Members of the exclusive Threadbare Street Bogus Officers Club - the only club of its kind to admit bogus bishops and females - were held rapt last night, as eminent explorers and thespoof.com authors Victor Nicholas and Erskin Quint delivered a fascinating after-dinner lecture on their recent expedition to the Ufganufgwa Interior in search of the source of the Great Green Bumbogoola River of Eastern Nbomoland.
Nicholas, resplendent in his old carthusian braces, drank deeply from his glass of Joffreys Imperial 20-Year Old Port, before rising, falling back, and rising again, to open the account, while Quint, glass of Wellington's Reserve Boal 1958 always to hand, finished regaling Cecily Toothsome-Frith, the late Colonel's daughter, with tales of his youthful adventures in old Shanghai, drew deeply upon his ochre meerschaum, and settled back to hear his companion begin the address.
There was a significant pause - after Len Stubble the bogus serjeaunt-at-arms had performed the traditional introductory bugle fanfare - during which Nicholas swayed, silently, a few times (a manouevre afterwards likened by Quint to "the teetering of a rotten Pombi Tree in the teeth of a Swasiwari Zephyr"). But all too soon the great man steadied himself, and forged ahead.
Nicholas began by outlining the financial restrictions under which the expedition had laboured. It seems that he himself had had to sell his prized collection of "Oakhampton Blue" Posset-Pots to raise money, while Erskin Quint had travelled through Schleswig-Holstein lecturing on "The Sea-Ports of Hungary".
"The journey to Africa was a long one", he continued. "We had to work our passage aboard several vessels, including a French Bordello Steamer or "relief ship" named "La Poissonniere Syphilitique", upon which it was our misfortune to be "holed up" for a number of weeks. We emerged from the voyage exhausted, but happy.
"Passing through the Iberian Peninsula, we were disguised variously as donkey torturers, slumbering gluttons and strutting arrogant sadistic wife-abusers, in an effort to blend in with the locals. These impostures ill became us, though we were more at ease posing as sherry-tasters at Manzanilla de Sanlucar, a guise under which we were forced to remain for many days.
"However", continued Nicholas, "after this, we were soon in North Africa. In Tangier we hired a team of Berber Guides with camels, who I found at the docks, and was able to bribe with cigarettes and signed photographs of Fergus McCarthy. And so it was that, after Erskin had returned from a three-day sojourn in the Kasbah in search of opium, we made our way across the great deserts, into Mali. Here, Erskin's experiences in '67 with the Disappearing Blue Pigmies of the Yugaga-Wowo Sands proved invaluable, as did my own facility with the Touareg odili and gidga instruments."
A wry smile marked Nicholas' chiselled features, as he recounted: "I have never regretted the time I spent learning about Touareg culture at public school. They used to laugh at me at St Guinevere's. They were all out playing rugger and impregnating the daughters of the local peasantry, while I was practising the gidga, singing the tahengemmit, and memorising the constellations.
"This preparation served us well, as Erskin and I assumed the identities of Touareg herdsmen from the Imilliwillimillilillimillidan confederation of Northern Nigeria, who were heading back home after trading bald earless dinkii goats in Mali.
"So it was", quoth Nicholas, after a final quenching draught of Joffreys Imperial 20-Year Old, and a further bout of elegant swaying ("Victor is the most elegant swayer I have ever known", said Quint afterwards). "So indeed it was, that we crossed the Debateable Scrublands of the Hinti Hunti, where the Skeletal Bobwoowoo Trees rang with the cries of the Howling Yellow Linctus Monkeys and the Threadbare Nocturnal Lions of Tiski Taski slumbered in the midday heat.
"We left Nigeria and crossed the border into Eastern Nbomoland under cover of darkness. By daybreak, we were on the outskirts of the fabled city of Bimbo Bombo, whose pink and cream and yellow buildings glowed with an unearthly, nay, hellish beauty, beneath the stark and burning orb of the sun.
"Erskin had particularly wanted to visit Bimbo Bombo. He claimed that it would be an ideal staging-post, before we advanced into the Ufganufgwa Interior. He was also desirous of visiting the famous Octagonal Mud Cathedrals with their Somersaulting Priests, he said.
"He made no mention of the bangled Wobbli Wobbli leaping nubiles, or the devilish local ghuah huah beer, made from fermented noddi noddi fronds. These phenomena may never have crossed his mind when he was planning this part of the expedition. But let me not keep you, for it is time for my esteemed companion to take up the story."
With this, Victor Nicholas sat down, somewhat heavily. Almost immediately - for he had found himself in the lap of the Bogus Bishop of Mountblasket, he rose, and groped for his own chair.
As the applause died down, and the snoring of Colonel Horseblanket filled the fetid air, Erskin Quint raised his glass to Cecily Toothsome-Frith, called for a second bottle of Wellington's Reserve Boal 1958, and took up the extraordinary story.
To Be Continued.......