Teaching Ravens To Fly Underwater

During the last 40 years of his life, the reputable and quite distinguised expert Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling has been teaching ravens to fly underwater. Please watch this interview to learn more about his not extremely startling nor astonishing level of success:

break a swan’s wing with a blow of her nose…

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling is a fictional character played by British comedian Peter Cook throughout his career. Streeb-Greebling (or Greeb-Streebling, depending on Cook’s mood) is a stereotype of the upper class English duffer, described as “narrow-minded” and occasionally a “heartless bastard”.

Please enjoy a sadly incomplete transcription for this essential and paramount interview about a man’s life, a man’s profession, a man’s quest…
(Peter Cook & Dudley Moore)


Dudley: (Arts programme type interviewer) We’re very pleased to have in the studio tonight, one of the very few people in the world, if not the only person in the world, to have spent the major part of his life under water, attempting to teach ravens to fly.
Peter: (Sir Arthur) Good evening.
Dudley: Good evening. We’re very pleased to welcome to the studio, Sir Arthur Grieve-Streebling.
Peter: Ah… Strieve-Greebling.
Dudley: Oh, I beg your pardon…
Peter: You’re confusing me with Sir Arthur Grieve-Streebling…
Dudley: Ah yes… thank you very much…
Peter: Strieve-Greebling is my name, good evening.
Dudley: Yes… good evening.
Peter: Good evening… and good Greebling!
Dudley: Greebling it is! Yes…
Peter: Good evening… hello fans!
Dudley: Er – uh- ahem – shut up, Sir Arthur.
Peter: Good evening…
Dudley: Good evening…

Sir Arthur – um – ah – could you tell us what first led you to this way of life?

Peter: Teaching ravens to fly under water…
Dudley: Yes.
Peter: Well, it’s always very difficult to say what prompts anybody to do anything, let alone getting under water and teaching ravens to fly, but I think it probably all dates back to a very early age, when I was – er – quite a young fellow. My mother, Lady Beryl Strieve-Greebling, you know, the wonderful dancer, 107 tomorrow and still dancing… She came up to me in the conservatory, where I was pruning some walnuts, and said to me “Arthur” – I wasn’t Sir Arthur in those days – “if you don’t get under water and start teaching ravens to fly, I’ll smash your stupid face off!” And I think it was this that sort of first started my interest in the whole business of… getting them underwater…
Dudley: Yes… er – how old were you then?
Peter: I was forty-seven, I’d – er – just majored in ‘O’ level in Forestry, I’d got through that, and was looking about for something to do.
Dudley: Yes – er – where did you strat your work?
Peter: Uh – I think it can be said of me that I have never, ever stratted my work. That’s one thing I have never done – I can lay my hand on my heart, or indeed anybody else’s heart, and say “I have never stratted my work”. Never stratted at all. I think what you probably want to know is when I started my work…. you misread completely the question…
Dudley: Yes, I’m awfully sorry, I did … make an error… Where did you start your work?
Peter: Where did I start it? Well, I – er – I started almost immediately my mother had given me the hint – she’s a powerful woman, you know, Lady Beryl. She can break a swan’s wing with a blow of her nose… incredible creature…
Dudley: Sir Arthur, is it difficult to get ravens to fly under water?
Peter: Well, I think the word ‘difficult’ is an awfully good one here. Yes… it is – er – it’s well-nigh impossible. I think – er – the trouble is, you see, God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, er – designed these creatures to fly in the air…
Dudley: Yes…
Peter: …rather than through the watery substances at their feet… hence they experience enormous difficulty – as you said, difficulty, in beating their tiny wings against the water – it’s a disastrous experience for them.
Dudley: Yes – um – how do you manage to breathe?
Peter: Through the mouth and the nose… the usual method, in fact. God gave us these orifices to breathe through, and who am I to condemn Him – I think you can’t breathe through anything else – if you start breathing through your ears you can’t hear yourself speak for the rushing of the wind… nose and mouth is what I use, and I trust you do.
Dudley: Yes, well I most certainly do, of course…
Peter: Good, good…
Dudley: …but what I was meaning was how do you manage to breathe under water?
Peter: Oh, that’s completely impossible – nobody can breathe under water – that’s what makes it so difficult – I have to keep bobbing to the surface every thirty seconds, making it impossible to conduct a sustained training programme on the ravens. And they’re no better, they can’t even be taught to hold their beaks. There they are sitting on me wrist, I say “Fly! Fly, you devils!”, and they inhale a faceful of water, and …
Dudley: I suppose they drown, do they?
Peter: …it’s curtains – yes – they drown… topple off me wrist, little black, feathery figure topples off me wrist – spirals very slowly down to a watery grave. We’re knee-deep in feathers off that part of the coast.
Dudley: Sir Arthur, have you ever managed to get a raven to fly under water?
Peter: No. Er – I’ve never managed to get one to fly under water. Not at all, not a single success in the whole forty years of training.
Dudley: Rather a miserable failure, then, your – your whole life, I suppose.
Peter: My life has been a miserable failure, yes…
Dudley: How old are you, if that’s not a personal question?
Peter: It is a personal question, but I am 83…
Dudley: 83…
Peter: 83 – remarkably well-preserved because of the water, of course, on the face.
Dudley: Yes – well I – I would say then, that your life has probably been a bit of a shambles, hasn’t it…
Peter: It’s a bit late in life, you see, to turn to anything else – I’ve often though of taking something else up, you know…
Dudley: Yes…
Peter: … a bit more sort of commercial, but it’s very difficult when you go round to a firm and they say “What were you doing before this?” and you say “Well, I was hovering about, ten foot under water, attempting unsuccessfully to get ravens to fly”.
Dudley: Hmm, yes…
Peter: They tend to… look down their noses at you.
Dudley: Oh, what a miserable thing…
Peter: A miserable thing indeed.
Dudley: … Well, thank you very much indeed, Sir Arthur, for telling us your absolute tale of woe – um – thank you very much for coming along.
Peter: Thank you and good evening
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore at the Good Evening Show, 1974
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore at the Good Evening Show, 1974