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6.1.10

Old Bones





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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 Defiance, 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.

Professor Humperdink's Diary