Professor Humperdink III

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31.10.10

Roly takes a stroll



Varieties of Humperdinkae

1. Eyed Anemone. 2. Trumpet. 3. Cave-dweller. 4. Latticed Corklet. 5. Plume Anemone. 6. Gold-spangled Anemone. 7. Rosy Anemone. 8. Deeplet. 9. Opelet. 10. Marigold Wartlet. 11. Red-speckled Pimplet. 12. Parasite Anemone. 13. Glaucous Pimplet. 14. Yellow Imperial. 15. Dahlia Wartlet. 16. Snake-locked Anemone. 17. Scarlet-fringed Anemone.

1. Necklet. 2. Walled Corklet. 3. Scarlet Pearlet. 4. Diadem Pimplet. 5. Painted Pufflet. 6. Arrow Muzzlet. 7. Orange-disked Anemone. 8. Gem Pimplet. 9. Ringed Deeplet. 10. Gapelet. 11. Waved Muzzlet. 12. Variety of Opelet. 13. Crock. 14. Crimson Imperial. 15. Vestlet. 16. Beadlet. 17. Variety of Beadlet. 18. Eyelet. 19. Snowy Anemone.

1. Variety of Eloactis Mazelli. 2. Neapolitan Mud flower. 3. Variety of Horse Beadlet. 4. Vestlet. 5. Crimson Trumpet. 6. Beautiful Ragactis. 7. Margined Cladactis. 8. Eloactis Mazelli. 9. Hard Pimplet (closed). 10. Variety of Gem Pimplet. 11. Orange Cereactis. 12. Transparent Trumpet. 13. Globehorn. 14. Cloak Anemone. 15. Pufflet. 16. Colour-changing Trumpet.

1. Parasitic Anemone. 2. Mossy Heterodactyle. 3. Opelet. 4. Slimy Corklet. 5. Snake-locked Anemone. 6. Variety of Daisy Sun-ray. 7. Daisy Sun-ray. 8. Elongated Corklet. 9. Hemprich’s Heterodactyle. 10. Solid furrow Anemone. 11. Horse Beadlet. 12. SandyPimplet. 13. Variety of Daisy Sun-Ray. 14. Hard Pimplet.



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On the way to see the captain, to ask him to travel at maximum speed, because we are fiarteringly behind schedule, I call in to Roly’s cabin, to check how he is. He tells me that he is fed up with being in a submarine and that he is missing things like wide open spaces, colourful birds and beautiful flowers. I quickly sketch some of the fish that I have discovered, and a few anemones, and, showing them to Roly, to demonstrate the attractiveness of aquatic flora and fauna, I tell him that he should take a recreational stroll outside, to see the sights. Roly thinks that this is a bad idea, but I remind him that there's plenty of space outside, and that birds and fishes both belong to the phylum Chordata, so they are equally colourful, and sea anemones are just like flowers, except, obviously, they live in the sea, but they’re just as pretty. Roly still isn’t convinced, so I knock him out with a bottle Duff’s Defiance Founder’s Reserve, get him into a diving suit, and shove him out of the submarine.

Juan wakes Roly up by sending a blast of Auchentoshan fumes down his air pipe and we have a lot of fun watching him bounce around in confusion. After some time, Roly works out how to use the intercom and tells us that he’s found some sponges. Juan replies, telling him to do something useful with them, and sponge down the submarine.

George, inspired by watching Roly’s efforts at diving, and hearing him gasping and puffing with his exertions, paints a puffin. Juan breaks open the Vintage Glencadam, Tomintoul, Longmorn, and Scapa Special Reserve, we salute the bravery of submariners and offer toast after toast to the flowers of the sea, then, forgetting all about Roly, we inflate our bagpipes and, playing ‘The Mermaiden’, ‘A Wet Sheet’, and ‘Bobbing John’, we reel around the submarine, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

26.10.10

A bigger submarine







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Juan is sulking because he wants to drive the submarine, but the captain won’t let him, and Albert is angry because Juan just beat him at chess again, and they’re both arguing about language, Albert claims that the language of mathematics is the purist form of communication, as it requires logic, whereas spoken language doesn’t even need to be true. Take, for example, the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ or ‘knowledge is power’; because of their isolation, the people of the Solomon Islands make an effort to be aware of world events, but, when it comes to international politics, the Solomon Islands are a joke; equally, says Albert, the people of Kansas are so ignorant they don’t know the rest of the world exists, but they aren’t happy.

Juan says that the only purpose for language is to praise the beauty of women. Murmuring endearments to a woman in French, he says, might make her melt, or complimenting her loveliness, in Italian, may set her on fire, but, in any language, saying something like “energy equals mass times the speed of light squared” will just make her think you’re weird. I can understand what Juan means, but point out that the practical, military, application of the equation will set thousands of women alight, and melt them, so Albert is quite right, in this instance, the equation is much more effective than romantic language. Juan says I have missed the point entirely, and Albert looks worried. I leave them to argue and go to check on George and Roly.

Roly is sullenly sketching birds in flight, George is gloomily painting diverse divers, they are both criticising each other’s efforts and, generally, seem to be in a bad mood. Roly seems particularly cross at George painting ducks, and calling them diving birds. A duck, he says, doesn’t dive. George says that a duck is the same as a dive and there’s no difference between ducking and diving. Roly says that a duck ducks and a diver dives, so, obviously, they’re completely different things. George says that that’s as ridiculous as saying that a puffin puffs and a chaffinch chafes, and trying to make something out of it. I put Roly and George’s bad tempered and incredibly stupid conversation down to us being begruttingly behind schedule, and the claustrophobic effects of being in a very small submarine, so I find the captain to explain the problem.

Unfortunately, the Vintage Brackla, Caperdonich, Glen Keith, and Edradour Special Reserve fumes, which are permeating the submarine, have caused the captain to become befuddled and he’s standing on his head, singing ‘‘Twas Summer Tide’ and ‘The Boatie Rows’ at the top of his voice. After giving him a good kicking, to sober him up, I persuade him to call another, bigger, submarine. When it arrives, I inform my companions and, to celebrate, Juan breaks open a barrel of Duff’s Defiance Private Reserve. After offering toast after toast to submariners, saluting the glory of the undersea world, and drinking to all those who dive or duck, of whatever species, we all fall in a heap and crawl around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

22.10.10

Changing submarines






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Changing submarines, we realise that we left Romain behind, this is a shame, as we will miss him, however, as our new submarine isn’t much bigger than the one we just left, Romain’s absence does give us a little more room for our barrels of malt. After spending a few hours with the captain, catching up with the gossip, sharing a barrel of Juan’s Special Reserve, and reminding him that we need to hurry, as we are begoytishly behind schedule, I call in on George and Roly’s cabin, to find that George, inspired by being in a machine that dives, has painted a cormorant, which, he says, also dives. Roly, looking at the painting, says the bird looks horrible. George says that cormorants are horrible and, he says, no less a personage than Sir Arthur Landsborough Thomson, the great ornithologist, said that the cormorant was ‘weird and rather repulsive’. I point out that the same can be said of Juan. George says that, to maintain artistic integrity, a picture of the bird must reflect the horridness of the creature. Roly says that Sir Arthur was an ignoramus, the cormorant is actually a beautiful bird, it’s just that George’s picture is rubbish. George tells Roly to mind his own business. Roly replies that painting is his business, so I suggest that, as we are under water, Roly paint some fish.

Roly says that he can’t concentrate on anything because he’s scared of drowning and he’s worried about the possibility of the submarine springing a leak. I try to reassure him by telling him that, for creatures that breathe, it is only sensible to fear drowning but, if the submarine’s hull does break, the pressure of the water will crush him to a pulp long before he dies of asphyxiation, so there’s nothing to worry about. This assurance doesn’t seem to relax Roly, so, to show him the glorious beauty of the undersea life that he could paint, I switch on the submarine’s exterior lights, unfortunately, the only creature this illuminates is an octopus, which isn’t gloriously beautiful, unless, perhaps, you are another octopus; the sight of the creature seems to alarm Roly, and he starts yelling that he doesn’t want to be in a submarine any more. I calm him down by knocking him out with a wrench and go to check on Albert and Juan.

Entering their cabin, I am met with the unedifying sight of Juan, sitting on the floor, knocking back a bottle of Glenfiddich, cleaning his toenails with his beetyach, and leafing through a magazine containing pictures of startlingly under-dressed women. On the other side of the cabin, sitting at the table, Albert is staring madly at a chessboard, twisting his moustache in perplexity. Glancing at the board, I can see that Juan, who is playing white, can checkmate Albert in two moves. I tell Albert to relax, as he’s lost, and I remind him that, when he’s playing black, he is sure to lose as white moves first and, thus, has the advantage. Albert says that this is just nonsense and, he adds, Juan also won when he was playing black. I explain that, as white moves first, Juan had the advantage of being able to respond to Albert’s moves, which gave him a definite edge so, of course, Juan won easily. Albert swears and says that he, Albert, is regarded as being one of the most intelligent people in the world and Juan, as everybody knows, is a complete idiot, so it’s incredible that Juan can win at anything, never mind chess, which is a game that requires pure intelligence. Juan, hearing this, shrugs, and says that maybe Albert isn’t as clever as he thinks. I tell Juan that Albert isn’t as stupid as he looks; in fact, some people predict that Albert’s theories can be put to use in creating bombs that have the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people, so he must be quite bright. Albert shouts that this is a spurious slur on his character, he’s a peaceful man, he yells, slamming his fist on the table, and everything he does is to help humanity. I remind him that, while he might believe that to be true, other, military, people might think otherwise. Juan finishes off his bottle of whisky, struggles to his feet, lurches to the table, makes his move, and falls over. Albert, seeing that he has lost, picks up his king, hurls it across the room in a fury, and demands another match.

I kick Juan, who has fallen asleep, and tell him that our fellow passengers seem to be a bit tetchy and need cheering up. Juan breaks open the Vintage Balvenie, Tullibardine, Mortlach, and Glen Moray Private Reserve, then, after offering toast after toast to all divers, we inflate our bagpipes and playing ‘Death in the Deep’ and ‘Down Among the Dead Men’ we reel around the submarine, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

16.10.10

The helpful captain






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Roly says our aircraft is badly named. I tell him that ‘The Gannet’ is a very good name as the gannet is a fine bird; Roly says that gannets are diving birds, renowned for hitting water at high speed. Looking George’s latest painting, Juan comments that at least our aircraft is not called ‘The Woodpecker’, as hitting wood is a lot more dangerous than hitting water. George says it is a green woodpecker, sometimes called a ‘yaffle’, and it is specially designed for striking wood. Roly grabs the painting and throws it over the side of our aircraft, saying it’s rubbish and that only ignorant peasants call a green woodpecker a ‘yaffle’. George yells that the proper name is ‘yappingdale’, and, if Roly knew anything about birds, he would know that ‘yappingdale’ is the Dorsetshire dialect name for the woodpecker, but the only people who speak in a Dorsetshire dialect are ignorant peasants, so they call the yappingdale a yaffle because they don’t know any better. Roly points out that green woodpeckers are also called ‘woodwales’. George says nobody uses the name, they’re also called ‘hewels’ and ‘wet birds’, but nobody, he says, actually calls the green woodpecker a ‘wet bird’. Unless it was wet, Roly says. Then, George replies, you would call it a wet green woodpecker. I point out that it might be covered in mud, and then you wouldn’t know it was a green woodpecker, until you cleaned it, so you might call it a wet bird. Roly shouts that it doesn’t matter if it is wet or dry, it would still be called a wet bird, because that is its name. George says that if it were wet you would have to call it a wet wet bird, which is a stupid name for a damp yaffle. This inanity of this conversation is making me ill, so, to cheer myself up, and to distract Roly and George from their endless bickering about birds, I fire my blunderbuss several times, unfortunately, I miss George and Roly, but I do tear large holes in our wings.

As we plummet downward, Juan asks me why George and Roly are screaming, and why were they arguing about wet birds, I tell him that I think they were discussing gannets, which are often wet, which is the reason Roly thinks our aircraft shouldn’t be called ‘The Gannet’. Juan says there’s nothing wrong with the name, gannets, he says, are excellent birds, I agree, but remind Juan that they aren’t famous for flying horizontally, as I say this, we nose-dive into the sea.

Fortunately, we are quickly rescued by the ever-vigilant Agent Rescue Service. I explain that we are pauchlshly behind schedule and ask the captain if he can take us to India, but the captain tells us that the submarine is not large enough to carry sufficient essential supplies for the journey. Juan says that we only need enough room for our barrels of single malt, which are essential.

Helpfully, the captain offers to take us to another submarine, a bigger one. This is a wonderful idea and, to celebrate, Juan breaks open the Vintage Auchroisk, Balmenach, Laphroaig, and Glenlivet Private Reserve, which he keeps for such occasions, and, occasionally remembering that we are deep underwater, in a tin can, and screaming until someone knocks us out, we salute the health of the captain and crew, offer toast after toast to the bravery of all submariners, drink to the integrity of our hull, and, linking arms and leaping around, singing ‘Farewell to the Land’, ‘Low down ‘i the Brume’, and ‘Willie’s drowned in Yarrow’, we spiral into the depths, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

4.10.10

The useful landlord










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As I enter the bar, I see Albert move a black pawn, and Juan, swaying backwards and forwards in front of the chessboard, saying that Albert may as well resign, as he can’t possibly win. With this, he lurches forward, moves his knight, and falls backwards, burbling “Mate in five.” Albert looks cross and confused. I interrupt the game, telling everyone that the airship is outside and we have to go. Albert says he has to finish the game first. I tell him that he can’t win because Juan was playing white and, in chess, white moves first, which means that Juan has a tremendous advantage, as he is always one move ahead. This is a secret that all professional chess players know, however, I explain, if it became generally known that white always wins, the entire chess industry would collapse, and so, to keep the secret, players playing white often deliberately lose. Albert, saying that he has never heard such nonsense, moves his king. Juan struggles to his feet and, barely glancing at the board, says “mate in three,” flicks a pawn forward with his elbow, spins around, trips over his own feet, and stumbles across the bar, bumping into tables and knocking chairs in all directions.

I am surprised at how unsteady Juan is, but then I remember that the Selborne Arms doesn’t have a licence to sell spirits, and drinking huge quantities of ale, without balancing it with an equivalent amount of whisky, can have a deleterious effect on one’s balance. At this point, Albert, who has been studying the chessboard with great concentration, realises that, whatever he does, Juan can checkmate him and, snarling, he knocks his king over, and demands another game. I remind Albert that we are sprauchlishly behind schedule and we don’t have time for another game.

Because Juan won, George and Roly lost their bet, George offers me a painting of a great crested grebe, but I tell him that I would feel guilty if I took his painting because Juan couldn’t lose, so the bet wasn’t really fair. Roly says I may as well take George’s painting as it’s rubbish and nobody else would want it. I tell Roly that I think the painting is great, but Roly says that the great crested grebe is a stupid looking bird to start with, and the way George has painted it makes it look even worse. George responds to this by picking up the painting and smashing Roly over the head with it. Roly picks up a paintbrush and pokes George on the nose, daubing it a bright orange. George grabs Roly by the neck and they both roll around the pub, biting and gouging each other like rabid ferrets. After calming them both down, by knocking George out, with a bottle of stout, and throwing Roly out of the window, I apologise to the landlord for their behaviour. When he pours another round and says that, between artists, occasional bouts of professional rivalry should be overlooked in favour of considering the beauty their art brings to the world, I am reminded that the landlord’s gracious attitude is one of the reasons the Selborne Arms is considered to be one of the best pubs in the world, and why it is so difficult to leave.

The door opens and Roly staggers in, shouting that the airship has left without us, but, he says, he wouldn’t travel on the thing anyway, as it didn’t look safe. This is irritating and I tell him he is being ridiculous, airships are very safe, as long as they don’t crash or explode, and they hardly ever explode, unless they’ve crashed, and they rarely crash, unless they’ve exploded, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Roly says that things that don’t have wings can’t fly, and things that can fly do have wings, so if you want to fly, it’s useful to have wings. George, waking up, says that some birds can’t fly, like penguins, and penguins have wings. Moreover, he adds, ostriches can’t fly either, and an ostrich has big wings. Roly says an ostrich has big wings because it’s a big bird. Trying to be helpful, I point out that the kiwi and the cassowary are big birds as well, and they hardly have any wings. Roly says that he doesn’t care, but, whatever we say, he’s will only leave the ground on something that has proper, functioning, wings, and feathers, he adds, just to be on the safe side. Bored mindless, but wanting to contribute to the conversation, I whip out my dirk, carve a dodo into the table and remind everyone that dodos couldn’t fly either, but everyone ignores me. George starts to tell Roly something else about wings and birds, but I’m sick of listening to this incredibly stupid conversation and, before he can finish his sentence, I lunge at George and Roly and bang their heads together, until they fall down, and stop talking.

The landlord pours another round, and says that, if it is of any use, he always keeps a big bird ready to go at a moments notice. Juan cheers and says that that’s always a very good idea. The landlord tells us to follow him, and leads the way out of the back door. I kick Roly and George awake, and pull Romain from underneath the table and slap him into consciousness, while Juan grabs Albert and shoves him toward the door where, stupidly, we all try and get through it at the same time; swearing and shoving each other, we eventually manage to squeeze through the door and follow the landlord into the field adjoining the Selborne Arms, where, saying, “I hope this is useful,” he presents us with barrels of Vintage Bladnoch, Oban, Auchentoshan, Glenmorangie Special Reserve, and a big bird.

Impressed, and very grateful, we offer toast after toast to the landlord, big birds, and the wonder of flight, then, whooping and cheering, and flapping our arms with excitement, we stumble around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary