That, Sir, Is Not My Albatross

Hello there crew.

I’ve assembled you all here on deck in order to deal with a problem that I think all of you, especially you, Bosun Riggs, are almost certainly already well aware of. And I’m not simply referring to the outbreak of scurvy that has descended upon this vessel. Don’t think that I’m not sympathetic about that – the moans of the dying floating up from the sickbay have quite ruined my ability to enjoy my customary early evening sherry. And yet, for your sake, to preserve harmony on the ship by keeping things running just as they were, I struggle valiantly on and continue to drink it. I can assure you wholeheartedly that every last mouthful tastes like liquid ashes.

Delicious and delicately fruity liquid ashes with a playful little hint of elderberry, it’s undeniable, but liquid ashes nonetheless. I only wish that you could all taste the sherry, so that you would better understand the miseries I face daily just before suppertime, but, seeing as how you are all so appallingly lower class, I fear that the experience of tasting ‘real people’ alcohol may very well kill you instantly, or at the very least make you melt to death in some fashion.

Crew, I woke feeling rested and refreshed this morning and after some vigorous calisthenics and a hearty breakfast (I know that we haven’t seen port for a while, and that most of you have been reduced to eating bowls of salt pork flavoured with a healthy serving of seawater at each and every meal, but I am the Captain, and that’s why I get all the lemons and oranges) I, as I like to do every morning, wandered out on deck, where I was sure that I could detect the faint smell of fried chicken wafting fragrantly through the air. I thought nothing more of it until I wandered past the galley. The smell grew stronger and it was very soon apparent that somebody had been cooking up a mess of poultry. I wondered if perhaps the chef had managed to bring down an errant and confused turkey with one of the cannons as I had slept, and I made a mental note to reprimand the man for not waking me.

And then I strolled over to check on the health of my pet albatross, who lives, or rather lived, in a large and ornate cage on the deck.

What did I find? That my albatross, my beloved Snorkelly Pete, was missing. And sitting in his place was what appeared to be a common seagull – a peculiarly stupid-looking specimen of the breed, I might add.

I was not fooled by this.

In what was perhaps a further attempt at deception, one of the culprits had taken the time and effort to write ‘ALBATROS’ on one side of the pigeon with what looked like either charcoal or my own very expensive boot polish. It is at this point that I would like to point out to you all that not only was the word misspelled but also even a genuine albatross like Snorkelly Pete was not particularly given to writing the name of his own species on himself.

Furthermore, Snorkelly Pete almost never wrote the words ‘CAPTIN MACINTYRE IS A DICKFACE’ on his own wings.

Crew, I know that many, if not all of you, were disgruntled when the news was announced last month about my appointment to the Captaincy of this fine ship. You were particularly vocal, Bosun Riggs, pointing out on numerous occasions under your breath that I had no actual nautical knowledge, training or experience, and furthermore, that entirely coincidentally, my father is the Rear Admiral of the fleet. And no more of your asinine jokes about his position, or about my ‘poop deck.’ I find these to be immature and discomforting, particularly as I remain hazy about what a ‘poop deck’ is, but I have my unpleasant suspicions.

I will grant you this much – it is true that I had never been to sea before this voyage. Or indeed on a ship, although I did once sit in the third row of an excellent production of the H.M.S Pinafore, and gentlemen, while it may hurt you to hear this, you are not at all the lively singing and dancing troubadours that I expected to find crewing my vessel when I first stepped aboard. I assumed after the first few days of being Captain and not seeing a single pirouette or hearing a delicate melody that you were merely shy in the presence of your new commanding officer. And then, when I made discreet enquiries to the Chief Petty Officer, the shocking truth emerged – that H.M.S Pinafore had taken certain liberties with the truth.

So perhaps I lost some of your respect when I urged you to sing at each and every opportunity. Particularly during that windy patch, or ‘gale’ as you people like to call it, that we encountered, when I refused to let anyone tie a bow line without accompanying the action with a merry, octave-spanning ‘Ha ha ha ha ha!’
And I will say again, I am really very sorry about the death of Sanders. I had no idea that the deck would be so slippery when I ordered him to jig his way from bow to stern.

And yes, Carruthers too. Although we did all learn some interesting things about anatomy that day, didn’t we? Honestly, I was as astonished as you were that the combination of the crow’s nest and the cutlass I gave him during my ad hoc production of The Pirates Of Penzance proved to be such an effective magnet for lightning.

But need I remind you once more that I do have a degree in Classic Seafaring Literature from the Glen Canyon Community College? Which is more education than any of you are likely to have?

Men, I know that you’re all hungry, and that you’re all tired, and that the disciplinary whippings I’ve started to hand out seem unfair at times. But if, as I suspect, some of you have taken it upon yourselves to cook and eat Snorkelly Pete, then we’ll all soon be going to find ourselves in some dire straits indeed. Have ANY of you read the Rime of the Ancient Mariner? We’re going to be up to our lacy undergarments in zombies in no time.

I want you to know that I can see you smirking, Riggs. Stop it.

Furthermore, I am most hurt – most hurt! – by this feeble attempt to pull the wool over my eyes. Look in that cage over there. That is clearly a seagull. See the way that it pecks inefficiently at its feed, rather than lashing out and beaking a chunk out of any passing crewman the way Snorkelly Pete used to do? See the way that its droppings don’t cling to the deck, forcing me to force one of you to scrub them off with your bare hands? Why you people couldn’t have simply caught a seagull and eaten it, I don’t know. I find myself feeling that perhaps you all feasted on fried albatross in an effort to hurt my feelings. Well then, mission accomplished, gentlemen. Mission accomplished.

Which leads me neatly on to the question of punishment. Obviously you must have somehow confused me with the Patient Mariner. Well crew, that was your mistake, and the last mistake that many of you shall ever make. I want Riggs clapped in irons, along with any of those men that I see still wearing greasy napkins around their necks and satisfied looks on their faces. Should we encounter any more albatrosses… albatri…well, you know what I mean, then you and your gang, Riggs, shall be fed to them. It’s the only way I can think of to reverse the curse that you have surely brought down on us all.

That, Sir, Is Not My Albatross


Joined December 2007

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