The symptoms were obvious from the outset. The sound of clucking and gobbling ceased abruptly down the road at Defra, and all of Mr Benn's merry men were shovelled into sealed trucks and taken up to East Anglia to run round like headless chickens. In all of the in-store pharmacies at Asda and JS, orderlies were switched from sticking flu jabs into hypochondriac customers and were to be found inoculating the poultry instead. For Bond, Andy Bond's lot this made a change from squirting pharmaceuticals into lamb shanks, and for King Justin's troupe it was a pleasant relief from flogging dodgy tuna. Yes, what was just a minor inconvenience when the loss of the lives of only a couple of hundred Vietnamese poultry workers became a full-blown tragedy as the Great British Christmas Dinner came under threat.
Danaher the DRIP driver has chauffered me from one disaster to the next this summer, while poor Mrs Rolfe, the cleaning lady, has been in tears as I recalled the baby baa-lambs dying in my arms at Pirbright, or sticking my fingers into dykes in Worcestershire, asking the moo-cows in Essex to say "aah", and administering Lem-Sip to the collected fowl of Diss. And on every occasion the chorus of "not me, mate!" booms over the hills from the big four, the wretched ranks of Wapping cast about searching for Who's To Blame, my government colleagues go into intelligence lockdown and ever so 'umble local independents carry on flogging infected carrion like nothing had happened.
HM Acting Chief Vet is now questioning out loud whether having billions of free-range turkeys cruising the countryside is such a great idea now the H5N1 virus is raining down from the mysterious Orient like the revenge of Fu Manchu. Apparently it would have been better to keep the poor buggers cooped up inside. Clucking hell.