The Peculiar Triumph of Professor Branestawm

Now here’s a chap I haven’t thought about for a few years. Perhaps, the only character in literature to have invented the elixir of life without being an evil, guffawing, village-trampling looney (contradict me if I’m wrong about that), who had five pairs of spectacles (one of which was for looking at you over the top of), and whose author had the same name as a bloke who played centre half for Leeds in the 1970s.

Norman Hunter, our Norman Hunter, was a conjuror, and his print debut was entitled Simplified conjuring for all : a collection of new tricks needing no special skill or apparatus for their performance with suitable patter. It’s twenty quid from Abe Books. He was also a genius with made up words – ‘squerked’, ‘muffishly’, ‘bustable,’ – and brilliantly claimed to have arrived in London (he was born in Sydenham), ‘a few years after the other Normans got there.’

He described Professor Branestawm like this: ‘Professor Branestawm, like all great men, had simple tastes. He wore simple trousers with two simple legs.’

As well as the elixir of life, Professor Branestawm invented a time machine, a clock that continued to aggregate time instead of going round and round between 12am and 12pm, and a gone-haywire potato peeler.

He was also illustrated in one phase by the other mad inventor W Heath Robinson, a postcard of whose Romantic Possibilities in Modern Flats, I’m gazing at across the room as I type.

Heath Robinson invented a fruit tree pruner with ingenious adjustment for lime washing the bark while pruning the branches, and a device providing a little mechanical help in rising from a lounge chair.

It’s still early. Invent something today, I dare you. If it’s the elixir of life, try not to go evil.

~ by David Thorley on January 27, 2011.

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