Professor Humperdink III

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Deep relaxation

Looking at George, calmly working on a painting, I decide to interfere, and tell him that he should learn to write, then he could write about birds as well as paint them, and I offer to teach him to write. He replies, somewhat snappishly, that he can write perfectly well, and he doesn’t need my help. I think I can prove him wrong and, passing him a serviette, tell him to write a sentence on it. He writes ‘There are fluffy clouds floating in the sky today.’ I tell him the sentence is rubbish, and to write it again, but better. He scribbles ‘Fluffy clouds, floating in the sky.’ I tell him that it’s only better because it’s shorter, but it’s still too long, most of it is obvious or redundant, and it’s boring. Also, I inform him, if he uses the word ‘floating’, most people will think of something that floats on water, in fact, I tell him, clouds don’t float on water, they are water, so they must be floating in the sky, there’s nowhere else they can go. Then, taking into account that balloons aren’t fluffy, and the only things that float in the sky are clouds and balloons, they must be clouds, so, I suggest, George should just write, ‘No balloons’, and leave it at that. George says that that’s stupid, you can’t, he says, write about something that isn’t there, especially when you want to describe something that is there. I tell him that sort of thing doesn’t matter in literature, also ‘No balloons’ is short, so it’s easy to read, it’s nonsensical, so it’s poetic, and it poses the question as to why there are no balloons. It might be a solemn occasion, I conjecture, in which case, the absence of balloons would be entirely appropriate, as, I recall, Juan and Mahalath once discovered, people selling balloons are not necessarily welcome at a state funeral.

At the time, it was essential that they remain deep under cover and, under no circumstances, attract attention to themselves, however to celebrate a successful mission, they spent all their funds on a party. Then, remembering that they needed to leave the country, quickly, they tried to raise money by selling balloons on the street. Seeing a depressed looking mob, they followed them, waving their balloons and sing jolly songs to cheer the people up, so they would get in the mood to buy balloons. This tactic didn’t work, as the crowds of people attending the king’s funeral were genuinely sad. They were mourning, I remember, for a good reason; although the young king’s health was known to be delicate, everyone thought he would live for years. All he had to do to stay well, they said, was to avoid exertion, which is easy for a king. However, a visiting dignitary introduced the frail young king to a beautiful, mysterious, princess, from the East. The king did not survive the affair, after two days and three nights, he gave up the ghost through exhaustion. The dignitary couldn’t be found, the princess had, evidently, fled; gems, pearls and cash had gone missing, and the king was dead on the bed. It was tragic.

Luckily, Mahalath and Juan had become somewhat ragged after the money ran out and they moved the party on to the streets. The result was that, seeing the two stinking, decrepit, tramps, singing, and waving balloons at a king’s funeral, nobody associated them with the important dignitary and the beautiful princess who had caused all this trouble in the first place. But they still got arrested, so that didn’t work. George, looking glazed, says that kites float as well, to demonstrate, he shows me a picture of a milvus ictinus, I observe that the bird isn’t floating; it’s standing, which, I think, exactly proves my point. George says he doesn’t care, and paints a falcon instead.

Albert shows me a picture of an albatross, saying that an albatross floats, I yell that it doesn’t float, it hovers, Juan blows cigar smoke into the air and flicks ash across the cabin, saying that ash and smoke floats as well, in case I’d forgotten. As I shout back that they’re both splitting hairs just to be a nuisance and, anyway, obviously, I haven’t forgotten, I realise that I have forgotten and can’t remember what I am talking about; to cover the fact, I take a sudden interest in somebody else’s problem and ask Fatty if he has made a decision about the serviettes.

Fatty says that he is struggling to decide whether the serviettes should be folded as a boar’s head, or as a rose and star. I don’t need to be asked to give my opinion and, looking at Fatty’s diagrams, I tell him that, at least, they both look easy to fold, but the boar’s head looks particularly easy, and quick. To demonstrate, I follow the diagram exactly, carefully checking every fold against the very simple instructions, and, in less than an hour, I reduce a clean, nicely ironed serviette into a dirty, crumpled rag. I tell everyone, loudly, that the instructions must be wrong. Juan has a go, folds his serviette into something unearthly and agrees that the instructions are rubbish, Fatty, however, neatly folds a serviette into a perfect boar’s head, follows this up with a swiftly made and accurately folded rose and star and says that I’m right, they are easy to fold. This is irritating.

It is also irritating that, despite being camshachlelingly behind schedule, all we can do is relax and wait to be rescued. I remind myself that it has often happened that agents request the Agent Rescue Service, but, when the rescuers arrive, they find that the agents have already worked their way out of their difficulties and made their way to a pub. So, to save precious resources, the service first checks all the bars in the area. This, particularly when the emergency is in the middle of the Pacific, requires that dedicated agents visit hundreds of beautiful islands and, to do a thorough job, spend a great deal of time in exotic locations, investigating bars, checking drinking-clubs and hanging around cocktail lounges. This can delay a rescue attempt.

In the meantime, to cheer ourselves up, Juan breaks open barrels of Vintage Benrinnes, Balvenie, Teaninich, and Tamnavulin Private Reserve, and, trying to ignore the terrible sounds of the submarine plunging around and smashing into things, yelling over the screeching engines, which, judging by the fact that we are vibrating like weasels on a gong, are about to disintegrate, in vibrating, squawking, voices, we offer toast after toast to the stars and the roses, salute all clouds and fervently drink to the hope of seeing them again. I inflate my bagpipes and play ‘The Rose of Allandale’,‘ ‘One Star of the Morning’, ‘Why Hangs that Cloud’, and ‘Such a Parcel of Rogues’, then, singing, cheering and stamping out wild Highland flings, we stomp around the submarine in ebullient confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary


Going for a spin

Bumped into a wreck. We pile out to push the submarine away from the sunken ship and discover the wreck is full of gold. This is exciting and we collect tons of the stuff: Juan, to celebrate, breaks open barrels of his Special Gold Reserve, which he keeps for such occasions, now drunk with success, we bump along the bottom, too befuddled to speak and too heavy to rise.

Dultishly behind schedule, we can’t afford to waste time dragging ourselves across the ocean floor, weighted down with gold. To make matters worse, because the submarine doesn’t have a window at the front, we can’t see where we are going, so we bump into things, which slows us down even more. Albert suggests that we travel backwards, as, then, we can see where we’re going from the rear window. However, trying to put the submarine in reverse, we disagree over the best way to do it, in the resulting fight, George is thrown onto some levers, which makes the submarine’s engines roar, and, in his struggle to stand, George grabs and pulls more levers, which make the submarine stand on its head and start to spin like a top.

In trying to slow the submarine’s gyrations, Juan pulls levers at random and we rotate faster; he yells that he knows what he’s doing, and, anyway, he says, he always wanted to take a submarine for a spin; however, before he can do any more damage, Juan points and shouts that there’s a leak; then, fighting the centrifugal force that is sticking us to the ceiling, we desperately try to stop the flow. We finally succeed by stuffing one of George’s canvases into the hole. George complains, saying the canvas had a picture of an auk on it, but I tell him that, if we had failed in plugging the leak, we would have lost a great deal of Vintage Cragganmore Founder’s Reserve, which is irreplaceable, now, with the hole in the barrel stopped by the auk, no more of the precious liquid will be lost; whereas, I point out, there are thousands of auks, and one less auk won’t make any difference, until, of course, there’s none left, but then we will be aukless, and nobody would be painting them anyway, so it isn’t a problem. George looks doubtful, and confused, so I show George some pictures of auks, to prove it. He says that they aren’t auks, they’re penguins, in fact, he points out, the penguins on the rocky crag aren’t even penguins, they are guillemots, and, he says, if I can’t see the difference between auks, penguins and guillemots, my opinion is worthless. I tell him they’re all auks because the great auk was called a pin-wing, or a penguin, long before a penguin was called a penguin and, anyway, it doesn’t matter what they look like, a cuckoo isn’t called a cuckoo because it looks like a cuckoo, it’s called a cuckoo because it goes “cuckoo”, it’s the same with the auk, I explain, an auk is called an auk, because it goes “auk”, and guillemots go “awk”, which is more or less the same. George says he doesn’t care, and paints two blackbirds instead.

Accelerating while gyrating is not a recommended submarine manoeuvre, and I notice that Fatty looks worried. As he is the commander of the vessel, I assume he is concerned about the integrity of the hull, so I assure him that, judging by the screaming, grinding, sound, the engines will explode long before the hull cracks open, so there’s nothing to worry about. Fatty looks surprised and says that he doesn’t know anything about engines or hulls, but he is deeply concerned that we’re running low on fresh parsley. Given the importance of food, especially in a crisis, it is reassuring that the submarine’s captain’s terrifying ignorance of submarines is more than compensated for by his unrivalled culinary knowledge. I tell him that it would be a good idea if we threw out all the gold, because then we would float to the surface. He says he’s too bothered to think about gold, as he’s struggling over the breakfast menu, and trying to decide whether to fold the serviettes into standard sachets or flat sachets. Seeing that Fatty’s mind is taken up with our next meal, which is important, for, in a submarine that is ripping itself to shreds, it might also be our last meal, I tell Juan, George and Albert to start unloading the gold, then, satisfied at a job well done, I lie down and open a bottle of rum.

Juan kicks me until I help unload the gold. Albert says that we should mark the spot so that we can come back with a bigger submarine and collect the gold. Fatty, surprisingly, says that he knows where the wreck is, because it was his big brother, Captain Tom ‘Tubby’ Cardno, who sunk the ship in the first place. Fatty says that Tubby was always very confused about aspects of his job. Fatty says that he can’t remember the exact circumstances of the events that caused his brother to sink this particular ship, but he does remember that, when Tubby first became a captain, because the sheep’s brains with parsley sauce didn’t have enough parsley, he encouraged the crew to mutiny. Inciting a mutiny against yourself is not normally a helpful career move, but Tubby resisted the mutiny so valiantly, and, when it came to the court martial, Tubby was able to explain that, although he was sparing with the fresh parsley, this was adequately compensated for by the choice of sheep’s brains. To provide evidence, Tubby prepared sheep’s brains without parsley, using carefully selected brains from Cambridge sheep, as the Cambridge breed, he says, won’t miss them. Soaked in beer, marinated in sherry, sub-marinaded in rum, for his ‘Submariner’s Brains’ dish, then, blanched in port, boiled in gin, simmered in vodka, and served with Vintage Craigellachie Special Reserve, Tubby’s brains prove such a potent culinary experience that, after the meal, the judges all started to roll around and sing, then, dismissing the case as utterly senseless, they commended Tubby for his valour, and repaired to the club to discuss their expenses, and drink to the health of the king.

Because of the roaring of the engines I can hardly hear Fatty, so I don’t know what he is talking about, but I am intrigued by the fact that he’s speaking in a very high voice and, when I reply, I find that I can only squeak. Albert explains, in a voice that sounds like a duck, that our voices are high pitched because the helium gas canisters are leaking, and, he quacks, sound waves travel through helium at a higher speed than normal. Listening to the sound of the raging engines and the noise of the submarine tearing itself to pieces, I think we might need some professional help. I claw my way to the radio room, then, finding that the radio operator has been rendered unconscious by whisky fumes, I kick him awake and tell him to call for assistance. He stumbles around, then, slumping over the radio set, he mumbles that we don’t need help because everything is under control, with this pronouncement he slides gently to the floor and falls asleep. The radio operator’s air of calm confidence is so reassuring I can only assume that he has contacted the Agent Rescue Service, in which case we can relax.

To help us relax, Juan breaks open barrels of Vintage Highland Park, Tomatin, Glen Grant, and Cardhu Special Reserve. We offer toast after toast to Fatty and Tubby, and drink to the abundance of brainless Cambridge sheep. Juan whips out his bagpipes and plays ‘The Mariner’s Dirge’, the sound of which, accelerated by the helium, blasts forth as a shrill, frenetic, jig, to which we jig. He follows this up with renditions of ‘The Shipwreck’ and ‘My Sheep I Neglected’; the helium augmented tunes, originally created to bring on a dismal feeling of hopeless regret, are, instead, rendered as celebratory, energetic, reels, played with an exuberance such as to compel us to dance; now, shrieking with excitement and squeaking like a bats in a whirlpool, we wildly spin on the spot, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary


To land, for apples

1. German plug-bayonet (in use 1680 – 1706). 2. British socket-bayonet (1853). 3. Sword-bayonet, made in Solingen (1684). 4. Knife-bayonet 1(1889). 5. Belgian bayonet (1850). 6. British Army bayonet (1908). 7. Brunswick sword-bayonet (1848). 8. Socket-bayonet, Indian pattern (in use approx 1738 – 1820). 9. Sea-service bayonet (1840). 10. Plug-bayonet 1680. 11. Sword-bayonet (1803). 12. Sea-service socket-bayonet (1820). 13. Ring-bayonet (circa 1700). 14. Short French socket-bayonet (circa 1790). 15. Double-barrelled flint-lock fusil.

Waiting for the replacement submarine, bored witless and limmerishly behind schedule. Albert, playing another game of chess with Juan, is studying the chess board, Juan, ignoring the game, is ogling a magazine containing pictures of women with wonderfully outstanding attributes, which, however, evidently do not include modesty, Fatty is working on a luncheon menu, George is painting a picture of a reed-bunting and I’m cleaning my fusil and bayonets. Life aboard a submarine, I reflect, is either desperately dull, or utterly terrifying, although the former is preferable to the latter; I can feel myself slipping into a tedium-induced stupor. To shake myself out of it, I look at George’s painting and tell him that I think it’s pretty, but I wonder if another bunting would like it. George says that it probably wouldn’t, as another bunting is unlikely to ever see the painting but, even if it did, it wouldn’t understand it, as culture and the comprehension of art is something that separates us from the animals. I disagree, saying that Bongo, my elephant, used to enjoy smashing up statues, he hated statues, and judging by their actions, pigeons feel the same. Juan looks up and says that Bongo only smashed statues because I am a terrible elephant rider and completely lost control of the beast when travelling through Madras, but, he adds, birds do like art, and taking chicks to a gallery is always a lot of fun.

Albert moves his rook; Juan glances at the board and, before moving a piece, says Albert’s move was stupid as, now, he can checkmate Albert in three moves. Albert stares at the board for a few minutes then, realising that he has lost, hurls his king across the cabin, shouting that it’s unbelievable that he can’t win a game of chess against an idiot. Personally, although I agree with Albert’s summation of Juan’s mentality, I am amazed that Albert, who is considered to be a genius, is, frankly, a weak-minded buffoon. It’s exasperating that, no matter how many times I explain to Albert that he can’t possibly beat Juan at chess, he persists in playing, and losing, game after game. I remind Albert that Juan is a champion chatur arigam player and chatur arigam is a co-operative game. Albert says he can’t see what difference that makes, so I explain that co-operation is far more difficult than opposition and, once the art of co-operation has been learned, opposition is child’s play. Not, I add, that it was easy for Juan to learn to co-operate, in fact, Mustafa, the Yemeni chatur arigam master, said that playing chatur arigam with Juan was like persuading a tiger to become a vegetarian and to go apple picking, while the tiger is eating your leg, in a land without apples.

Fatty, hearing me mention apples and Juan in the same sentence, says that he will put apple fool on the luncheon menu, and, while he’s thinking about it, he may as well add apple soup, flan of apples, apple strudel, apple Charlotte, apple pudding, apple tart and apple snowballs, Juan says that he would definitely enjoy a good tart, but Fatty says the problem is that we don’t have any apples. It occurs to me that Fatty’s menus are somewhat optimistic, however, thinking that, after being in the submarine for such a long time, I imagine that some fruit picking, and the sight of an apple tree, might make a refreshing change, I suggest that, while we wait for the replacement submarine, Fatty puts us ashore, where we can collect some apples. Fatty looks doubtful, saying that he isn’t sure where shore is. Looking out of the porthole, I notice the same octopus as I saw last week, which is the same one I saw a week before that, which means we have been travelling in circles for weeks, so I tell Fatty to simply drive the submarine in a straight line and, eventually, we’ll bump into land. Juan says that this is an excellent idea and, to celebrate, he breaks open barrels of Vintage Interleven, Knockdhu, Talisker, and Glenburgie Private Reserve; we salute Fatty’s wonderful menus and offer toast after toast to submariners and fruity tarts, then, linking arms and singing ‘She’s the Apple of My Eye’ at the top of our voices, we stumble around in hopeless confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary


Educating Albert

1. Gorgonzola. 2. Double Gloucester. 3. Koboko. 4. Parmesan. 5. Dutch. 6. Roquefort. 7. Schabzieger. 8. Dunragit. 9. York Cream. 10. Port du Salut. 11. Cheddar. 12. Pommel. 13. Camembert. 14. Mainzer. 15. Cheshire. 16. Stilton. 17. Cream Bondon. 18. Gruyere. 19. Wiltshire Loaf. 20. Cheddar Loaf.

Moet & Chandon’s White Dry Sparkling Sillery, Heidieck & Co.’s Dry Monopole, Heidseick & Co.’s Monopole, Deutz & Geldermann’s Gold Lack Extra Quality, Egidio Vitali, Seltzogene, Benedictine, Filter, Royal Port, Chateau Lafite, Johannisberger, Berncastler Doctor Auslese, Chambertin, Kummel, Emu Brand Burgundy, Kummel, Johannisberger, Vitali’s Chianti, Berncastler Doctor Auslese, Absinthe, Fabrique Chartreuse, Ginger Brandy, Dry Curaçao, Chauteau Lafite, Emu Brand Cabernet, Burgundy, Californian Claret, Marasquin.
Fatty enters our cabin and tells us that he has prepared another breakfast menu, and it should be ready soon, but, while we wait, he thought we might like a snack, so he dug out some cheese. However, he says, he remembered that cheese can cause nightmares and, considering that we are in a small submarine, deep under water, hopelessly lost, befuddled, and skleushishly behind schedule, which is horrifying enough, he decided that nightmares would make matters worse, so he threw the cheese out, however, he informs us, he has found some beverages which we might enjoy, and he goes off to collect them. Albert asks why Fatty is so bothered by producing a proper breakfast, when, in the submarine, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, so it doesn’t matter what the meal is called. I tell Albert that, to a Highlander, breakfast is extremely important, in fact, I add, most of the traditional Highland stories consist entirely of descriptions of people making breakfast. Juan stands up and recites, “Dh’ éirich i ‘s a’ mhaduinn, ‘s rinn i dha ‘bhraiceas, agus dheasaich i bonnach dha a bhiodh aig’ air an rathad, agus dh’ fhalbh e.” Albert asks me what Juan is saying, I tell him that he’s quoting from Buachaillechd Chruachain, The Herding of Cruachan, a traditional Celtic story from Argyllshire, in which the herdsman of Chruachain either makes breakfast for himself, or his wife makes if for him, or they make it together. George says that it doesn’t sound like a very interesting story. I explain that the tale also includes such things as a wizard-champion, a giant, a white sword of light and a talking duck, but, basically, the story is about the general agreeableness of a decent breakfast.

Albert, losing interest my explanation, momentarily leaves the chess game he is playing with Juan, wanders over to George’s easel, looks at George’s latest painting, and asks him what kind of bird he has drawn. George says that, being German, Albert would call it a Taube, but, in English, what you call it depends on how much money you have, and your general attitude towards wildlife. Some people, he says, call these birds ‘flying rats’, or ‘stinking vermin’, other people call them ‘friendly feathered friends’ and they see them as representative of peace. To rich people, he says, they are known as doves and, if they keep them, they keep them in dovecotes, but poor people call them pigeons, and keep them in pigeon coops. Albert walks back to his chess game, saying that the English language is ridiculous. As he says this, Juan moves a piece and says, “Mate in two.”

Albert looks at the board for a few moments, unbelieving, then starts shouting and yelling, because Juan has beaten him at chess again. I tell Albert that his strategy is rubbish, so he can’t win. His trouble, I explain, is that he is treating chess as a game. Albert yells that it is a game. That, I tell him is exactly the problem, Juan, I point out, doesn’t treat it as a game so, obviously, Albert doesn’t stand a chance. Albert looks puzzled and confused. Remembering that, although Albert is considered by many people to have the keenest intellect in the world, he is actually quite dim, I decide to give him a practical demonstration of the difference between a game and genuine match. A game, I tell Albert, is a harmless, pointless, pastime, the outcome of which is wholly unimportant. Every game, I expand, is bound around with rules to ensure safety and fair play. Examples of this are boxing and judo; boxers wear soft, spongy, gloves, to ensure that nobody can get hurt, and, in judo, opponents aren’t allowed to bite. In fact, I add, all martial arts are designed with the safety of the combatants in mind.

To demonstrate this, I ask Juan to show Albert a spinning kick. Juan obliges by extending one leg, pirouetting, and, catching George neatly with his boot, kicks him back against the wall, where he collapses in a heap, grasping his chest and moaning that he thinks his ribs are broken. I help George to his feet, while telling Albert that, in a real-life fight, a broken rib or two is entirely ineffectual, also, turning one’s back and standing on one leg, as Juan did during the spinning kick, is downright stupid, but George, in the spirit of fair play, failed to take advantage of the situation. I turn George so he’s facing away from me, and, firstly kicking one of his legs so he lifts it in pain, I tell Albert that, with your opponent facing away from you, it’s easy to get in, say, a few powerful kidney punches, which I demonstrate on George, then, kicking George’s other leg from under him, so that he falls to the floor, with a crunching sound, I remind Albert that, in a play fight, the general understanding is that you shouldn’t kick a man when he’s down, but, obviously, as he’s at foot height, in a genuine fight, it’s an easy, and sensible, thing to do; also, when someone is laying on the floor, writhing in pain, which George is doing, it’s very difficult for him to defend himself and, I add, kicking George around the floor, it’s a lot of fun.

I think this has shown Albert that, if he regarded playing chess as a genuine endeavour, rather than a witless way of killing time, he might increase his chances of winning, but, before I can teach him more about chess, Fatty arrives, bearing bottles. He apologises at the poor quality of the selection but, he says, it’s the best he can do under the circumstances. Juan says that he shouldn’t worry as, however foul the beverage, we do have first-class single malt whisky, to wash away the taste. While I open the bottles, Juan breaks open barrels of Vintage Jura, Dalmore, Glendronach, and Ardmore Private Reserve. I pour a quantity of Jura over George, to help heal his wounds, we offer toast after toast to chess players and breakfast chefs, then, playing ‘The Big-bellied Bottle’, ‘Ah, the Poor Shepherd', ‘Battling Jock’, and ‘The Rantin’ Highlandman’, we charge around the submarine, tumbling and cheering and bouncing off the bulkheads, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary


Breakfast, delayed

1. Rich Digestive, 2. Reading Shortbread. 3. Reading Cracker. 4. Monarch. 5. Wheat-meal. 6. Grilled Cake (Sultana). 7. Phillipine. 8. Ratifia. 9. Acorn. 10. Dinner Rolls. 11. Mixed Creams, 12. Mixed. 13. Nursery Rhyme. 14. Nursery. 15. Fancy Cracknel. 16. Mixed Wine. 17. Desert Wafers. 18. Coffee. 19. Tea Rusks. 20. Atlantic. 21. Butter. 22. Nice. 23. Concert. 24. Cinderella. 25. Breakfast. 26. Macaroons (Italian). 27. Ginger Nuts.

I decide to go to the galley and help Fatty prepare breakfast, and to ask him if he has managed to contact another submarine, as we are skluifishy behind schedule. Before leaving, George asks me to look at his latest painting. He tells me it’s a picture of a hawfinch, standing beside its eggs. However, he says, having been in submarines for so long, he can’t exactly remember what the bird looks like, and he asks me if the bird he’s painted bears any resemblance to a hawfinch. I tell him that I’ve never heard of a hawfinch, but I assume it’s half hawk and half finch and, I dimly remember, hawks have beaks and finches, I vaguely recall, have wings, and I am sure that both hawks and finches lay eggs, so, examining George’s picture carefully, I tell him that the bird he’s drawn is probably just like a hawfinch.

Juan, looking up from his magazine, containing photographs of well-formed, but ill-dressed, women, says that George should paint something worth painting, like a beautiful woman; churning out one stupid looking bird after another, he says, is just a waste of time. George starts to defend his art, but Juan, who is meant to be playing chess with Albert, ignores George, casually shoves a piece forward, says “checkmate”, and returns to his magazine. Albert swears and starts throwing chess pieces around the cabin, shouting that it’s impossible. I ask him what it is that’s impossible and he says that Juan beat him at chess again. I can see Albert’s problem, Albert is internationally recognised as having one of the finest minds on the planet, whereas Juan is, basically, a lunatic, so, from Albert’s perspective, for Juan to beat him at chess is an impossibility, and yet he does it time and again. I tell Albert that his strategy is useless; it’s out of date and doesn’t work. Albert looks confused and angry, so I explain that his strategy is like geometry, and, I remind Albert that he, himself, said that geometry is rubbish.

Albert protests, saying that he never said such a thing, what he said, he tells us, was that Euclidean geometry deals with things called “straight lines,” to each of which is ascribed the property of being uniquely determined by two points situated in it. The concept ‘true’, he explains, does not tally with the assertions of pure geometry, because, by the word ‘true’ we are essentially in the habit of designating always the correspondence with a ‘real’ object; geometry, however, is not concerned with the relation of the ideas involved in it to objects of experience, but only with the logical connection of these ideas among themselves. Juan asks me what Albert is talking about; I tell him that Albert is saying that geometry, like his chess strategy, is rubbish. Albert yells that that is not what is saying at all. I realise that Albert, despite the fact that everybody thinks that he is a genius, can’t be too bright, however, before I can give him practical demonstration of the uselessness of his strategy, I am interrupted by Fatty looking into the cabin and telling us that breakfast has been delayed again.

Fatty, looking distraught, explains that he had prepared oyster patties, fillets of sole in jelly, Russian timbale in turbot, salmon cutlets, lobster salad, chicken creams, goose liver creams, lamb cutlets masked with sauce, roast chickens, stuffed turkey poult, pigeon pie, galantine of veal, ham and tongue, and spiced beef with salad, followed by apricot cream, pistachio cream, mixed fruit with kirsch, bananas in jelly, pine apple charlotte, meringues with cream, French pastry, Neapolitan ice, strawberry cream, lemon water ice, fruit, dessert, coffee and biscuits, but, although he has some tins of syrup and a few jars of jam and marmalade, freshly made biscuits demand freshly made preserves and, as he can’t supply such a thing, he has had to throw breakfast away, and rethink the entire menu.

Juan says that Fatty shouldn’t worry as we are happy to settle for a traditional Highland breakfast of fine single malt, so saying, he breaks out the Vintage Glenmorangie, Benrinnes, Balbair and Royal Brackla Special Reserve, we offer toast after toast to breakfast chefs, salute all submariners and drink to Fatty’s wonderful meals then, linking arms and cheering, we tumble around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary


Late breakfast

1. Cream Toast. 2. Wine. 3. Water. 4. Oatmeal. 5. High Tea. 6. Petit Beurre. 7. Dinner. 8. Normandy. 9. Rosebery. 10. Water Wafer. 11. Thin Butter. 12. Family. 13. Paris. 14. Canadian. 15. Thick Oat Cake. 16. Brighton. 17. Milk. 18. Duchess. 19. Cracklet. 20. Sunshine. 21. Pat-a-Cake. 22. Marie. 23. Nile. 24. Delhi. 25. Fairy. 26. Cocoanut. 27. Melton. 28. Osborne. Butter Cream. 30. Picnic. 31. Jamaica. 32. Lunch. 33. Texas Cracker. 34. Plasmon. 35. Wayside. 36. Digestive. 37. Normandy. 38. Oswego. 39. Veda.
In the submarine, blindly circling the ocean, lost and parbruilyeidishly behind schedule; however, I am assured that we will be getting a new submarine soon, with a captain who knows the way to India. Juan is engaged with another magazine, containing photographs of beautiful, but somewhat threadbare, women. Albert, stupidly, in my opinion, as he is sure to lose, insists on having another game of chess with Juan, George is painting more birds.

Fatty, our captain, looks in to tell us that breakfast will be delayed. George says that that is perfectly all right because it gives him time to finish off his latest paintings, which, he tells us, he is having some difficulty with, as he’s been in submarines for such a long time that he is starting to forget what birds look like. Looking at his paintings, of a lark, a wren and a wagtail, I tell him that they look fine. Fatty goes further, saying that George’s paintings are inspirational, and, in their honour, he’ll add lark tongue soup, wren in cheese sauce, and wagtail pie to this evening’s dinner menu. For a moment, I think that this is ambitious, but I remember that, although Fatty is not a highly experienced submariner, he is a wonderful chef and, because he lacks confidence in his ability to command a submarine, he compensates by producing superb meals. However, because he is a perfectionist, and because, in the submarine, he suffers from a lack of suitable provisions, he is having trouble, he says, in producing the quality of meal that submariners deserve. This, he explains, is why there is a delay in serving breakfast. It was, he says, to include hot devilled lobster, baked fillets of sole, calves’ sweetbread, quails stewed in casserole, prawns in aspic, lobster salad, sweetbread patties, foie gras creams, roast chickens, partridges masked with sauce, galantine of turkey, French game pie, roast pheasant, ham and tongue, followed by chocolate cream, almond cream, stewed pears with cream, oranges in jelly, Russian charlotte, nougat with cream, French tart, iced pudding, banana cream ice, vanilla ice, fruit, desserts, coffee and biscuits. Juan says he’d be happy with just a hot, game, French tart with sweet, creamy, calves, but Fatty explains that the problem is that the cream toast crackers should measure two and a half inches from side to side, but, because he ran short of wheat flour, he had to compromise and make them two and a quarter inches wide, but now they don’t look anything like proper cream crackers and nobody should have to put up with sub-standard crackers, and, as he feels that he has ruined breakfast, he’s thrown everything out and will start again, which is why, he says, breakfast will be late.

After Fatty leaves, Albert asks whether Fatty is entirely sane, I explain that he’s just a bit crackers. Juan says that, while we wait for breakfast, we should have a drink, to whet the appetite, and he breaks out the Vintage Springbank, Macduff, Pulteney, and Glendullan Special Reserve, we offer toast after toast to submariners, Fatty, and French tarts, then, inflating our bagpipes then, exuberantly playing ’The Shipwreck’, ‘The Lark and the Wren’ and ‘Willie was a Wanton Wag’, we march in enthusiastic, but wobbly, circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary


Ordering another submarine

Dinner today was magnificent, in fact, the food served in our submarine is always superb; indeed, every time I try to get to see the captain, I’m told that he isn’t available because he’s working on tomorrow’s menu. However, looking out of a porthole, I notice the same octopus that I saw a week ago and realise that, either it has been following us, which seems unlikely, or we are travelling in circles, and I head to the captain’s cabin, with a view to apologising for disturbing him, but to ask that he give the navigation some attention, as we can’t afford to spend too much time going round and around the ocean for no reason.

On the way, I pass George, Juan and Albert, and stop to look at George’s latest painting of a dipper. George tells me that the painting was inspired by seeing Roly walking under water, which is what a dipper does, which is why, he says, it’s called a dipper, because it dips, he adds, rather unnecessarily, moreover, he says, after a dip, it oozes water, which is why it’s also known as a water ousel. I ask Albert and Juan to look at the painting, but Albert, furious at just having lost another game of chess to Juan, is busy setting up the pieces again and demanding another match. Juan seems entirely uninterested in chess or George’s dipper, although he does appear to be very interested in the magazine he is looking at, containing pictures of shapely, but inadequately clothed, women.

Juan, reluctantly, drags his gaze away from the magazine, glances at the chessboard and says, “Mate in twenty-seven”. I can see that Juan is quite correct, and, when Albert yells that it’s impossible to tell the outcome of the game without even playing it, I tell him that, if there were only a very few possible moves, it would be hard to predict the winner, however, in any chess game, there are a huge amount of possible moves, so it’s easy to see that Juan will win. Albert looks baffled, and very cross, so I explain that, in the actuarial statistics used for insurance purposes, the larger the group of people, the easier it is to estimate how many of them will injure themselves by falling off a donkey, and the same principal applies to chess. When Albert says that this is complete nonsense, and donkeys have nothing to do with it, I remember that, even though Albert took extra lessons, he is still very weak at maths, so I abandon the argument in favour of explaining that, as he hasn’t won a single game against Juan, it shows that, historically, Juan is the stronger player, so Albert doesn’t stand a chance. Albert protests, saying that Juan is an idiot, and he, Albert, is recognised as a genius, so he could only have lost because he made some mistakes, and he won’t repeat them, but I tell him that he’s forgotten the only pertinent lesson that history has to teach us, which is that we do not learn from our mistakes, so he should bow to the inevitable, and resign now. I leave Albert, shouting that I must be mad, and make my way to the captain’s cabin where I am delighted to find that the captain is our old friend Captain 'Fatty' Farquhar Cardno, from Buchanhavan.

I tell Fatty about the octopus, and explain that I am concerned that we aren’t getting any closer to India, and I ask him where we are. Fatty informs me that, because the submarine’s hull is made of metal, the compass doesn’t work properly, and, he adds, the submarine doesn’t have a window at the front, so he can’t see where we are going and, to make matters worse, we are deep under water and it’s dark, so he hasn’t the slightest idea where we are. I tell him that, if he raises the periscope and has a look around, we might see some land, which would give us a clue. Fatty asks what a periscope is, I start to explain that it’s a tube with mirrors, used for observation purposes, which can be raised above the surface of the sea, when it occurs to me that Fatty, as a submarine captain, should really know what a periscope is. Fatty tells me that aunt Humperdink asked him command the vessel, but he doesn’t know anything abut submarines, except that it’s important that everybody eats well, and that, he says, is difficult to arrange; he doesn’t have any fresh fruit, so how, he asks, can he be expected to produce something as simple as a tasty plum pudding or a half decent apple pie? Pointing to tomorrow’s dinner menu and putting his head in his hands, Fatty moans that all he has is tinned fruit, so even creating basic la gelée oranges á l’Anglaise is virtually impossible. I tell Fatty that aunt Humperdink always chooses the perfect person for every job, so he shouldn’t worry, however, I suggest that, as we are gendishly behind schedule, he call another submarine, with a captain who does know the way to India, and, for Juan’s sake, some female crew members. Fatty agrees that that is a good idea and promises to get on to it right away. Thanking him, and wishing him the best of luck with tomorrow’s dinner, I return to tell Juan, Albert and George the news.

I arrive just in time to hear Juan say “mate in three” and see Albert thumping the table and shouting that it’s impossible. But it only takes a second’s glance to see that Juan, who is playing white, can mate Albert in three moves against any defence, and I wonder, for a moment, if all the people who say that Albert has one of the finest minds in the world are completely wrong and, perhaps, the man is actually a total nincompoop. However, I put these speculations aside and tell everyone that we are getting another submarine, with a captain who knows how to drive the thing, and, as a bonus, it will have women on board. Juan immediately brightens up and, to celebrate, breaks open the Vintage Balblair, Knockando, Speyburn, and Glenlossie Private Reserve. We drink toast after toast to Fatty, his wonderful meals and the promise of female submariners, then, singing and cheering and shouting with excitement, we stumble backwards and forwards, bump into things, spin, fall over, and crawl around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary