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Preparing to leave the Selborne Arms

It is very easy to enter the Selborne Arms, however, the welcoming atmosphere, together with the tremendous hospitality of the landlord, delicious food, excellent ale, convivial company, comfort, warmth and general cosiness, make it an extraordinarily difficult place to leave. So we stay for a week.

We have a wonderful time, Juan, Romain and the landlord get involved in a complicated experiment, which involves mixing various types of ale together, and testing the results, this keeps them amused for days. Albert tells me about some of his theories, but he loses interest when he mentions Heisenberg's uncertainty principal and Schrodinger’s cat and I tell him about Humperdink’s certainty principal, the knowledge of which is more useful than being uncertain, and Humperdink’s tiger, which is the same as Schrodinger’s cat, but bigger. George paints another picture and Roly says it’s rubbish because the birds he has painted aren’t flying. George points out that they are nidicolous nestlings and too young to fly and, strictly speaking, it’s only one bird, the three stages of blackbird. Roly says that that’s just an excuse and scribbles a sketch of some blackgame in flight, to show that birds in fight are more interesting than birds on the ground. Juan, looking at the pictures, says the blackbird isn’t black, so it’s wrong, and the blackgame look like grouses. George says that female blackbirds aren’t black and Roly says that blackgame are grouse, and, he adds, you can’t say ‘grouses’ because they are like sheep; you can’t say ‘two sheeps’, and the collective noun for grouse is ‘pack’.

Juan says that a grouse is nothing like a sheep, but I tell him that a group of sheep is called a flock of sheep, which is the same as a flock of birds, so they are like grouse, because grouses are birds. Roly says that it doesn’t matter, you still can’t say ‘grouses’, it’s ungrammatical. George says that blackbirds and grouse are completely different birds, but I remind him that they are both game birds. Juan says he knows some game birds, but I tell him that the term ‘game bird’ does not refer to his startlingly over-enthusiastic female friends but, rather, refers to birds such as grouse and blackbirds, which are hung upside down and allowed to go rotten before they are cooked. Romain says that that’s disgusting; I tell him that English food is famous for being disgusting, and so are some of Juan’s friends. George and Roly shout at us to shut up because we don’t know what we are talking about. Changing the subject, Juan says that, although the ale is exceptionally hearty, we need more whisky, and, as the Selborne Arms doesn’t have a licence to sell spirits, he volunteers to go back to aunt Humperdink’s residence to collect some Vintage Dalmore, Inchgower, Lagavulin, and Glenkinchie Special Reserve. This is a wonderful idea, but I remind him that we are ricklingly behind schedule and we should collect a balloon from Romain’s friend, Alberto, who, Romain tells us, always has a few spare balloons. Accordingly, we order another few rounds, to fortify and prepare us for the journey then, after offering toast after toast to birds of all hue, we inflate out bagpipes, play ‘Black-haired Laddie’, ‘Black-e’ed Lassie’ and ‘Blackford Hill’ at full volume, and stagger around the bar, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary