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The useful bookcase

Albert is famous physicist, George is an important artist, Fatty is a renowned chef, my own achievements have not gone unremarked, and, all over the world, women lie in wait for Juan. Rory, however, is just an academic, so, although we understand his constant, desperate, efforts to impress us, listening to him is similar to being on a long, dull, journey, to somewhere you don't want to go to, with someone you dislike, but, once Rory starts, it is hard to stop him and his ennui-stunned audience are helplessly transported to a sad, bleak, place.

Stumbling into the large wooden bookcase, I remark that it is a stupid place to put a bookcase. George says that Mathias Leistler made it from carved lime tree, with panels of satinwood. Rory says that the bookcase looks impressive, but I tell him that it's a useless waste of tree, as the books that it contains are mostly academic papers, which are wholly unimpressive, in a better world, I add, they would never be published in the first place. This sets Rory off and he drones on and on about how nobody would publish his papers, so he turned to writing murder mysteries and thrillers, which, unfortunately, sold lamentably few copies. I remind Rory that, in his murder mysteries, because of his nervousness, he avoided including anything alarming, like a murder, in fact, nobody gets murdered, or even slightly hurt; added to that, although he is an academic, Rory is essentially moral, honest, and straightforward, so he is unable to contrive a deceitful or mysterious plot, thus, all his characters are transparently shallow, blandly law-abiding, and sickeningly good-natured.

Apart from the fact that Rory's murder mysteries are murderously dull, the only mystery is why the books are called a murder mysteries in the first place, and Rory's thrillers were not as thrilling as they might have been. His latest thriller, I suggest, would have been more thrilling if something thrilling occurred, or even something vaguely interesting. However, despite cataclysmic world events occurring all around, Rory fails to mention any of them, and there is also the disconcerting fact that two of his protagonists, Thomas Litchfield and Frederick Litchfield are described as brothers, or unrelated, which results in ridiculous sentences such as: 'Her Serene Highness glanced up at Thomas and Frederick, the hunch-backed, squinting, bow-legged, brothers, or not brothers, and smiled, graciously.' And why Rory chose to depict Thomas and Frederick as looking like gargoyles is beyond comprehension.

Rory says that the mystery in a murder mystery does not necessarily have to be who the murderer is, and, anyway, murder mysteries aren't really mysteries because the detective always unmasks the murderer, and says who it is, which spoils the whole mystery. He adds that, in his research, he found no evidence that Frederick and Thomas weren't both terribly deformed, and he doesn't know if Thomas Litchfield and Frederick Litchfield are brothers or not, so it wouldn't be right to describe them as brothers, when they may not be brothers, equally, it would be incorrect to say that they are not brothers, when they might actually be brothers; it is all to do, says Rory, with integrity, about which, he says pointedly, I know nothing. This might be true but, I point out, Rory's books might have great integrity, but nobody reads them. People who write books that nobody reads must be stupid, declaims Fatty, it's the same, he says, as a chef cooking meals that nobody eats.

After a quick round of Knockando, Speyburn, Brackla, and Glen Keith Private Reserve, to refresh ourselves, I remind everyone that we are lumingly behind schedule and have to head off immediately but, because we are covered in soot, blood and filth, we should find our rooms, wash, and change into clean clothes. Rory says that he doesn't like changing into clean clothes, it makes him nervous. George says that that is a peculiar quirk. Juan mumbles that this is because Rory is a peculiar jerk. Rory explains that, when he gave regular lectures to the Royal Society, he always kept a fresh set of clothes available, so that, when he arrived, he could quickly change, and walk on stage looking fresh and smartly dressed. And that, he says, is why he does not like changing into clean clothes. I am sure that, in Rory's muddled mind, this makes sense, so, to humour him, I tell Rory that any journey can leave you looking crumpled, and I imagine that Rory called into to every public house on the way to the give his lecture, so, when he arrived, he was probably extremely crumpled. In that condition, I assure Rory, changing into fresh clothes is very sensible and something that Juan should do, because he stinks.

Rory tells us that he was a victim of professional rivalry as, at the time, some of his more narrow-minded colleagues were irritated by Rory's claim that Darwin was wrong. Humans, Rory professed, are not related to monkeys and, beyond a few coincidental similarities, the two species are separate, independent, and distinct. Looking at Juan, who is indistinguishable from a gorilla , I observe that Rory's idea was somewhat controversial and, I suggest, stupid. Rory said it was stupid not to lock his locker, as one of Darwin's supporters, or perhaps Darwin himself, put itching powder in Rory's clothes. Rory didn't notice immediately and, when he did notice, he was a few minutes into his lecture; he gamely attempted to continue his lecture as if nothing had happened, however, it wasn't long before he had to be hauled off the stage, tearing his clothes off and scratching himself like a vermin-infested baboon. Darwin's reputation remained unharmed, and, possibly, enhanced, the distinguished guests enjoyed the entertainment but Rory, humiliated, was forced to leave his university post and become a lemming breeder in Norway. Tragically, Rory's lemming farm was near a cliff and, when the lemmings escaped one night, he lost the entire plummet. I tell Rory that the collective noun for lemmings should have warned him against rearing lemmings near a cliff.

Rory starts defending himself with pitiful, whinging, excuses for not being a successful academic, author, or lemming breeder, until Juan decides he has had enough and hurls Rory against the bookcase, breaking the wood, splintering the panels and shattering the glass, which is unfortunate. Rory staggers to his feet and calls Juan a stinking ape, which, I think, rather proves my point, but we don't wildly want to hear any more from Rory for a while. Fortunately, I think of a good use for the bookcase, so Fatty and I tip it over, on to Rory, and, compressed, he stops talking. Juan orders Vintage Lagavulin, Bladnoch, Benrinnes, and Teaninich Private Reserve, to celebrate. We offer toast after toast to the success of all academics, authors, and lemming breeders, then, singing, cheering, shouting and saluting Mathias Leistler and his wonderful bookcase, we careen around in noisy, fuzzled, confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary