The early morning sun shone in through the bedroom window and onto the highly polished disk of the DayStarter. This sent a beam of sunlight right into the face of Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins who woke up and stretched. He jumped out of bed immediately. He simply loved this time of day. “Good Morning, Good Morning” he said to himself. (Narrators note: actually he said it to his ancient and slightly threadbare Teddy, but for the purposes of his biography let’s say he said it to himself).
At this point, we really need to explain the ‘DayStarter”. It’s a bit like a sundial except it only gets sunshine for a few hours first thing in the morning. You have to get up early occasionally to set it so, when the sun shines on it, you can angle the disk to reflect directly onto your pillow. But then each day, maybe just before you go to bed, you adjust the dial on it by one increment to allow for seasonal changes. This is much easier than moving your bed around the room to catch the morning sun. Of course, it doesn’t wake you up on cloudy days, but then who wants to get up early on dull and rainy days.
Arbuthnot (‘Abby’ to his friends, and indeed anyone who had to use his name on a regular basis) got dressed into his work clothes and went downstairs to the kitchen. Here he made himself some porridge for breakfast. He ate it and then headed out to the garden. There was a lot work needed in the garden. The hedges and roses don’t prune themselves.
The grass in the enormous gardens was already immaculately cut and looking beautiful. As a Zebra he could have cut his own lawn but his days were already so full. He therefore, by mutual agreement, had arranged for Sebastian Sheep and his wife and children to keep the lawns cut. This suited him as he had a beautiful garden to look out on and it suited the Sheep family as they had a very tasty job for life. In later years their family had moved into the woollens industry but for now they were very content.
Later that morning, Abby returned to his bedroom and changed into his ‘regular’ captain’s uniform. His ‘regular’ uniform, while smart, was functional and practical. He also had a posh uniform with all the braid, medals and trimmings but it was a bit cumbersome for everyday wear.
He headed off down the path to the coast. There were plans for a port to be built there one day but today there was just a long jetty, alongside which he moored his ship, “The Explorer”.
His rank of ‘Captain’ was bestowed on him by Lord Admiral Cribbins. Lord Admiral Cribbins himself had been appointed by the Dingley Dell Grand Sea Council. To be on the Grand Sea Council, the primary qualification was that you had to own a ship. There was of course only one member of the Grand Sea Council because there was only one ship. There was also only one candidate for the role of Load Admiral, a certain Arbuthnot Cribbins.
Upon arrival Abby walked down the jetty and whistled himself aboard. He made his way to his cabin. There before him was a large map laid out over the table. At one end of the map there was a land mass marked “DINGLAND” (Narrators note: This is a name Abby had come up with as the map needed one). The map showed DINGLEY DELL a short way inland.
At the other end of the MAP was an even larger land mass marked “OFFERSLAND”.
Sailing a ship is not something even a great captain could manage on his own. He needed to muster his crew. Abby went to a cupboard and took out a big bag marked ‘Bird seed’. He took it up to the Poop Deck where he scattered it liberally. Within minutes a flock of seagulls (or Gallant Crew members) descended. There was also one very large bird by the name of “Albert the Albatross” who Abby had promoted to ‘Chief Officer’. (Narrators note: in years to come, researchers could find find no reference to any Albatross family ever existing either before or after this time period and drew the conclusion that Albert was in fact just a rather well fed seagull).
Once the crew had had their fill, Albert gave them their orders to prepare the ship for action. Abby looked at the deck where the crew had been eating and shook his head. (Narrators note: anyone still wondering why this part of the ship is called the Poop Deck, only had to see it now). Abby stood on the quarterdeck and gave the order to set sail for OFFERSLAND.
The history books would later declare that Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins had discovered OFFERSLAND. This was most accurate and true. Abby had discovered it. What the history books neglected to mention was that the OFFERSLAND he discovered was already a fully developed and thriving land when Abby discovered it. What Abby hadn’t known, having inherited his ship from his father, was that his ship had actually been built in OFFERSLAND and had been used by his mother and father to sail to DINGLAND in the first place. However the history books in years to come would say Captain Cribbins had discovered OFFERSLAND so it must be true. (Narrators note: the history books in question were written by the Dingley Dell Geographical Society. The singular member of that esteemed Society had been one Captain Cribbins (retired).
Abby and Albert spent a lot of time chatting on the journey to help pass the time. They mainly talked about the ship but today they got onto navigation. Now Abby had not had any formal training in seamanship (or any informal training come to think of it). He had read books but the books didn’t really explain it very well. “Albert”, asked Abby, “How do we actually know we are going the right direction to get to OFFERSLAND?”. “Well”, replied Albert, “It’s complicated but if you multiply the latitude by the longitude and divide the result by something or other…..and then you shoot the sun…or something like that”.
Abby looked at him, “So you don’t know either then”, he said“.
Albert shook his head. “Sorry, but nobody does really”.
“So how come we manage to get there each time?”. Abby asked.
“Well, I will tell you if you promise to keep it our little secret” whispered Albert.
“Well, all we do is fly as high as we can. Then we can see OFFERSLAND on the horizon. We then look down and check the ship is pointing to it”.
This got Abby thinking. Perhaps the sea is curved. But then he looked at the glass of water on the table in front of him and thought better of it. The surface of water is always flat. He could see that for a fact. As he reached for his glass of water he noticed his hoof appeared distorted by the glass. If glass is clear, yet can distort what we see and water is clear then maybe that too can distort.
Abby had a brainwave. Just because the seagulls could see the distorted appearance of OFFERSLAND they could be seeing a distortion.
“Turn the ship 90 degrees to port!” He exclaimed.
“What?” Said Albert taken aback. “That would be the wrong way. As I said, we and see the direction to go”.
“Who is the Captain?” Asked Abby. “I have given my order. Turn to port and set full sail. We will be in OFFERSLAND much faster if My theory is correct”.
“Aye, Aye, Captain” Albert replied reluctantly but also knowing on what side his bread was buttered.
“Oh and send one of you men up and let me know when they see OFFERSLAND. I believe they will see it a lot sooner than you think” said Abby.
Albert did so, expecting to have the pleasure of proving his captain wrong.
However, within minutes of sending Seaman Apprentice Samuel Seagull up to hover on lookout, he heard him squawk “Land Ahoy!”.
Albert was astounded. “Captain, you are right,” he said.
“Of course” replied Abby turning to return to his cabin. This was going to be a great day. The day he discovered a faster route to OFFERSLAND. He got changed into his posh uniform with the hat and medals. This was a day that required looking the part.
It was then all the more astounding for Abby and his gallant crew when they arrived and found it was not OFFERSLAND at all. In fact, it wasn’t anywhere they knew. Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins, Captain of “The Explorer” had discovered yet another land.