A man is recovering today after an heroic journey that has been compared to the ill-fated expedition of Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole in 1911-12.
The man, Julian Apeclinger, a bagpipes-repairer from Osmotherley in North Yorkshire, has been working from home during the coronavirus crisis.
"The lockdown hadn't really affected my business as of yet", explained Apeclinger, yesterday (it was not, strictly speaking, yesterday at the time of the interview, but it was now, or rather, is, now, according to the conventions of these transactions and their reportage). "The lockdown hadn't really affected my business as of yet, I was saying, because I have always got a substantial backlog of bagpipes in my garden shed workshop lying in wait for me, as it were.
"I have been working my way through these bagpipes, and sending them off to their owners once the various repairs have been effected", he explained. "However, yesterday" (which, of course is now the day before yesterday as we currently stand time-wise), "yesterday, as I said, I became horribly aware that the backlog was dwindling fast, and that I only had four bagpipes left to repair.
"Now, only the day before yesterday" (let us not trouble ourselves with any further attempts at chronological exactitude), "only, as I was saying, the day before yesterday, I was on the phone to my local "rival", Ron Amundsen, who has a workshop near Thirsk, and he was telling me that his backlog was just about buggered, as he put it, but that he had high hopes of a commission from Lord Thistledown, of Hoopoe Hall, over Giggleswick way.
"Lord Thistledown always has his cousin from Skye, who is none other than the McBagpipe of McBagpipe, of the legendary McBagpipes of McBagpipe, come down to play some reels and marches on the anniversary of Lord Thistledown's mother's birthday."
Apeclinger paused, to mop his brow, before pressing on with his tale. "The upshot was, that Lord Thistledown was in a right state because he had found that his ceremonial bagpipes had a chipped mount, and, what is more, the African Blackwood chanter had warped badly.
"Lord Thistledown's only hope was a quick repair and replacement job, and Ron Amundsen's only hope, as far as business continuity was concerned, was to nab the contract.
"Ron said that he was going to call at Hoopoe Hall personally, the next afternoon, to offer his services.
"I wished him luck because I was not yet aware of the parlous state of my own backlog at that moment. I must admit that I gloated a bit, and felt smug, at his expense. Little did I know what was to transpire."
Apeclinger sat back, and took a long draught of cordial. His hands trembled, tremulously. Once he had recovered sufficiently, he resumed his narrative.
"It was only yesterday, as I have said, that I realised that I was in the same boat as Ron, after all. I was mortified. I explained everything to my wife, Aurora, and it was she who suggested that I get myself to Hoopoe Hall right away, and make Lord Thistledown a proposition before Ron even arrived.
"I was shocked at such a suggestion, but Aurora insisted, saying that "all's fair in love, war and bagpipes repair", which is of course, true, so I could hardly argue."
"So off I went. Unfortunately, yesterday was very cold and windy, and my vintage Morris 1000 van, which is always temperamental, but which is part of my image, wouldn't start, and so I was pretty frozen and fed up by the time I left. Plus the driver's window wouldn't wind up fully, so I was absolutely freezing by the time I got to Hoopoe Hall, as I had forgotten to bring my jacket amid all the hassle with the van's distributor cap.
"Well, you can imagine how I felt when I rang the bell at the Hall, standing there in my shirtsleeves, teeth chattering, only to be told by Clasper, Lord Thistledown's butler, that Ron Amundsen had beaten me to it and got the contract, as he'd decided to get there earlier than planned, and this because he had two other unexpected customers sending him their bagpipes by express delivery that afternoon out of the blue!"
"When I got home I was exhausted and felt like I was coming down with hypothermia or something, and didn't want to catch this COVID-19 thing, so I went to bed, even though it was only lunchtime.
"Aurora wasn't best pleased. She just said that she'd been warning me about the van for ages and told me to stop being such a drama queen and who did I think I was, going on about the cold, Scott of the Antarctic?
"It was only later on that I realised that Ron's name is the same as Roald Amundsen, the guy who beat Scott to the Pole in 1912, and that they'd been such rivals, like me and Ron, but it was too late by then, as Aurora had gone for her daily walk, so I couldn't answer her with that.
"And of course, my name is nothing like Robert Falcon Scott, and I'm not an explorer, and, as far as I know, he didn't work with bagpipes and didn't have a dwindling backlog of any kind, not really.
"Nor did he drive a Morris 1000 van. So I didn't have a leg to stand on, if I'm being honest."