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Michael Flannigan - a life of invention





Michael Flannigan:
A Life of Invention

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The Road to Heidelberg
Part 1: The Tora Bora Trek

Eager to avoid Impetigo Trundle’s fate of de-cranialization, Michael Flannigan and Desmond "Curry" Riffles fled south into Afghanistan, pursued by the Khalin of Phukee’s ferocious Scabbie Guard. Although Flannigan was disconsolate about the death of his good friend Trundle, his practical and analytical mind was focused clearly on the precarious nature of their situation. With the razor-sharp scimitars of the bloodthirsty Scabbie Guard behind them, innumerable roving warriors of the fierce local tribes in front of them, and winter’s harsh breath already rustling their moustaches, many lesser men would have succumbed to grief, indecision and panic. But not Michael Flannigan, who appears to have been in a curiously light-hearted mood as he jotted in his journal in October 1841:

"It is clear that we cannot lose our heads, if we plan to keep our heads (so to speak). Ha! We must stay level-headed, and maintain a good head on our shoulders! Ha ha! Then, we have to head for safety. Ha ha ha!" [1]

Still disguised as a series of slowly wilting flower arrangements, Flannigan and Riffles quickly came up with a strategy to avoid certain death and return to the relative security of the beleaguered British encampment at Cabool [2], and then on to India. Rather than heading directly for Cabool, which they knew would be expected by their pursuers, they decided to follow a circuitous route to the south, via Kandahar and a mountainous region known as Tora Bora, known for its naturally-occurring caves. The intrepid pair traveled primarily at night, snatching what sleep they could during the day, and devouring what little fauna Riffles could get the drop on as they trekked unnoticed across the arid steppes and through treacherous mountain defiles. Hungry and cold, but happy to have avoided the prospect of cranial cleavage, they skirted Kandahar and turned to the northeast, towards Tora Bora.

Michael Flannigan’s scientific mind remained as agile as an Arkhar mountain sheep during this period of extended travel and high altitude anxiety. With little else to do but observe and think as they traversed the endless ridges and valleys that comprised the soul-crushinglybarren Afghan landscape, the inventor was particularly intrigued by the very large numbers and varieties of migratory birds, many of which he could not recognize at a distance. [3] In addition to noting in his journal that the festival of fowl produced not only loud birdcalls, but also a prodigious and unavoidable amount of aerial excrement, Flannigan recorded a remarkable series of facts:

"Dratted bird! Might have been a Ruddy Shelduck, or possibly a Eurasian Coot. Regardless, the cursed thing dropped a massive load of guano on the back of my hand two days ago. Yesterday, much tingling. Today, I am damnably hairy. Not sure of the connection, but will investigate at a later date." [4]

By December 25th, a much thinner Flannigan and Riffles were confident that the roundabout nature of their southern escape route had thrown off any sustained pursuit by the Scabbie Guards. "With any luck," Riffles had snorted over an impromptu Christmas dinner of raw (and previously unsuspecting) Tamarisk gerbil, "the Scabbies have been done in by a swarm of bleedin' Ghilzai warriors. I hear those turban-wearing chappies are a nasty lot! Wouldn’t like to meet a marauding band of 'em in a mountain pass, by Gawd!" Little was Riffles to know that these words, spoken in jest, would foreshadow one of the worst disasters in the history of the British Army.

tamarisk gerbil
Tamarisk Gerbil, ready for the pot

Ten days later, Flannigan and Riffles made their way into the city, sneaking into the British garrison disguised as an emaciated coat-rack and an inside-out umbrella. Having been isolated in the mountains for months, they had no way of knowing just how bad things were for the British in Cabool. To their surprise, they found the British troops were preparing a caravan to retreat to Jalalabad. Pausing only to brew a pot of hot, sweet tea and dispose of a plate of thinly sliced salted ham and cold mince pies, Michael Flannigan and Desmond "Curry" Riffles joined the rearguard of the British exodus from Afghanistan.

--"Scholarship" by Flyboy

Part 2: The Cockup in Cabool


1. Many historians believe that Rudyard Kipling wrote his classic poem "If" with Dr. Leander Starr Jameson in mind, after Jameson’s failed raid against the Boers in 1895. Chesleyan scholars postulate otherwise, citing the poem’s first line ("If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…") as not-quite-categorical proof that Kipling was inspired instead by Flannigan’s unflappable demeanour in the face of inestimable odds. [back]

2. Now Kabul. [back]

3. Such as the Siberian crane, flamingo, falcon, mallard, etc. migrating to India and Africa. [back]

4. Flannigan apparently did investigate this phenomenon. Circa 1877, the Flannigan Follicle Restorer was unleashed to address male-pattern baldness.[back]




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