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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