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Changing submarines

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