When David Cameron picks up the phone to Europe today his position will resemble Dr Dolittle's mythical two-headed beast: the push-me-pull-you (Pushmi-pullyu). The coalition agreement hammered out by the Eurosceptic Tories and the Euro-enthusiast Lib Dems is summed up by both sides as "not forward, not back". In other words, moving nowhere much at all.
The problem is that when the prime minister calls Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy and President Van Rompuy today he'll be reminded that France and Germany don't want to stand still - they never do. They believe that Europe's institutions need strengthening to protect the EU from a repeat of the eurozone crisis. Germany's constitutional court is demanding that new temporary powers be given permanent status in a new treaty.
What's more, when the PM answers questions today or in the tearooms afterwards, he'll be told by his backbenchers that they too don't want the EU to stand still. They want its budget cut and its powers reduced.
So, what will the push-me-pull-you do? He'll advise his fellow leaders to find ways to strengthen the eurozone without a treaty change which will lead to demands for a referendum here and an unpredictable parliamentary vote. Or, if they insist on a new treaty, he'll insist that it doesn't give Brussels fresh powers over British policy.
He'll also pick a fight over the EU budget, demanding that it be capped. Thus he will seek to convince all parts of his coalition - within Parliament and beyond it - that Britain is not moving closer to, or further from, the heart of Europe.
The moral of the story is, however, that it is only in fairy stories that nothing changes year in,year out. One day the push-me-pull-you will have to go one way or the other and, when he does, there'll be trouble.