We decide to go to a bar to wait for the Agent Rescue Service to arrive. Archie leads us to an inn, telling us that he recently painted the inn's sign. Juan, looking at the sign, says that the white hart seems to be deformed. But Archie says that that is nothing to with him, he painted the hart on planks of wood, but when they were fitted into the sign, the carpenter, Mad Hamish MacDuff, put some of the planks the wrong way round. Juan asks Archie if, considering all the effort he must have put in to painting the hart, he would like the planks turned the correct way round, but Archie says that he couldn't care less, the inn wasn't called the White Hart, so it didn't matter anyway. I ask Archie what the inn is called and he tells us that it's called The White Ptarmigan. Juan asks him why, in that case, he didn't paint a white ptarmigan, Archie explains that ptarmigans are only white in the winter, so it wouldn't be accurate, whereas a white hart is white all the time. Juan says the changing plumage of the ptarmigan could be represented by drawing two birds one with winter plumage and another with autumn plumage, but Archie says that it's impossible to find two birds with the two different plumages at the same time. Juan suggests that, as it's winter, we catch a white ptarmigan then, when Archie has finished painting it, we dye its feathers so it looks as if it has autumn plumage, then Archie can paint it again. I think this is a wonderful idea, but Archie points out that, as it's Christmas day, ptarmigans are protected and we aren't allowed to hunt them. Juan says that this is a ridiculous rule, but I remind him that it is no more daft that the spelling of the birds name, which used to be 'tàrmachan' until the English decided to change it. Archie agrees, saying that words beginning with 'pt' are just stupid because the 'p' is silent, so what's the point of it? I tell him that words starting with 'pt' might be ludicrous but they are, nonetheless, perfectly valid and that the bird should not be discriminated against just because of the spelling of its name. Juan tells me that if you can't write it in Gaelic then it's not worth bothering about and painting the pteryla of a ptarmigan is a waste of time, Archie agrees, saying that the pterylosis of a ptarmigan is particularly difficult to paint and, anyway, he has better things to do on a Christmas day. I can't disagree with this, however, when Juan goes to the bar to order some drinks, Archie quickly sketches a couple of ptarmigans on a beer mat. When Juan returns, bearing bottles of Vintage Tomatin, Lochside, Springbank, and Glenordie Private Reserve, and a glass of ptisan for Archie, we celebrate Christmas, and Archie's artistry, by drinking toast after toast to white harts, Christmases and ptarmigans, then, blowing up our bagpipes and, playing 'Coise Céin' and 'A Wee Drap o' Whisky', we stumble backwards and forwards and from one side of the bar to the other, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink's Diary