... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Sunday 3 February 2019

... and other stories

The foolhardiness of trying to carry tea in your hat is one of the many things that remind me of a story I was told as a child, but of which I can now find no trace.

It concerns a small boy who is sent to market on consecutive days to make various purchases: a cow, a cat, a pat of butter, something valuable...

Every day he attempts to convey his purchase home according to the instructions he was given the day before.  Every day this goes horribly wrong and he gets into trouble. For example, when he's carrying something precious, he gets robbed, so his mother scolds him and tells him he should have hidden it under his hat. The next day he goes for butter, puts it under his hat, and by the time he gets back it's melted all over him and he gets another bollocking. But all the time he's really doing his best, and just trying to do as he's been instructed.

I felt for him then, and I feel for him now, because it strikes me that this is an autistic person's experience; trying so hard to get things right and never quite understanding why it doesn't work out, when you've done exactly as you were told. I often think of the story because I often feel like that even now. At the very workshop to which I took the tea, I failed to do what was intended because I took the instructions too literally, and missed out on the opportunity to contribute as a result. However, thanks to the Equalities Act 2010, at least I didn't get a beating.

If anyone knows or can help me track down the story, I'd be delighted.


  1. It was Epaminondas! There's a version at
    Not quite how I remember it but close.

    Chris (Wrens-Nest)

    1. That is brilliant, thank you so much Chris. Not quite the same version I was told (I recall there was also a cat he tucked into his shirt that scratched him to ribbons) but clearly the same story with an even sadder twist at the end!