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7.9.10

Missing the airshiip





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The landlord tells us that the airship has been delayed because the banks are on holiday and, in England, everybody celebrates the absence of bankers by taking time off and enjoying themselves. Hearing this, Juan sends barrels of Vintage Dailluaine, Linkwood, Tobermory, and Glentauchers Special Reserve to the airfield, so the engineers can properly celebrate. They celebrate so enthusiastically that they become too befuddled to function and, forgetting to untie the airship from its mooring post, they spin round in the wind for days on end, and become unwell. To swiften their recovery, Juan sends more barrels of malt, for medicinal purposes, thus causing further delay. This is worrying because we are wreglingly behind schedule and we should look for an alternative means of transport, however, after a few more rounds, I stop worrying and doze off into a contented slumber.

Irritatingly, Roly wakes me up and tells me that he is concerned for his safety, and he wants the airship to be fitted with a means of escape. I try to reassure him by telling him that, statistically, it is safer to travel by airship than it is to travel by donkey. Roly shouts that statistics are for suckers. Juan says that, if donkeys don’t crash, we should take Roly’s donkey on the airship. Roly shouts that he doesn’t have a donkey and donkeys have nothing to do with it; I promise him that we’ll provide escape aircraft, one for Roly and one for his donkey. George wakes up and draws some chicks, he tells us that Roly can’t criticise them because they’re not flying, they’re not flying, he explains, rather unnecessarily, because they’re too little. Roly says that George is cheating, it takes talent to paint a bird in flight, he says, but any runt-brained lummox can slop out nidicugous nestlings. George says that, if Roly knew anything at all about birds, he would know they’re not nidicugous, they’re nidifugous, Roly shouts that he doesn’t care what they are, they’re rubbish. I tell Roly that he’s being ridiculous, they’re very nice chicks, Roly says that if he sees any more of George’s stupid birds, he is going to be sick. I tell him not to be sick, because it will stain the carpet. The landlord says that it doesn’t matter; artists should be allowed to express themselves. Romain says that a tastefully stained carpet is a thing of beauty. I point out that gastric acid will burn a hole in the carpet. Albert says that an alkaline spray will neutralise the acidity and tealeaves will suck up the bile. Juan shouts that hearing people talk about cleaning carpets is making him ill. I inform everyone that this is because Juan never cleans anything. Juan objects, saying that he recently cleaned Alexandra, with a foam and alcohol rub. I tell him that diving into her bath, waving a soapy sponge and a bottle of whisky, doesn’t amount to a conscientious cleaning. Albert says that it all comes down to the ions. Nobody knows what ions are, and we don’t care, but he gives us an incoherent lecture on the nature of ions and their effects on carpets, too many of which, he says, can distort the weave and ripple the base. Juan says that he normally smoothes a rippling base with his hand, as he demonstrated to Alexandra. The tedium of listening to this nonsense is rendering me comatose, taking the only sensible option; I open my flask of Juan’s Special Reserve, drink to the success of carpet cleaners, and descend into a witless stupor.

Some time later, Juan kicks me awake and shouts that the airship has arrived, and we all pile outside to see it. Unfortunately, because it has aircraft attached to it, it can’t land, for risk of destroying the aeroplanes, and if the aeroplanes come off, the airship will be too light to get near the ground, so we watch as it floats, majestically, over our heads and vanishes into the distance. After a long silence, Roly says, “Well, that was useless.” This isn’t helpful, but Romain suggests that we visit his friend, Alberto Santos-Dumont, who, he says, always has some spare airships. I tell Romain to arrange it and Juan says that, rather than standing in a cold, barren, field, waiting for something to happen, we should wait for something to happen in a warm, friendly, pub, this is a wonderful idea, and we all tumble back into the Selborne Arms, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary