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Down on Nativity Farm - 15/11/2006
 
Christmas Nativity Plays must confuse pupils and teachers in many of our schools. Revision is needed in the educational and scientific manner the Food Standards Agency is bringing to school customs. We suggest a scenario and script.
Christmas Nativity Plays must confuse pupils and teachers in many of our schools. Revision is needed in the educational and scientific manner the Food Standards Agency is bringing to school customs. We suggest an instructive scenario and script.

Here come the Three Wise Persons, clipboards at the ready, bearing down on a family who have found refuge in a barn of mixed livestock (but no pigs), having disdained the accommodation at a local hostelry offering little sustenance and a smoky atmosphere. They have laid their newborn baby in a manger in the barn. The majestic trio coming to exercise their surveillance and authority represent DEFRA, the Food Standards Agency, and the local Trading Standards Officer.

Reinforcements arrive in the form of the artificial inseminator and a chap from the State Veterinary Service to check the tests for TB in the cattle and signs of badger activity in the environs and feed. A midwife comes to ensure that the baby is latching on satisfactorily. An RSPCA inspector arrives, accompanied by the local police constable, having secured rights of entry after allegations of deprivations of fodder for the livestock.

Very belatedly, after a long journey from the clinic at the nearest mixed-animal practice, a vet arrives to demonstrate a mite of the Herriot worship, now in steep decline, that once engaged the profession and its vocation. His is to examine the pats and pellets and to de-worm almost anything that breathes and eats on the farm and to castrate the calves, lambs and (non-human) kids. Feathers, droppings, and foamites betray nestings and activities of airworthy denizens of the premises. In a desultory moment, while awaiting payment of his fee, vet and midwife ponder on the merits of breast-feeding and of an adequate fill of colostrum for tucked-in calves. And the place really needs to be deloused.

The farmer is in the background almost hidden behind piles of paper, playing modulations, subsidies, single farm payments, and accounts from his wife’s B&B enterprise on his computer. Possibilities of profits from the shoots – to be set against the appalling costs of disposing of fallen stock – have to be assessed too.

Enter his eldest son, sick of explaining the word heifer to the new Polish stockman provided by an obliging gangmaster. The son tells his father that he’s quitting dairying for the built environment of property development.

This being the 8th Day, there’s another little job to do. On cue, the rabbi arrives, the vet and the midwife, as well as the parents, having rejoiced in the birth of a baby boy. The vet offers his skills and potions to the rabbi and the ritual cut is completed. Such jobs come as compensation for restrictions he suffers in docking dogs’ tails. There is great wailing all round, as the alarmed EU inspector flies in from Brussels, and the knackerman sounds his horn in the yard to collect the cow who died in the night of milk fever and the ewe who succumbed to pregnancy toxemia. Exeunt all to Psalm 23, sung to Crimond. Encore All Things Bright and Bootiful. Exeunt.  
 
 

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