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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