(This is a revised version of a tale that first appeared in Saga Blog. I thought it worth repeating. Apologies if I've broken any rules. DOD )
Once upon a time there was a very rich and powerful country, A very,very rich and powerful country.
Which was also very smug and swaggerish about it all,to be frank.
This Smug And Swaggerish Country had many jealous enemies,who all wanted a piece of the action. But they weren't unduly worried. For they had a very powerful army and navy and were well able to see off any nasties. In between marching about in posh uniforms and singing about smiting their foes,ruling the endless seas,and generally being the righteous lot.
There was just the one fly in the Smug And Swaggerish Country's ointment. Stuck on one end of their fairly pleasant land was a rocky,hilly,and rather chilly piece of real estate inhabited by various warlike tribes of hairy folk who spent their time in three ways. One,fighting each other. Two,starving to death (in between freezing) And three,raiding across the border into the Smug And Swaggerish lands in order to steal sheep. Sometimes to eat.
The Smugs weren't too bothered about the freezing and starving and fighting each other bit.
But they didn't like having their sheep pinched.
So,occasionally,they sent some of their army over to give the Hairies a bit of a smack. In between fighting the French usually.
And here they had something of an advantage. For the Hairies were on the whole a manly sort, inclined to doing their fighting toe toe,thrusting and slashing with their fearsome haggises. (or haggisi). Whereas the Smugs preferred to remain a bit more distant,shooting bits of lead at their foes and not getting too sweaty.
Thus,on encountering one another,the Smugs promptly aimed and fired their muskets, almost always missing by a country mile,and the Hairies charged at them intent on getting their haggises into play before the Smugs could reload.
In this intent they often succeeded,the only thing saving the Smugs from certain defeat being that the Hairies had to charge over squaggy moor and rocky heilan – whatever that is – and arrived so out of breath all they could do was lean on their sporrans and gasp for air.
Allowing Johnny Redcoat to cease coughing his consumptive lungs up, stop running away, finish reloading and let fly at hairy- chest range.
Thus all-in-all things were pretty even on the slaughtering each other front. Except that the Hairies had to stop fighting at frequent intervals in order to attend to various domestic chores. Such as planting and growing stuff to eat. Whereas the Smugs had an unlimited supply of consumption-ridden slum kids that were due to die quite soon anyway, so they could just keep going.
Thus the Smugs would march about the hills and dales and glens and lochs and bannocks and claymores. Until Lord Whoever Was In Charge decided he had to get a move on if he was to get back in time for the peasant violating season,and led his Smug and Swaggerish army home to their chip suppers.
Whereupon the Hairies, danced around a bit,looking a touch poofy to be honest,and set about inventing wistful legends about what they'd have done if they'd had some of those nice red coats and powdered wigs to keep themselves warm with..
Then one day the Queen of the Smugs died,leaving behind no heir to the throne. Which was very inconvenient because there were no Parliaments in those days and the Monarch in charge of a country had to do everything for themselves.
Now there were plenty of suitable replacements,all over the place. Other monarchs who would gladly swap their kingdom for a better one,relatives of same who were tired of waiting for daddy to
die,kings who had been deposed,and lots of viscounts and barons and princes of whatever.
But instead of interviewing any of this lot, the Smugs came up with an outlandish idea. Probably the most outlandish idea the world has ever see.
No-one knows why,precisely,but they proposed giving their powerful,rich and cultured kingdom to the King of the Hairies
(For the Hairies did have a king although they tended not to take much notice of him. On account of he lived in a castle every bit as draughty as any of their but and bens ,and spent much of his time starving in the very best democratic manner ).
'Come and be our king as well,' said the Smugs.'No restrictions. You get the key to the treasure chest and you can chop off as many heads as you like and go to war against anyone you fancy,just like any other monarch.
'Is this some kind of trick?' asked the Hairie King,not unnaturally.
'No,indeed,' he was assured. 'Our thinking is simply that, with you as joint king,all this senseless sheep stealing and cussing can stop,and our two kingdoms can march forward in peace and harmony. Indeed with your lot in the army we can smite even more of the French and provide some much needed employment while we're at it.'
To be frank,They probably also saw the idea as a way of stopping all the gold they had to fork out for more muskets and red coats every month or so.
So anyway,the Hairie King accepted – how could he not? - and moved himself,family and close friends down to a nice warm castle where even the firewood was dry and there was real glass in the windows. Sometimes.
And before he went he gathered together all the Hairies and told then what was now what.
'No more shoving your trusty dirks into the Smugs while they're fighting the Frogs,' he announced, red whiskers a-quiver with sternness. ' For they are henceforth our friends and allies and we love them like brothers.
'And with luck, sisters, only creep quietly on that last .'
Which did not please everyone. While many, declaring unswerving loyalty to their king and their beloved homeland, flocked south to proper jobs and pubs where they could brag about having in the end defeated the Smugs (which quite a lot of them did – and do,) others stayed at home and cultivated their resentment into a nation-wide industry.
Today the Hairies are a divided race. Those whose ancestors clung grimly to their reeking lumleys stand ever ready to form a thin red line whenever appropriate, and spend their Saturday nights getting roaring drunk (as is a Hairie man's right) and declaiming what they would do with the Smugs if they weren't too busy getting bladdered.
And those now ensconced in well paid jobs and centrally heated houses south of Hadrian's Sadly Depleted Wall spend their time cheering beneath their breath whenever the Smugs suffer a defeat – in whatever field of endeavour, - and spinning yarns about that halcyon future when Hairieland is once more free.
Alarmingly a fresh peril has arisen to scare the bejesus out of the Hairies. In the form of a somewhat fishy politician, who has declared his intention of actually making their dream come true. Of making Hairieland a free and proudly independent realm once more
Though everyone, Hairie and Smug alike, find it extraordinary difficult to define exactly when it was the Hairies lost their freedom
And worse yet, quite a lot of Smugs, ever helpful, are responding by offering to help them pack.
Honestly, it's enough to skirl the Trossacks off the Stag in the Bay. Or At The Bay, or Bay coloured, or whatever it is.
(errant ampersand removed from the title - Hal)