Once upon a time a King lived in a castle on a hill. He liked to think that he was a kind and generous King and he was humble enough that he understood the limits of his own knowledge. To make sure that he would always make wise and just decisions for his kingdom, the King surrounded himself with scholars and advisers and he would take their advice on all sorts of important matters.
The King enjoyed lavish feasts and, being a generous ruler, he made sure to invite as many of his friends and countrymen as possible to enjoy the meal with him. As preparations were being made for one of the King’s famous feasts one of his advisers came to him and said, ‘sire, may I speak to you?’
‘But of course,’ said the King, who was always willing to hear good and honest advice.
‘It’s about the feast, sire. You see, I rather worry that there is a little too much meat and sausage and pie and bread and, well, not a lot else.’
‘You think people will go hungry?’ asked the King, anxiously.
‘Oh no sire. It is just that I met a wise man recently (he was a traveller from foreign lands) and he said to me “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and I rather fancy that he might be onto something there.’
‘Good grief! Well we must do something about this. You must ensure that there is one apple provided for each and every guest at the feast. And, as well, I want a Royal decree to be issued saying that every man, woman and child in the kingdom must eat an apple once a day, every day. To keep the doctors away.’
‘Very good sire,’ said the King’s adviser. ‘You truly are wise and compassionate. Would it also be worth sending out a message to the doctors telling them that it is nothing personal?’
And it was done and the King felt contented that he was doing right by his people.
* * *
The following day the same adviser appeared again before the King, bringing with him a young scholar.
‘Sire. May I trouble you for a moment?’
‘Of course,’ replied the King, ‘for have you not done me a great service by telling me how my people can stay healthy? “An apple a day” and all that.’
‘Ah, yes. About that. It seems that the wise traveller I spoke of may have been a little behind the times.’
‘An apple a day doesn’t keep the doctor away?’
‘Yes and no. You see, my learned colleague here has looked into it and, whilst an apple a day may indeed keep the doctor at a safe distance, it is much better for you to have five a day.’
‘Five apples?’ asked the King, confused.
‘Oh good grief no,’ interjected the young scholar, earning him a look of reproof from the King’s adviser. ‘Five apples would be no good at all. You may have one apple and then four other pieces of fruit or vegetable. Every day.’
‘And if I don’t?’ asked the King.
‘Um, not quite sure,’ said the scholar, ‘but it probably wouldn’t be very good. I would certainly advise having five a day, every day, if I were you.’
‘Don’t forget to mention the bananas,’ added the adviser.
‘Yes, bananas don’t count sire,’ said the scholar.
‘But why not?’
‘No idea your Grace. You can eat as many bananas as you like and it won’t make a blind bit of difference to your fruit and veg count for the day. It is most peculiar when you think about it.’
‘Well, thank you,’ said the King. Turning to the adviser he said ‘please update that decree from yesterday and change one apple to five pieces of fruit and veg. Every day. And put in something about bananas as well.’
* * *
And it was done, but the King felt unsure about this latest advice. When he was unclear about matters of great importance he would consult with his brother and he went to see him now.
‘Brother,’ he said, ‘I am perturbed.’
‘I can tell,’ replied the King’s brother. ‘What troubles you?’
So the King recounted all he had been told and his brother sat back, closed his eyes and listened. When he had finished the King looked at his brother and said, ‘are you still awake?’
‘Of course, my brother. I was just thinking about the colours.’
‘What colours?’ asked the King, ‘what are you talking about?’
‘It is not enough, my dear brother, to choose any five pieces of fruit or veg.’
‘I know about the bananas,’ offered the King, hopefully.
‘Well, quite,’ said his brother, ‘but I am referring to the colour of your fruit. The more colours you have, the better it is for you. Five pieces of green vegetables will be much worse for you than five pieces, each a different colour.’
‘I see. This really is quite complicated isn’t it? I’m glad I came to see you today brother.’
* * *
And with that the King took his leave, returning towards his rooms in the palace deep in thought. It was as he was walking through the palace’s gardens of peace and tranquillity that he heard a shout and saw one of his advisers rushing after him.
‘Sire, sire,’ cried the adviser, as she hurried to the King’s side, ‘I’m glad I caught you.’
‘Shh’ admonished the King. ‘These are the gardens of peace and tranquillity. Whatever is the matter, to make you come running after me in such a manner?’
‘I apologise most profusely sire, but it’s about the carrots for the feast. I’m afraid your Grace that they are the wrong colour.’
‘Aha!’ cried the King, ‘I know all about this one. The more colours we eat, the better. Carrots are orange, so as long as we don’t serve them with pumpkins or sweet potatoes or…’
‘Yes, exactly, oranges. Well, then we’ll be fine.’
‘Now you’re just making things up.’
‘Oh no your Grace, not at all. We have looked into it most thoroughly. It seems that someone has taken the humble carrot, in all its purple glory, and modified it, genetically. And now it’s orange.’
‘Really? But why? This all sounds a bit odd.’
‘I’m afraid it is a bigger problem than just the carrots as well. It seems that all sorts of people have been playing around with our food. Lots of things have been modified, and we’re not really sure who has done what to which things. It is a bit of a mess if I’m honest your Grace.’
‘And this is a bad thing?’ asked the King.
‘I couldn’t really say sire,’ said the adviser despondently. ‘People do seem rather keen on orange carrots after all. I think the trouble is that I can’t tell you which of the things you will be serving at your feast have been modified and which have not. I really am very sorry sire.’
The King pondered on this a while before saying, ‘right, this is what we going to do. We will have a feast. It will have meat and pies and sausages and fish and cheeses and great big roast potatoes. It will have trifles and puddings and cakes and cream buns. It will also have piles of vegetables and bowls of fruit, enough so that everyone present can have at least five portions. The fruit will be of several different colours. We will have strawberries…’
‘Which are red, sire.’
‘Yes, strawberries. And redcurrants’
‘Also red your Grace.’
‘Thank you. We will have blackberries…’
‘Possibly a kind of purple?’
‘Yes, thank you. How many was that?’
‘Five your Grace, but only three colours.’
‘Oh bugger it!’ exclaimed to the King, forgetting for a moment that he was standing in the garden of peace and tranquillity. ‘Just bring as many different types of fruit and veg as you can find. And we won’t mention the modification thing. If we can’t tell people what has and what hasn’t, it might be best not to say anything at all.’
‘Very good my King,’ said the adviser and she hurried away to see to the arrangements for the feast.
* * *
The King sat for a moment in the garden of peace and tranquillity and thought about how complicated this feast was turning out to be. At least I have sorted it all out now, he thought to himself, there’s nothing else to derail matters this close to the feast.
At that moment the Queen came to sit with the King in the garden. She seemed to the King to be upset.
‘Oh husband,’ she cried, ‘it’s about your feast. I want you to call it all off. For me. Will you?’
To be continued…