Once there was a poor woman who had a son called Jack. Jack was not, as they say, up to much. Though not exactly lazy he was always looking for ways of making money while doing as little, or if possible, no work himself. One day in early spring his mother said, “It’s pension day Jack, but I’m too busy tidying up the house after you. Take my pension book and go down to the Post Office, but be sure to bring all the money right back as quickly as you can.” “OK” said Jack with enthusiasm unusual for him. An hour or so later he returned with an air of muted excitement.

His mother knew that he had been up to something and was quite alarmed. Jack threw the pension book on the table and turned  to walk away. “Stop a moment” she said “Where’s the money?” “ I was going to tell you” said Jack “ After I had logged on”. “What’s all this about?” she said in an angry voice.

“Well it’s like this. I met this guy in the Post Office”, he said. “He was a scientist who works on genetic engineering and he has got this great idea. You take genes from human mouth cells and put them into beans. His plan was to make beans that can talk and count. He reckons that he has done it and all he needed was 60 quid for a web site to start selling them to the public.”  “You didn’t” she started to say “Yes Mum “ he replied” “and look here”. Sure enough there on the screen was the web site and his name was on it.

Next morning he logged on early and saw that there were already a few hits. The number increased each day, and by the end of the week there were thousands. Later an e-mail arrived from the scientist.  “We had better think about floating this company on the Stock Exchange. We both stand to make millions!  All it needs is £150 for the registration fee”. Jack knew that his mother had a small amount of money in a savings account “for a rainy day!” but he did not have much trouble persuading her to cough up this time because once she had found out how to visit the web site herself she became almost as enthusiastic as her son. They both spent most of each day at the site and finally learned how to use all the links. Here is what they found:-

BeansTalk.com   Your revolutionary cash crop.

Allotment (how many you get)

Potting-out (advice on where to put the money).

Banking-up (what kind of high-interest bank accounts to use).

Varieties. This was the most interesting entry and they spent most of the time looking at it and discussing which ones to chose. Among the most memorable were such names as:-

Directors Cut. A very highly prized variety.

Golden Handshake. An end of season crop which has a most delicious taste if you pick it yourself, but can be rather bitter if harvested by a friend or neighbour.

Sugar Daddy. A quick-maturing, hopefully short-lived variety. Leaves the ground richly mulched and ready for growing a more vigorous, but low-yielding variety which can be planted between the rows whilst the 'host' plant is still cropping heavily, provided that the older plant has been kept in the dark as long as possible.

Scarlet Emperor. A deceptively rich strain, most notable for its complete absence of foliage.

Swiss Account. Very little is known about this cultivar, or the related hybrid, Off-shore beauty.

Stringless. (able to climb to any height with no apparent means of doing so .

Envelope brune. A dusky variant where the ‘fruit’ is notoriously hard to spot among the foliage, but thought to be richly rewarding to harvest although quite hard to cook and, in consequence, often rather indigestible.

Pests. Not much problem here except for a black beetle known as Taxman vulgaris and a more voracious variant t. altus ratus. Although greatly feared, one school of thought is that these are actually beneficial as their droppings help increase the fertility of the soil, although not necessarily in your own plot. If any problem arises, the recommended approach is to employ biological control using the closely related species Accountatus sequestris although care must be taken here because this is a highly voracious species which can make expensive inroads into other crops.

There was also a video clip showing what happened when the crop was harvested at the end of the summer. A pile of shiny beans was placed beside a bowl of water and a microphone, pointed at the surface of the water, connected both to a loudspeaker and a computer. One bean was carefully selected and dropped into the bowl. As it spiraled down to the bottom, a sound like harp strings began to play and a melodious voice said “three”. This was repeated. Sometimes there was no more than an anxious clucking sound, but other times the same result was obtained as first time, but with a different, larger number. On the eighth time, the number was preceded by the words “and the bonus ball is”. The penny dropped. Sure enough most of the people who visited the site scanned hurriedly through their old videos of Lottery News and there in late September of the last year were exactly the same winning numbers.

Returning now to the web site. On the last page in small print under terms and conditions was the following:-

Beans are half-hardy annuals and crop between late July and the first frost. To harvest your talking beans, wait until each bean is clearly outlined within the pod, then pick the pods, remove the beans and leave to dry in full sun for two days. Each seed has only one message and the subject depends on the variety grown. Guaranteed 35% talking beans with 25% musical beans. All beans have a carrier gene of chicken origin (for technical reasons) and there may be some, even a considerable amount, of background clucking, as heard in the video clip. Because of the way the genetic material was extracted this may sound like the noise a chicken makes when a fox enters its pen.

The company was floated and the shares soared. Overnight Jack and his mother became what is known as Paper Millionaires. On the strength of this they acquired a large loan and bought an ORV, a flat in St. John’s Wood and a part interest in a small football club (Jack’s other passion).

Spring became summer and growing conditions were unusually good. Across the country beans flourished as never before. The only odd thing was that all contact with the ‘scientist’ ceased. He seemed to have sold his shares and vanished without trace. Then the great day came. ‘Operation Golden Harvest’ as it was called in the Tabloids and on the new ‘Gardeners Cashing-in Time’ programme.

Excited punters gathered round their sets to watch the results of the ‘first early’ crop; beans that had been grown under special forcing conditions and so ripened about a week before the main harvest was expected. The usual Celebrity and his Glamorous Presenter wound up the usual razzmatazz, as it is called, and after several corny chords from the Orchestra, the first bean was dropped into what had become billed as the Crystal Bowl. The sound that resulted was indeed like that coming from a hen-house when the fox has entered. However when the second bean spiraled down through the water, the sound resembled the honk of a goose followed by a low note of a harp, conjuring up the image of a golden egg being laid. Now everybody was on the edge of their seats, both at home and in the hand-picked live audience. Even the presenters were unable to contain their excitement when disaster struck.

The blond assistant, clumsy at the best of times, was so concerned with showing herself to the camera that she did not even take her usual minimal care. As she tried to shake out the next bean and rearrange her hair at the same time, the feat of coordination proved too great, with the result that all of the remaining beans cascaded into the water. The bowl was alive with sound, but what sound.

 “ Fraud” “Fraud” “ He’s taken your money and bolted to a tax haven!”

No matter how often people tried after that, no bean ever again made any noise, except that some, which had been over-dried occasionally seemed to emit a gentle sigh. The share price collapsed faster than a star that has used up its last quota of nuclear fuel to become that mysterious and perhaps unfortunate object known as a black hole.