On this particular Monday morning, Moose and Goose (private investigators and solvers of tricky problems) were sitting in their office, each sipping a cup of breakfast tea, when the phone rang.

Goose answered it, “Hello”.
“Is that Moose and Goose?”
“Yes”, said Goose.
“Private Investigators?”
“Yes”, said Goose.
“And Solvers of Difficult Problems?”
“Yes”, said Goose.
“Excellent. I am his Excellency, Mayor Wilson of this fine town and I do indeed have a problem. Are you available?”
“Yes”, said Goose.
“Excellent. If you could come round to my office, I’d be delighted to discuss our problem and explore ways in which you might be able to help.”
“Yes”, said Goose.
“Excellent. See you at, say 10?”
“Yes”, said Goose.
“Excellent. See you then.”

“Just time for another cup of tea”, said Goose.

Some hot sipping later, Moose and Goose rode their bikes round to the Town Hall, and were shown in to see the mayor.

He was a busy person, and got straight to the point.

“Our problem is this: the town hospital is full of people with bad sunburn. We have no beds left to treat any more people. The sunburn is entirely avoidable.

We have run lots of advertising campaigns and public broadcasts on the radio. We have bought lots of good quality suncream to give away for free to anyone who wants it. Despite all this, people insist on going to the beach without taking proper care, and so are getting badly burned.

We cannot force people to use suncream. We cannot officially go on to the beaches and try and convince the sunbathers directly because the two main beaches in this town are private.

I have a budget of £750 at my disposal to spend on experts to find a solution to this problem. Could you be the experts I need? Are you interested?”

Moose looked at Goose, and they both nodded. It was a deal. They agreed to work on this problem for up to 3 days, which worked out at £250 per day.

First things first, Moose and Goose went and had a look. The beaches were full. The sunbathers were lying everywhere, soaking up the sun. They all looked red, and it was not even midday yet. There was definitely a problem.

Moose and Goose separated, going off to have a chat with the two beach owners, to ask if they could help deal with the sunburn problem. They both sympathised, but insisted it was the responsibility of the people on the beach to protect themselves from the sun. Neither owner wanted to do anything that would scare away their paying customers (they charged £1 per person per day to use the beach).

Well, that was the obvious approach, but the beach owners were obviously not going to be helpful. Money was more important to them than the health of their customers.

Moose and Goose came back, and ordered some tea in a nearby café overlooking the beach. Moose whipped out his notebook, and the two Solvers of Tricky Problems started making lots of suggestions, mixing up silly ones with sensible ones.

The problem is to stop people getting sunburnt:

  • Ask them (no, the mayor had tried that)
  • Ask the beach owners (no, Moose and Goose had tried that)
  • Force them to wear hats (no, they were private beaches, so they could not do that)
  • Offer prizes for the best sun hat (hm, that sounded good. Moose underlined that one for later)
  • Squirt suncream onto people using water pistols
  • Set up a giant parasol over the beaches to block the sun out completely
  • Set up giant sunglasses over the beach to block out just the UV rays
  • Dress up in teddy bear costumes, coat the fur in suncream, then walk through the crowds of people on the beach, brushing the cream onto them

Goose looked out of the window, and watched the seagulls flying around, annoying all the sunbathers who were eating chips. Every so often, a seagull would do an enormous poo as they flew around the sunbathers. Some of the poos nearly landed on people.

“Why not use seagulls instead of water pistols?” wondered Goose. He looked back at the list of suggestions.

“Do you mean to use seagull poo in some way?” asked Moose, who was nearly as weird as Goose.

That was exactly what he meant.

That changed the one large problem of how to stop people getting sunburnt into two smaller problems of how to get suncream into seagull poo, and how to get the seagull poo onto the people.

Moose turned to a new page in his notebook and wrote a new title ,

How to get suncream into seagull poo?

The suggestions started flowing

  • give the seagulls drinks of suncream
  • give seagulls suncream in their food
  • capture some seagulls and only give them suncream to eat
  • make suncream tasty to seagulls

As soon as the tasty idea had been mentioned, Goose sat up and said, “Chips”. Moose wrote that down, and then said “Fish Oil”.

Moose and Goose dashed off to their office, stopping at the supermarket on the way. They mixed up a batch of fish oil with some of the mayor’s suncream, fried some chips, and then cut open the still warm chips to insert some of the cream mix. With this interesting concoction, they returned to the beach and pretended to eat the chips and accidentally dropping some on the ground. The seagulls snatched up the pieces straight away, and kept coming back for more. The chips had passed the seagull taste test.

Back at the café, with more tea, Moose turned to a new page in his notebook, and wrote

How to get the seagull poo onto people?

  • just let the seagulls poo where they liked, and hope enough got onto people
  • capture and train some seagulls to poo on people
  • paint a mark on each person they wanted the seagulls to hit, and train the seagulls to hit the target

“Wait a minute”, said Moose. “The people we want to get creamed are already marked.”

“Ah yes”, agreed Goose. “They are red and blotchy”.

“But how do we train the seagull to poo on red and blotchy people?”, asked Moose.

“Easy”, said Goose. “Just like you train dogs. A little reward every time they do the thing you want them to do”.

Going via a stationary shop, Moose and Goose went to a small public beach. They cut some people shapes out of large sheets of red card, and lay them down on the beach. It took a while, but eventually a seagull pooed on one of the red shapes. Goose flicked it a tasty suncream chip, and it was gobbled up. A few more lucky poos, and a few more tasty chips, and the seagulls soon learned that if they pooed on a red thing, they got a tasty reward.

That evening, Moose and Goose cooked up a big batch of chips. The next morning, they reheated the chips in the microwave, filled them with suncream, and loaded them into two big paper bags.

Armed with the chip bags, Moose and Goose walked slowly into town and each headed towards one of the private beaches. Some seagulls had noticed Moose and Goose as they walked through town, and a noisy, excited flock started forming above them as they approached the beaches. Splitting into two flocks, the birds followed the chip-bearers onto the beaches.

Goose was the first to walk past a very red, sunburnt person asleep on the beach. Within seconds that person was woken up by three loud and messy dollops of seagull poo hitting them. Goose casually threw some suncream chips down on the sand, and seagulls screamed as they dived down to gulp them up in a flash. This was fun.

Moose and Goose kept walking slowly round, rewarding the accurate seagull pooers with suncream chips. They pooed every time they saw a red person, which was almost everyone on the beach. Moose and Goose looked like they were feeding the seagulls, rather than controlling them.

There was mayhem. The pooed-on people frantically tried to rub off the poo, but it was sticky and just spread over their skin. It was smelly too.

When they ran out of chips, Moose and Goose walked back to the Town Hall to see the mayor. As they got there, the mayor’s secretary apologised that he could not see them straight away. There was an emergency on the beaches, where a plague of killer seagulls was attacking the sunbathers.

Moose coughed, and said they might just perhaps be able to help explain what was going on. The secretary led them in to the mayor. Goose started to explain, and the Mayor interrupted.

“You mixed suncream and what?”
“Fish oil”
“And fed it to what?”
“Which then did what?”
“On anyone with sunburn”
“Did you expect me to be happy about this?”
“Hang on. Did you say ‘everyone with sunburn’?”
“They got covered with suncream?”
“Excellent. Good job. Although I fear I may have to calm things down a bit.”

The mayor rang the local newspaper, and asked for the editor. “I have an official announcement I’d like you to print in your next edition. When is it due? In 2 hours? So there’s time to squeeze my little announcement in? Excellent. It goes like this:

As mayor of this fine town, I’d like to inform you of certain events which took place on the beaches today.

In an effort to tackle the epidemic of sunburn cases which is filling up all our hospital beds, we have carried out some emergency work to protect the people on our beaches from the harmful effects of the sun.

At approximately noon, we implemented the…”, and the mayor turned to Moose and Goose with his eyebrows raised, looking for a good project name. Goose leaned forward and whispered something in his ear.

“ah, yes, the, um, Public Service Pooping Program. Its aim is to distribute free, good quality suncream to all members of the public on our beaches who were at risk of sunburn. This program will continue for as long as it takes to ensure our hospitals are not overrun with sunburn victims. Thank you for your cooperation.”

The mayor grinned. That ought to have an effect. And it did.

The next day, Moose and Goose visited the beach to see owners were now selling anti-seagull umbrellas, with the free bottles of suncream. People were sitting under the umbrellas to hide from the seagulls who were flapping about and screaming. Being out of the sun, and also using the suncream, most people stopped getting burnt.

From that day onward, hardly anyone was admitted to hospital with sunburn.

But also from that day onward, people discovered that, as well as not getting sunburnt, it was probably best not to go to the beach wearing a red swimming costume or a red hat…