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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