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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