I have had a very hectic few days. Amongst the best forgotten highlights was a meeting with a civil servant.
This meeting was necessary as I am occasionally required to represent the views of Krupton's rural community. Those living in cities might imagine this community to consist of wealthy hereditary farmers with vast acres of woodland and fields and their farm hands living in adjacent tiny cottages. This is far from the case.
The Krupton "Rural Community 2012" is a motley collection of so-called lifestyle inhabitants.
These includes bankers from the "City" who arrive on Friday nights driving 4x4s that block the lanes, their daughters who ride horses that shit on the roads and their wives who turn up at my constituency office stinking of expensive perfume and complaining loudly about the nuisance of country smells and sounds.
We also have converted farm buildings that now house IT consultants driving BMWs, destitute artists who walk everywhere in Wellington boots and, more recently, rows of cheap houses built to cope with the vast army of unmarried mothers whose lifestyle choice is to take full advantage of state benefits.
By the way, the latter clutter pavements with their tax payer funded Ford Fiestas, whilst the hordes of men that stay overnight arrive in white, unmarked vans. These are not the hard working fathers of their current children of course but the fathers of their future children.
So, making sure all of Krupton's disparate rural community gets on is a challenge.
Take Clive, for instance, a farmer who gets paid by the Rural Payment Agency for "not rearing 100 pigs". Clive emailed and wanted to know whether if he agreed "not to rear 300 pigs" he'd get three times more money. Good question I thought. I'll ask.
He was also desperate to know what type of pig (Gloucester Old Spot or Saddleback) would be the best type of pig not to rear.
Clive was also considering going into the "not milking cows" business and the "set aside fields" business, which I understand involves leaning on a gate each morning watching the grass grow. This rural entrepreneur also asked about establishing some "virtual set aside fields" on his website and said he would upload a virtual farmer to lean on a virtual gate if required. Even better question, I thought. I'll check.
But meanwhle I was also still struggling with the long conflict between the local badger cull enthusiasts, the badger protection group and the hedgehog protection league. The latter claim badgers eat hedgehogs but still "liked" badgers. When I suggested a cull of both I was reported to the RSPCA with a very unfriendly article then appearing in the Krupton News.
That is why I met with the woman from DEFRA. Surely, I thought, seeking answers and discussing conflicting needs should not be too much to ask. She arrived in a suit carrying a briefcase.
Anthea (my PA) took one look, sniffed, put her nose in the air and went to her computer.
"Yes," the female suit said, after I had explained a few issues as simply as I could. Anthea was still sniffing.
"Forging close links between areas of common concern often poses challenges so we deal with these by providing frameworks of incentives and structures using goals and aspirations."
At this point she delved into her briefcase and came out with about thirty glossy brochures that must have cost the taxpayer a fortune.
Anthea saw this, sniffed again and her face contorted into a shape I occasionally see under quite different circumstances.
"Yes," she continued, "DEFRA recognises the key economic drivers through its network of community champions and honest brokers. Our experience is that it is necessary to achieve alignments of perspective and we like to begin with strategic matches, marketing vehicles and pilots. Do you have any?"
"No,what are they?" I asked.
"Oh dear," she sighed. "Then I suppose that before we can start I'll need to understand the core aims of your constituent so that we can establish a clear gateway. Are you able to demonstrate any interim packages and strategic links such as economic thermometers and health checks?
"No," I said.
"Oh dear. These are so vital. We must be able to show evidence that Krupton has previous experience of co-ordinated approaches. Ideally these should be using cross cutting themes and formal accords. I suggest we use workshop methods although we can recommend other practical tools.
"No," I said suddenly feeling unusually drowsy.
"Mr Kelp. Please pay attention. I haven't got all day."
"Sorry," I said and glanced at Anthea. Anthea was now watching and, thankfully, starting to smile with that look of haughty confidence that only a woman can achieve.
"Yes, as I was trying to say, your constituent will need knowledge of multifunctional resources, focus groups and target-focussing seminars and form filling."
"Yes," I said. "I'd heard about the form filling."
"Good, we seem to be making progress at last." I heard her say, not that she smiled or looked at me. I have to admit that my eyelids still felt in need of support but I tried to concentrate.
"Is your constituent able to provide strong evidence of breeding a culture of collated work tasking dedicated to delivery stages as part of his business strategy?"
"Probably," I said. "He used to breed pigs."
I heard Anthea giggle.
"Oh we're not talking pigs any longer, Mr Kelp. We are talking paper - reams of it. He needs to be able to show experience of written appraisals measured against strategic goals using legislative framework and agreed methodologies approved in Brussels. This is vital as my office will need proof that policy instruments and cumulative burdens have not been forgotten. We need evidence that essential milestones have been passed with measurable outputs shown here in column 19 on page 47. So robust scrutiny will be required and this must come from independent consultants - approved by us of course. These consultants must also have been thoroughly approved by us and we are very careful about who we select. I can offer a list of approved consultants if necessary. These have already gone through our extensive approval scheme that is based on continuous look systems - CLS to you and me."
I think that's what she said.
As it's Friday, I'm off for a drink now with my Italian friend Milton Mancini, the MP for Pipstock
Milton is certain to have a far simpler answer. After all, his family in Naples are well known for getting around this sort of thing.