Professor Humperdink III

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31.5.10

Onward to Selborne







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Screaming at Roly that we are calamitously behind schedule and threatening him with dire consequences if he doesn't stop painting birds is useless, he ignores us and just keeps churning them out. Juan tries stealing most of his canvases, but, rather than painting one species per canvas, he squeezes ten birds on to one canvas, then I hide his coloured paints, but he just paints in black and white, Juan destroys his remaining paints so he resorts to sketching birds with a pencil. Then, remembering that Roly can't resist good wine, I remind him that the sooner we reach aunt Humperdink's Selborne residence, the sooner we can raid her wine cellar. Aunt's wine cellars are famously well stocked so this gets his attention and, thankfully, he agrees to take a break from painting birds and accompany us to Selborne. This is a great relief and, to celebrate, we break out our Vintage Tomatin, Glen Spey, Benrinnes, and Glen Elgin Private Reserve, offer toast after toast to Roly's beautiful birds then, flapping our arms with excitement and singing 'Raven's Stream', 'The Bonnie Moor-hen', 'The Robin’s Testament', and ‘Willie Brew’d a Peck o’ Maut’, we stagger on to Selborne, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink's Diary

29.5.10

Woodcock




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We are skellumishly behind schedule and desperate to get to Selborne, but Roly informs us that, before we go, he wants to paint a woodcock. Juan starts banging his head against a tree in frustration at yet another delay and I shout at Roly that George Rankin painted a very handsome woodcock, so painting another one is virtually plagiarism. Roly yells that George painted a woodcock standing on some leaves, and any maggoty-headed imbecile could do that, whereas, Roly says, he wants to paint a woodcock while it's flying, and carrying a chick, which is something that has never been done before, and requires real skill.

Juan says he's didn’t know that a woodcock could carry its babies, but Roly says "fugiens ab hoste pullos rostro portat.” Juan tells Roly not to swear, but I explain that Roly wasn't swearing, he was quoting Scopoli, who thought that woodcocks carried their babies in their beaks. Juan spits and says that Scopoli was a lying, cheating, toe-rag who, if he didn't know something, just made it up, and he didn't know much, so everything he said was complete rubbish. I agree with Juan and point out that Gilbert White, the great English naturalist, thought exactly the same thing, however, Gilbert's friend, Mr. St. John, did claim that a woodcock can carry her young, but not in her bill, rather, he said, she clasps the little bird firmly between her thighs. Juan says that that sounds like fun, and if a saint said it, it must be true. I explain that Mr. John wasn't a saint; St. John was just his name. Juan says that that's cheating but it gives him a good idea and, from now on, he's going to call himself St. Juan. I tell him he can’t be a saint because saints live saintly lives and Juan's horrible behaviour definitely puts him out of the running. Juan sulks at this news but, to cheer himself up, he breaks open the Vintage Cardhu, Cragganmore, Glenmorangie, and Tamnavulin Special Reserve and, while Roly goes off to paint a woodcock, we offer toast after toast to birds with firm thighs, and jump around in excited circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary

28.5.10

Herons



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Now Roly tells us that he wants to paint some herons, Juan slumps to the ground in despair and I explain, again, that we are stoyingly behind schedule and we absolutely can not wait another moment and, I add, George Rankin painted an admirable heron, so all Roly will be doing is duplicating the bird. Roly shouts that George painted the heron when it was standing still, which is something any sheep-brained nincompoop could do. Juan points out that all herons do is to stand still, so painting one like that is perfectly reasonable, but Roly says that, although herons are large, when they are standing still they are so uninteresting nobody even notices them, especially fish, then, when a fish swims within range, the heron strikes; however, when herons fly, they look beautiful, except to the fish they just caught.

Roly's feeble excuses turn my brain turn to sludge, and Juan says that waiting for Roly to paint birds is making him lose the will to live, so, while Roly paints herons, to console ourselves, we break open our Vintage Lochnagar, Duftown, Craigellachie, and Tamdhu Special Reserve, offer toast after toast to big birds, and crawl around in confused circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Jays




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Roly, refusing to understand that we are stravaigishly behind schedule and don't have a moment to lose, tells us that he has to paint some jays. Juan says that, at least, he won't be painting another stupid bird, and painting letters of the alphabet should be quick, but Roly explains that the jay is a bird; it's a kind of noisy crow, with a coloured plumage. Juan says it would be easier if Roly just caught a normal crow, threw some colours on it and then painted it; I tell Roly that George Rankin painted an excellent jay, complete with a jay's egg, and painting more jays seems redundant, but Roly says George painted a jay while it was standing on a branch, which is something that any dunder-headed buffoon can do. Roly, however, wants to paint some jays while they're flying, and that, he says, takes genuine talent. There is no dissuading the man so, while he goes off to paint jays, Juan and I break out our Vintage Glenordie, Interleven, Knockdhu, and Talisker Private Reserve, offer toast after toast to gaudy, garrulous, birds, and fall around in muddled circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

27.5.10

Chaffinch




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Infuriatingly, we can't seem to stop Roly from painting flying birds. Juan says that we should break Roly's arms; this seems a tad excessive but, although I try to explain to Roly that we are clotpollishly behind schedule and have to move on, Roly tells us that he wants to paint a chaffinch as she flies down to feed her chicks. I say that the chaffinch is a common bird, hardly worth bothering with, and remind him that George Rankin already painted a perfectly decent chaffinch, so there's no reason to paint the bird again, but Roly says that, just because it's common, that doesn't mean it's not attractive and interesting, in fact, he says, Edwin Morgan, the great, but often befuddled, Scottish cartographer, mapped Scotland using chaffinches, and, he adds, George Rankin painted a chaffinch standing beside her nest, which any addled moron could do, but it takes real skill to paint a flying chaffinch.

I tell Roly that, if he wants to paint a chaffinch in flight, we can buy a stuffed one, tie it on a string, and he can paint it while we whirl it around in the air, Roly doesn't appear very enthusiastic about this idea and tells us to go away and do something creative while we wait for him to finish his picture.

The most creative thing we can think to do is to break open our Vintage Talisker, Jura, Dalmore, and Glendronach Founders Reserve, offer toast after toast to common birds, sing ‘A Bushel and a Peck’ at the top of our voices, and hop around in frantic circles, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink’s Diary


Chaffinch Map of
Scotland


25.5.10

Game birds




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Roly, caught up with his ridiculous obsession for painting flying birds, decides to paint some game birds. I tell him that we absolutely do not have the time for this as we are detrimentally behind schedule, but Juan, to my surprise, says that painting some game birds is a wonderful idea and, if Roly wants some models, he would be happy to go and collect some, as he know some very game birds. I explain to Juan that Roly doesn't mean some of Juan's more liberal minded female acquaintances, but birds like pheasants or grouse, bred for aristocrats to shoot at for sport. Juan can't understand this, saying that, while shooting at aristocrats might be an excellent sport, shooting at birds isn't sporting because the birds can't shoot back. I explain that the aristocrats who do this are a cowardly breed for whom killing innocent creatures is seen as heroic; not only this, but the birds are so tame and friendly that people, called beaters, have to be employed to frighten the birds until they take to the air so they can be shot at. Juan, hearing this, vows that, from now on, he will beat every aristocrat that he meets. This sounds perfectly reasonable to me and, while Roly goes off to frighten some grouse and pheasants until they fly, so he can paint them, Juan and I break open our Vintage Glenburgie, Ardmore, Clynelish, and Auchentoshan Special Reserve, offer toast after toast to the health of game birds, then, inflating our bagpipes and playing 'Up in the Air', 'Song of Death' and 'Lament for the Bards', we whirl around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary

24.5.10

Wild Ducks




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Juan says that hanging around watching Roly paint birds is sending him insane with boredom, I agree and point out that, not only is it mind-rottingly dull, but we can't spare the time as we are cripplingly behind schedule. However, Roly says that now he has got the hang of painting flying birds, he wants to paint some wild ducks. I say that George Rankin has already painted some perfectly acceptable wild ducks so it seems pointless to paint them again, but Roly says that George’s ducks weren’t flying, and any half-wit can draw ducks when they're standing on the ground, but it takes real artistry to paint them when they're flying. Juan asks why we can't just find domesticated ducks and poke them with a stick, that would make them wild, then we can throw them in the air and Roly can paint them. Roly says that that wouldn't work as wild ducks and domestic ducks are entirely different creatures. Juan asks what the difference is and Roly explains that the difference between wild and domesticated ducks is the same as the difference between wild and domesticated children. The average domestic child is an apathetic, slothful, overweight, dull-eyed, lifeless, dim, sort of creature that doesn't do anything much, just lies around, feeling sorry for itself, and waiting for its mother to feed it, whereas wild children are so busy swimming, fishing, climbing, fighting, exploring the world and getting into trouble that just getting them into the house is an achievement, and keeping them there is impossible. Juan says that all his children are like that, Roly says he's not surprised; just then, two wild ducks fly overhead and Roly goes tearing off after them, shouting over his shoulder that we should do something useful until he gets back.

The most useful thing we can think to do is to break open our Vintage Littlemill, Springbank, Longmorn, and Tomintoul Private Reserve, and offer toast after toast to all undomesticated creatures. By the time Roly returns, waving his canvas around, yelling that he succeeded in painting flying ducks, we are far too befuddled to do much more than raise our glasses and salute his skill, blow up our bagpipes, and, playing Donald Macgillavry', 'Donald of Dundee' and 'Donald is No More', dance around in wild, exuberant, circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary

16.5.10

Gold Crested Wren




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Despite being sloitishly behind schedule, Roly insists on stopping to paint some gold crested wrens, Juan, examining the picture, says the birds are useless. I tell him that he's stupid, anyone with any sense can see that Roly has done a fantastic job, wrens are so small you can hardly see the things, never mind paint them, not only that, but Roly has managed to paint them while they're flying, most artists who paint birds, like George Rankin, only paint them when they're standing around doing nothing, and any fool can do that, but Roly can capture them in the air, which is fantastic. Juan says that Roly's painting is passable but he meant that the wren is useless, useless for cooking anyway, they're difficult to catch, and they're so small you need hundreds of them to make a decent fricassée, especially if you take their feathers off. I know what Juan means but I point out that, apart from anything else, the wren is the national bird of Luxembourg and, strictly speaking, you shouldn't eat a national bird, it's disrespectful. Juan says that Luxembourg doesn't count, it's not even a country, it's a duchy, I remind him that Luxembourg isn't a duchy, it's a grand duchy, which is like a duchy, but grander and, although it might be small and insignificant, unlike bigger places like Australia and Canada, at least it has it's own language. Juan retorts that Luxembourgish isn't a real language; it's the noise extremely inebriated French people make when they try to speak German.

Roly tells us that we are both idiots, and he tells us that the gold crested wren isn't a real wren, it's a kind of warbler and come from the family Regulus regulus, and that the real wren is a Troglodytes troglodytes, Juan says he got it the first time, and Roly doesn't have to say everything twice. I try to explain to Juan how the nomenclature of taxonomy works, using rattus rattus as an example, but Juan tells me to shut up, the subject is too stupid to even think about, Roly says taxonomy isn't stupid, it's very important, but I tell Roly that Juan is a regular troglodyte and can't be expected to understand such things, Juan shouts that he doesn't want to understand it and, instead, breaks open barrels of Vintage Scapa, Macduff, Pulteney, and Balblair Special Reserve and, after drinking toast after toast to little birds, we link arms and, warbling Lá an Dreoilín at the top of our voices, we dance around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink's Diary

14.5.10

Lapwing





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Juan, looking at Roly's latest bird paintings, says they're rubbish. I say there's nothing wrong with them, but Juan says the birds are upside down, and whoever heard of an upside down bird? I say that they look vaguely like peewits, who are famous for flying upside down. Juan says that they look more like dotterels and a dotterel definitely does not fly upside down, I suggest that they might be plovers and a plover rolls over to confuse its enemies. Roly, sounding irritated, tells us we are looking at the paintings the wrong up, and that any fool can see it's meant to be a curracag, a lapwing, which, however, does do aerobatics. Juan says that lapwings are horrible birds. I tell Juan there's no such thing as a horrible bird, but Juan says that that's as stupid as saying that there's no such thing as a horrible human. Roly, looking pointedly at Juan, says that there are certainly some horrible humans, and says that, in German, the lapwing is called a 'kibitzer', someone who hangs around making unwanted and pointless remarks. I say this sounds like Juan, but it's unfair on lapwings, but Roly says that, in Moldavia, when the Tartars invaded, people hid in the marshes, but the lapwings flew around, screeching, and drew attention to them, which is why everybody in Moldavia hates the bird. I tell Roly that it wasn't Moldavia, it was Romania, where it's called a nagâţ, and a lapwing doesn't screech, it makes a sound that sounds like "did he do it?


Juan tells us that there's a famous Russian song about the lapwing; in Russia, it's called a chibis and, at this time of the year, it makes a noise like "kyby-kuuyb, kybyy-kuuuyb" which, in the Chibisnom language, means "Hello, spring! I say that, in England, it sounds like "whey-willuchooee-willuch-willuch-coee" which, in Lapwingish, means "Whee, look at me, I'm upside down! Roly says that we are both completely daft, but he tells us that he wants to paint some more birds. I remind him that we don't have time as we are miserably behind schedule, Roly looks disappointed, so Juan breaks out the Vintage Strathisla, Talisker, Tormore, and Knockando Special Reserve, to cheer him up, then, after offering toast after toast to the beauty of birds, we blow up our bagpipes and, playing 'Cnoc Na Feille' and 'U Dorogi Chibis' at full volume, we run around in excited, eccentric, circles, as fast as we possibly can.


Professor Humperdink's Diary


Chibis