“Here we go,” I say, cheerfully handing over the bowl of delicious sloes.

Mrs Short Tony thanks me profusely. There is, after all, no more neighbourly act than giving people some sloes. If councils would only plant sloe trees on the estates then there would be less gun crime, especially in Birmingham. It stands to reason. But they will not plant sloe trees on the estates, due to ‘health and safety’. It would save lives but they still will not do it. That is our so-called liberal government for you. It is political correctness gone mentally less able.

I go to return to the cottage, happy with my generous gesture.

“Hang on,” calls Short Tony. “Do you want some apples?”

He begins picking apples. This is annoying. His goose shoot is coming up, and my hope was that by bringing him a bowl of delicious sloes then he will be in my debt and thus will have to give me a goose. Being given apples muddies that particular water.

I take the fruit with a magnanimous air. After all, I reason, the apple tree is on his property, and all he’d needed was to grab a long picky thing in order to get to them. I had had to walk at least half a mile, and it was a bit uphill and there was some dog shit. I am sure he will see that the debt is not remotely repaid.

Later there is a knock at the door!!!

It is Short Tony.

“Me and Len the Fish have just been out. I’ve brought something for you.”

He hands over a big bowl of mussels and razor clams. I thank him politely. This is how things escalate. One minute you are offering people a bowl of sloes, the next minute you are insisting on your right to possess nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

We walk to the Village Pub and aggressively compete to buy each other pints of beer. But I am now several uranium rods down on the deal.

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