Professor Humperdink III

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29.7.10

The Cheeky Monkey



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Professor Humperdink's Diary

28.7.10

Changing trains



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Because the railway authorities will want to question him about why he’s driving their train, and why he took it in the first place, Bakulebe says that he doesn’t want to stop in Edinburgh. I tell him that the line we are on ends at Edinburgh Station, but he says that this is the Flying Scotsman, and, if we hit the buffers at great speed, he thinks we should be able to take off, or, at least, somersault over Edinburgh Station, thus avoiding the officials who will be waiting for us. Juan asks Bakulebe if he is completely insane, and reminds him that the train weighs hundreds of tons and, however fast we go, it definitely will not fly. However, Special Train Service drivers are utterly fearless, in any given year, Bakulebe crashes trains through more stations, plummets down more mountains, and plunges off more railways bridges than most people do in the course of a lifetime, so we do respect his experience in such matters. However, seeing Bakulebe accelerating wildly, while singing, ‘The Emigrant’s Death Song’ and ‘The Widow’s Lament’, we are somewhat alarmed, and when he bursts into a rendition of ‘Within a Mile o’ Edinburgh’ and ‘The Lay of the Hopeless’ we quickly fortify ourselves with draughts of Vintage Clynelish, Littlemill, Springbank and Longmorn Private Reserve, then, wishing Bakulebe the very best of luck, we dive from the train.

After rolling for hundreds of yards, we come to a stop and watch the Flying Scotsman speeding off toward Edinburgh. A few moments later, Juan asks me if I think Bakulebe will be able to get enough speed up to vault over the city and escape the authorities. I tell him that the skills of a Special Train Service engineer should never be underrated but judging from the tremendous crashing noise and the plumes of smoke we can see rising from Edinburgh Station, I think that Bakulebe, may have taken the name of the locomotive a little too literally.

After applying emollient, in the form of Vintage Glengarioch, to our wounds, we remember that we are fleggarishly behind schedule and decide to catch another train. Fortunately, the next train we see is the Aberfeldy Express; we flag the locomotive down and clamber aboard, I give the driver a handful of gems and ask him to drop us off at the Cheeky Monkey, Juan distributes flasks of his Special Reserve to our fellow passengers and, clapping and cheering and yelling with excitement, we clatter onwards, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

25.7.10

To Aberfeldy



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We thought we were heading back to Selborne but, after passing the same place three times, we realise that we’re going around in circles. We stop by a railway line to get our bearings and refresh ourselves with Vintage Tormore, Glengoyne, Strathisla, and Rosebank Special Reserve. I tell Juan to check his compass; after staring at it for a long time, Juan says that it’s pointing at the railway line. I tell him the magnetic compass needle is attracted to the metal of the railway tracks; Juan walks away from the tracks and says that it’s pointing to the Cheeky Monkey, in Aberfeldy. I tell him that the needle is attracted to the North Pole and, as the Cheeky Monkey is between us and the North Pole, he just thinks it’s pointing to the pub. Juan says that the Cheeky Monkey is much more attractive than the North Pole. This is irrefutable, but I point out that we should go to Selborne rather than Aberfeldy because Aberfeldy is much further away than Selborne and we are crowlishly behind schedule. Juan contests this, saying that we don’t know how to get to Selborne, but we do know how to get to Aberfeldy, and going somewhere we do know how to get to will be quicker than going somewhere we don’t know how to get to. This is probably true but, I remind him, we are meant to be going to Selborne, so, if we go to the Cheeky Monkey, in Aberfeldy, we would be in the wrong place.

Juan says that the Cheeky Monkey is never the wrong place, in fact, he adds, he can’t think of a righter place. I tell him that there’s no such word as ‘righter’, and that his English is terrible, however, I agree that the Cheeky Monkey is one of the rightest places on the planet. Juan says there’s no such word as ‘rightest’ and that my English is worse than his. I tell him that ‘rightest’ is the superlative of ‘right’, and, as, the Cheeky Monkey is superlative, I am using exactly the right word. He says I’m talking nonsense, I take offence and throw a bottle at his head, he ducks and swings his bagpipes at me, catching me on the chin with the bass drone, recovering quickly, I jab him in the stomach with the blow stick on my bagpipes, he doubles over, but entangles my feet in his drone cords, pulling me to the ground, as I fall, I manage to strike him on the knees with my tenor drones, he collapses and, snarling and fighting like deranged jackals, we roll on to the railway tracks.

Juan is trying to rip my ears off, but I have a firm grasp of his beard and when he shouts, “Look behind you!” I think that he is trying to distract me and continue to bang his head on a railway sleeper but, when I hear a rumbling noise, I realise we are about to be run over by a train and, looking up, I see the Flying Scotsman.

Normally, having a good brawl interrupted is irritating, but, in this instance, we are delighted to see the train, and especially pleased to see our old friend, Bakulebe, leaning from the driver’s cab. As chief engineer of the elite Special Train Service, Bakulebe spends most of his life working behind enemy lines, and, as he has had his trains attacked on many occasions, he won’t slow down or stop a train between stations, so we wait until the train passes over us, grab for a handhold under a carriage, then haul ourselves, and our whisky barrels, up and over the train and make our way to the driver’s cab where we join Bakulebe. He tells us that, hearing that we were in the area, and were probably lost, he appropriated the Flying Scotsman and came to search for us. We are very grateful and Juan, to celebrate, breaks out his Special Reserve, which he keeps for such occasions and, after saluting Bakulebe’s initiative and offering toast after toast to the bravery of all Special Train Service engineers, we inflate our bagpipes and, playing ‘I’m Wandering Wide’, ‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’, and ‘Scotland Yet’, we thunder northwards, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

15.7.10

Leaving Selborne





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We have a wonderful time in the pub. By the morning, we have finished off the whisky. Juan says that we should go back to aunt’s house for some more. However, as Roly, George, Sir John, the landlord, and all the other customers of the Selborne Arms, are lying on the floor, unconscious, and, as we are wallydragishly behind schedule, I suggest that we collect the malt and take it directly to the airship.

After leaving a note to the landlord, thanking him for his hospitality, and praising the fantastic food, unbeatable service, and hearty ale of the Selborne Arms, we collect barrels of Vintage Knockando, Tomintoul, Speyburn and Royal Lochnagar Family Reserve from aunt’s residence and head for the airfield.

On the way, I try to persuade Juan that, rather than flying the airship himself, he should leave it to a competent pilot. Juan takes offence at this and says that he is an extremely competent pilot and that an airship is just like a boat, a boat that sails in the sky, so anybody who can sail a boat can fly an airship, and any imbecile can sail a boat. I think there’s something faulty about this argument, especially as Juan is a terrible sailor, but, before I can argue the case any further, we arrive at the airfield where we are delighted to see the airship is ready for flight.

The chief engineer, hearing that Juan intends to pilot the craft, is deeply concerned and tells us that it takes a great deal of skill and experience to fly an airship, and, knowing Juan’s disastrous flying record, advises us to take a qualified pilot. Juan argues against this, saying that, just because someone has qualifications, it doesn’t mean they’re any good, for example, he says, economists often have qualifications, but everyone knows that all they do is spend their lives sitting in clubs, pontificating, drinking port, criticising each other, burbling fatuous advice at anyone foolish enough to listen to them; then they retire on a fat pension. The chief engineer says that there’s a difference between doing something that doesn’t matter, like economics, and flying an aircraft, but, seeing that Juan is determined to fly the airship himself, he advises us, at least, to avoid flying over London where, were we to crash, a great deal of casualties may result. Juan says that there is no chance of us crashing, we are not going anywhere near London, and all that is necessary is to keep the airship going forward and the right way up, which is something that any bladder-brained simpleton could do.

A short time later, with Juan at the wheel, we’re flying over London, backwards and upside down. Then, spectacularly, Juan proves that his inability to fly an airship is only exceeded by his inability to land an airship.

Fortunately, we are able to rescue the barrels of Speyburn and Royal Lochnagar and, although I am furious at Juan’s idiocy, and we are both badly singed, the wonderful effects of superb vintage single-malt make everything right with the world. After watching the flames for a while, we decide to go back to collect another airship, then, leaving the red-hot wreckage behind for someone to clean up, we inflate our bagpipes and, playing ‘The Skye Boat Song’, ‘As I Cam’ Down’, and ‘It Fell on a Morning’, we stagger back to Selborne, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

12.7.10

More salmon



Sir John
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I warn George that, if Roly wakes up and finds that he has missed the smoked salmon, he will go berserk. George revives him by pouring a pint of beer over his head, Roly groans, sits up, and knocks the table over. George, trying to avoid the table, falls off his chair. I go to the bar to order some more beer and salmon; watching George and Roly slithering around in a pool of fish-heads and ale, bawling nonsense about birds, I apologise to the landlord for their behaviour. The landlord shrugs and says that artists have more interesting things to think about than table manners. However, listening to Roly yelling that George’s picture of a gannet is pathetic as it doesn’t show the bird diving, which is what gannets are famous for, and George shouting back that a gannet spends more time standing on cliff ledges than diving, so the painting of it on a cliff is more representative of the bird than if it were diving, when it is just a blur, and, he bawls, there’s no point in painting a blur and then calling it a gannet, I wonder if the barman is right.

Roly shouts back at George, saying that even a blur would be better than a painting of bird standing around doing nothing, George, in reply, slaps Roly with a half-eaten salmon, Roly charges at George, head-butting him in the stomach, and they both crash against the wall and fall through the window. I offer to pay the barman for the damage, but he says that all expenses are covered by aunt Humperdink as she says that artists are often poor, and she wants her artistic friends to enjoy themselves without worrying about money.

There’s a clattering outside, the door opens and Juan appears, rolling barrels of malt. He asks me why George and Roly are laying on the ground outside, unconscious, covered with ale and fish, and bleeding. I tell him that they fell out of the window during a discussion about gannets; he says they were probably emulating the gannet’s dive, forgetting that gannets dive into water, rather than on to a pavement. I tell Juan that it more likely that Roly and George imbibed too much ale, without tempering it with whisky; and ale, by itself, can have a deleterious effect on the senses. Juan agrees and goes out to revive the artists with a few shots of single malt.

I order some more fish and beer and ask the landlord if he could serve it quickly as we are mauchlessly behind schedule. A short while later, Roly, George and Juan stumble back into the bar, together with another gentleman, he introduces himself a Sir John who, after knocking back a few beers, tells us that he just came from aunt Humperdink’s residence. Roly, looking puzzled, pulls me aside and tells me that he is sure that he has met Sir John before but, for the life of him, he can’t remember where. I am just abut to tell Roly who Sir John is, when I am distracted by the arrival of more Scottish smoked salmon, and by Juan breaking open barrels of Vintage Dalwlhinnie, Fettercairn, Blair Athol, and Glencadam Special Reserve. We quickly offer a toast to the wonderful food and service in the Selborne Arms then, screeching like starving gannets, we dive into the fish and sling it down our necks, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

3.7.10

The Selborne Arms




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Juan and I go to check on the airship, but we can see that it isn't quite ready for flight, this is frustrating as we are mislernitishly behind schedule; Juan suggests that we go to the Selborne Arms, while we wait for the airship to be completed.

The Selborne Arms is a wonderful pub, often frequented by aunt Humperdink herself, but, tragically, it doesn't have a licence to sell spirits. Spending a day or two in a pub that doesn't sell single malt is positively unhealthy so Juan goes back to the aunt's residence to collect some barrels of Vintage Caperdonich, Edradour, Glen Keith, and Brackla Private Reserve, while I head directly to the pub.

Entering the public bar, I see Roly stumbling around, obviously the worse for wear, shouting at my old friend, and Roly's fellow artist, George Rankin. Seeing me, Roly stops shouting long enough to tell me that, while Juan and I were inspecting the airship, aunt Humperdink rang, and said that she has had to return to India and that we should meet her in Benares, and, on the way, we should recruit some more agents. I ask Roly where Hajj is and he says that Hajj said that he was going to change and that he would meet us here later. Having said this, Roly starts shouting at George again. The food and beer in the Selborne arms is fantastic, so, after ordering six courses of Scottish smoked salmon and twelve pints of ale, to be getting on with, I go over to find out what it is that Roly is so upset about, to discover that he is trying to persuade George to paint birds while they are flying.

George is famous for paintings birds, but, generally, he only paints them while they are on the ground which, Roly says, is something that any mutton-headed twerp can do; an artist of real merit, Roly claims, should be able to paint a bird doing what a bird does best, which is to fly. I feel I have to defend George and say that birds do lots of things equally well, and painting a bird looking after its eggs, or just wandering around, enjoying the day, is as valid as painting it while it's flying. Roly tells me to shut up and challenges George to paint a flying bird. George quickly paints a skylark but Roly says that it's rubbish; all George has done, he says, is paint a bird with its wings extended and placed it in the air. George protests, saying that there's nothing wrong with the painting, the skylark has just taken off. I can't see anything wrong with the skylark either and as, at this moment, the salmon arrives, I quieten Roly down by hitting him on the head with a chair and, after kicking him under the table, we dive at the fish like demented otters and sling it down our necks as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary