Despite huge demand, I am using this opportunity to present you with an excerpt from the Alternative Carol Service at St Augustine’s Church in Norwich. We like to intersperse the carols and readings with figments of our imagination – in this case an episode of Mastermind.
We had this a few years ago, when an angel did quite well. This year a Shepherd tried his luck. It went like this. You may think it loses something in the translation.
Quizmaster: Please be seated. And you are?
Shepherd: A Shepherd.
Quizmaster: No, I mean what’s your name?
Shepherd: Shepherd. A Shepherd.
Quizmaster: No, I mean…
Shepherd: My friends call me Andy. Andy Shepherd.
Quizmaster: Oh, I see. And are you sure you’re in the right place?
Shepherd: I think so. I got directions.
Quizmaster: In the e-mail we sent you?
Shepherd: From an angel.
Quizmaster: An angel?
Shepherd: I find they’re more reliable. They don’t crash. Or freeze. Or go astray, like sheep.
Quizmaster: Oh, I see. (Suspiciously) And where did you see this angel?
Shepherd: Outside town. High up.
Quizmaster: I see. All right. Well, you’re here anyway. (Consults card) That’s all right then. And your special subject is?
Quizmaster: Of course.
Shepherd: I know all about sheep.
Quizmaster: Is there a lot to know about sheep?
Shepherd: You’d be surprised.
Quizmaster: I’m not sure…
Shepherd: So we went looking for this manger. I’m not sure this is the place. Do you have a manger?
Quizmaster: Umm, no. What is a manger, exactly?
Shepherd: It’s a kind of feeding trough. Do you have a feeding trough?
Quizmaster: We have a canteen.
Shepherd: This is a canteen?
Quizmaster: No. This is a studio.
Shepherd: What’s a studio? Never mind. Probably a mistake in translation. Where’s the baby?
Shepherd: The angel mentioned a baby, too.
Quizmaster: I think you may have got a bit mixed up.
Shepherd: No, the angel was quite specific. I remember it clearly. I was keeping watch. Over the flocks. It was already dark.
Quizmaster: So perhaps it wasn’t an angel.
Shepherd. It was definitely an angel. The glory of the Lord, you see.
Quizmaster: The glory of the Lord?
Shepherd: Yes. Quite frightening. At first.
Quizmaster: At first?
Shepherd: Yes. But he told us not to be afraid. So that was all right. And then he told us about the baby.
Quizmaster: I don’t think we have a baby.
Shepherd: (Accusingly) What have you done with it?
Quizmaster: There is no baby.
Shepherd: I’m sorry. But if you’re asking me to believe you rather than an angel…
Quizmaster: I don’t think there was an angel. You must be mistaken.
Shepherd: There were loads of them. A multitude. A host, even.
Quizmaster: A host of what?
Shepherd: Angels. It’s a collective noun. Host of angels, school of whales…
Quizmaster: I think we’re getting away from your special subject. It was sheep, wasn’t it?
Shepherd: Yes, I know all about sheep.
Quizmaster: Right, then. First question: Do you like sheep?
Shepherd: Of course. All we like sheep.
Quizmaster: That’s a strange way of putting it.
Shepherd: All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way. You must know that.
Quizmaster: It sounds familiar. I’m not sure this is going to work.
Shepherd: Of course it will work. If God does something, it always works.
Quizmaster: If you’re talking about the producer…
Quizmaster: We call her God. The whole programme is her baby.
Shepherd: Baby. Right, so you do have a baby?
Quizmaster: (Sighs) We don’t seem to be getting very far.
Shepherd: Look, if the baby’s not here, I’m going to have to go. The angel said I had to find him. I’m sorry.
Quizmaster: Mr Shepherd, you have scored no points, with no passes. You seem to have everything right.