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A quick recreational

Between periods of weeping, Rory rambles on about his fatally damaged reputation and the end of his career. I say that, what Rory needs, is a good woman. Juan cheers, says that that is the only sensible thing I have ever said, and orders Vintage Balvenie, Lagavulin, Longmorn, and Royal Lochnagar Family Reserve, to celebrate. A short while later, watching Rory fight a bookcase, Albert says that Rory is behaving strangely, Juan says that Rory's behaviour is perfectly normal after a bottle of Royal Lochnagar. Rory, clinging to the bookcase for support, nursing a bent, bleeding, nose and wiping red ooze from his beard, slithers down onto the floor, whining that, wherever he goes, there is furniture in his way.

I remind Rory that there is a perfectly good fireplace in the room, so he could burn the bookcase. Rory looks horrified and says that, even if it was in his way, it is a fine piece of furniture and should not be burned. I tell him he should burn the books first; without books, a bookcase isn't a bookcase, it's just a case, and a case isn't furniture, so he can burn it, if it makes him happier. Rory says that it wouldn’t make him happier because he doesn't believe in burning books. I respect Rory's beliefs, but, I assure him, books do burn. Rory says that he knows books will burn, he doesn't believe that they should be burnt. I tell Rory that, when books are on fire, they do become burnt, badly burnt, so his belief is, at best, optimistic.

Fatty says that it's good to be optimistic, it gives you hope. For example, he says, patting his growling stomach, he is hopeful that the salmon that we ordered will arrive soon, and, he tells us, it is that optimistic attitude that is keeping him calm, otherwise, if he lost hope, he would be in the kitchen, screaming, raging, and throwing boiling water in people's faces, to make them hurry up.

Talking of hurrying up, I remind everybody of the cataclysmic consequences of further delay and, considering the fact that we are dulbertishly behind schedule, I tell everyone that we have to leave the recreation room immediately. Juan agrees, I think, saying that there is no point in staying because, whatever you call it, and whatever furniture you put in it, a room is not recreational without women. Notwithstanding this, George persuades us that, out of respect for the recreational theme of the room, we should play one quick tune before we go. I tell George that we should save time by playing after we've gone, but Juan starts playing the piano, so I inflate my bagpipes, Rory bangs his head on the bookcase, and we belt out a loud, lively, rendition of 'Mòrag á Dùnbheagain'.

It sounds dreadful. I blame Juan because his piano must be out of tune. But he plays 'The Skye Boat Song', and it sounds wonderful, everyone joins in with the chorus and bursts into tears at the end. Juan says that my bagpipes are out of tune, but when I play 'The Day is Ended' and 'The Herding Song', it is so enchanting that everyone starts bleating and falls asleep.

I wake everyone up with a fast, loud, rendition of 'The Pride of Scotland' and declare that my bagpipes are perfectly in tune. Albert reminds us that, because the bagpipes are Scottish, they are tuned to a Scottish scale, but the piano is Viennese, so it is tuned to a Viennese scale; because the scales are harmonically incompatible, when the piano and the bagpipes play together, they sound horrible. I tell Juan to tune the piano to the bagpipes. Juan says he can't, because he doesn't have a piano tuning wrench. George says that Juan should not tune the piano as tuning a piano is very difficult, especially with an old and valuable piano, and we should get a professional piano-tuner to tune it. Juan says that tuning a piano is easy, it is only involves turning little pegs with a special wrench, but he hasn't got that wrench, so he can't tune the piano anyway.

George says that if the piano isn't tuned by a professional, it might be damaged and, if Juan touches it, it will certainly be damaged. Juan bangs the piano with bottle of Tennessee Whiskey, and shouts that he can't tune the piano because he doesn't have the right wrench, and if he did have one, he would not damage the piano, but he doesn't have one, so it doesn't matter. Albert agrees with George. He says that it takes years to learn the skill of piano tuning, only an expert would attempt to tune such a valuable piano, and Juan can't possibly be an expert anything that requires skill. Juan slams a bottle of Southern Comfort on to the piano keys and yells that it doesn't take an expert to tune a piano, it is easy, all blind people tune pianos all the time, so you don't even need to see a piano to tune a piano, he could tune a piano with his eyes closed, but he needs a special tool, a piano-tuning wrench, and he doesn't have one, so he can't tune the piano.

George says that Juan is insulting blind people because he is implying that the things that blind people do are easy. Juan says that he is not insulting blind people, in fact, he can personally vouch for the fact that 'Bendy' Wendy, from Bootle, is as blind as an eyeless eel, and twice as flexible, so she can do things that would be difficult for most people, even if they had perfect sight. I tell Juan that we don't have time to listen to his stupid excuses so he should stop babbling and tune the piano.

Albert tells Juan to stop using a broken bottle to carve his name on the the piano. I tell Albert that Juan is sulking, so we should ignore him. Juan slams the piano lid up and down, shouting that he isn't sulking. I tell Albert that Juan is just throwing a tantrum because he wants attention. Juan, pounding the top of the piano with a bottle of Willett Family Reserve bellows that he is not having a tantrum. George yells at him to stop hitting the piano. I tell Juan that all this recreation is making me thirsty so a quick recreational would be in order and, if he is not going to tune the piano, he should do something useful instead, and find something to drink. In the recreation room of an agency club, this is an easy, mindless, task, perfect for Juan. He tears a panel from the piano, then, blindly swinging it around his head and howling the Black Watch war cry, he charges toward a bookcase. George shouts at Juan, telling him to stop smashing up the furniture.

To the sound of banging and splintering, I tell George not to worry, the piano is a double, reversible, piano, when the top becomes stained or damaged, all you have to do is change one or two panels, to keep the engravings the right way up, then turn the piano upside down. The bookcase, I assure George, is, in fact, a cleverly disguised whisky cabinet. The books are false books, empty wooden boxes, designed to hold rare bottles of vintage single malt. The priceless bottles are entirely safe, I explain, because the boxes are designed to look like poetry books, so nobody ever touches them.

Juan returns, bearing bottles of Vintage Knockando, Dalmore, Teaninich, and Balvenie Private Reserve, we offer toast after toast to international harmony, I play the Aberfeldy Waltz, Juan plays the Viennese Fling, and we reel around in excited, cacophonous, confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary