Saturday, November 24, 2012
Scott of Arabia
A mix-up at Thomas Cook finds Capt Robert Falcon Scott and his chums deposited on the shores of Arabia Deserta.
Undeterred by blistering heat, expiring huskies and the constant chafing of sand under their thermals, the men of the Terra Nova Expedition trudge off, Aqaba-bound, shod in tennis rackets and furs.
With foul pipes clenched in sunbleached teeth, they drag sleds of fermenting pemmican and donkey corpses across the Devil's Anvil.
Salvador Dalí, a young Catalan artist diverted from Tangiers by a Cox & King's clerk with a loathing for Modernism, strokes the unshaven half of his chin thoughtfully, and pens a pneumatique in betel juice to Luis Buñuel.
But, as Scott approaches the Red Sea to turn the Turkish guns, he sees a Norwegian flag fluttering above the Mameluke fort...
Meanwhile, a North German Lloyd cruise ship debouches etiolated Welsh invert Capt T.E. Lawrence near Ross Island, Antarctica.
His white robes billow in merciless squalls while he pitches a tent of sheer muslin. Lawrence squints into the ebbing Sun. His etchings and easel fly out across McMurdo Sound.
"I shall name this frigid landfall Cape Dahoum..." he apostrophises an iceberg, just as an orca describes a perfect arc through the inky skies and snaps his head off.
Lawrence's body teeters on the marbled strand for a moment, before toppling into the deep.