Miles Kington: Horse sense from the animal within

'I would like to expand the horizons of midgedom! I will become the first transcontinental midge!'
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The Independent Online

It is time today for some more fables for our time...

The Swallow and the Midge

Once upon a time there was a midge in the Highlands of Scotland which spent all summer happily biting people who had come from across the border for their holidays.

High overhead there also wheeled a swallow who had come to Britain to get away from the arid heat of her African homeland. But when the summer began to fade, she announced that she would soon be off home again to the Sudan.

"Can I come with you?" said the midge. "I would like to see those far-off countries you keep telling us about."

"It is a long way," said the swallow, "and I do not think a midge has ever flown that far."

"Maybe that is because a midge has never tried," said the midge. "I would like to expand the horizons of midgedom! I will become the first transcontinental midge!"

"Then you had better start practising," said the swallow doubtfully.

Next day the swallow felt a small chill in the wind and knew that it was time to start packing for home. She went out to get a last rich dinner from the insects of the air and, by mistake, swallowed the midge, who was out having a flying lesson. So, several days later, the midge did make it to Africa, but, alas, dead inside the swallow.

Moral: Going for a trip by air? Make sure you get your travel insurance sorted out well before the flight.


The Dog and the Sheep

Once upon a time there was a sheepdog whose job it was to move sheep around. Most of the sheep were silly bleating things, but one was more thoughtful and liked talking to the dog.

"Why do you take such a delight in making us move around?" the sheep asked the dog one day.

"I take no pleasure in it," said the dog. "It is my job. My father was a sheepdog, and his father. It is in our blood."

"How can you say it was in your blood when the farmer had to train you?" said the intelligent sheep. "It did not come naturally. You could equally well have become a guide dog or a sniffer dog..."

"Just what are you driving at?" said the sheepdog.

"If all animals can be trained," said the sheep, "then the farmer might equally well have trained us sheep to move where he wanted us to. Then he could have done without you."

The dog felt that the sheep was running rings round him intellectually, lost his temper and bit him. The farmer saw the dog worrying a sheep, beat him and never quite trusted him again.

Moral: Never fraternise with the workforce. They always take advantage.


The Tree and the Magpie

Once upon a time there was a tall fir tree who grew all by himself and had no company, unlike the trees in the nearby wood. But one day a magpie came to make a nest in the top of the fir tree, and the tree had someone to talk to at last. Finally the magpie laid her eggs, they hatched, and the tree admired the baby birds. One day the magpie said: "Could you just keep an eye on them while I go looking for food?"

"Gladly," said the tree.

But while the magpie was away there was a terrible storm, and the nest blew down, and the babies were killed, and then the tree blew down as well.

When the magpie came back she looked down at the fallen tree and said: "Thanks for nothing!" and went away to start another family, which was more than the fir tree could do.

Moral: No matter how nice you are to a sitting tenant, the landlord always gets the blame.


The Fox and the Grapes

Once upon a time a fox paused under a vine and stood as high as he could to reach the grapes. The higher he stretched, the nearer he got but he could never quite get to eat one of the grapes.

"Oh, look!" said passers-by. "There's one of those street performers pretending to be a statue! They stand so still you never know if they are real or not!"

So they started throwing money at the fox's feet, and pretty soon he had collected enough money to go the shop and buy a bunch of grapes that were lovely and succulent, and not sour at all. And next day the fox was back standing motionless under the vine again.

Moral: It can pay to be vegetarian. Especially if you're a fox.