The rock problem
I was woken early one morning by a dreadful racket taking place outside my bedroom window. It sounded like two people arguing very passionately and loudly, which is strange, as there are only two inhabitants of Happy Island and I definitely wasn't taking part in an argument.
I dressed and made my way downstairs to see what all the fuss was about. I opened the door to find Alun still engaged in a 'passionate debate' with Augustus T Elgin, benevolent dictator of our neighbours, Greek Island.
"You sir are a barbarian," Elgin was shouting. "You have taken advantage of our hospitality and committed the most flagrant of pillages."
"Rubbish," Alun shouted back. "We're giving your rocks asylum from your shoddy island."
"What's going on?" I asked.
"It's Greek Island, Jed," Alun said. "They're making a fuss about the rocks I took for my rockery when we holidayed on the island last year."
"The rocks you 'stole' you mean. You sir are a thief, a dastard, a common looter and have committed a veritable "spoliation" of our great isle."
"Spoilation!" shouted Alun in reply. "That's a veritable spoilation of the mainland language."
"If you don't return the stolen rocks to their rightful home you will force me to take extreme measures."
"What extreme measures? Are you going to 'spoilate' the mainland language even further."
"No sir, you force me to build a trade wall."
"But both our islands are in the inter-archipelago free trade area," I reminded him. "You're not allowed to impose Tariffs on us."
"In which case we shall leave IAFTA and tax everything from Happy Island at 100%."
"In which case we'll do the same, and tax everything from Greek Island at 200%," Alun responded. "You never produce anything worth buying anyway."
"So be it," said Augustus Elgin and stormed off.
"What on earth are these rocks that all the fuss is about?" I asked.
"I picked them up while we were on holiday, Jed. They're the nice round ones, they really make my rockery."
We walked over to Alun's rockery and he pointed out the offending rocks.
"It hardly seems worth a trade war. They look just the same as any other rock."
"It's the principal Jed. I won't be bossed around. They're my rocks and I won't be told to give them back. Besides, it's not as if we buy much from Greek island."
That day Alun completed the paperwork for leaving IAFTA and The Happy Island Tax Committee (me and Alun) agreed to a 200% tax on all Greek Island products.
The next morning I was woken at 6.40 by a hammering on my back door.
"You're late today," I said. "You're usually here by 6.30."
"It's the Boatman Jed, now that we've left IAFTA he makes me fill a load of paperwork in order before he'd trade with me."
"Why, what were you buying from him?"
"I was selling. The surplus crop of cucumbers from Benedict Cumberbatch's cucumber patch. Now Greek Island's imposed a tax on us I need to complete a sales sheet for everything I export."
The following morning I was woken at 7.05 a.m.
"You're getting later and later. What was it this time?"
"I was out of olive oil Jed, which meant I had to buy some from Greek Island. It's doubled in price, the bloody cheek of it, and I had to fill in one of those new legal forms they've introduced. I didn't understand a word of it. It's all Greek Island Speak to me." (The Greek Island population use a unique variance of the mainland tongue because "We're an independent island and can do what we bloody well like.")
The trade crisis grew. When I tried to sell my usual monthly load of geep's cheese I found that the sale of crossbreed products was banned.
The amount of paperwork grew and sometimes Alun didn't wake me until nearly midday. Of course, we weren't the only ones to suffer. We heard through our network of contacts (the Boatman) that Greek Island was suffering the same problems.
One morning shortly after this I was woken early by the sound of affable laughter and general affection and friendship. I dressed and made my way downstairs where I found Alun and Augustus T Elgin getting on splendidly with each other.
"What's going on?" I asked. "I thought you were both bitter enemies."
"Not any more Jed," Alun said. "Augustus has agreed to make this official proclamation that the rocks are ours." He held up an official-looking piece of paper.
"And in return Alun has agreed to return the rocks to Greek Island on a temporary basis for 1,000 years."
"That doesn't sound very temporary."
"It is if you're a rock Jed. A thousand years in nothing in rock years, they'll be back with us before they've even noticed they've gone."
"So does that mean the trade dispute is over."
"Yes Jed, we've both decided to rejoin IAFTA."
"Well I'm glad that's over ..." I started to say, but was interrupted by an explosion in the atmosphere, followed by a great bang, as something crashed into the soil. We rushed over to the crater to see what had caused the extraordinary episode.
"It must be a meteor," I said.
"No Jed, look at the colour of that rock, a dark-ruby red. It's Martian."
"Fancy, Martian rock landing here on Happy Island."
"It's perfect, Jed," Alun said. "It'll look wonderful on my rockery, and there's a temporary gap while the Greek Island rocks are on tour."
"Well, what a lucky outcome. A replacement rock landing from outer space just minutes after we returned the Greek Island rocks. And yet they say that ridiculously unlikely coincidences only happen in fiction."
And so everything ended perfectly. Or so I thought. However, the next morning I was woken early by a hammering on my back door.
"It's the Martians Jed," Alun said. "They've invaded the island. Apparently they want their rock back."