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Government intelligence services have established the existence of a new threat to the nation’s security.

It is code-named Winter.

A hitherto unknown terrorist group, known only as the Freeze Effect, intends to bring chaos to the country in the next few months by lowering temperatures everywhere, introducing icy and snowy conditions, and plunging the country into darkness by teatime every day.

Your government’s intelligence services, working night and day, have uncovered details of the drastic disruption that the nation’s enemies plan to inflict on it, and if we all co-operate we will be able to minimise the worst of it.

But drastic new security measures will have to be introduced in order to neutralise this threat.

They will include:

1. Taking the lawn mower in for a service

2. Putting nuts and seed out for the birds

3. Hanging a wreath on the front door, and

4. Wearing a vest (optional).

A security alert will be in permanent force for the next three months, at the maximum Red Nose level, and certain basic human rights will have to be curtailed during that period.

Those basic human rights include such normally permitted activities as:

1. Having barbecues

2. Walking around in sandals (men only)

3. Displaying little bare fatty midriffs (women only)

4. Gardening

The government is confident that the public will see the need for these restrictions.

After all, if the British public can be convinced that it is wise to hand over lipstick, hair gel and bottled water at airports, without a shred of evidence to prove that they offer a danger, then the British public can clearly be brainwashed into anything.

Therefore over the next four weeks, the public will be required to take one or more of the following totally unnecessary measures:

1. To buy a so-called Advent Calendar and remove one small piece of chocolate from it every day.

2. To use a scraper to remove dangerous substances from car windscreens which, if left in position, might blind the driver and cause him to drive into his gate-post

3. To buy a new diary for 2007

4. To get some mistletoe and hang it in an obscure place in the home

5. To acquire copious amounts of hideous “wrapping paper” in which to envelope “Christmas Presents” and give them to our so-called “loved ones”

6. On December 25th, to telephone as many relatives living overseas as possible and reassure them of your welfare by using the coded messages “Happy Christmas”, “What’s the weather like in Canada?” and “Would you like to have a quick word with all the other seventeen people in the house in turn?”

Any questions?

Q. Yes, I have a question. Surely this is just the same useless emergency routine as we had last year and the year before? Surely this has been happening from time immemorial? After all, Shakespeare himself three hundred years ago wrote:

When icicles hang by the wall

And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,

And Tom bears logs into the hall,

And milk comes frozen home in pail . . .

Which suggests rather strongly that there is absolutely nothing new about your so-called Winter Emergency . . .

A. Arrest that man, Sarge. He is a clear trouble-maker. And while you’re at it, round up Dick the shepherd, and that man Tom who delivers logs. They sound like anarchists and terrorists to me. And get the health and safety people on to the milk frozen in buckets. That’s a health disaster in any language.

And don’t forget: if we find any unattended packages containing gold, frankincense or myrrh, they will be destroyed immediately.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Have a happy season!

The Independent Thursday Nov 23 06