The Stranger and his Golden Eggs
Once upon a time, on a bright day in the merry month of May, a tall stranger appeared in the village. Usually a time for high spirits and bright, fresh optimism as the season of spring gets underway, this stranger did not pose any particular threat. Indeed, no-one felt in the least bit concerned. He was, after all, a nobody.
The village in question, dear reader, is a quiet one. So quiet, in fact, that rarely is there a sign of life from the minute the autumn equinox slips silently through un-noticed; until the last of the snow melts and Winter opens his heart to the energetic spluttering of lawn mowers and elated birdsong, which does much to jar the inhabitants out of hibernation and hitherto general lethargy. That is, unless the shadows of fabled dragons lower the skies, casting darkness and fuelling sheer terror as villagers run for the hills, or the nearest pub for a steadying draft of real ale.
It is said that one couple, struck not by the steaming bad breath of a grumpy dragon, but by a laudable will to live and embrace all that village life entails, were just sitting down to a lunch of finely cut sandwiches and delicious apples - all to be washed down with a refreshing, crystal-clear glass of sparkling Welsh water - when, hark! There was a knock at their brand-new, super-insulated front door.
“Who could that be?” queried the lady of the house. Who, incidentally, does indeed wash daily, is knowledgable in a range of wonderful things and, in addition to being extremely well travelled, is an absolute goddess in her lactose-free kitchen.
She skipped to open the door in a truly excitable fashion, because callers were as rare as a neutered peacock. Imagine her surprise when she discovered that the stranger in the village was to be found gushing with some sort of enthusiasm on her very own doorstep! How extraordinary, she thought, and naively let him in, all the while calling her man away from his lunch and the BBC news bulletin.
Almost in an instant, the couple, used to dealing with all kinds of travellers, ne’re do wells, folks with dodgy accents and proclaimers of wild prophecies, started to engage with the stranger who had many tales of derring do to impart to anyone who would listen. With a long low bow accompanied with a sweep of his generously feathered hat, he introduced himself in the most polite fashion of a kind not heard in nearly four years.
As serious discussions got under way, it quickly dawned on the stranger, or so he said, that he was in the hallowed midst of what he liked to refer to as a ’Golden Egg’ opportunity. Overcome with this unexpected turn of events, the stranger forgot to inform them as to the whereabouts of the Goose. Instead, he implored the couple to not only vote for him at the upcoming kingship-choosing ceremony, but to become actively engaged in the workings of the village. After all, there was (evidently) rather a lot of gold up for grabs by way of royal grants and compensation to hamlets (something to do with windmills). Then there was the pressing issue of what to do with the now-redundant village hall of learning, bestowed upon promising young savants by the same Squire Yale responsible for bailing out an ailing learning establishment in a faraway land, and who’s ancestral home stands north-east of the village. The closure of the learning-hall was indeed a sorry turn of events, leading to much speculation as to who owns it, what it will be used for, and who will look after it. It was a perfect Golden Egg moment, according to the stranger.
Not given to fluff and feather-laden talk honked and hissed from any old goose, however, the very wise man of the house set about extracting the real meaning behind the stranger’s visit. This simple task involved asking leading questions, courting opinion, and generally encouraging the stranger to tell him exactly what he thought about the resident caucus. Known to rendezvous under a cloak of questionable incentives, it purports to organise itself to further a special interest or cause. In this case, the welfare of the village and its dwellers therein.
The stranger, never seemingly lost for words, proved proficient in the dark art of tangential commentary whilst knowingly under-selling his virtues as a leader, fell into the trap and proceeded to tell the couple all they were sure they already knew, but had shuddered to think about. With vulgar enthusiasm supporting his voracious attack on the status of the village, he spewed out these rebellious revelations under the couple's twinkling hall chandelier, and much to the surprise of his hosts. This shocking indictment was catapulted into a Land of Outstanding Natural Beauty which has since lead to catastrophic confusion over who is acting in the best interests of the locals, and where personal priorities truly lie. Not afraid to add insult to injury, he further lamented the absence of a truly magical wand in the hands of a truly sensible fairy godmother. Were this the case, this whole sorry flatus would then, to put it mildly, be dispatched in a most spectacular fashion, becoming in its own right, a legendary tale destined to be retold at the hearth for generations to come.
Having thus led the couple up a garden path and onto a highway to nowhere of any consequence, the stranger then left.
“What to do?”, cried the lady.
“Fair lady, have no fear; your knight is here”, he crooned in her ear, before retiring to his lunch and the impending weather forecast.
Many weeks passed where all in the village seemed to carry on as normal. Meanwhile, the couple embarked upon some serious research in an attempt to corroborate the stranger’s story. Upon finding that there were many folks who simply had no idea what was going on in the village, how many gold-pieces were being spent, who was spending it and on what, and with no comprehensible guide to help them find out why they were paying more gold-pieces by way of taxes than nearby settlements, the couple set out to find answers to these and other burning questions put to them by their fellow villagers.
Their epic journey began with several days of walking the length and breadth of the parish, traversing every mountain of considerable height in their path. Barely stopping to imbibe their favourite beverages at the local watering hole along the way, they returned with certainly more than they had bargained for in the quest for truth over lies, and decided to use their new-found knowledge to create a Village Book of Truths for all to read in their quest for enlightenment.
Work soon began on crafting the most beautiful Book of Truths that anyone had ever seen anywhere in the Land. Toiling day and night, it was populated with a wealth of information, ideas, stories and glorious pictures (some worthy of being stolen by others) of what life in the village is like and what it has to offer. In time, it was ready for displaying for all to see.
It did not take long for word to get out with regard to what had been bestowed upon the village. Let’s face it, there is little wonder that such action was likely to send ripples of dissent, and general subversive commenting, when it was found to be (astonishingly) possible to name the Book the same as that of the village. Lord only knows what else was going to come at them!
“What is it?” whispered some over a stall in the village market.
“Who is he?” murmured others when they realised the book hadn't been written by anyone born of the Lands.
“It’s an attack on the caucus!” suggested one, with an air of righteous self-importance.
“How fantastic!” marvelled others among the intelligentsia, enthralled at the book’s ease of use and recognition of skill which could be of use in the village.
A flurry of ‘well-done, you’s’, and other such statements of a congratulatory nature came over the coming days. But, as with anything new, exciting, or vaguely professional and learned, the village rumour-mill got to work with a view to boycotting the new book. This came as no real surprise to the couple, who were not looking for personal gain or recompense in return for their efforts, despite malicious not-so-wise-cracks to the contrary. After all, this was not the first time they had donated time, energy and expense for worthy causes; but, it was certainly the first time they had experienced such an astonishing backlash when trying to help.
The moral of the story so far? ...Beware of strangers who wax lyrical about ‘Golden Eggs’; doubtless you’ll be goosed!