Miles Kington Remembered: When tortoise beats hare, it's time for the drug-testers

27 February 1996
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The Independent Online

Today – old stories retold for our times!

The Fox and the Grapes

A fox sat and looked up at the juiciest, most luscious grapes he had ever seen.

"I would give anything to have those grapes," he said.

So he jumped and jumped but couldn't reach them.

"Well, I bet they were sour anyway," he said, as he strolled away tired and thirsty. But a bird heard him and said: "A moment ago you were saying you would give anything for those grapes. Now you are saying the opposite."

"I think you will find," said the fox with great dignity, "that at the time I was speaking with the utmost sincerity and that if I was wrong, it was not intentional. I did not mislead anyone."

"You certainly misled me," said the bird. "Your policy on grapes swung round 180 degrees in a second."

"There may have been a slight shift in guidelines," said the fox, "but to talk of a change in policy is nonsense."

"Resign!" said the bird.

It was the last thing she said. Later, the fox defended his eating her as in line with fox thinking at the time, and besides, he had absolutely no memory of it.

The Ant and the Grasshopper

All summer long the ant worked to save food for the long winter, but the grasshopper spent the long sunny days singing and playing and disporting herself. At last the cold season came, and the grasshopper discovered she had no food for the winter.

"Will you not give me some of your food?" said she to the ant.

"Why should I?" said he. "You should've thought of that before."

"Never mind," said the grasshopper. "I am the chairman of the North Yorkshire Grasshopper Supply Board. I am sure we have put by plenty." But when she went to ask the supply board for food, they confessed they had failed to put any by, and she was forced to resign.

"Now I have nothing!" she cried.

"On the contrary," they said, "you have a golden handshake of a million pounds. That should see you through."

And it did, because she was able to buy the ant's food off him.

The Hare and the Tortoise

The hare and the tortoise agreed to have a running race. The hare didn't bother to train at all, but the tortoise went into a strict dieting and weight-losing regime.

On the day of the race the hare realised half-way through the race that he was in danger of letting the slow but persistent tortoise break the tape first, so he accelerated. But the tortoise had too much of a lead and just got the decision on the line.

"I demand a drugs test!" cried the hare. The tortoise submitted to the drugs test with a clear conscience, but traces of a forbidden substance were found in his body (later discovered to come from his diet pills) and he was disqualified.

"There's no way he could beat me without drugs," said the hare at the post-race press conference.

"Will you give him a rematch?" he was asked.

"Sure, if the money's right."

There was a rematch, but nobody knows who won, as it was on pay-as-you-view TV and nobody bothered to pay or view.

The Ugly Duckling

Once there was a farmyard where there was a mother duck who had a family of little ducklings who were all very normal except one that grew gangly and very thin and tall. The other ducklings made fun of the awkward, gangly duckling and its dark colouring, until a photographer came along and saw it and said: "Wow! Amazing! This could be the New Look!"

And the tall, thin, ugly duckling was paraded round the world and became a supermodel and earned millions on the catwalk, though she preferred to call it the duckwalk. But one day she blossomed out into a beautiful, buxom, snowy-white bird, with curves instead of straight lines, and everyone said: "Ugh! A swan! Nobody looks like that any more! The swan look was last year's look!"

And she was thrown out, back into the farmyard, and all the copies of her remaindered novel were thrown out after her.