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Exercise 5 — Away in a Manger

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Read the following text about a farmstead in Essex at Christmastime and decide what verb forms should be used in gaps 1-10.

Away in a Manger

On his farm deep in the Essex countryside, Roy Threadgold and his family bring together the local community and visitors from far and wide for a special festive gathering.

from Country Living- December 2017

Sometimes it snows before Roy Threadgold’s annual Carols in the Cowshed event, held on the first Sunday after Christmas Day. On such occasions, white flakes carpet the farm’s milking yard with a delicate, downy softness. On other years the sun might peek through the clouds, warming a crisp winter’s day. Of course, there has been rain, too, but, however unpredictable the weather, the one thing that guaranteed at Boydells Farm in Wethersfield, Essex, is a warm welcome and a memorable afternoon.

„I’ve never known people .......... (1. put off), even when it really is a case of ’Earth stood hard as iron’. It simply adds to the atmosphere,” Roy says, as gropus of carollers bundled up in hats, scarves and coats make their way up the farm’s driveway. He .......... (2. host) this event, in one of the cowsheds on his 100-acre farm, since 1991, when it was first set up in a bid .......... (3. reinvigorate) the traditional parish church service held between Christmas and New Year. „No one ever turned up,” Roy recalls, describing a common plight around the country. „So I suggested relocating the venue to a barn and bringing the carols to life.” The Church agreed – „They realised they had to do something” – and, following a notice in the parish magazine and a roadside banner (which remains the only publicity Roy uses), 60 curious members of the community arrived at Boydells farm gates.

„It was enough to make the event viable,” Roy says,”so we decided to repeat it the following year.” One service led to another and 60 people soon grew to about 200 – no longer just from Wethersfield, but as far afield as Norfolk, Gloucestershire and Derbyshire. For many, it has become an annual tradition. „We start receiving enquiries in the spring. We’d have a job to stop it now – even if we tried, I think people would still turn up,” he laughs.

So what is it that keeps the public .......... (4. come) back year after year, and travelling such distances to be here? It could be the setting, with its sweetly scented hay bale ’pews’. Or maybe it’s the melt-in-the-mouth mince pies freshly baked by Roy’s wife, Cherry, and his daughter-in-law, Lorraine. For five-year-old Jemima Gittings, as for many, the congregation’s animal contingency is the greatest draw. „I love the sheep and goats!” she cries, holding out a handful of straw for a dappled Boer goat to munch on. „It’s magical for the children,” her mother Sarah agrees.

After the excited babble of the sizeable crowd quietens expectantly, the band strikes up – the sound of the piano, flutes and trumpet competing with that of the other residents of the barn – cows, sheep, goats, chickens and even a llama. Led by Roy’s daughter, Jessie Taylor, a freelance music teacher, this is the first time the dozen or so musicians, a group made up of her past and present pupils, will have all performed together. „Many of us .......... (5. grow up) with this event – it’s a part of Christmas,” she says.

Boydell’s Farm history in the area goes back a long way. It .......... (6. establish) in the 1500s as a mixed farm, converting to a conventional dairy in Victorian times. Roy took it over in 1963 and, in 1987, moved into sheep milking, selling the produce and using it in his own range of cheeses, yoghurts and ’Yoggipop’ lollies. It was also the year he first opened his gates tot he public: ”We were milking cows, sheep and goats and I thought, where else can you see all three .......... (7. milk)? We invited people to visit during the summer holidays to see if there was any interest. There was, and now we run regular guided tours around the animal pens between March and September – these days we welcome around 14,000 children every year.”

Unsurprisingly, Boydells is beloved by the local community. When foot and mouth disease struck in 2001, locals rallied round and helped Roy and his family through it. „The support was overwhelming,” he recalls of what was clearly a difficult time. The carols continued regardless, however, and today the event remains a way to introduce farming to every generation. „I want my children to understand where food comes from and to appreciate the hardships farmers face.We’ve come to celebrate Christmas, but also to experience the realities of a working farm – perhaps I shouldn’t have worn new suede boots!” says Sarah Reed, who has come with daughters, Maddy, nine, and Holly, eight.

Halfway through Hark the Herald Angels Sing, there’s an excited commotion, as a gaggle of geese waddle in to see what’s going on, their honks competing with the carollers. In the past, lambs .......... (8. bear) during the service – last year one sheep produced triplets. It’s all a reminder that for Roy and his son Kiley, who took over the running of the farm seven years ago, this is just another day at the office. With 300 Friesland ewes about to lamb, they’re on standby:” You just get on with it: If one goes into labour, we go to assist and the carols continue.”

With the service .......... (9. come) to a close, Kiley’s wife Lorraine is starting to offer round baskets of star-topped mince pies with her daughters and assistant bakers, Lily,11, and Rose, nine, her-five-year-old son Angus by her side.The welly collection plates, passed round by children during the event, stand tall at the exit- in case of last minute donations – already stuffed full of Gift aid envelopes, which, since 1991, have raised Ł8,100 for Farm Africa, a charity that promotes sustainable agriculture.

As the light begins to fade and the call of warm, comfortable homes becomes too tempting to resist, people start to bid their farewells. Children, quiet and peaceful throughout the event, now run and jump between the vacated hay bales, or pet the animals ’goodbye’ in turn. It’s one of Roy’s favourite parts of the afternoon. „I love watching everyone engage with the livestock,” he says, smiling as two girls try to avoid a cow’s affectionate licks.” Here, it’s about getting a true farm experience – you get muddy, wet and probably squirted with milk, but it’s good old-fashioned fun, which, really, is what childhood is all about.”

Now Kiley is busy .......... (10. dismantle) the pews and Lorraine is off to tend to the animals.

Closing the gate behind the final leavers, Roy turns and looks back at the barn – an everyday structure made holy with the magic of Christmas.

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