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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