The Caburn Surprise
by Paul Brazier & Juliet Eyeions
2066, the European Union decided to take back the British Isles.
The English, being bolshy, had decided they didn’t
want to play any more when the Brussels Krauts extended the EU eastward
in order to allow Turkey and Uzbekistan to play in the European Cup. England
thought this was a Bad Thing, because it meant England might not be Top
Nation any more. So England filled in the big hole near Folkestone to
stop people training for Paris, and made holes in all the boats that tried
to sail in The Channel, and did funny bendy things to the wings of aeroplanes
that tried to fly over them so that the aeroplanes could only just fly
home before their wings fell off completely.
Of course, this made the Irish and the Welsh and the Scotch
extremely angry, because they knew they could beat Turkey and Uzbekistan
(and England, too, probably, even if it was only in brackets and in their
dreams). But they didn’t have any choice, because the big hole was
in England, and it was called the English Channel after
all, and anyway England was still the Top Nation in the British Isles,
even if it had given autonomy to every bit of the country, even the bits
that didn’t already have a name.
So, as I said, in 2066 the Europeans decided to Do Something
about the English Question. They asked around until they found someone
who thought he knew how to do it. His name was Guillaume d’Orange,
also known as the Conkerer because he looked like General De Gaulle.
Guillaume created a huge army on the north shore of France
(which is the sticky-out bit of Europe just under England on the map).
Then he got hold of some huge car ferries and petrol tankers that the
English hadn’t yet made holes in, put his army into them, and sailed
them across the channel to Pevensey. This was his First Big Mistake. Everyone
knows that the only successful way to invade England is through Thanet.1
Everyone except Guillaume, that is.
His Second Big Mistake was to try to follow the railway
to London. He didn’t want to have to change at Hastings and go via
Tonbridge. He had an ancestor who had tried that ploy successfully, and
he thought the English might be wise to it. So he used the direct service
that goes via Lewes and Haywards Heath. He wasn’t aware that the
Victorian English engineers that built the railways didn’t care
much where they went, as long as it was fairly flat. So all the railways
run along the bottom of valleys, and get flooded very easily. And it wasn’t
Guillaume’s fault that it was the wettest summer and autumn since
the Great Flood of Lewes in the year 2000. But the upshot was that by
Christmas 2066, his entire army was bogged down around the village of
Beddingham in the flood plain just south and east of Lewes.
Of course, the English hadn’t been idle while he
had been invading them. They saw the sense of avoiding a fight while he
wore himself out battling the mud. And they had their secret weapon. So
they evacuated everyone from the path of the invading army, and made sure
that there were plenty of sheep left in the fields.
Guillaume was frustrated. Lewes sat before him, a fat,
inviting target. But try as he might he couldn’t get his army through
this last quagmire to the higher ground around the castle. Its defenders,
bonfire boys defiant to the last of any form of authority, had refused
to be evacuated and instead taunted the immired Eurarmy from their castle
On Christmas Day 2066, the tide was finally turned. England’s
president by now was Arthur Harald. He was grandson of an esteemed snooker
champion, and for his thatch of corn-blond hair and his habit of being
overconcerned about the fate of all soldiers under his command, he was
known as the Golden Worrier. On this day, he ordered the final humiliation
of the Eurarmy.
The day dawned bright and clear. As the Eurarmy shook
out of their tents, they found the heights of the Downs surrounding them
lined with menacing figures. To the south, Itford Hill was taller than
before. To the north, Caburn’s brow had sprouted a new height. Guillaume
was hastily roused by his valet, Heimlich, and came to the door of his
Winnebago in a silk dressing gown. Putting binoculars to his eyes, he
saw, lining the hilltops overlooking his army, standing stock still, The
He had never heard of The Caburn Attack Sheep. Of course,
now, their name has now gone down in history, but then, even the English
weren’t entirely sure whether or not they were a myth. He had heard
of the Fairlight Flamingoes. They had moved into Fairlight lagoon in the
late 2030s when the climate had changed so markedly, and he knew that
English nanite technology had turned them into a potent reconaissance
force. He had seen them fly by daily, and accepted their presence. It
was pointless shooting at them. There were just too many. At this moment,
indeed, the air darkened to a remarkable shade of pink as what appeared
to be the whole colony passed overhead, glowing in the early morning sunlight.
And The Sheep Looked On.
Shaken, Guillaume turned back into his Winnebago to get
his morning coffee – as a child he had seen the pictures of the
Saxons at Senlac,3 standing defiant atop their hill before an earlier
army – but his valet shouted from outside, “The Sheep! The
Sheep!” (although it may have been “Les Moutons” or
“Os Carneiros” or “Die Schafe” – who knows
what language a Euro speaks). He turned back, looked out of the door at
the surrounding swamp and saw nothing unusual – except his valet,
gesticulating wildly and shouting, “The Sheep! Look Up!”
He leaned out of the door and was amazed to see the sky
filled, no longer with flamingoes, but with sheep parascending on bright
red and green parachute aerofoils. One glance at the hilltops told him
the grim truth. The sheep were streaming over the hilltop, their fleece
trailing out and transmogrifying behind them, and as they raced down the
steep slopes the fleece became parafoils that quickly filled with air,
so that now they spiralled high above his army.
He called immediately for anti-aircraft fire, but fingers
already tensed around triggers relaxed as the airborne sheep, now divisions
strong, circled and rose in the thermals created by his massed manpower.
It became plain, in the still rising sunlight, that they presented no
threat. Against the painfully blue sky, their red and green wings flashed
and sparkled as they turned and spiralled upwards. The occasional “Wheeee!”
could be heard drifting down to the ground. Many common expressions were
coined during this campaign, and “whee like sheep” is one
that was in fact prefigured in the work of another great Englishman, the
As the massed airborne sheep attained some altitude, the
whees gave way to more concerted bleating. No amount of disencryption
could tell Guillaume what was being said, although it was plain it was
some kind of code. Soon enough, it became plain that they were using their
baa-code to organise their formation. Of a sudden, the random swirling
of red and green gave way to a concentrated formation – and in the
skies above Mount Caburn, parascending sheep spelled out in perfect formation
the timeless message, “Peace on Earth! Goodwill to All Men!”
The Fairlight Flamingoes reappeared from the East, and
their formation formed the shape of Santa Claus in his sled being drawn
by reindeer, but in the head of the Santa Claus they carried Arthur Harald,
the Golden Worrier himself, and as they flew by overhead, he dispensed
clusters of gifts by tiny parachutes to the enmired army below. Miniature
mince pies, tots of rum warmed by their own nanite furnaces, and mobile
phones so they could ring home to their families rained down. And then
the sheep formation dispersed and they swooped in to land in among the
army, and as their feet touched the ground so their canopies enfolded
them and when they stood up they were attractive young humans who would
help to catch the descending gifts and feed them to the invaders, and
there was much laughing and fraternising.
Unfortunately for Guillaume, this was where he made his
Last Big Mistake. One of the mince pies was a little stale. As a result
its parachute didn’t open properly. As he stood with his mouth agape
watching the aerial display above, this mince pie hit him squarely in
the mouth and caused him to gag and choke. If it hadn’t been for
Heimlich, things might have turned out very badly for him. But as a result
of his batman’s manoeuvre, he survived to be invalided away from
the battlefield and back to France, where he dined out during a long and
happy life on the story of the one time that he ate English food and how
it nearly did for him.
Without their leader, the army had no further stomach
for battle, and, indeed, they really rather liked the rum and mince pies,
and many of them decided to stay on and settle down with the happy young
people who had waylaid them as sheep at what became famous as The Battle
of Caburn Surprise, where the might of obdurate Europe was stymied and
finally absorbed by the efficacy of the enterprising English.
As a direct result, the English, long Top Nation in the
British Isles, became once again Top Nation in Europe, and as this was
the third time, they got to keep the trophy forever, and no-one ever tried
to invade England again.
Harald, the Golden Worrier, being Top Man in the Top Nation,
became Top Man in all of Europe. As Europe had continued to gobble up
its neighbours while England had been away, now England became the Top
Nation in all the world again. Harald got to do lunch with the Top Men
of other countries, and they begged and pleaded that he would never set
the Caburn Attack Sheep on them. So he never had to.
A vast peace settled over the world, and after a long and happy life making
peace wherever he went, Harald died happy and fulfilled, at home in Hastings.
By his own request, he was buried on the cliffs above his home town, and
a stone with this inscription was raised to his memory –
By no will but his own, rests Harald here;
Still guardian of the shore and of the sea.4
A detachment of Sheep is assigned there as an honour guard.
And, when they’re not soaring on the updraft from the cliffs, they
busy themselves keeping the grass short – a task to which they seem
to have become remarkably well adapted…
1 cf. Sellar, W.C and Yeatman, R.J., 1066 And All That.
2 Known as “The Battle of Hastings”, it was
fought at a place called Senlac, now known as Battle to avoid confusing
it with Hastings which isn’t nearby.
3 See note 2
4 A far better written story, The Golden Warrior
by Hope Muntz ends with similar poignant words. But it’s not as
The Caburn Surprise is copyright ©
2002 Paul Brazier & Juliet Eyeions
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