I have taken
a few minutes out to gather my thoughts and try to record as many of
them as possible to parchment before taking the final step that will bring my lifetime's
labours to fruition. Amongst these considerations must be the sheer cost of the project,
not just the financial outlay which has indeed seen a once mighty estate dwindle into a
few squalid rooms in the turret of my ancestral castle, but also the heavy toll it has
taken on my life. No time have I spared to gaze at nature's beauty, to hunt the wild
boar, to take a wife, to take somebody else's wife, to run naked along river banks of
wild irises, to paint my legs curious shades of green or to sneak up behind unsuspecting
topiarists and cry "Willies". All these things which common people take for granted I
have deliberately denied myself for the sake of mankind and perhaps a small degree of
smugness as I wallow in the esteem which will shortly befall me.
For on this auspicious night I, Professor Wilhelm von Schnittszeugen, shall become the
one true man in the world ever to invent gravel.
I cannot count the failures I have experienced in the past, the blind alleys I have
wandered down in my quest. My greatest disappointment was the time when so secure
in my convictions I was certain that by reversing the flange on the gern sprocket I
could rotate the nipple warples such that they would align with the crank shaft and
reduce the attenuation in the flex arbitrator. In theory this should have produced at least
six small drab grey pieces of gravel out of a hundredweight block of Bavaria n granite.
Unfortunately I had neglected to take into account the bing field generated by the local
druidic stone circle at Borsch-Borsch which resulted in the production of fifteen one
ounce lumps of 24 carat gold. Gold, pah! What use is gold? You can't pebbledash a
gable end with gold. Someone would bash your wall down and nick it all.
Perhaps the greatest loss was that of Helga my housekeeper, gone without trace.
Only the note explaining that she'd gone on a species exchange scheme and was
spending a week as a periwinkle remains to remind me of the times she'd nursed me
through the bouts of illness that caused the family silver to disappear. I do hope she
hasn't been eaten by an albatross.
Gone also is Lotte my pet loganberry. We met at a market stall in Penge one
Wednesday afternoon. I believe it was destiny that made her come home with me that
day. How distressing it was to watch the fungal growth that spread across her
darkened skin, growing each day, consuming her wizened flesh and finally leaving her
as two small sad pips which I have since had embedded into my cufflinks.
I do wish this wretched storm would abate. Apart from having to contend with a
leaky roof there is the sheer embarrassment of having to play the clichéd role of the
mad professor on the brink of a major scientific breakthrough punctuated by dramatic
flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. A lull in the cacophony of the heavens soothes
my mind and I lean back in my creaky chair and light a pipe. But the peace is short
lived, terminated not by celestial torment but by a more terrestrial disturbance. Where
there was thunder, now there are voices. Where there was lightning, now there is
flame. Dozens of torches burn dimly along the winding path that leads down to the local
town. Slowly they approach borne by the sources of the voices, angry voices. I know I
must act quickly. There's only one course of action open to me. I must produce gravel.
I retrieve my trusty chisel and select a stout iron headed hammer. I hold the chisel
against the large lump of igneous rock I had discovered in the Church of St.
Mary-The-Hard-To-Get. There was something that had appealed to me about the
natural shape of the rock. Maybe it was the way in which it resembled a semi-naked
man nailed to a vertical cross-shaped structure. Maybe it was this that had also
appealed to Father Gummibaum for I have since heard that he'd rather like it back,
together with my head on a pikestaff. He will soon change his mind when he sees the
miracle I am about to perform. This time it will work. This method will produce gravel!
There is a loud banging on the castle door now. With a cold sweat forming
on my fevered brow I hold the hammer purposefully above the chisel handle.
"Professor von Schnittszeugen!"
The cry from below strikes a panic in me but I must not be distracted from my task.
"Let us in, Professor, or we'll break the door down!"
I strike the hammer against the chisel but the rock is hard and does not yield its
treasure. There is a loud battering sound from the door below. I know that it will not
hold out for too long.
"Come on out, you heretic! You vile desecrator of sacred relics!"
Oh dear, Father Gummibaum really sounds to be in a bit of a strop tonight.
The door gives way and I hear the angry horde charge into the castle. They are
ascending the spiral staircase of my turret and will shortly confront me in this very
room. Gravel, gravel, I must have gravel. Suddenly I have an idea. The nose! It must be
the weakest part of the rock. A good firm blow to the tip of the nose does indeed
weaken the rock. A small cleft appears above the right nostril but still no gravel is
The door flies off its hinges. In the doorway stands Father Gummibaum surrounded
by his fold.
"By all the saints and the holy mother of God I shall see you burn in the darkest pits of
hell for this profanity!" he speaks with more than a slight hint of animosity in his diction.
"Not so, good priest," I respond assuredly, "Watch!"
With the chisel blade held firmly in the cleft of the nostril I strike hard. The tip of the
nose yields. A small piece of rock flies across the room, richochets off the wall and
settles at my feet. I pick it up and present it to the priest.
"Look," I announce triumphantly, "Gravel!"
Father Gummibaum turns the piece of gravel about in his hands, examines it
closely and shows it to his dumbstruck followers.
"The saints be praised!" exclaims one of them, "It is gravel!"
The priest places a paternal hand on my shoulder.
"My son," he says, "This is a most glorious day. Let us rejoice for the great gift that
the Lord has bid you to bestow upon us. For it is His will that future generations shall
have gravelled driveways, newly laid roads shall be bedecked in loose chippings, huge
vats of steaming tar will be aggregated into hard wearing asphalt. From this day all shall
know you as Saint Wilhelm, patron saint of gravel."
Much jubilation ensues.