There have been a number of times lately when I've realised that I, and many other people around the world, have not kept their eye on the ball. Watching the value of superannuation investment falling rather precipitously has been quite unsettling for quite a lot of us. So as I was reading my bedtime story from 'Classic Folk.Tales from around the World', I came across a rather nice Irish story that seems to sum up a quite a bit of the current situation. It's called - 'The Basket of Eggs' and goes something like this.
There was once a fine woman and she was on her way to market counting the price of her basket of eggs as she walked.
"If eggs are up," says she, "I'll be getting a handful of silver, and even if prices be down I'll not do too badly at all for I have a weighty supply."
With that she noticed a wee little boy sitting down by the hedge, he stitching away at a brogue.
Now everyone knows that if you manage to grab hold of one of the little people and keep your eye on him at all times he will lead you to a pot of buried gold.
She juked up behind him like a cat after a bird and she caught him a strong grip of his kneck. Well he let out an odious screech for he was horrid surprised.
"Will you show me your treasure?", says she.
"You're a terrible fine woman, mistress dear," says the leprachaun, "I've travelled a power of the earth and I never came in with your equal."
"Go on with your old fashioned chat," she replies and pops him up in her basket on top of the eggs, all the time keeping her eye on him and a good hold of his ear to make sure he didn't escape.
Well as they walked on, him giving directions and keeping up his flattering banter, what did he do but reach down into the basket with both hands and begin to bail out eggs onto the ground behind them.
She fetched him a terrible clout, but the harder she beat him the faster he threw out the eggs.
"Stop! You unmannerly coley,' cries she.
"Sure it's doing you a favour I am. Every time an egg dashes to the ground a well grown chicken springs up."
"Quit raving," says she.
"If you doubt my word," says he, "Just look at the fine flock of chickens that is following us."
She could resist the temptation no longer and turned to look and, with a twist and a spring, the leprachaun slipped from her grasp and disappeared under a hedge.
"The wee lad has fooled me entirely and my eggs are ruined but it's a good thing to know that I'm the finest woman he's seen across the wide world, that it is."
So there you go - 'don't count your chickens', 'keep your eye on the ball', 'don't be beguiled by smooth talking lads' and 'keep a good grasp on ... on... on?'
p.s. 'Classic Folk-Tales from around the World' by Robert Nye does have some classics and some quite good stories as well. One of the disappointing things however, is there is no record of where the stories were collected or copied from. If anyone knows, I'd appreciated hearing.