The helpful landlord
George, Roly, Albert and Romain have drunk themselves, and beaten each other, into unconsciousness; looking at them, lying amidst piles of rubble, awash with ale and blood, I observe that it looks as if the pub has been occupied by deranged wolves, and I am surprised that the landlord allows customers to behave so badly. Juan agrees, but the landlord, picking up one of George’s paintings and wiping the beer and blood off it, says that artists live on a different plane and the beauty of their work more than makes up for their behaviour. Roly wakes up, mumbles that the painting is rubbish and falls asleep again. I point out that George, Roly and Romain are artists, but Albert is a scientist, and scientists ought to know better. But the landlord says that Albert is German, and all Germans naturally behave like mad dogs, so you have to make allowances. He adds that Albert is also a genius, and normal standards don’t apply to geniuses. Juan asks me what Albert is a genius at, I tell him that Albert is a genius at coming up with ideas that nobody can understand. Juan says that that’s not a sign of genius; it’s what women do all the time. I tell Juan that it comes naturally to women, and they do it for free, but it’s a trait that’s very rare in men, and Albert gets paid for it, which is why he is so acclaimed.
The landlord brings us six pints of ale, which we accept, with thanks, but I tell him that this has to be our last round as we are starrachishly behind schedule, and have to get to aunt Humperdink’s airfield, to pick up another airship. Hearing this, the landlord says that there’s a field behind the pub where an airship can land, so it would be easier, and quicker, if he sent a message to ask for it to be delivered. This is incredibly helpful and, as Juan says, and example of genuine genius. Because the Selborne Arms doesn’t have a licence to sell spirits, Juan goes to collect some barrels of malt, to celebrate.
I kick George, Roly, Albert and Romain awake, Juan returns with Vintage Glen Spey, Benrinnes, Balvenie, and Teaninich Private Reserve, the landlord tells us the message has been sent and the airship should be here soon, we raise our glasses and offer toast after toast to the continued success of the Selborne Arms and the genius of its landlord, then, yelling and cheering with excitement, we link arms and reel round and around in dizzyingly exuberant circles, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Return to the Selborne Arms
Before reaching aunt Humperdink’s airfield we stop to fortify ourselves with Vintage Tamnavulin, Glenesk, Highland Park, and Tomatin Special Reserve, the befuddling effects of which cause us to inadvertently carry on in the same direction from which we came. We notice this when we see the Selborne Arms again. This is irritating as we are meant to be collecting a new airship and we are chittirlillingly behind schedule, nonetheless, whatever the circumstances, seeing the Selborne Arms is always a good thing and, as we are here, we decide that it would be stupid not to call in for a quick pint, to help us on our way.
In the bar, we see that Roly and George are still here, sitting on the floor, surrounded by puddles of ale, pools of blood, gobs of paint, smashed chairs, bent cutlery, shards of glass, broken brushes, screwed up canvases, and piles of half eaten smoked salmon. Seeing me, Roly waves a painting in the air, shouting that George has painted a storm petrel but, like all George’s paintings of birds in flight, it’s rubbish. George leans over, pokes Roly in the eye with a brush and says it’s not rubbish; it’s one of his best paintings. Roly hits George over the head with a broken plate and yells that the petrel doesn’t stick its legs out when it’s flying, so all George has done is paint a standing bird and stick it over a seascape. George kicks Roly in the jaw and bawls that the petrel snatches fish from the waves with its feet, and that’s why it has its legs extended, Roly twists George’s foot and bends it backwards, shouting that that the petrel catches fish in its beak, and anyone who knew anything about birds would know that. George, screaming that he knows more about birds than Roly ever will, strikes out with his other leg and, catching Roly in the ribs, knocks him across the floor. Roly, spinning towards the wall, grabs at something, which happens to be Juan’s leg, pulling Juan, and the six pints of ale he is carrying, to the floor.
At the other side of the bar, I notice that Albert and Romain are still fighting over Romain’s fashion drawings and, although Romain is trying to pull Albert’s moustache off, Albert, punches George in the stomach and shouts that, without any measurements, Romain’s models are of an indeterminate size, which is just stupid, and succeeds in thrusting Romain’s head into the spittoon.
Seeing all this, Juan comments that everyone seems to be having fun, then, urgently needing more ale, we head back to the bar, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Leaving the Selborne Arms, again
On the way to aunt Humperdink’s airfield, we stop to refresh ourselves with Vintage Cardhu, Glen Grant, Cragganmore, and Lochnagar Private Reserve, then, before carrying on, we realise that we are only a few miles from the Selborne Arms, so we decide to drop in to say goodbye to George and Roly. Arriving at the pub, we are pleased to see that George and Roly have regained consciousness and our friends Albert and Romain are still at the bar, although they are involved in an altercation about Romain’s designs, and the relative sizes of French models.
I tell Roly and George that we’re on the way to collect another airship and we just called in to say goodbye, and wish them the best of luck in their artistic ventures, they offer to buy us a pint before we go, one for the road, as it were. Although we will be travelling by air, rather than road, and all Roly and George’s expenses are covered by aunt Humperdink, so they don’t actually have to purchase any ale, it would be churlish to refuse, so Juan goes to the bar to order the beers and to break up the fight that’s developing between Albert and Romain. George shows me a couple of paintings that he’s done, one of some house martins and another of a swift. I admire both the paintings but Roly says they’re rubbish and George doesn’t have the slightest idea about painting birds, especially if they’re flying or moving, the house martins looks as if they’re stuffed, he says, and the swift looks like it’s falling like a stone. I am about to tell Roly that I think the paintings are very nice when I’m interrupted by a thumping sound and, looking up, I see that Romain has Albert in a strangle-hold and he’s banging Albert’s head on the counter, shouting that just because he hasn’t included measurements in his designs, it doesn’t mean the models are fat.
Considering that Romain is a famous artist and fashion designer, and Albert is a renowned physicist, I am surprised to see them behaving like this, but Roly points out that Romain comes from a military family, so, despite his profession, and generally gentle character, he probably likes a good brawl. As he says this, Albert grabs Romain’s wrist, twists himself out of the strangle-hold, gets Romain in a half-nelson, forces him up against the bar, and shouts that unless Romain includes measurements, his designs are completely useless; and George reminds me that Albert is German, and it is in the Teutonic nature to engage in mindless brutality at the slightest opportunity.
Juan is carrying six pints of ale so it’s difficult for him to break up the fight, but he does kick Albert in passing, this diverts Albert’s attention long enough for Romain to break the half-nelson, apply a double wrist-lock and, with the efficient use of a chancery back heel together with a shoulder throw, he hurls Albert to the ground, leaps on him and gets him in a jack-knife hold. Although he is bent double, Albert manages to swing his free leg up and over Romain’s head then, catching Romain’s neck with the back of his knee, he straightens his leg and sends Romain spinning across the floor. Romain, trying to stop himself, grabs the leg of our table and pulls the table over, as Juan had just placed the pints of ale on the table, the glasses crash to the ground and the landlord comes out, looking worried. I apologise for the mess and offer to clean it up, but the landlord, looking at Romain pounce on Albert and attempt to grind his face into some broken glass, says that an upset table and few smashed glasses aren’t a problem, but he is concerned that Romain and Albert might get badly hurt.
I put the landlord’s mind at ease by explaining that they’re not really fighting, they’re wrestling, and nobody ever gets hurt when wrestling as it’s like judo, or boxing, it’s just an entertaining, but totally harmless, performance. As I say this, Albert gets Romain in a figure-four scissors hold, Romain breaks the hold by poking Albert in the eye, Albert bites Romain’s finger and Romain knees Albert in the stomach. We would love to stay and watch the fight but we are caribaldishly behind schedule, so, saying goodbye to George and Roly and shouting encouragement at Albert and Romain, and giving them both a good kicking on the way out, for good measure, we inflate our bagpipes and, playing wild Highland battle songs at full volume, we stagger through Selborne, and on to the airfield, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Leaving the Selborne Arms
The Selborne Arms is a wonderful place, with superb food, fabulous ale, and convivial company; this makes it very difficult to leave. However, after a week or so, we remember that we are glaikerishly behind schedule and I remind Juan that we have to head back to aunt Humperdink’s airfield, to pick up another airship.
Otis has gone back to aunt Humperdink’s residence, to prepare for her return, and Roly and George are lying under the table, unconscious, but, before leaving, we have a farewell drink with some old friends, Albert and Romain.
Romain and Albert are both guests of aunt Humperdink, while waiting for aunt to return, they have been spending their time in the pub.
Romain tells us that he decided against following in his father’s footsteps and, rather than joining the Russian navy, he has moved to Paris
, to become an artist. Juan says that he hopes he doesn’t paint birds as Roly and George are painters, but all they do is paint birds, which, Juan thinks, is a complete waste of time and paint.
Romain says that he does a lot of work as a fashion designer, so he doesn’t normally draw birds, but tends to concentrate on women.
Juan, who also tends to concentrate on women, cheers, and offers a toast to the only genuine reason for artistic talent, which, he says, is to depict the beauty of the female form.
Romain shows us some sketches he made for aunt Humperdink. Juan comments that the model must have been exceptionally slim; Albert says it’s all relative, the designs don’t have any measurements so, if the woman had a gargantuan bosom and elephantine thighs, then her waist might be extraordinarily large, in which case, far from being slim, she might be fantastically fat. Romain says he uses French models for his sketches, and, while some French women might be lusciously large, pleasurably plump, beautifully bulky, or rewardingly rotund, they are never, ever, fat. Albert says that fat is a relative term; Romain says that he has some fat relatives, but his models are fashionably slender. Albert says you can’t tell if someone is fat or thin unless you compare them to someone else, someone else who is fatter or thinner. Romain says that you would then need to compare the first two people to a third person, who might be even fatter than the first two, or thinner, or somewhere in between, then you would have to compare those three people to a fourth person, to judge their comparative size, then you’d need a fifth person, to compare against the fourth person and a sixth and on and on. Albert says that that’s exactly what he means. Romain says you couldn’t do it because, eventually, you would need everyone in the world, which is impossible. Albert shrugs and says that because something is impossible doesn’t mean it’s not true. Romain disagrees and says that if something is true it must be possible. I declare that I’ve never heard such a witless conversation in my life. Juan agrees with me, saying that women are not meant to be argued over, they are meant to be admired and, he adds, many people think that a fat woman is better than a thin one, because there’s more of her, and, he says, it’s worth remembering that, in the winter, a large woman provides warmth, and in the summer, shade, which is an obvious bonus.
Leaving Albert and Romain throwing sketches around and arguing over relative waist sizes, Juan and I return to aunt’s house to collect some Vintage Duftown, Craigellachie, Tamdhu, and Glenordie Private Reserve, for the journey, then, after sampling the malt and offering toast after toast to fashionable women, of whatever size, we inflate our bagpipes and, playing ‘My Dear Little Lassie’ ‘I Loved a Lissom Lass’, and ‘My Wife’s a Wanton Wee Thing’, we stagger to the airfield, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Back to the Selborne Arms
Otis Skinner: 1. As Charles Surface in “The School for Scandal”. 2. Portraying Hajj in “Kismet”. 3. As Sancho Panza in Cervantes “Don Quixote”. 4. As Falstaff in “Henry IV”. 5. As he appeared in “Mister Antonio”. 6. As Denis Roulette in “Sire”. 7. As Falstaff in “Merry Wives of Windsor”. 8. As Phillipe Bridau in “The Honour of the Family”.
We crash near at the outskirts of Selborne. After lying around for a while, stunned, I remind Juan that we are gogaringly behind schedule, so after washing our wounds and refreshing ourselves with Vintage Interleven, Knockdhu, Talisker, and Glenburgie Private Reserve, we head for the Selborne Arms. Entering Selborne, Juan remarks on the old-fashioned aspect of the village and wonders if Dirk’s time machine is working, I tell him that English villages are always behind the times and Dirk’s machine will never work, as the scientists on Dirk’s team do nothing except attend conventions in exotic locations, which leaves no time for research.
Arriving at the pub, we find Roly and George in a terrible condition. Roly is stumbling around, bouncing off the walls, and George is laying, unconscious, under the table. Roly tells us that Sir John went off to get changed, as he says this, the door opens and a distinguished looking gentleman comes into the bar. Roly looks puzzled and tells me that he’s sure he has seen the man before somewhere, I tell Roly that he has definitely seen him before as he is Otis Skinner, one of our top agents who, between missions, does a little bit of acting, in fact, in practising his hobby, he appeared as Charles, Sancho, and all the other guests that Roly met in aunt Humperdink’s house.
Juan and Otis go to the bar to order some ale, while they do that, Roly tells me that George’s reluctance to paint birds in flight seems to have been softened by a great deal of drinking, and, showing me George’s latest painting, Roly says that he has successfully pestered George into painting a flying bird. Seeing George’s picture, I am inspired to quote one of my poems and, after slapping George until he wakes up, I recite ‘The House Martin’, a commentary on the flatulence of the delichon urbicum. Roly says my poem is rubbish, and George’s picture clearly isn’t of a house martin, it’s a swallow. I tell him I don’t care; the house martin looks like a swallow and flies like a swallow and probably smells like a swallow. George, groaning and rubbing his head, mumbles something about the martin and the swallow being completely different birds, and they don’t smell, so I recite my ‘Ode to a Waterlogged Duck’ instead. However, by the time I reach the twenty-second verse; “You were wet, my flapping, feathered, friend; this is why you met your sudden, sodden end. You were out of luck, dear duck; this is the sorry, soggy, truth. It was my hope that you would float, but, forsooth, you weren’t waterproof and, madly quacking in surprise, you slowly sank beneath the lake. Now, I sadly realise, washing you with soap, was a terrible mistake.” George is holding his hands over his ears, rocking backwards and forwards in distress and Roly is yelling at me to shut up, saying that my poetry is absolutely terrible. I bawl back at them that, if I can be bothered to look at their paintings, they should have the grace to listen to my poems, and I launch into my ‘Hero of Pamplemousses’, a eulogy in praise of my renowned ancestor, Captain Rufus Humperdink, the great dodo hunter. Inexplicably, this seems to upset George and Roly even more, George throws a half-eaten salmon at me and Roly chucks a pint of ale into my face; furious at such a waste of good vittles, I whack George over the head with the bass drone of my bagpipes, rendering him unconscious again. Roly tries to escape and, whirling my bagpipes, slipping and sliding on fish and spilt ale, yelling, and hurling things, we chase each other around the table, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
We have a wonderful time in the Cheeky Monkey but, after few days drinking, gossiping, dancing, singing and brawling, things become a bit fuzzy. At some point, we remember that we are glunderingly behind schedule and head for aunt Humperdink’s Aberfeldy airfield to pick up an aeroplane.
After fortifying ourselves with Vintage Jura, Dalmore, Glendronach and Ardmore Special Reserve, Juan decides to take the American Eagle; I refuse to fly in the same aeroplane as Juan and choose the Stearman, with a ‘Whirlwind’, two-hundred horse power engine. Juan then says the Eagle only has a ninety horsepower engine and he’s not going to fly an aeroplane that slower than mine. I tell him that the Eagle is lighter than the Stearman, and its Curtiss OX-5 motor is perfectly adequate, and I remind him that it’s not the size of the engine that matters, it’s how it’s used. He says that it doesn’t matter how it’s used, ‘adequate’ is never good enough, and says he’ll take the Curtiss Hawk instead as it has a V-1550 motor with 445 h.p. I tell him he’s being pathetic and choose the Keystone XLB-6 that, with two Wright R-1750 radials of 525 h.p. each, is twice as powerful as Juan’s Hawk. This results in a violent brawl about the merits of various engines, during which we both grab an aeroplane at random and, screaming and yelling, chase each other through the sky as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary