9th February

The Tolerance of Simon

The village was proud of Simon Stoblichties. He might be a bampot, but he was their bampot, and what was more he was valuable. As his fame had grown, so had the crowds who came to gawp at him. To them he was some kind of prophet, even though he hardly ever uttered a word unless alone with the carpenter or the carpenter’s son. People treated his tree as a shrine, tying articles of clothing to its bare branches and placing offerings of food, wine, jewellery and money at its base.

In the evening, when the pilgrims had trudged back across the moor to the village, where they would stop for a meal or sometimes stay overnight, the boy would come and take the donations away. He might send a loaf of bread or an apple up in the basket to Simon, but everything else went to the common good fund. So, what with the trade the pilgrims brought and the proceeds of their gifts, the village understood that Simon Stoblichties was the best thing that had ever happened in its history.

This did not prevent a lively ongoing debate as to his mental condition. The general opinion, which villagers were careful to keep from the ears of passing pilgrims, was that the wind must have rattled Simon’s napper once too often. After all, even in a country with a pleasant Mediterranean climate you’d have to have a screw loose to stand on a stob all your life. But to do it in the middle of a Scottish peat bog, where all four seasons were flung at you in the course of one day and often in the space of an hour, well, quod erat demonstrandum as the Romans used to remark.

The carpenter alone dissented from the common view. ‘Simon has always seemed sane to me,’ he said. ‘From where he stands, the rest of us probably look pretty unhinged. It’s all a matter of perspective.’

‘Aye, aye,’ everybody agreed with good humour. The carpenter was daft as well, of course, although a very fine craftsman. It was amazing how tol- erant you could be of lunacy when you had a financial stake in it.

Reader: Matthew Zajac
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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