Professor Humperdink III
Tam shows us a picture from a society magazine. I glance at the picture and tell Tam that it’s Mary, just before performing a fundraising charity fan dance. Tam is shocked and says that he doesn’t believe that such an important person would perform an exotic dance. I tell Tam he is quite right, Mary is a serious student of dance and would never do anything immodest, she comports herself with the utmost decorum at all times; even though the dance is quite energetic and, even when when she taken off all her clothes and is doing back-flips across the stage, she keeps her tiara on and presents herself elegantly and with the dignity befitting her position. Tam is looking at me as if I am talking nonsense and Juan says I am talking nonsense, in fact, he tells Tam, Mary takes her tiara off and twirls it around the fan which she folds up and spins while singing Rule Britannia and doing the splits. I tell Tam that this is purely to demonstrate that she an accomplished musician, sportswoman, acrobat and patriot who, graciously, incorporates circus tricks into her dance in order to enliven the deadly dull lives of her fellow aristocrats.
Tam yells that we are being ridiculous, no member of royalty would do such a thing. Bev says that Mary isn’t royalty, Tam says that she is royalty because she is a princess, and you can’t have an unroyal princess. Bev says that we have our Mary’s confused and the Mary I am talking about is the Right Honourable Mrs Wilfred Lawson. I point out that I said so all along. Juan says I didn’t and adds that Wilfred is a strange name for an exotic dancer, Bev says that her real name is Mary, Wilfred is Mrs Lawson’s husband’s name. Juan says that Mary Wilfred is a peculiar name for a man.
I can’t stand listening to this drivel any longer and, to stop the conversation, call for a crate of Tamnavulin Private Reserve for us and a pint of real ale for all the real ale enthusiasts. There’s a lot of cheering, we offer toast after toast to Mary and all her fans, I grab a hunting horn from the wall of the pub and play ‘The Valiant Fox Hunter’ and ‘Hunting the Savage Fox’ as, singing and yelling in excitement, we dance around the pub in exuberant confusion, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Bursting through the door of the Fox and Hounds, we immediately notice that it is a very popular and busy pub and I can see that we might have to wait a few moments before being served. The customers in the Fox and Hounds are very polite and they swiftly get out of our way as, shouting apologies and yelling that it is an emergency, we kick and punch our way through the crowd, shouting that we are sorry about the door but we will pay for a new one.
At the bar, I am delighted to see Bev, the owner of the pub and one of our top agents. She tells us that her friends, Molly Malone, from the Naked Man, and Mickey Finn, from the Man in the Moon, said that we were in the area, so she has been expecting us. I order beer for everyone, as an apology for the damage, disruption and injuries we may have caused, and a crate of Teaninich Private reserve and, on Bev’s recommendation, seven plates of fish and chips with homemade tartare sauce and pea puree, with extra fish, chips, tartare sauce and pea puree, nine steak and ale pies, with extra ale, steak and pie, twelve Swaledale sausage rings with creamy chive mash with real ale gravy, with added real ale, and extra mash, sausage, rings, and gravy, nineteen servings of smoky bacon and poached egg with baked flat cap mushrooms and black pudding, with double mushrooms, pudding, bacon and poached egg, for Fatty, and a plate of battered gherkins for the rest of us.
Five minutes later, just as we are starting on a new crate of Teaninich, Tam runs into the bar to report that he saw a train. Relaxing in a very friendly pub, with a choice of the best real ales in the county and a crate of vintage single malt in front of us, we aren’t interested in Tam and his peculiar obsession with trains, but Tam insists on telling us that the train he saw was the East Coast Scottish Express, hauled by N.E.R. “V” class Atlantic, climbing Benton Bank, near Newcastle, and he looks at us as if this means something. Juan tells him to sit down, have a drink and a gherkin and shut up. Tam shouts that we don’t understand, the East Coast railway line doesn’t go anywhere near Bramhope and Bramhope isn’t even close to Benton Bank, which means we must be in the wrong place.
As we are in a very pleasant pub with a convivial atmosphere, delicious food and a fabulous selection of alcoholic beverages, it is obvious and very easy to understand that, whatever Tam thinks, we are in precisely the right place; everyone agrees and, raising our glasses, we offer toast after toast to Bev and her wonderful pub, I order more whisky and ale for everyone, Juan inflates his bagpipes and plays ‘Hunting the Lowlander’ ‘Set the Hounds on the Sassenach’ and other brutal Highland hunting songs, while I lead the dancing as we all charge hysterically around the Fox and Hounds as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
I recover consciousness and ask Tam to explain why everything is rattling from side to side, shaking, and covered in soot. He says that we are on the Newcastle-Leeds Express, L.N.E.R., headed by Class “C7” 4-4-2 locomotive number 733, entering the Bramhope Tunnel. I tell Tam that for someone to know that much detail about a train isn’t healthy, but knowing we are travelling on British public transport does explain the filth and noise and the reason we are skleuteringly behind schedule.
Seeing Juan slumped in a mound of soot-coated trash and vomit on the floor I kick him awake, looking around at the stinking filth and gagging on the toxic smoke that fills the carriage, Juan asks why we are on the Newcastle-Leeds Express. The train rocks so violently we have to crawl to the buffet carriage to buy some Scotch. Steam pours in through the dirty broken windows and the gaping cracks in the roof and floor, mixing with the ancient dirt and new soot to form a black sticky sludge that covers everything. Stinging, blinding acrid smoke follows the steam, I tell Juan to put his cigar out and we feel our way along the corridors, smash open stuck doors, clamber over heaps of bags and scared people, psychotic officials in uniform shout at us, two poodles attack us and two little old ladies stick knitting needles in us, to stop us strangling the stupid creatures.
A group of football supporters, realising that we know the way to the bar, start following us, another group of football supporters do the same thing, but, because of the rules of the game, which only the British understand, the second group can’t follow the first group, they have to be first to the bar. Juan says that, while he sympathises with both groups, the bar might have limited supplies so we mustn’t let either group get to the bar first, or second, then, shouting at me to start laying land-mines, he whips out a machine gun, I kick the gun out of his hands and yell at him that we are not in America now, he can’t just shoot anyone he wants without a licence. The train starts juddering up down and shaking, the cracks get bigger, the engine roars and belches great tongues of flame which rip through the carriages and the football supporters, which solves the problem.
The brakes shriek, so do the passengers as we crash to a sudden halt in a pandemonium of crunching metal and terrified people, Fatty shouts that somebody must have pulled the emergency cord but Tam yells back saying that nobody pulled the cord, like everything made in Britain, it doesn’t work, British trains always stop like this, we are just stopping at Bramhope to let some passengers off and we will be on our way shortly. Reassured, we fight through the maddened and confused passengers to the buffet bar where we convince the stupid, hostile, barman to sell us some whisky.
It is an article of faith that, ultimately, there is no such thing as a bad whisky, however, our faith is nearly shattered by the disgusting drink the slovenly barman reluctantly serves us; before we beat up the barman, Tam says that we can’t complain, this is British Rail whisky, which is to real whisky as the British rail service is to a real train service, there is no comparison. The train suddenly jolts forwards and we all fall over, then it stops and reverses, we roll around the floor listening to people shouting and the broken doors falling off their hinges as frantic passengers, urged on by a meglomaniac officials yelling incomprehensible gibberish into megaphones, struggle to get on or off, or to retrieve their children from under the train. Fatty, reaching desperately for a falling sandwich, rolls out of the train door, we all leap out to help him but, before we can push him back into the carriage, the train suddenly accelerates away; belching poisonous smoke and toxic steam; blasting its horn and swaying and creaking, with bits falling off it, the filthy thing disappears into the distance leaving a trail of choking acid smog drifting across the landscape.
When we have partly recovered from the various skin and respiratory ailments that afflict us, Tam says that, now, we will have to wait for another train and it might be a long wait. In Britain, travelling by train is miserable and waiting for a train is genuinely depressing, to cheer ourselves up, we tell Tam that we are going to wait in a pub and that he should come and tell us when a train comes. We expect Tam to tell us to get lost and that he is coming to the pub with us and is not going to stay and wait for a stupid train, but, strangely, he says that he doesn’t mind because he likes trains, he likes the romance of the railway, in fact, he adds, he likes railways so much that he has a note-book and he used to write down the times and details of trains, nowadays he is a bit short sighted so he can’t see the numbers on the trains so he takes notes about the railway tracks instead, the advantage to this, Tam enthusiastically explains, is that you have to wait for a train, sometimes for a long time, but you don’t have to wait for the tracks, they are already there, or should be. I tell Juan that we need to talk about Tam.
Fatty says that the Fox and Hounds is close by and has a fabulous selection of cask ales and serves wonderful meals. This is very good news as Fatty’s word on the subject of pubs, beer, and food is unquestionable and, suddenly dehydrated by our train journey, desperate for good food and cask ale, yelling and cheering with excitement, we head for the Fox and Hounds, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Frantic with haste, running past the Green Man and Still, Fatty remarks that it is a pub that, for hundreds of years, has epitomised all that is the very best in traditional British culture and pub food and, if we can’t spare two minutes to pop inside and have a quick look round, then what are we fighting for? I point out that we aren’t fighting, but we are sloungeshly behind schedule, and can’t afford even the slightest delay, however, Fatty is correct, to pass by such a venerable institute without making the effort to experience the ambience for a moment would be an educationally criminal act.
In the bar, Juan order crates of Vintage Tulibardine Special Reserve and thirty two pub lunches for Fatty. Tam shows us a picture in a society magazine and tells us that it was this picture that alerted his suspicions. He explains that the picture was taken in the drawing room in Windsor Castle, he happens to know that the drawing room is decorated with many valuable ornaments, but, in the photograph, the room is bare. I tell Tam that it isn’t suspicious, aristocrats purloin everything that isn’t nailed down, a party of aristocrats can empty a room of ornaments in seconds.
We look at the picture and comment on the Teutonic princess in the front row with the rabbit on her head, the Italian Duchess with a pointed nose and scary eyes, the vodka-soaked Russian Grand Duchess, winking at the cameraman, the Siamese twins, a fat man holding on to his wallet and the dwarf. I tell Tam that the Princess Royal’s see-through blouse is a bold fashion statement, Juan agrees, adding, unnecessarily, that her magnificent, thrusting, breasts set it off to perfection, George tells Tam that to see the Queen of Spain eating an Italian duchess’s hat while balancing a dead cat on her head is unusual but doesn’t prove anything, I agree with George, adding that the Queen of Norway’s moustache is striking and the German Emperor looks unusually pretty, but that, I remind Tam, is not evidence of any wrongdoing.
Tam says that we are idiots, we have got the people all wrong, if we want to know who the people are we should read the caption below the photograph. Nobody wants to know or shows any interest in reading the caption so Tam, despite us shouting at him that we don’t care and not to do it, reads the caption out loud: “Eight of the leading European sovereigns in the drawing room at Windsor castle. This remarkable photograph was taken during the festivities arranged to mark the state visit of the German Emperor to England in 1907. Many of the royalties present were in England to attend the wedding of Prince Charles of Bourbon and Princess Louise of Orleans at Wood Norton on November 16th. Reading from left to right are, standing: Princess Royal, (Duchess of Fife), Duke of Connaught, Queen of Norway, Prince Olaf, German Emperor, Princess of Wales, Princess Patricia of Connaught, Prince of Wales, King of Spain, German Empress, Prince Arthur of Connaught, Queen Alexandra, Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia, Queen of Spain, Duchess of Connaught, Princess Victoria of Great Britain and Prince Johann of Saxony. Seated in the front row are: King Edward, Infanta Isabella, Princess Henry of Battenberg, Grand Duchess Vladimir, Queen of Portugal, Duchess of Aosta and Princess Johann of Saxony.”
This is all so dull and pointless that, by the time he finishes, we are so bored that we have lost the will to live and, to recover, have to order crates of vintage Inchgower Special Reserve, and bourbon and beer for everyone in need. Tam suggests a song appropriate to the true British atmosphere of the place and we all sing ‘God Save the Queen’ at the top of our voices, Tam reminds us that we are in Britain and Britain is a kingdom, so it must have a king, we aren’t sure he is right but, to be on the safe side, we sing ‘God Save the King’, then Tam says that, if the king is married, then there will be a queen as well, so we sing ‘God save the King and Queen’ then, in case the monarch is single we sing ‘God Save the King or Queen’, this is a lot of fun but possibly not a good idea in what turns out to be an Irish Republican pub.
We are attacked on all sides, there is an extended brawl, some shooting, an explosion or two, Tam is alarmed but I explain that this is normal in an Irish pub of any denomination. I fight my way to the bar and order a bottle of the best Irish whisky for everyone, to calm everything down. In the few seconds of amazed silence before everyone starts cheering as they get their whisky, I apologise to everybody for Tam’s stupid and offensive behavior and offer toast after toast to the revered memory of Saint Patrick or King Muirecan or whoever it was who started whatever it is that generations of our Irish friends have enjoyed fighting about. Then, demonstrating our solidarity with our valiant colleagues by firing our weapons into the ceiling, the walls, the floor, random strangers and each other, cursing our oppressors and singing wild rebel songs, we link arms with our heroic comrades-in-arms and stagger around in riotous circles, as fast as we possibly can.
Taking a corner at high speed, we are surprised to see a pub sign advertising The Naked Man. Fatty says that, as we are here and, as civilized gentlemen, it is our cultural imperative to find out more about this unique pub with its startling name, award winning fish and world renowned chips, a higher intellectual calling, Fatty expounds, rubbing his belly and belching, that we are duty bound not to ignore. I remind everyone that there is no greater imperative or any calling higher than our mission, we are ruchishly behind schedule and to stop for any reason would be disastrous, nonetheless, Fatty is right, The Naked Man is a historic pub with great local significance and we would regret it if we failed to learn more about this ancient temple of community spirit and alcohol fuelled entertainment and its very unusual sign.
In the bar, the proprietor, Molly Malone, says that, actually, she is very embarrassed about the sign, she says that the sign and it’s symbolism does not reflect the sort of image she wants for her pub. If a pub is called The Naked Man, she says, the least customers should expect is a naked man, which she can’t guarantee, so they are often disappointed, and having disappointed customers is embarrassing for any publican. I tell Molly that, if anyone bothered to look, they would see that the picture on the sign is of man wearing some clothes, he isn’t naked, so observant people won’t be disappointed, and illiterate people who can’t read the name of the pub won’t be disappointed and blind people who can’t see the sign or the pub won’t be disappointed either, so she shouldn’t be embarrassed.
Fatty orders twenty nine plates of fish and chips and Juan orders a dozen bottles of vintage Edradour Private Reserve. Molly asks us about the unconscious man we dragged in off the street, I tell Molly that his name is Rory and we are teaching him to fall and to be pulled behind a horse, and I kick him awake. When he asks where he is and Molly tells him the name of the pub, Rory looks embarrassed. I tell Molly that Rory is a modest, shy sort of person, and very immature, like all Englishmen, he isn’t comfortable with nudity or references to nudity, which is why he didn’t think it was funny when we gave him a hairless cat for his birthday, and he didn’t think it was hilarious that we insisted on calling the cat ‘Fluffy’ and regularly gave Rory combs and cat grooming accoutrement. Juan says that, to be fair, we did give anti-baldness ointment to the cat. I remind Juan that we didn’t, we meant to, but we couldn’t be bothered and didn’t want to waste money on the stuff, but we did use a natural anti-baldness urine remedy which was easy and free, but although we sprayed the cat thoroughly, it didn’t work, the cat didn’t like it, it still doesn’t have hair and, for months, it stank like a dirty urinal.
Molly tells Rory that, as I had pointed out, the naked man on the sign is not actually naked, so he shouldn’t blush when she says ‘naked man’, although, she adds, if there was one, then the whole problem would be resolved. I tell Molly that Fatty often takes his clothes off before eating, to allow for expansion, but customers would not enjoy the sight, on the other hand, I observe, when Rory joins the hunt and falls from the horse and, helplessly entangled in the reins, is being dragged behind the horse over stony ground, the sharp rocks will rip all his clothes off and, when the ladies from the hunt catch up with him, he will be too badly injured and too tangled up in the reins to cover himself adequately and he will be the object of malicious hilarity and merciless ridicule.
When Rory shouts that nothing like that will happen because he isn’t going to ride a horse or fall off a horse or have his clothes torn off or anything and we must be mad to think that he would do such a stupid thing, it is obvious that he needs more preparation and he will be grateful for another lesson, that is why, as we explain to Rory later, when he isn’t as appreciative as he should have been, we tied him up, tore his clothes off and threw him onto the street. It doesn’t, I admit, explain why we spent a long time peering out of the pub window, giggling like stupid children. But, in our defence, it was tremendous fun to see the reaction of the group of nuns, who are interested, and the Woman’s Institute tour group who stop and start selling tea and cakes to onlookers, the West Indian family who point and laugh in astonishment and derision and make signs to each other indicating something impossibly small, the savage feral cat, the peculiar old woman with shaky hands and a cup of scalding coffee, the three school-girls with a cruel sense of humour and some honey, the strange old man with a camera, a drunken tattooist, swarms of blood-sucking stinging insects and lots of bees, a gang of football supporters, a man with a bucket of pink paint, several policemen and a police dog who, it turns out, really likes pink paint, blood and honey.
After the police beat the sticky, bloody, pink coloured dog into unconsciousness and take Rory away, screaming, we all agree that, although Rory did not handle himself very well, we think he may improve with practice and, overall, that this has been a very valuable character building lesson in public humiliation for Rory, for which we congratulate ourselves. As a bonus, Rory’s lesson acts as an authentic advertisement for the pub and attracts a lot of customers. To celebrate, Juan orders crates of Vintage Knockdhu Founder’s Reserve and beer for everyone who needs it then, drinking toast after toast to Molly and her fabulous pub with its fascinating name, which we can’t quite remember, we fall out into the street and, singing crude songs at the top of our voices and tearing our clothes off in excitement, we stagger around in naked bewilderment, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Dashing down Vine Street. Fatty says that, as we are on Vine Street, it would be culturally delinquent not to call into the famed Vine Street pub, the Man in the Moon, find out more about this legendary pub and have one of its famous traditional lunches. I tell Fatty that you can’t have one lunches, it doesn’t make sense, Fatty agrees and says that he will order many lunches instead of one, this makes sense, but we are on a desperately urgent mission and can’t stop for any purpose, already we have been seriously hindered by pulling Rory and any further delay would have irredeemably serious consequences. However, Fatty is quite right, to pass by the Man in the Moon and not to learn more about its very interesting name would be utterly reprehensible,
In the bar, we find that the proprietor, Mickey Finn, is a very friendly and helpful and he is happy to tell us about the intriguing history of the Man in the Moon, to help us concentrate on Mickey’s absorbing tale, Juan orders a crate of Scapa Special Reserve, ale for everybody who wants it, twenty six lunches and some peanuts. We offer a toast to Mickey and his wonderful pub and share the peanuts out between ourselves while Fatty tucks into the food.
Seeing Rory lying on the floor, I remember his existence and kick him until he regains consciousness and starts moaning. I tell him to pull himself together and stop bleeding and remind him that, very soon, he will be going on a hunt and he will have to ride a horse but, as he can’t ride a horse, he will be thrown off or fall off and, because he doesn’t know what he is doing, he will get his legs entangled in the reins and be dragged by his feet for a very long way at high speed over bumpy ground, then, when the horse does eventually stop, it will kick him and stamp on him, which is why, to prepare him for this, we just pulled him by his ankles along long cobbled streets and gave him a good kicking, so he should be grateful for the lessons and stop complaining.
George says that, at least, Rory is pretending to behave like a proper English person who thinks that complaining about a problem fixes the problem. Juan says that that is because they are all stupid and lazy, but I point out that, to be fair, normally, when they complain about something, somebody else fixes it, so complaining can be a good, even a noble thing to do. Rory interrupts us by groaning and complaining about broken ribs or some trivia, I tell him to shut up and remind him that, in the hunting society, he will be expected to at least pretend to be a man, and to prove it, when he thrown from a horse and dragged backwards through hedges and walls, the first thing he has to do is get back up on the horse, pretend nothing happened and whistle a cheery tune, to prove that he is having a great day. Rory shouts that he is English, and a man, and he doesn’t have to prove it, and he can’t ride a horse so he isn’t going to ride a horse, so he won’t fall off a horse, so he won't be dragged behind a horse and he can’t whistle. We ignore him and order more Scotch.
Rory won’t stop complaining, saying that he wanted to become a secret agent because he thought it would be a good thing to do, but it’s not. I tell Rory that, if I could, I would tell him a secret, then he will feel like a secret agent, furtive and sneaky and scared, if that would help him, but I don’t know any secrets. Fatty says that he knows the secret of quickly cooking a perfect haggis and Juan says he knows the secret of making Australian wine taste palatable, Rory says they are stupid secrets. I tell Rory that he won’t think they are stupid when he is Australia and suddenly wants a really good haggis with wine that doesn’t taste like the fermented gastric juices found in the rotting intestines of a long dead cat. George says that, like me, he doesn’t know anything secret, so he can’t help. Tam says he can help because he knows lots of secrets and he explains that, when he was a priest, lots of people confessed lots of fascinating and secret things to him, for example, Lady Frances Eliza Greenall confessed to being the author of the scandalous ‘Miss Whippy’ books. Rory is horrified and tells Tam that it is utterly wrong to reveal the secrets of the confessional. Juan says that there’s nothing wrong with the ‘Miss Whippy’ books, ‘Confessions of Miss Whippy’ is a great read and ‘Miss Whippy and the Pantry Maid’ is a classic. I tell Juan to shut his mouth. Tam says that Lady Frances didn’t tell him this while giving confession, she told him at a cocktail party when she was blind drunk.
Rory shouts that he doesn’t know what anybody is talking about, Fatty calms him down by knocking him unconscious, then, ordering a few bottles of Aberfeldy Private Reserve, for the road, we drink toast after toast to Mickey Finn, our wonderful proprietor, from whom we have learned so much about whatever pub this is, then, dragging Rory behind us, shouting our appreciation, singing obscene songs and being sick, we stumble around in confusion, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Rushing along Drury Lane, we see the pub signboard for the Whistling Oyster. We are appallingly behind schedule and to stop for any reason would be calamitous, but the Whistling Oyster is such a curious name for a pub that, if we just ignored it and didn’t learn more about it, we would always be puzzled about it, which would be irritating, to avoid the irritation of perpetual ignorance we dive into the pub and order a dozen bottles of Vintage Glencadam Special Reserve and ale for everybody, the barman starts to tell us the extraordinary tale behind the name of the pub, after two or three seconds Fatty says that it is very interesting but, first, he needs something to eat, he asks the barman to whistle up some oysters and we sit down to enjoy the wonderful Glencadam and chat about Rory insinuating himself into hunting society and how he should do it without attracting too much attention.
George says that Russians are interesting, so Rory can’t pretend to be Russian, I agree and add that Rory can’t be Polish either, because he is weak, and he can’t be Bulgarian or German because he is lazy and doesn’t like work, he doesn’t hate the English, so he can’t be Scottish, and he can’t be Irish for the same reason, he is a terrible lover and he can’t cook, so he can’t be French, but he isn’t particularly greasy, so he can’t be Greek. Fatty says that Rory can’t be a North American because he is doesn’t eat enough, he is too quiet and doesn’t like shooting people, and he isn’t rampantly promiscuous, so he can’t be South American. Albert says that, because Rory has no discernible personality, he would be a good Australian but, as Tam reminds us, Rory is also slightly effeminate, bland, insipid and only talks about trivia, so we decide that Rory should be English.
This is a good decision and, to celebrate, we order another crate of vintage single malt and more ale and talk about where in England Rory might come from, I point out that, on the rare occasions when he is partly sober, Rory can express himself clearly and sometimes he is quite clean, so he can’t come from Nottingham or Hull. Juan says that Rory can speak his own language, which means he isn’t Welsh, but he doesn’t have a sense of humour so he can’t say he comes from Liverpool, because you need a sense of humour to live in Liverpool. George reminds us that Rory does not have extremely serious learning difficulties so he doesn’t come from Essex, George says that Rory does not need to urgently cut down on his medication, so he isn’t Cornish, Tam adds that Rory is dull, out of touch, somewhat backward, lives on the periphery of things, and thinks that Manchester is a city of culture, which means that he doesn’t live in London and, obviously, has never been to Manchester. In the end, we decide that he Rory should say that he comes from Birmingham, nobody has any interest in Birmingham so nobody will ask him anything about the place, and, if they do, there’s nothing to know anyway, so all Rory has to do is stare vacantly into the air, which he is naturally good at.
This is another good decision, to celebrate, we buy a crate of vintage Brackla Private Reserve and more ale, then, drinking toast after toast to the pub’s fantastic barman and the extraordinary story behind the pub’s name, whatever it was, we stagger out onto the street and, whistling the Oyster Fisherman’s Jig, we rock back and forwards and sway from side to side, getting our bearings, then jig frantically along Drury Lane, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
Running along Angel Street, seeing two signboards outside the Bull and Mouth, we all agree that, although we are oanshachishly behind schedule and can’t stop for any reason, the Bull and Mouth is a traditional pub, steeped in local history and it would be it would be disrespectful and a dereliction of duty if we didn’t take the opportunity to learn more about this historic building and its two interesting signboards. In the pub, the barman tells us that he is very proud of the signboards and he starts to tell us about how the place came to be named the Bull and Mouth and the history of the signboards, but all history is pointless and too dull to listen to; as Juan says, when he meets at a beautiful woman, he doesn’t care about her history, and everything is like that, so we ignore the barman’s boring story and order a dozen bottles Glen Moray Special Reserve and beers all round.
I notice my old friend, Reverend Tam MacTavish, slumped over a table, I slap him awake, he looks dizzy and confused and says that he feels sick. I introduce him to everyone, telling them that, unusually for a MacTavish, he isn’t as stupid as he looks, and give him a bottle of Tullibardine, to make him feel better. Tam says that he isn’t a reverend any more and explains that, after the problem with the piranhas in the font and a few other unfortunate incidents, he was thrown out of the church, so he became a detective.
Tam is interrupted by the sound of a table breaking, Juan laughing, and Rory shouting in pain and fear. I tell Tam that Rory can’t ride a horse and we don’t have a horse, but, soon, he is going hunting on a horse, a horse can throw someone in lots of different ways, so Juan is teaching Rory how to be thrown in lots of different ways, without a horse. As I say this, Juan gets Rory in a three-quarter nelson and slams Rory’s head on the ground. I tell Tam that this is to teach Rory always to wear a hard hat when being thrown.
Tam is worried that Rory might get hurt and says that Juan’s teaching methods are dangerous. I tell Tam not to worry, Juan and Rory are only wrestling, wrestling holds and moves are carefully designed to be wholly safe, wrestling isn’t a sport, it’s a spectacle, like poodle-juggling, nobody actually gets hurt, except the occasional poodle, and I show Tam diagrams of the wrestling moves that Juan is demonstrating and we watch with interest as Juan grabs Rory in a side-chancery and slams him against the wall. I tell Tam that this teaches Rory that, when he is thrown from a horse, before he hits the ground, he might hit something solid like a tree or a wall, so he should be prepared.
Tam shows me a photograph and tells us that he is investigating a suspicious incident involving the ladies’ hunt and that this is one of his suspects. I look at the picture and tell Tam that there must be some mistake, it’s Roxane, I know her, it is true that she is a very unpleasant and dangerous character, but, nonetheless, I think she is unlikely to actually break the law. He says it isn’t Roxane, it is Miss Ethel Talbot, I tell him that I don't know Ethel Talbot, she might be a dangerous criminal, but this is Roxane and she definitely isn’t a criminal, unless you count kicking a man to death as a crime. Tam looks shocked and says that, of course, kicking a man to death is a crime, a terrible crime, but her name isn’t Roxane, it is Ethel, and she hasn’t done anything as awful as kick someone to death, it is ridiculous to think that she would, or could, I tell Tam that I’m not talking about Ethel because I don’t know her, I’m talking about Roxane, who I do know, and I know that she will kick anyone, in fact, she recently stamped a groom to death and she is responsible for a lot of other serious injuries; she is, I explain, very strong, violent, stupid, has a vicious temper, and can kick equally well with any one of her four legs, but she isn’t a criminal. Tam says that sounds like Ethel Talbot but Ethel is called Ethel and not Roxane and only kicks servants, small animals and poor people, and she doesn’t have four legs.
We are interrupted by Juan throwing Rory out of the window. We pay the barman for the broken window, the smashed furniture and the broken bottles and glasses, clean up the mess and scrub blood from the floor and walls, then, to help us recover from our exertions, we buy a crate of of vintage Balvenie Private Reserve and more beers, then, drinking toast after toast to the knowledgeable barman, the wonderful history of the area, and all the fascinating things we have learned about the Bull and Mouth, we stumble out of the pub and, singing and shouting with excitement, we stagger up and down Angel Street, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary
On the way to Aberfeldy; imbecilically behind schedule, needing fast horses, we call in on our old friend, Captain Gordon McClellan, he tells us that he can’t help us as his Cavalry unit still doesn’t have any fast horses, or any real horses at all, they only have relatively slow wooden horses, this is because real horses are expensive, messy, big, and can be dangerous, and he doesn’t like them, in fact, he says, he and all his troops are terrified of the animals, but, he says proudly, with all the wooden horse training they do, the next time there’s a battle with wooden horses, his unit will definitely win. However, Gordon says, a Cavalry general has asked Gordon to provide a horse to go hunting on, so, at the moment, Gordon does need a real horse.
I tell Gordon that, if he needs a horse, he should buy one, Gordon says that he doesn’t have any money. I tell him that the Cavalry normally pay for their horses, Gordon says that they did give him money to buy horses, but he didn’t get horses, he invested the money instead. Albert says that was probably unwise; normally, nobody agrees with Albert, or can understand anything he says, however, on this occasion, we think Albert is right, in fact, we add that Gordon must be incredibly stupid. But Gordon says that, while horselessness may be seen as a problem for a Cavalry unit, and the general who wants a hunting horse will be probably be cross when he is given a wooden horse instead of a real horse, but, on balance, the investment was not unwise, in fact he thinks that it was singularly brilliant; his Cavalry unit, he admits, may not have any real horses but, Gordon tells us, he invested the horse money in vintage single malt Scotch whisky, and has a fabulous selection in the regimental bar. We go there immediately, praising Gordon’s financial wisdom and loudly criticising Albert for being German and always being wrong about everything.
Juan says that, as Gordon needs a horse, we should get one for him. I say that that is a good idea and tell Rory to go and get a horse. Rory complains at being ordered around, but I remind him that he is always complaining that nobody trusts him to do anything important, except surgery, but right now we don’t need a surgeon, we need a horse, and it’s important, so get one. Rory says that he doesn’t have any money so he can’t afford a horse. Juan says that Rory could take hard cash. I throw Rory my kitbag and tell him he might find a few pennies, and pennies are hard. Rory says a few coins aren’t any good, he will need thousands of guineas for a good horse. I tell Rory he could get a bad horse but, for what use they are, there are thousands of Scottish one hundred pound notes in the bag, but nobody believes they are legal tender outside Scotland, and even the Scottish have their doubts, although not enough doubts to leave one lying on the pavement, or in someone’s pocket, if they saw it, but I don’t have any guineas.
Juan says that he didn’t mean ‘hard cash’ he meant ‘Hardcash’, the horse. I tell Rory that, even though Juan said it, it is a good idea and I was about to suggest the same thing, Dorothy Chandos-Pole says that Hardcash is the best horse she has ridden so, I explain to Rory, he must ingratiate himself into her ‘country set’ and join the hunt with Dorothy and her friends, that way they will trust him. Rory doesn’t want to ingratiate himself because he says it’s sneaky, and he wants to know why he has to join a hunt to prove that he is honest, as long as he buys the horse properly, he insists, they have no reason to doubt his honesty and, he adds, he hates hunting and he definitely does not want to chase a fox. I tell him that that isn’t a problem because, as Juan has already said, he should take Hardcash, and taking is free, so he won’t need any cash, hard or otherwise, and foxes aren’t dangerous and, I remind him, he will have a large pack of hounds to protect him, so he will be safe.
Rory has further objections but we ignore him because, just then, Gordon brings out barrels of The Macallan, Bummahabhainn, and a dozen bottles of Vintage Aberfeldy Private Reserve. We celebrate by drinking toast after toast to Rory’s success, a good horse and Gordon’s brilliant investment then, cheering, yelling, and singing ‘The Hunt is Up’ and ‘A-Hunting We Will Go’ at the top of our voices, we gallop around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink's Diary