IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE CURIOUS as to why a satire magazine called SMUG has sprouted up in the sleepy provincial town, sorry, vibrant ancient City of Winchester, this old fable explains it in a cryptic, roundabout sort of way.
Careful, though, there’s an added twist to this riddle, so here’s a clue. All is one and one in all in this duplicitous tale.
Ready? Good. Off we go.
Once upon a time there was a scorpion in search of its other half. Along the way the scorpion came to the banks of a river, in the middle of which stood a small island. Unable to swim, the scorpion looked around for a vessel to carry him across and spotted an old frog, half submerged in the shallows.
“Excuse me Mr. Frog,” asked the scorpion. “Would you be so kind as to take me to that pile of rocks over there?”
“Pile of rocks!” croaked the old frog, puffing out its puffy out bit. “That is my Kingdom. Can’t you see the sandcastle!”
“Er, yes, right, sorry,” apologised the scorpion. “I mean, would Your Majesty be so kind as to carry me across to your kingdom, please?”
“Mmm,” deliberated the old frog. “While I am surely a kind and charitable king, you are a scorpion. How can I be sure you won’t sting me half way across?”
“Who me?” replied the scorpion. “I can’t can’t swim. Were to sting you, I would be putting myself in jeopardy.”
“Very true,” agreed the old frog, and so it was that the old frog carried the scorpion across the river. Exactly half way across, the scorpion stabbed its tail into the old frog’s back.
“Why, oh Why!” bemoaned the old frog.
“I am scorpion” the scorpion dutifully replied. “It is in my nature.”
The moral to the tale is, of course, that one cannot change one’s own nature. But how does this explain why a satire magazine has sprouted up in Winchester?”
Or have you already solved the riddle? Let’s see.
Yes, the old frog represents the smug nature of the Wintonion. Smug being descriptive of one who has that air of certainty about them, born out of the belief that they are always right, morally superior and wholly satisfied with themselves and their achievements, in a humble, almost apologetic kind of way. (Ring any bells?) Don’t get me wrong. I am sure that all smug Wintonions are delightful, open minded, intriguingly ambivalent, liberal individuals in private, once you get to know them, but somehow, over time, the City’s own puffed up reputation as a paradigm of all that good and honourable rubs off on them, obliging ladies wear blue and white striped french jumpers (with a hint of pink) and men to begin every other sentence with the word indeed.
And let’s be honest, it’s hard to resist the appeal of identifying oneself with such a beautiful and distinguished capitol. Indeed, I have been accused of being smug myself, though I deny it of course. “If anything,” I retort. “I am anti-smug.”
Which brings us to the scorpion in the story. The sting in our tail being whatever combination of injustices, frustrations and personal heart break have inspired anti-smugs to have a stab at the old frog.
Granted, you may sympathise with the old frog, and say something like, “This is all very well and good, but we’ve all experienced injustice, frustration and heartbreak? Shouldn’t all you venomous back stabbing scorpions just grow up instead of trying to bite off the hand that feeds you. Indeed, a hand that works tirelessly for the greater good.”
To which a scorpion sympathiser might reply, “Sanctimonious old git!”
But then neither would have spotted the twist in this tale.
Find out on page 32.