Annals Of Nautical Heroism

In the annals of nautical heroism, few men have been as nautically heroic as Admiral Bagshawbag of the HMS Crinkle-Cut Oven Chip. Holding sway on the bridge of his majestic ship, standing on one leg of flesh and bone and the other of the finest mahogany from the Dutch Antilles, a papier mâché parrot perched on his papier mâché shoulder, his original shoulder having been shot away during a particularly violent episode of nautical heroism during a mahogany-gathering expedition to the Dutch Antilles a few weeks ago, the Admiral was a man of few words.

One of those words, and the one he spat out more often than any other, was “Piffle!” The Admiral shouted “Piffle!” when he woke up in the morning, and he shouted “Piffle!” last thing at night before he fell asleep. Between times, holding sway on the bridge of his majestic ship, he repeatedly found cause to shout “Piffle!”. The brine-soaked sailors of his crew were not always clear why he was shouting “Piffle!” and nor, to be fair, was the Admiral himself. It may simply have been a verbal tic, if a rather loud and jarring one.

The remains of the actual parrot on which the papier mâché one had been modelled were kept in cold storage in the Admiral’s personal cold storage unit tucked beneath the desk in his cabin. Inside, it was colder than the coldest of refrigerators, indeed it was so cold it was scarcely believable, from a scientific viewpoint. But the Admiral was not a scientist, he was a man of nautical heroism, partly wooden and partly papier mâché and with one eye made of glass and the fingers of one hand moulded from dough and baked to a crisp.

In spite of his nautical heroism the Admiral was, to his crew, a figure of pity, and not mild pity but a heart-rending extravagant pity provocative of strangulated choking sobs and mortification of the bowels. Such pity rendered the crew fairly useless in circumstances where nautical heroism was called for, for example on mahogany-gathering expeditions to the Dutch Antilles. The Admiral tried to pep them up and stiffen their sinews by increasing their rum rations, but this served only to make them more mawkish. Several of the crew, in their cups, wrote tear-stained letters home to their dear old mothers describing in forensic, if intoxicated, detail the pity they felt for their Admiral.

Inside its cold storage unit, the parrot was not actually dead. It was in a state of suspended animation from which the Admiral planned to revive it, so that one day he would be able to perch it on his other shoulder, still – at time of writing – of flesh and bone. To accomplish his plan, the Admiral had set Little Tim the cabin boy to a course of study in matters scientific, including cryogenic freezing and subsequent thawing. Unfortunately, the only book on board ship was a tattered copy of Laughter At The Foot Of The Cross by Michael A Screech, from which several crucial pages were missing.

Little Tim the cabin boy was the one member of the crew who did not pity the Admiral. “I have no time for pity,” he said in his high-pitched little voice when interviewed on Dutch Antilles Radio as part of a series of interviews with ships’ cabin boys. “I have no time for any of the finer emotions,” he continued, “For I have dedicated my life thus far, not that there has been much of it, to preparing myself for future acts of nautical heroism, the sort of nautical heroism in which the finer emotions can play no part. Now hand me that sextant and that cutlass, so I may practise.”

And so the HMS Crinkle-Cut Oven Chip sails on, either towards or away from the Dutch Antilles, with or without a cargo of mahogany. Listen to the wind in the rigging. A wind that kills. It kills the crew one by one, until only the Admiral and Little Tim the cabin boy and the parrot in cold storage are still with us, nautical and heroic, upon a shining sea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.