The Caburn Surprise
by Paul Brazier & Juliet Eyeions


In 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 every day.

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 Sheep.

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 composer Handel.

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…

Footie notes
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 funny.



The Caburn Surprise is copyright © 2002 Paul Brazier & Juliet Eyeions

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