalath. Mahalath, apparently, found Juan and Alexandra in a compromising position. Juan protested his innocence, claiming that he was only teaching Alexandra the basics of yoga, but Mahalath, who has heard Juan’s feeble excuses many times before, immediately attacked. Juan escaped, but has been on the run ever since. I tell the girls that this is typical of Mahalath and Juan’s tempestuous relationship, and, I point out, although Juan’s behaviour is atrocious, Mahalath is not a perfect example of fidelity. She claims that her numerous liaisons, and marriages, with intelligence chiefs, generals, ministers of state, presidents, princes and kings are all in the line of duty. As Mahalath is one of our top agents, I am sure this is true, but it does not explain her helpless attraction to celebrated theatrical personalities, famous artists, prize-winning scientists, top sportsmen, fit academics, practical mechanics and anything in a kilt.

Haala says that Juan only spent a few hours here, but that they did find the time for a game of chatur arigam. Haala’s family have been making chatur arigam pieces for generations and Kahina and Jabirah are the best chatur arigam players in the Desert of Angad. They tell me that Juan introduced them to a variation on the game, which none of them had ever heard of before, and proved to be a lot of fun. When they tell me this, I assume they mean that Juan showed them some of the more abstruse diagonal blocking moves created by our friend, Mustafa, the Yemeni chatur arigam master. However, it turns out that Juan’s variation consisted of everyone drinking a dram of whisky between moves, with a forfeit for any player who knocks a piece over. Hearing this I reflect, sadly, that it is typical of Juan to sully the majesty of chatur arigam and turn it from a game of pure, noble, intellect to a witless, debauched, drinking game.

I tell my friends that, on the way here, I saw a large bison and ask them if they know anything about it, but they say that I should ask Juan, as he is responsible; then I ask them for directions to Colorado and they tell me to join Juan as he is waiting for me in the desert, with a map and a horse. Although I can’t see much use in Juan, a map and a horse will be very useful. Explaining that I am cornishishly behind schedule, I leave Haala, Kahina and Jabirah a jug of Juan’s Special Reserve, to keep them merry, then, after drinking toast after toast to all chatur arigam champions, I wave goodbye and stumble back out into the desert, to join my idiotic comrade, as fast as I possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary