The Boy Who Cried Sheep

Once upon a time (and a very good time it was), there was a very optimistic young shepherd who was supposed to look after the village sheep. Everyone liked him because he was so positive, except for some silly curmudgeonly old farts who kept saying, \”What about the wolves?\”
\”Wolves?\” said the young shepherd, \”What wolves? Look, this is a no-brainer, all right? These sheep are all going to give birth to triplets in the spring, right, including the rams, and that makes all the sheep worth a gold piece each.\”
He was a kind young shepherd too. When some villagers couldn\’t afford to buy a whole sheep, he sold little pieces of paper allowing them to own a leg or a tail or even an ear. It was great. Everybody felt very rich.
Then there were a few odd incidents; a couple of sheep had suddenly disappeared. The sheep dogs couldn\’t explain it, though they seemed unusually uninterested in food the day after the disappearances. They denied that any such thing as a wolf had been seen, despite a few bits of grey fur stuck in the brambles. The smartest sheepdog explained that wolves were actually just legends and the probability of such things existing, given the size of the mountains and the rarity of sightings was effectively nil, and therefore they didn\’t exist.
But still, people were a little nervous. So to help everybody, the young shepherd started selling a new kind of paper. This was a Collateralised Sheep Obligation: instead of buying an actual leg of an actual sheep, investors could buy a notional bone from the averaged bone-yield of the entire herd, should any (mythological) wolves attack them. Once they realised that holding a bit of average sheep was much safer than owning an actual one, the villagers loved this idea and they all invested heavily, even though they had to borrow from each other to do it.
So the price of CSOs soared to such heights that some villagers started pawning their chairs and tables to invest in them and then borrowing against their holdings of CSOs.
\”What if the wolves come back?\” asked the curmudgeonly old farts in the pub.
\”Wolves?\” said the sheepdogs. \”Those silly old stories. In our modern system of scientific shepherding there will be no more wolf attacks ever.\” And off they went to have dinner with some friends of theirs who were quite like them but greyer.
So the villagers carried on buying CSOs. Often they borrowed against the ones they\’d bought by borrowing against the ones they already had.
Just a few curmudgeonly old farts (or COFs) still sat tutting in the back of the pub.
\”I saw something grey lurking about by the sheep pen,\” said the old man, \”I\’m absolutely certain of it.\”
\”No, you didn\’t,\” said the young shepherd quickly. He kept an eye on the COFs because of the bad effect they had on villager morale. As cover he bought another round of drinks. \”Look, it was a rabbit, right? The sheepdogs say so. In fact they\’ve just rated the whole herd AAIAAA+++ on contravulpine protection levels – you can buy a certificate to prove it.\”
Some of the drinkers bought the bits of paper he was waving and some didn\’t.
\”What about the big wolf attack we had last year?\” asked the worst COF of the lot. In fact the young shepherd privately thought of him as a COB (curmudgeonly old bastard, obviously). \”When the whole herd nearly got wiped out? And nobody would lend anything to each other and we all nearly starved to death? What about that?\”
\”No, no, gramps,\” said the young shepherd, \”That was a once in a generation attack of rabies in the rabbit population which was basically just a correction that can\’t happen again.\”
\”Yes but what if the wolves…\”
\”Rabbits.\”
\”All right, rabbits, rabid rabbits if you insist, young fellermelad, what if the rabbits do it again? Eh?\”
The young shepherd lured the COB into a corner with a pint of cider. \”Listen gramps,\” he said quietly, \”Let\’s say, just for argument\’s sake, that the impossible happens and the rabbits – not wolves, which are contrary to all our scientific ovine-aggregative modelling – let\’s say that the rabbits accidentally bump a few sheep so they die of heart attacks…\”
\”What\’ll happen to all of us, eh? We own them sheep?\”
\”No, no, the risk is already factored into the price of your CSO squareds, all right? So anyway, if the worst does happen and the herd looks like it\’s…er… populationally challenged, what I\’ll do is…\” The young shepherd looked even shiftier than normal and dropped his voice to a whisper, \”What I\’ll do is I\’ll go and ask the King for more sheep, OK? And he\’s got to give them to me because… well, just because. OK? Got that?\”
\”So what\’s in it for him?\”
\”He\’s the King. And he can\’t let the herds go down or it looks bad for him.\”
\”So like last year he\’ll give us more sheep, only some of them will be a bit… goatish.\”
\”Er… no, they\’ll be good sheep.\”
\”Where\’s he getting them from then?\”
\”The royal herd, OK? And he can get more from the other royals, OK, because they\’re all friends. All right?\”
The COB lowered his voice even more. \”What happens,\” he asked, \”when they all run out of sheep because the wolves… sorry, rabbits… have et all the sheep?\”
The young shepherd just shook his head and laughed. \”Sorry, gramps,\” he said, \”You just don\’t understand modern shepherding, do you?\”
Gramps nodded, drank all the cider the young shepherd had bought him and went off and planted an allotment. Which he fortified.

Dr. EvilCornishRoadworks

DR EVILCORNISHROADWORKS

Trying to get from Truro to Carbis Bay the other day brought this on…

[OPENING SEQUENCE – A MONTAGE OF EXPENSIVE HELICOPTER SHOTS OF CORNISH HILLS LOOKING PRETTY, PENDENNIS CASTLE, THE EDEN PROJECT ETC ETC]

VOICE OVER (BY THAT MAN WHO HAS BEEN GARGLING WITH RUSTY NAILS AND SULPHURIC ACID SINCE THE AGE OF 6)
Cornwall. Gateway to the south west…
(HE\’S INTERRUPTED BY MUTTERING IN THE BACKGROUND)
Oh. OK. It is the Southwest. So where is it exactly?
(MORE MUTTERING)
Right. Cornwall. The Southwest. A helluva long way from the M25, where they eat Cornish pasties and cream teas… Look, buddy, I am getting on with it…

(A DIFFERENT VOICE INTERRUPTS, WITH A CORNISH ACCENT AND LESS BUTCH GARGLING HABITS):
Cornwall, where the mines are gone, the fish are gone, so it\’s back to wrecking, me ansums.

(FIRST VOICE SHOVES HIM AWAY)
Or tourism. Tourists. Happy friendly folk travelling down the A30 with their money in innocent search of a pasty, a cream tea or a surfing beach to be sick on…

[QUICK CUT TO THE A30 CONED OFF AROUND REDRUTH, DIVERSION SIGNS, PRETTY TOWN CENTRES BEING DUG UP. LOTS OF FANCY ZOOMING AND CUTTING AND SCREECHY MUSIC.]

(RUSTY NAIL GARGLING) VOICE OVER: Somewhere in a bunker deep in the heart of County Hall…

[CLOSE UP OF DR EVILCORNISHROADWORKS GOING \”Mwah ha ha ha!\”]
[WE\’RE LOOKING AT A WAR ROOM. SMART CUTE GIRLS IN 40\’S HAIRSTYLES AND TIGHT MILITARY BLOUSES ARE BUSILY PUSHING MINIATURE ORANGE CONES AND BULLDOZERS ALL OVER A ROAD MAP OF CORNWALL WITH THOSE LONG WOODEN PUSHERS. OTHERS PUSH LOTS OF TOY CARS INTO IMMENSE TRAFFIC JAMS.

[OVERLOOKING THE WAR ROOM IS DR EVILCORNISHROADWORKS IN HIS JAMES BOND STYLE\’ VILLAIN-GALLERY]

DR EVILCORNISHROADWORKS:
Mwah ha ha ha!

[THERE\’S A KNOCK AT THE DOOR. A MINION IN A BLACK BOILER SUIT CARRYING A GUN OPENS THE DOOR. A DELIVERYMAN COMES IN TROLLEYING SOME VERY HEAVY BOXES AND CARRYING A CLIPBOARD.

DELIVERYMAN:
Your usual delivery from the Scottish Tourist Board, sir.

[MORE MINIONS OPEN UP THE BOXES AND GOLD INGOTS AND BUNDLES OF BANKNOTES FALL OUT. DR EVILCORNISHROADWORKS TAKES THE CLIPBOARD AND SIGNS.]

DR EVILCORNISHROADWORKS:
Where\’s the Welsh Tourist Board\’s contribution then?

DELIVERYMAN:
It\’s on its way, sir. Just got held up by the roadworks on the A30…

DR EVILCORNISHROADWORKS:
Mwah ha ha ha. Mwah ha ha haha ha!

Don\’t believe me? Just try driving round Cornwall during the summer tourist season, then.

How not to sell things to me

HOW NOT TO SELL THINGS TO ME

To the bloke who tried to sell me double-glazing on my doorstep:
So sorry I wasn\’t polite enough to you. I work at home and I\’m constantly being bugged by people who want to sell me something at the door or on the phone, but immediately deny that they\’re selling anything at all because they have a script and the managers told them to stick to it, especially with gormless housewives like me because then you can con them with doubletalk and bullshit about £2,500 cashbacks (on an expenditure of what, exactly?) and sell them loads of double glazing they don\’t want and can\’t afford but hey, who cares, right? We still get our commission. Yes, banking and mortgage broking experience very acceptable.
Incidentally, cold-calling me on the phone gets you one of two responses. If you\’re stupid enough to try and be pally with me by calling me \”Pat\” (a shortener for my given name of Patricia which I have ALWAYS hated), you\’ll get a sub-zero voice temperature. Then you\’ll get the information that I have a policy never to buy anything from a cold call because I assume that if the company needs to cold-call, their product must be crap. If you are at least polite, you\’ll get the same response, but nicer.
In fact if this particular bloke at the door could have come off his high horse long enough to realise I was actually asking him for his card so I could call him back when I wasn\’t working, perhaps he could even have sold me something since my conservatory needs work. But I\’d upset him by asking if he was selling something (no! no!) and then I\’d been rude enough to point out that a \”free quote\” bloody well should be free so it isn\’t exactly a selling point. So after he\’d snapped his smart little plastic folder open to find No Business Cards (his manager needs to be shot, by the way, it\’s sort of a basic tool), off he stropped with passing shots about how he doesn\’t need to be spoken to like this.
Laddy boy, in your whiter than white shirt and your hatchet face full of sourly offended pride: the happy days of mortgage broking are gone. You are now a door-to-door salesman and even if your shirt is white, you still have to try to be friendly. My dog was being very friendly, but then she loves everyone. If someone says they\’re busy working and could they have your card, that is an opening, a lead, and what you do is you say, \”I\’m very sorry I bothered you, here\’s my card, I\’ll come back and talk it over with you when it\’s more convenient for you.\” Then you have a fighting chance of making the sale and getting the commission.
I speak as one who spent a year selling newspaper advertising over the phone and I was just as bad at it as you are because I too was full of arrogance and contempt. As a sales technique this really doesn\’t work. Maybe double-glazing isn\’t really your field. Maybe you should go back to mortgage broking? Oh sorry, I forgot. That\’s sort of a bit dead now.
Ha. Ha.