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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