As Ebeneezer Farmer snuggled down under the duvet on Christmas Eve, he had no idea of the disturbances the night was to bring.
No sooner had he dropped off, he was awoken by a groaning apparition at the end of his bed. Rubbing his sleepy eyes, he faintly recognised the wizened ghoul that hovered over him but he couldn’t quite recollect where he had seen the face before. “Who are you?” he muttered, “and what are you doing here?”
“I’m Beckett, the ghost of Christmas past, and I’m here on some outstanding business involving your past misdemeanours.”
“Oh gawd,” moaned the farmer. “You’re not still going on about that discrepancy in my movement passports from five years ago, are you? I’ve heard of spot inspections but this is ridiculous.”
“No, it’s not that,” replied the ghoul trying to put on her friendliest face. “I’ve been thinking about my time as Defra minister and I now realise I was a bit unfair to the farming community, so I’ve come to make amends. I hereby grant you a wish to undo anything that happened in the past that you now regret.”
Ebeneezer farmer racked his brain. Half asleep, the only thing that came to mind was an event from his youth. “Many years ago, when I was in Young Farmers, a bunch of us were walking back one night from the club’s Christmas do. It was deep snow at the time and when we passed the vicarage in the village we did a bit of a cheeky thing. Knowing the vicar would be at midnight mass, all the blokes took turns to have a leak on his front lawn and we managed to write “Merry Christmas from Grimlington YFC” in the snow.”
“Is that really the biggest regret you can come up with?” snapped an impatient Beckett.
“Well the thing is,” continued the farmer, “it caused a bit of a rumpus the following morning when the vicar recognised it was done in his daughter’s handwriting.”
The ghoul of Christmas past remained unimpressed. “Look, I’m not getting involved in this sort of adolescent tomfoolery. Instead, I’m going to correct those movement passports,” and with that, she faded into the darkness of the night.
No sooner had he got back to sleep, there was another presence to shake him from his slumbers. This time a rotund, sharply dressed gent clad in scarlett sat at the end of the bed. “I’m Father Grimshaw,” announced the second visitor, “and I bring you good RPA cheer this festive day. On my sleigh outside I’ve got most of this year’s BPS payments and the good news is one of them is yours and I’m going to put it under your Christmas tree when I leave.”
The farmers face beamed with gratitude. “Oh, Father Grimshaw that’s such good news and not just for me because I will now be able to pay my local farm supplies company, Bob Cratchett and Sons, for my fertiliser, so they’ll be able to share my good Christmas fortune. It will be such a relief to have all my BPS payment earlier this year.”
On hearing the word “all”, Father Grimshaw raised a cautionary hand. “Well not quite all actually. When I parked the sleigh, I left the reindeer on the nearest paddock for a quick graze but some of the elves back at HQ have now informed me that this was your EFA land so you are consequently in breach of cross compliance so I’ve had to deduct 10%. Sorry about that, but rules are rules.” And with that he was gone.
A few hours later, just as the eastern sky was starting to lighten with the dawn, Ebeneezer was disturbed for the third and last time. This time with an accompanying jingle of bells and a sprinkling of stardust, a luminous fairy settled on the pillow beside him.
“Hello, Mr Farmer” she cooed. “I’m Andrea Awesome, the Christmas fairy. I’ve come to grant you a wish for the future.”
Now this was altogether more challenging for Ebeneezer. Having thought about just himself with his previous two wishes, he felt he ought to think about others in far-away places. “Well, how about bringing peace to the Middle East?”
“Don’t be silly,” scoffed the Christmas fairy. “I’m not from the Foreign Office and how could I sort out a vast geo-political area that has suffered from centuries of wars and conflict?”
The farmer then racked his sleepy brain for something a bit more grounded. “Alright, let’s keep it simple, all I ask is that by this time next year you make sure the EU haven’t banned glyphosate.”
The Christmas fairy furrowed her brow even more and quickly returned to the farmer’s previous request. “What was it you were saying about the Middle East?”