Fables part two: the feeding of the five thousand (ducks, that is)

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The Independent Online
Today I bring you three more cautionary fables for our time.

1. Once upon a time there was a left-wing politician who became an MP for a town in the North and was later promoted to the Cabinet when his party came to power.

This meant he would have to live part of the time in London, so somewhat reluctantly he acquired a small flat north of the Thames. It was just down the road from a common with a pond, which reminded him of the country although truth to tell he did not live in the country back home, but in the posh leafy suburbs.

His wife always came with him when he travelled to work in London. She didn't like London, but she knew that all Cabinet ministers were tempted to have affairs sooner or later and she thought he would be less likely to have one if she were there. (Mistakenly, as half the fun of an affair is the exciting, clandestine deception of it.) However, he was far too busy to have an affair, and didn't even feel pestered by the occasional press photographer who hovered outside his gate.

One day, when he was promoted further up the Cabinet, there were eight or 10 photographers outside, which was a world record for him.

"Give us a picture!" they shouted. "Come on Charlie!"

He would have ignored them except that his wife urged him to be friendly to them. "Give them what they want and they'll go away," she said. "It's always best to have them on your side. Just let them have a few shots."

"Shots of what?" he grumbled.

"Take some bread down to the pond and feed the ducks," she said. "Try the friendly, domestic, caring image"

And so he did. In fact, he quite enjoyed it. Two or three ducks wandered over to him, and he threw them a morsel each. Then they asked for more. He gave them a second morsel each. Other ducks, spotting his charity work, hurried over. He tried to give them a bit each. Before he could share the bread out fairly, many more ducks appeared from nowhere. Finally, there was just a crowd of angry, open mouths.

"The bread's all gone!" he shouted. "I haven't got any more Go on buzz off! Go and find your own food!"

In five minutes that man had gone through a process which it normally takes a politician several years to accomplish.

MORAL: Take more bread or go where there are fewer ducks.

2. Once upon a time two couples were having dinner together in a restaurant and, when every other topic had been exhausted, somebody brought up the subject of cotton buds.

"I blame women, myself," said one man. "They should never throw cotton buds down the lavatory."

"Why not?" said someone.

"Well, if you have ever been to a sewage farm, as I have, and you have seen the amount of cotton buds floating on the surface, you will realise that when we throw them down the lavatory, they become the top trouble- maker in sewage farms."

Nobody said anything, but everyone had their own private thought in reply.

Number one, who was a statistician, thought that he would require proof that it was women rather than men who threw them down the loo.

Number two reflected that he had never seen cotton growing, and that when he used the word "cotton-picking" (as he sometimes did ironically) he had no idea what it meant in terms of actually picking cotton.

And Number three - who actually worked as a manager of sewage farms, but had never told anyone this - thought that if he told everyone what really was the top hazard at sewage farms, it would bring dinner to a halt.

MORAL: Come on girls - throw your cotton buds in the bin, not down the loo!

3. A man who was sailing round the world was stopped by another man sailing round the world, who asked him if he had any black material on board.

"What do you want it for?" he asked.

"To wear as an armband for Princess Diana's death."

"Who is Princess Diana?" he asked.

The man looked at him oddly.

"Prince Charles's wife."

"Prince Charles?"

The second man looked at him even more oddly.

"How long have you been sailing round the world? Don't you ever hear the news?"

"About 15 years, and no, I don't hear any news. So how did Diana die, whoever she is?"

"In a car crash. Same sort of way as Princess Grace."

The man gasped.

"Is Princess Grace dead? How awful. I thought she was the most wonderful woman."

And he asked for his armband back.

MORAL: If you're going to sail round the world, at least read the local newspaper.