Professor Humperdink III
After celebrating our imminent departure by upending our flasks of Vintage,
, Interleven, and Caperdonich Special Reserve and drinking toast after toast to the beauty of British birds, particularly their tits, we decide that it would be easier to lie down, and slump to the ground, stunned. I remind Juan and Archie that we can't lie around because aunt is expecting us in Ardmore , we are still lost, we don't know where the train station is, and we are humicubationally behind schedule. Archie says that he will paint a British bird, using just his beard, as an unusual present for aunt Humperdink. Juan says we should collect some British stone, for her temple. We tell Archie that we will go and look for some suitable stones and, leaving him to fumble around, smearing his beard with paint, helplessly trying to unfold his easel, and bellowing that he can't see anything worth painting, we blow up our bagpipes, play 'Stop Yer Tickling Jock', and stagger inland, as fast as we possibly can. India
Professor Humperdink's Diary
Archie continues to insist that he wants to paint a goldfinch, but I point out that we don't have the time as we are lost, befuddled, and drotchelishly behind schedule, besides which, we are not likely to see a goldfinch as they are normally trapped, put in cages, and sold as ornaments. Juan says that, if Archie wants a model, we can catch another kind of finch, like a platinumfinch or bronzefinch, but Archie says there's no such thing; I suggest that we catch a silver-finch, or a greenfinch, and spray it gold. Archie yells that we might be rich in finches, but, whatever colour it is, no other finch has the pugnacity of a goldfinch. I say that a bullfinch is bullish and a hawfinch is hawkish, but Juan complains that, whatever their attitude, painting a succession of ornamental birds is a pointless use of paint. I suggest that Archie paints a zebra-finch instead, that way, because it just has black and white stripes, he wouldn't have to waste gold paint. Archie snarls and says that using paint is not wasting it, wasting paint is when a painting turns out to be rubbish, and you have to sling the thing out, and that happens all the time, he shouts, excitedly grabbing and squishing tubes of paint, squirting colours in all directions and spraying plumes of gold into his beard.
Leaving Archie to scramble together something that looks vaguely goldfinchy and pugnacious, I wander off to inspect some curious writing I see, inscribed in a rock. On closer examination, I recognise aunt Humperdink's code; I quickly decipher the code to reveal a message: 'Dear Andrzej, sorry to have missed you. Meet me in
, bring Juan and Archie. Best Regards, Aunt H.' India
This is wonderful news and I rush back to tell Juan and Archie. When I tell them, Archie slaps his head and says that that is the message he meant to give us, but forgot, Juan whoops, reminds us that Indian women are the most beautiful women in the world, and jigs around in excitement. To celebrate, Archie rubs his beard on his canvas, putting the finishing touches on his goldfinch, then, raising our flasks of Vintage Aberlour, Miltonduff, Lochnagar, and Clynelish Special Reserve, and drinking toast after toast to gold, finches and aunt Humperdink, we tumble around in wild, exuberant, circles, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink's Diary
Stumbling along the coast, Juan and Archie constantly bickering and stopping every few minutes to brawl about nothing at all. I remind them that we are meant to be bird-spotters, so we should be quiet, and calm them down with flasks of Vintage Bowmore, Linkwood, Glen Scotia, and Aberfeldy Private Reserve. Archie declares that he is feeling inspired and he has to paint. Juan says that he is feeling nauseous and has to vomit, I tell them both to stop spinning and behave like professionals, but they yell that they are standing still, it's me that's spinning; this is exasperating and I remind them that we urgently need to find a train station, and Juan shouts at Archie that if he's going to waste everybody's time, he better paint something proper. I tell Juan that, in English, you can't tell someone to do something proper, it doesn't make sense, you have to tell them to do something properly. Juan says that painting another stupid bird is a proper waste of time, so who cares if he says it properly or not? I remind Juan him that some people do care, but Juan and Archie yell that those people are idiots and Archie defiantly sets his easel up, looks around and loudly proclaims that he can't see anything worth painting.
I suggest that he paints the bittern that is standing in front of him, but Archie reminds us that he lost his glasses, probably during a punch-up in the Cheeky Monkey, in Aberfeldy, and he can't see the bittern. But that doesn't matter, he snorts, even if he could see it, a bittern isn't worth painting. I say that this seems unfair on the bittern. The bittern, Archie sneers, is not a wild bird; it is a bred species, only raised in captivity. Like ruffs, hoopoes, and kingfishers, he shouts, and spits on his canvas, bitterns are completely artificial, bred for decorative purposes only. Bittern farms breed the birds, and sell them to taxidermists. The taxidermists stuff the birds, place them in glass cases and sell them as ornaments. It might be vulgar, cruel and ignorant, but bitterns in glass cases are as common as muck, Archie bawls, throwing paint at his canvas, which is why the bird is called the Common Bittern, but, he barks, waving his brushes around, wild bitterns are extinct.
I tell Archie that the bittern standing in front of him is not in a glass case, and it's definitely not extinct. Archie refuses to argue the point and tries to paint a goldfinch instead, but he can't see a goldfinch and, because he has been talking about bitterns, all he can think about is bitterns, so, grumbling and mumbling, he reluctantly stabs at his canvas until he has painted something that looks like a bittern, but, when Juan looks at the painting, he says that it doesn't look anything like a bittern, Archie demands to know when Juan suddenly became a bittern expert, but Juan says he has seen a bittern in a glass case, and it looked more like a bittern than Archie's painting of a bittern. Archie bellows that nobody could be expected to paint a bittern under these conditions, even if they could see a bittern. I want to point out that I can see a bittern, but I can feel my mind slipping and, instead, I tell Juan and Archie that, if I hear the word 'bittern' one more time, I will run amok. They both have the grace to shut up, although they both mumble 'bittern' under their breaths a few times; I take the opportunity to remind them that time is not on our side, we don't know where we are, we have to catch a train, but we can't find a train station, and we have to address the problem as we are lost, fuzzled, and pogwallopingly behind schedule.
Archie suggests that we walk inland and find a town; Juan says that we should borrow a boat and sail around the coast. I think that we should build an aeroplane. These ideas give us a lot to consider and, to help us consider them, we open our flasks of Vintage Duff's Defiance and, after offering toast after toast to common birds, we blow up our bagpipes and, playing 'The Banshees of Boltachan' and 'The Screaming Crones of Crieff', we stamp around in hysterical, wailing, confusion, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink's Diary
Although we are critically behind schedule, Archie insists on stopping to paint some terns, this is irritating, but Archie says that the artist's muse takes precedent over our mission. Juan says that real art lies in subjugating creativity to higher necessity and that, if he stopped every time he wanted to doodle, nothing would ever be accomplished. Archie can't follow this line of reasoning so he refutes the argument in an artistic fashion by hitting Juan over the head with an easel. Juan retaliates by squirting tubes of paint all over Archie and Archie responds by trying to shove a paintbrush up Juan's nose. We don't have time for this kind of thing so I break up the fight by kicking sand in their faces, tell Archie to paint the terns as quickly as possible, drag Juan away by his hair and calm him down with flasks of Vintage Brackla, Aultmore, Blair Athol and Inchgower Private Reserve. However, the rumpus has frightened the terns away and Archie, grumbling and mumbling beneath his breath, tries to paint them from memory. I think he's making a fair job of it, but Juan says that the terns look stupid and, anyway, painting birds is a waste of time as, however good the painting, it will never match the real thing and, he adds, if a painting isn't of a beautiful woman, it's just a waste of paint.
I think that Juan is just jealous of Archie's talent and tell him that, unless he can do better, he should stop criticising. Juan says that of course he can do better, but he doesn't have the time and, besides, it's easier and quicker to criticise than it is to actually do anything. This is true, and explains why there are so many successful art critics and so few successful artists; however, while waiting for Archie to finish his painting, and, to prove to that we are not totally lacking in artistic sentiment, we blow up our bagpipes and, playing 'Wearing of the Green', 'Blue Bells of Scotland' and 'Aberfeldy Mary Blacked My Eye', we reel around Archie in crooked, twisted, circles, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink's Diary
Archie is excited about the bones and wants to help the girl uncover the skeleton, but I remind him that we are lost, befuddled, duncishly behind schedule, and that we have to catch a train. While Archie says goodbye to the girl, congratulates her for her incredible find, gives her a picture of two teals, as a farewell present, and apologises for our behaviour, Juan and I settle our differences by breaking open a barrel of Vintage Pulteney Founders Reserve and, after drinking toast after toast to Archie, the girl, and all bird-spotters, we wander off down the beach, looking for a train station.
Archie follows us, shouting and waving his arms around in excited exasperation. We can't quite work out what's got into him, so, to calm him down, we give him flasks of Vintage Glen Spey, Glenlossie, Glenmorangie and Glenfarclas Private Reserve, but this just makes him worse and he shouts at us that we are so stupid we didn't even notice that the girl had dug up a giant bird. Juan says that he definitely would have noticed such a thing, and I that can't remember seeing a big bird recently, so we assume Archie is suffering some form of hallucination, caused by excessive partying. Archie draws a diagram of wing, and shoves it into our faces, yelling that the skeleton had the same kind of wing. I look at the sketch and try to tell Archie that what he has drawn is the wing of an adult opisthocomus, and, I would like to point out, the opisthocomus is not common in this area, and, as an opisthocomus is much smaller than the skeleton, it couldn’t possibly be an opisthocomus, but, although I make many attempts, I can't say the word 'opisthocomus'.
Juan glances at the sketch and says that any fool can see that it's not a giant bird, and points out that, obviously, it's an ichthyosaurus, but, I am pleased to note, Juan stumbles over the word 'ichthyosaurus', and, the more he tries to say the word, the more he can't; after spending some time attempting, and failing, to overcome our slurring, we decide to call the thing an 'ichthysthoc cothsthich' as that most closely resembles the noises we are making. After listening to us for a while, Archie sits down, mumbles something abut being in the company of fools, and bursts into tears. We can't imagine what this means until Juan says that he thinks that Archie served with a Lowland Regiment, which is enough to make anyone miserable. To quickly cheer Archie up, we blow up our bagpipes, play 'Highland Mary', 'Highland Nancy', 'Highland Lassie', 'Hieland Laddie', and 'Heilan' Whisky I Adore Thee', and jig around and around, kicking sand at each other, making twisted corkscrew patterns on the shore, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink's Diary
We supplied the town with as much vintage single malt as necessary to ensure seasonal merriment and jubilation, and everyone merrified and jubilated themselves stupid. Now, we are very unwell, and heinously behind schedule; at this time of year, extended Hogmanay celebrations always renders the Agent Rescue Service non-operational, so Archie suggests that, rather than wait for them to come to rescue us, we should travel the rest of the way by train. This is a wonderful suggestion and, to celebrate, we break open barrels of Glen Elgin, Glenfiddich, Glentauchers, and Glencadam Special Reserve, and drink to the swift and complete recovery of everyone in the town, blow up our bagpipes and, pausing only to vomit and bring up bile, playing 'Lowland, Lowland, Lowland Scum' and 'An Aberfeldy Lass Stole My Heart and Sporran' we march unsteadily to the train station.
Several hours later, we reach the coast and realise that we have no idea where the train station is. Juan and I blame Archie. As an artist, Juan reminds him, he should have remarkable powers of observation, and should have noticed sign posts that would have directed us to the train station, Archie protests, saying that he does have wonderful powers of observation, but he lost his glasses in one of the festive bar brawls and, without them, he can hardly see further than the end of his nose. This explains why Archie keeps bumping into things, and Juan suggests making a nose extension, to extend his Archie's sight. Looking around for someone who can help us, we spot a young girl digging a pit.
Archie tells us to go away and pretend to be bird-spotters, because, he says, our disgusting appearance, foul language, appalling smell, and air of utter degradation, will frighten the child. Juan and I take offence at this, but we do have to acknowledge that Archie, in however dreadful a condition, and no matter how many days he has spent on a dirty, vicious, bar crawl, crawling around dirty, vicious, bars, he always looks clean and well groomed. It is a strange talent, bordering on the mystical, and one that Juan and I conspicuously lack. Archie says that it is simply because he washes occasionally, sniffs disdainfully, and walks away.
Juan asks me what bird-spotters actually do and I tell him that they look at birds, but Juan points out that we can't see any birds, I tell him that doesn't matter, a skilled bird-spotter should be able to remember what birds look like, and I demonstrate this by quickly sketching a meadow pipit, but Juan, looking at the sketch, says that it doesn't look anything like a pipit, it looks more like a hedge-sparrow, then he adds that it doesn't really look like a hedge-sparrow either because real sparrows are colourful, and my sparrow is black and white. The man is incredibly irritating so I crumple up the picture and try and shove it down his throat, he grabs my beard, I kick his shins and stamp on his feet, and he retaliates by trying to bite my ear off. I get him in a strangle-hold with one arm and manage to land some powerful kidney punches with my free hand, but he throws me over his shoulder; I land head-first, but, before Juan can take advantage of the fact that I'm upside down, with my head stuck in the sand, we hear Archie and the young girl shouting at us, telling us to stop fighting.
Somewhat embarrassed, we brush ourselves down; Juan apologises to the girl but says that I started it. I also apologise for our behaviour, but point out that it was Juan, not me, who started the fight, Juan protests and shouts that it was me, I yell that it wasn’t me, it was him, and, to settle the thing, I crack him over the head with the bass drone of my bagpipes, he ducks and lands a solid blow to my stomach which makes me retch, double over, and vomit over my boots. Archie is mad now, and screams at both of us to stop fooling around and come and look in the pit. We don't know what pit he is talking about and he reminds us, with an undue degree of exasperation, that the young girl was digging a pit, and, he shouts, flapping his arms with excitement, she has uncovered something incredible. Juan and I immediately assume that she has found a secret cache of Duff's Defiance Private Reserve, which would be incredible, and we rush over to the pit. Sadly, we find that the only thing the girl has uncovered is a pile of old bones.
This is disappointing but, although we can't understand why Archie and the girl are so excited, we don't want to dampen their enthusiasm so I say that old bones can be turned into wonderful sweets, and offer to boil them up, and use the scum to make some Turkish Delight, and Juan reminds everyone that bones can be made into formidable weapons and offers to carve a dagger for the girl. Archie, who doesn't seem to be able to stop shouting, yells at us that the girl has found something extraordinary, but Juan points out that these are just old bones, and not a hoard of Vintage Duff's
, which would be extraordinary. I agree and, to make up for our disappointment, and to cheer up Archie and the girl, who are looking strangely distressed, we blow up our bagpipes, play 'The Laird of Boltachan's Gallop' and the 'Camserney Canter' at full volume, and leap around in befuddled, jerky, circles, as fast as we possibly can. Defiance
Professor Humperdink's Diary
We will number this year one,
And count off time and tide from here.
The need for time has just begun,
And can but grow from year to year.
Time to live, and time to do,
In swift-blown days from sun to sun.
The years are short, and all too few,
But we will number this year one.
Wishing everyone the very best for a full, happy, and peaceful New Year
Professor Andrzej Alousis Humperdink III