I woke as usual to Tweet of the Day on Radio 4 at 5:58 am. It was about Eiders, northern sea-ducks perhaps most famous for the soft breast feathers with which they line their nests.
It was therefore, as you can imagine, quite a juxtaposition when the Today programme started immediately afterwards at six with Ukraine-Russia crisis: Vladimir Putin launches full-scale invasion with explosions heard near Kyiv.
It felt odd after that to go on to my next regular morning appointment, reading the latest story from Malcolm Lyons' translation of The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights and posting a precis to the WhatsApp group where we are working through them.
The angel of death takes a powerful Israelite king to hell despite his protestations.
Alexander the Great passes by a people so poor they own no worldly goods at all. He summons their king, but his call is refused so Alexander visits the king himself. Impressed by the his modesty and wisdom Alexander offers to share his empire with the king if he serves as his vizier. ‘Never, never!’ exclaimed the king. ‘I have no desire for this.’ ‘Why is that?’ asked Alexander. ‘Because all mankind are your enemies, thanks to the wealth and the kingdom that you have been given,’ replied the king, ‘whereas for me they are all true friends because I am content with my poverty. I have no kingdom; there is nothing that I want or seek in the world. I have no ambition here and set store by nothing except contentment.’
Finally, the wise King Anushirwan feigns illness, but only as a ruse to double check is realm is well governed.
Three parables about variously wicked, amitious, modest and wise kings and their fates. Actually Night 464 could have been written specifically for today.