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Approaching Selborne

Dawdlingly behind schedule, a few miles from Selborne, we bump into our old friend, Roland Green, one of our top agents. Like Archibald Thorburn, Roly enjoys painting birds but nobody wants his paintings, so he specialises in inn signs. Roly tells us that he's just finished a sign for the Swan With Two Necks but Juan, looking at the sign, and comparing it with an engraving of a Bewick's swan, tells Roly that the bird is completely wrong, it shouldn't have two necks. Roly says that the inn is called 'The Swan with Two Necks' so, obviously, he drew a swan with two necks, but Juan says that the inn should be called 'The Swan with Two Nicks'. Roly says that that doesn't make sense. Juan explains that swans are marked with nicks on their bills, to show who owns them; swans with one nick, for example, are owned by the Dyers Guild and swans with two nicks are owned by the Vintners Guild. Once a year the guilds go on swan upping expeditions and mark the swans, then, later, the vintners sneak out again, catch the dyer's swans and put another mark on their beaks, then claim them for their own.

Roly says that he doesn't care, his swan has two necks and that's that. I tell Roly that, as a creative artist, he has every right to draw a multi-necked swan, even if it is freakish, historically inaccurate and badly drawn, this doesn't seem to please Roly, so Juan, to cheer him up, breaks open barrels of Vintage Cardhu, Auchentoshan, Cragganmore, and Tullibardine Private Reserve and after drinking toast after toast to all swan uppers, we blow up our bagpipes and, regaling Roly with 'Yonder Pomp of Costly Fashion' and ''Twas Na Her Bonie Blue E'e', we stumble on to Selborne, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary