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To Aberfeldy

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