A stitch in time.


Professor Winslow Armstrong was taking a stroll through the grounds of Mackintosh University when he spotted a bolt of lightning strike the bell-tower twice in rapid succession. That doesn’t happen very often? He thought, but the bell-tower had a Zap-eze lightning conductor so no harm was done. Continuing on through the experimental orchard he saw Purves the groundsman, catching Purple Humming Sparrows that were feasting on the quasi-blackcurrants.

“It’s no good Professor, every time I get a hand on one of the blighter’s two more pop up in the bush out of nowhere.” He explained.

“Hmm,” said Armstrong and with a wave of his hand intoned. “Ut auferat avium!” and the birds vanished. “Now if any more should appear, leave them alone unless you want to double their number again.”

Purves thanked him uncertainly then Armstrong continued his perambulation towards the main building taking note of a dog barking up the wrong tree while Tibbles the kitchen cat, who had already used one of his nine lives, watched with obvious amusement in the one opposite. Please don’t let it be Scuttle doing this!To the professor’s relief he saw Derek Scuttle, sitting outside the refectory holding the hand of the darling of his heart, Gwennie, who seemed flustered.

“Oh Professor Armstrong, Mrs Gloss is in such a state, there are too many cooks in the kitchen and no-one knows where they all came from. They’ll surely spoil the broth she was making!” wailed Gwennie.

“Hmm, well at least this isn’t down to you for a change, Scuttle, now if you could let go of the young lady’s hand and come with me, I may need your assistance.”

He strode purposefully into the hall with Derek in tow to spot a harassed Principal Crowley. “Ah Winslow, thank Thoth it’s you, this is serious. There are ladders appearing all over the place enticing people to walk under them, black cats are waiting to cross your path at every turn and I keep getting a desire to find new stones and turn them over. What are we to do?”

“It’s a good job it’s past May or we wouldn’t be able to cast clout?” remarked Armstrong drily.

“Quite.” remarked Crowley, sharply.

“I think I know what’s causing it, I just need to find where it’s being generated from. If you excuse me, Principal, young Scuttle and I will try and find the source of the trouble… can anyone else hear pigs?”

They all went towards the yard to see Wheatley, the Incantations Lecturer running towards them covered in something unpleasant.“Get inside before they drop it on you too, it’s bad enough when only birds do it!” he ran past smelling less than fragrant.

Armstrong risked a glance outside and looked up at the bell-tower. “Yes, definitely pigs, take a look, Scuttle, carefully mind.”

Derek looked up in surprise to see them, pigs didn’t usually have wings but there they were flying around the tower!

“Right I know what’s going on, Scuttle with me!” ordered the Professor…

They climbed the winding stairs, the squealing getting ever louder at every step, finally reaching the top only to find the door locked.

Banging on it, Armstrong shouted above the porcine vocalisations. “Open up Wilkins, I know you’re in there!”

The door opened and Trevor Wilkins stuck his head out. “I can’t stop it, Sir, I only wanted the pigs but it sort of ran away with me!”

The Professor pushed past him to see a pair of books floating above a cauldron of blue fire, one was Olde Tatlock’s Tome of Sayings and Proverbs, the other was…“Torquel’s Primer, I’d thought I’d locked that bloody thing away?” cried Armstrong. “Scuttle, you grab one end of the Tatlock and I’ll take the Torquel, on the count of three pull it out of the flame. 1-2-3!”

They pulled, the cauldron went out and the squealing and grunting faded away.“Sorry, Sir, but I just wanted to do what you said, Sir,” wailed Wilkins.

“What?” queried Armstrong then he thought and said. “Ah, I remember! Wilkins you are an idiot sometimes, you asked me if I thought you could get a straight A and I said…”

“When pigs fly Sir…”