I went to the shops and bought a foghorn. I thought it would come in handy if I were to find myself embroiled in the fog of war. I could toot my foghorn, and then … well, to be honest I hadn’t really thought beyond that. But they make foghorns for a purpose, and a benign one, so I felt sure that, in the fog of war, my foghorn would prove invaluable. It might even save my life.

At time of writing, I am, or was, fortunate to live in a peaceable kingdom. King Gobbo is a peaceable man, and though he has been provoked by certain of our neighbours, over matters such as cow pastures and slurry pits and thermonuclear devices, he has thus far managed to maintain the peace, either by capitulating to the aggressor’s demands in a fawning manner, or by laying waste to their territories by deploying his fiercely loyal army of psychotic blood-drenched nutcases. Within our borders – and they are very pretty borders – we remain at peace. That being the case, I have not yet needed to toot my foghorn.

I have not needed to, but I tooted it anyway, to test it out. There was no fog. It was a clear day. You could see forever. I tooted my foghorn. It sounded rather as I imagine a combination of bassoon and piccolo would sound, playing a single protracted note, amplified to deafening volume. The particular make of foghorn I had bought worked by a simple mechanism. You depressed a knob to turn it on, and depressed the knob again to turn it off. Unfortunately I can be a bit of a butterfingers, and when I depressed the knob to turn it on, I somehow managed to jam it, so that when I tried to depress it again to turn it off, my efforts were in vain. As I said, it was bloody loud, and after trying to depress the knob a couple more times, I had to put my hands over my ears.

I stood there, like a fool, at the junction of Ritually Slaughtered Poultry Street and Ringo Starr Boulevard, on a clear day when you could see forever. And of course, if I could see forever, then so could everybody else, or most of them. I wondered if I could pretend that the foghorn was nothing to do with me, that I just happened to be passing by when some unseen miscreant depressed its knob. But I had the receipt from the foghorn shop in my pocket, and it would certainly be found when King Gobbo’s secret police bundled me into a van and took me to one of their damp dank subterranean interrogation chambers.

I looked wildly around to see if there was a municipal waste bin into which I could chuck the receipt. Doing so would involve having to uncover one of my ears for the time it took to remove the receipt from my pocket and discard it in the bin, and I might well be deaf in that ear forever after, but that seemed my best option if I could accomplish it before the arrival of the secret police. But there were no bins to be seen, even though it was a clear day and I could see forever.

Then I remembered King Gobbo’s latest ukase, proclaimed from his balcony just the other day. Bins were banned throughout the land. Bins were only necessary where there was waste, the King declared, and in his kingdom nothing went to waste. We were, he said, a frugal and ingenious people, who would eke everything, everything!, until it was beyond further ekeing, and could be eked no more. Or at least, we had better shape up and become that frugal and ingenious people, or else.

With my hands over my ears, and thinking about that “else”, and the secret police, and the damp dank subterranean interrogation chambers, I decided to make a run for it. I ran and ran, until the din of the foghorn was slighly less deafening, I ran and ran until I reached the border. It was a very pretty border. I handed myself over to the enemy border guards, and begged for mercy. I would think twice before buying another foghorn.