Have you heard the one about the New Zealand sheep that flew to Saudi Arabia? Of course you have, but chances are your eyes glazed over somewhere between the angry Arab aristocrats, pregnant ewes and heavily redacted documents.
At its simplest: Saudi businessman Hamood Al-Ali Al-Khalaf became deeply pissed off when the New Zealand Government failed to reverse a ban on live sheep exports. "I'm deeply pissed off," he said, or words to that effect, having gained the impression that he'd be free to ship sheep any day now.
Inspired at least in part by its desire to seal a free-trade deal with Gulf states, the New Zealand Government put together a package to remedy Mr Al-Khalaf's deep pissed-offedness. There was a $6 million investment in an "agrihub" in the windswept desert. There was $1.5 million to fly those pregnant sheep - breeders are exempt from the ban - to Saudi. And there was $4 million cash.
But beyond those basic elements, the plot of the Saudi sheep row involves a muddle of characters and conjecture. Over the weeks it has grown as convoluted, miscast and indecipherable as the second series of True Detective.
For many, meanwhile, the greatest bafflement is brought about by the explanations for the saga from the Prime Minister, John Key, and his Foreign Minister, Murray McCully. I confess I, too, am a little perplexed, but as best I understand it I shall articulate the argument for the defence. Here goes.
Murray had a little lamb problem. More to the point, Murray had a problem with the ban on the sheep exports and the deeply pissed-off Saudi chap and the trade deal. Thinking, as ever, outside the box, he patched together an innovative, unorthodox - pioneering, even, some might say - solution, and all at a price tag comfortably less than the budget for the universally popular process to replace the flag. Frankly, we should be celebrating Mr McCully's dynamic thinking rather than pursuing him with a pitchfork in the manner of PR man and leader of the opposition Matthew Hooton.
Murray had a little lamb problem. More the point, Murray had a Little lamb problem, for the pickle in which he found himself was entirely the Labour Party's making. Andrew Little may not personally be at fault, but the problem was plainly inherited from the previous Labour Government. As everyone knows, they were the ones who sent Mr Al-Khalaf into a deeply pissed-off spiral of despair by telling him the live exports would be back. It beggars belief that anyone could doubt that the problem was inherited from the Labour Government, given the number of times that Mr Key and Mr McCully have said that it was.
Naturally, there will be those who shriek that there is no evidence whatsoever in any of the hundreds of pages of documentation that Labour is at fault. Duh! This is precisely the point. It is so obvious that it is Labour's fault that it hardly needs stating. Do those hundreds of pages note the existence of gravity, or the deliciousness of a cold beer after a hard day's work? No, they do not, not even once, because everybody knows about gravity and beer. The fault of the previous Labour Government is tacit, a universal truth.
It is true that Mr McCully didn't want any lawyers involved in the deal. This is not, as many might imagine, because all the lawyers were working for or against Colin Craig. Instead, it is because they can be so boring and finickity, all "law" this and "rule" that, not to mention charging in units of 45 seconds.
Lawyers, with their fussy faces, would have been required had this been called a "compensation" payment. Our Saudi friend may have sought compensation. He had, perhaps, heard that he might be able to sue for as much as $30 million under the Deeply Pissed Off Investor Act. Nimble minds were needed: no way would we compensate him, but that just meant we'd need to compensate for the lack of compensation. The answer arrived like a glowing ewe from the sky: a non-compensatory facilitisational disbursement. Here, let me draft the invoice for you.
It is true, as evidenced in material released under the Official Information Act, that Treasury recoiled at McCully's outside-the-box solution to the Saudi problem. They questioned the rationale and the process, warned it would be controversial, and urged Cabinet to do more than just "note" the proposal.
It is true, too, that the Auditor General wrote to the chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressing misgivings about the deal.
But all of this is remarkable how exactly? Just as dogs bark, ducks quack and Popes practise Catholicism, so the Auditor General hole-picks and the Treasury penny-pinches. Whingers and moaners. Haters and losers. Safe to bet that they were dead against Kiwis enjoying a nice breakfast beer at the Rugby World Cup. They'd probably shut down the All Blacks if they could. Wowsers and kill-joys the lot of them.
If Treasury and the Auditor General had their way we'd all be living in some draconian wilderness with neither a decent national rugby side nor a drop of lager to drink, and who wants to live in Saudi Arabia? Let them drink beer.
Some, roused by opposition leader Hooton, demand that Mr Key must sack Mr McCully for the way he has handled the Saudi sheep saga. Again, this is ludicrous. Ask yourself, what would you do in dealing with this so-called "dark prince"? How could you stand in the way of a man with such indecipherable facial expressions, that non-smiling smile, that middle-distance stare that fills your head with anguish? How would you feel if you returned to your bedroom at night and found him sitting there in the half-lit corner, silent, unblinking, stroking a half-eaten lamington?