Written by Erskin Quint
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Monday, 5 April 2010

image for Interview with the Colonel. No. 24 in an Endless Series

So, Colonel Synge. We were going to talk about your time with the Drambuie Lowlanders.

Were we? I didn't know that.

Yes. You remember. We spoke about it the last time I saw you. And we've also written. And we spoke on the telephone last Tuesday, to arrange this meeting.

I'm not, you know.

Sorry Colonel?

I'm not what you think.

I, I don't understand. What do you think I think?

You think I'm a decrepit idiot.

Now Colonel, I.......

Highlanders.

Pardon?

I was with the Drambuie Highlanders. Not Lowlanders, as you said. So I never agreed to talk about the Drambuie Lowlanders. Wouldn't be any point. You see...

Yes. I get it now. I'm sorry. I was wrong. You weren't in the Lowland regiment, so there wouldn't be any point in talking about that.

Ah, but you haven't quite got it yet, though.

What?

Not it all.

Why? What do you mean?

Well, I'm afraid that, not only was I not in the Drambuie Lowlanders, but nobody else was either. You see, they don't exist. Never have.

Ah.

Quite.

Right. As I said, I'm sorry. I...

Might as well have said that we'd arranged to talk of my time in the Royal Wexford Fusiliers, or the 3rd Welsh Horse, or the Chitipatchee Lights, or the 21st Heavy Dragoons, or Himperton's Grenadiers, or the Ballybuttle Volunteers, or the 23rd Gumperton Buffs....

Yes, yes, Colonel, I do see your point.

Ah but do you? Do you?

Yes, of course, it's quite apparent...

Good grief, I'd better take more care. The last time that happened I got arrested. Forgot to do up the old flies at the Bishop of Ballybottom's wake. Caused quite a stir among the bog trotters. Thanks awfully for dropping the hint old horse.

Well, right...

Yes, well. He was a bit of a sailor, though, you know.

Who was?

Bishop of Ballybutton. Do try to keep up old chap.

Right. But...

Kept a coracle.

Oh.

And a speedboat.

What?

The running joke at the funeral was that this was the last wake he'd be making.

Sorry?

Not the best joke in the world, I'll grant you that.

Look, Colonel, do you think I could take us back to the old regiment?

Of course, old fruit. If you need to get back, off you pop. Don't let me keep you. Didn't realise you were in the Highlanders yourself.

No, I'm not in the Drambuie Highlanders Colonel, I'm...

What? You mean to say that you're an impostor? What? One of those bogus types! You blaggard! I've a mind to...

No, please, Colonel, that's not what I meant. I...

By gad, you swine! I haven't come across one of your sort since we found out about 'Gosling' Huxtable.

Who?

Huxtable. He was in cahoots with that blackguard 'Monkey Puzzle' Twelvetrees.

'Monkey Puzzle' Twelvetrees?

That's the rogue. He was a bogus major in the Earl of Thimblebury's 27th of Foot.

Why was he called 'Monkey Puzzle' Twelvetrees?

What? Because that was his name, you idiot!

Yes, I see that. But why 'Monkey Puzzle'?

We ran out of animals.

Sorry?

Ran out of animals to call these villains after, d'you see? We were already scraping the barrel by the time we got to 'Gosling' Huxtable. And when they started calling that bent padre 'Mudskipper' Lethbridge-Fubbler, why, we knew it was time to review our nicknaming protocols.

Good heavens. So you moved onto trees.

What?

You moved from animals to trees.

Trees? What the devil are you blethering about, you damned fool?

Trees for nicknames. 'Monkey Puzzle' being a tree.

A tree?

Yes, haven't you seen one. They're big and...

No, you cloth-eared nincompoop! We started naming these scoundrels after childhood toys and games.

Ah. So 'Monkey Puzzle' is a game you used to play?

Certainly not.

What? Oh, I give up. I can't follow you at all.

Of course you can't. If you try to follow me I'll have you arrested, like I did with that damned Chinese spy in Shanghai. Pretending to be a rickshaw boy with a limp he was. As if I wouldn't know a bogus limping rickshaw boy from a real one! I was married to one for 23 years you know.

You were married to a rickshaw boy?

How dare you. Retract that at once, or I'll have you struck off!

But you said...

I was married to a Chinese spy for 23 years. Tiger Lily was her operational name. Mavis Gunkerton was her real name. Do try to keep up, old goose.

Look, Colonel, please, I was asking about 'Monkey Puzzles'. You said you named 'Monkey Puzzle' Twelvetrees after a game you played as a child.

I said nothing of the sort.

But you did! You said...

I said, if you'd listen, you silly ass, I said that we named the blighter after childhood toys and games. I did not say that it was a game I played. It was 'Biffy' Pinkerton who had the 'Monkey Puzzle'. I could never stand the damned thing. It had a sinister picture of an organ-grinder with a monkey in a fez on the box. It gave me nightmares.

Oh, I didn't realise.

Didn't listen, laddie. Prick up your ears. Mind you, none of us would have dared say 'prick up your ears' to old 'Mudskipper' Lethbridge-Fubbler the side-saddle sky-pilot. He'd have taken us up in a flash. Flashing, of course, was what he was finally banged up for.

Flashing?

Oh yes, showing his credentials.

Credentials?

Particulars. Flashing them to the Major's wife.

Ah. I think I understand.

Doubt it very much, young feller. But no matter, as the sawbones, 'Hacksaw' Jinks, used to say when he came across a clean wound. Carry on, as Sgt. Major Blastard was always yelling.

Carry on?

That's the ticket. Carry on. You were just off to the old regiment. Let's see how far you get.

How far I get?

Yes. They soon saw through that other impostor 'Gosling' Huxtable you know. He didn't last long. Mind you, they did catch him in bed with Ferguson.

Ferguson? He was in bed with another soldier?

No, no. He wasn't a left-hander.

Then what...?

Ferguson was the regimental goat.

Oh.

So off you pop.

But...

No buts, old rabbit. Bugger off. I've had enough of this for now. Haven't been as bored since I had to hide inside a hollowed-out camel for 2 days with that tedious blighter 'coelacanth' Pomphrey during the siege of Aj-H'rar. Can you imagine - all he would talk about was bridge. And as for the stench!

The dead camel?

No, not the camel. 'Coelacanth' Pomphrey's after-shave. Yes the camel you half-wit!

Well, if you're going to be offensive, we may as well conclude, if that's what you want.

I certainly do, old octopus. Do let me know how you get on.

Get on?

Trying to pass of as a Highlander.

But I'm not...

I'll wager you a fiver that they get you straight away.

Look, I don't think...

Oh, if you haven't the stomach for a flutter then you'd best just run along my boy.

But...

Look. Just go, before I have you thrown out, you blaggard.

What?

Maundering! Maundering! Where's that damned butler! Maundering, chuck this rotter out will you!

Colonel! Colonel! Please! I'll just go if you want. There's no need for that.

Good riddance then.

Goodbye Colonel.

See you next week.

Sorry?

See you next week.

Will you?

I thought you wanted to talk about my time in the Drambuie Highlanders.

I did, but...

Then you'd better come back. And hopefully you'll concentrate on the subject in hand next time.

Me concentrate?

I know you find it difficult, but you must learn to keep to the topic. All this nonsense about trying to pass off as a Highlander! It just won't do.

Yes, Colonel. Anything you say.

That's the spirit. Now get out.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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