The Legend of Little Grumble

The townspeople of Little Grumble complain every day. They complain publicly and without inhibition. The town is famous for it. Our Little Grumble: the moaning capital of the world. Tourists come from afar to hear the townspeople complain. Usually the complaint is about the temperate, climate or some other trivia. Occasionally it might be about the stink from the town’s sewer, which runs through Parliament Square, and which successive governments have promised to fix but have failed to do so. For the tourist, especially those who come from extreme climatic conditions, it is a real novelty to hear someone complain about a little rain or soft sunshine. On any pleasant Little Grumble day Northern Hemisphere tourists feel less ashamed about their February blizzard complaints or when hurricanes arrive in late September. Other tourists however, can’t believe how lucky the Little Grumblers are, and wonder what is really going on. Maybe there is some sort of syndrome running deep in the town’s psyche. Of course not everyone in Little Grumble complain. These are the incomers who have found a better life here but don’t get involved in local issues. They have their complaints like everybody, but they prefer to keep them private.

One day during the height of the tourist season a strange thing happened. A young child aged about seven, was about to make its maiden complaint in the local city hall for the tourists. The complaints have been coming thick and fast and some were quite emotional. Public complaining is an intense affair at times and even jaded tourists find it hard going. The mayor thought the audience needed some light relief. The debutante child was therefore coached to complain about the water being too wet to drink. It’s not an uncommon complaint in the town, but this was going to be the first public witnessing of it. However, it wasn’t the real issue. The real issue is the heavy fluoridation of the water, and a child was needed to highlight the problem in a simple way. The parents, at the prompting of the mayor, who rarely smiled because of his chalky teeth, felt they couldn’t directly complain about the fluoride; instead one could rightly ask how wet is too wet. This is the gentle path to reform. There was a risk, however, that the audience might find this complaint over the top and in a way mocking the whole seriousness of complaining. After all the local council is meant to serve the people’s needs and to address their complaints, otherwise the ratepayers will feel ripped off, which predictably they do!

The child got up and forthrightly walked to the lowered microphone, took a deep breath and said a funny thing. “I don’t like eating grass”. There was a stony silence. The now smiling mayor left his chair and came over to the child, said a few words in the child’s ear and went back. “I don’t like eating grass” the child said again. This time the child’s parents got up from their chairs and ushered him from the stage and out a side entrance. Meanwhile the mayor was at the microphone and began to speak. However he couldn’t be heard amid the sudden uproar of shouting and laughter among the audience. A child eating grass? If this was true it was a scandal. The tourists, thinking it were true, began leaving Little Grumble amidst words of disgust and derision. What is it with this place that a child would be eating grass? This is outrageous. This is tantamount to child abuse. Who else ate grass? A murmuring fear took hold in the community. There would be serious economic and social consequences once the world knew what is happening here.

A public inquiry began, headed by a panel of independent commissioners from a neutral town called Farther Ewes. The debutante child was the first witness and she stuck with her complaint of not liking eating grass. The parents were called in. Yes it’s true. They themselves eat grass. And gradually the local people came forward and said they ate grass too. As the inquiry continued it was found that those who complained were also grass eaters. Incomers said they have never eaten grass and couldn’t understand it. As a result of this inquiry a new administration was appointed, with a mandate to rid the town of its image and to start afresh, and to find the reasons for all this grass eating and put a stop to the practice.

It appears a strange tradition had been exposed. Once a year at midnight when the full moon is its brightest in a clear sky, and when the frogs sing of this enchantment, the locals eat grass in a council owned paddock on the outskirts of town, hidden by trees and protected by hawthorn bushes. They are all completely naked. Children under five are exempt, and are looked after by their grandparents who are also exempt. This has been a tradition since the founding of the town of Little Grumble. The first settlers had discovered that the local conditions were intolerable. The beauty of the place belied its hostility and stark isolation. With the right and might of God on their side the settlers decided to stick it out, even if it meant eating grass to survive, which they eventually did. It was done stark naked to establish equality, and to create community bonding. They survived and a tradition was born, and it’s been kept ever since, although it has been reduced to an annual ritual, and only if the weather is clement. Like the law enabling free speech, eating grass became a fundamental rite before God, and written in the town’s constitution. As the town modernised and prosperity grew the local people, frustrated by this tradition, and being unable to rid it, began to complain about other things like the climate and the tyranny of distance. Eventually, if there was something which couldn’t be complained about, it wasn’t worth talking about, like death for instance. Fundamentally the sky was still too blue and the rain still too wet. When the complaints went from being a private town affair to a national one, the media got hold of it. And when Little Grumble began to appear in travel guides the international legend of Little Grumble, the complaining town Down Under, had been born.

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