County cricket July 7, 2010

King Giles and the robber barons

A stirring fable of greed, overkill and synergistic revenue maximisation

Note lack of cheering villagers in background © Getty Images

Once upon a time there was a poor king called Giles, whose kingdom was terrorised by 18 squabbling barons. The barons could never agree on anything, except that they should all have lots of money, which they spent on hiring African mercenaries and building enormous brightly coloured palaces that everybody hated. But King Giles could not get rid of the barons because they were so powerful.

And no matter what King Giles did, his people were never happy. He made money fall from the Sky but people complained that the barons grabbed it all and there was none left for them. For the prestige of his kingdom, he bought himself a splendid new suit made from invisible Texan cloth, but when he paraded it on television, everyone laughed at how naked he appeared.

One night, as he was just about to fall asleep under his Stanford Super Series Commemorative duvet, his fairy godmother appeared. She told him not to be alarmed and to look out of the window. With a wave of her magic wand, a quiet little shire hen that had been pecking away in the castle courtyard was instantly transformed into a plump goose wearing a Kolkata Knight Riders baseball cap.

“Is that all?” said King Giles, “What do I want with a goose? Haven’t you got any cake?”

“It’s a magical goose,” replied the fairy, “Say the magic words, ‘synergistic revenue maximisation’ and it will lay a golden egg. But if you ask it too many times, it will stop laying altogether and disappear in a puff of apathy.”

King Giles thought for a minute.

“Could I have another one?”

“No. It’s a metaphor. It doesn’t work if you have two,” replied the fairy.

King Giles was happy with his marvellous goose. But soon the barons heard of this miraculous creature and they crept into the castle and stole it. They took it around the country, saying the magic words and scattering golden eggs wherever they went. At first lots of villagers wanted to come and see the goose. So many people came, in fact, that the barons started to charge £20 a time plus extra for ale and pies.

But after a while, people grew bored of watching the goose and had no pennies left, so instead spent their spare time darning their socks or renovating their cottages. One July day when the poor exhausted goose had laid her 158th golden egg of the summer, the magic stopped working and in a trice she turned back into a plain old shire hen, whose eggs were small, uninteresting and not at all golden.

The barons were most displeased and so they had a meeting at which they decided that King Giles was to blame. And to teach him a lesson, they told all of the newspapers in the kingdom that it was his fault that the goose no longer generated sufficient revenue streams. Word spread throughout the land and children began to taunt poor King Giles whenever he passed by in his ECB coach.

“There goes silly King Giles,” they said, “the man who lost the goose that laid the golden eggs.”

And the eighteen heavily-subsidised barons lived happily ever after.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England