The snow cascaded through the night sky, caressing the branches as it fell to carpet the earth in lace.
â€˜Do you mind?â€™ trilled a voice from below. Joe Roberts looked down to see a frosty looking Wendy Nathan tugging at the hem of her dress.
â€˜Your camelâ€™s stood on my bl***dy foot!â€™
â€˜Oh, â€˜scuse me!â€™ tittered the Monkey Sheik rider and heaved the sturdy beast back onto the grass, leaving his victim scowling and rubbing her swollen foot.
â€˜Alright there Wendy?â€™ hailed John Collins, emerging from the darkness into the warm glow of the sodium light. â€˜I told the Chairman this was a stupid idea. Why he couldnâ€™t lay on a coach, Iâ€™ve no idea.â€™
â€˜Something about fluffy snow freezing up the engines,â€™ replied Wendy, exasperated, â€˜but camels and snow shoes are no substitute are they. Really. Itâ€™s taken six hours to herd these sheep down the M11, itâ€™s a wonder nobodyâ€™s got killedâ€™.
â€˜In any case, didnâ€™t you and Steve McHugh get correct scores for the Arsenal and Everton matches like Joe? I donâ€™t know why you didnâ€™t get a camel when theyâ€™re perfectly capable of walkingâ€™, John complained.
Jill Taylor joined the other shepherds looking red and flustered.
â€˜And Jill, for the Blackburn and Wolves gamesâ€™ he continued.
â€˜Well so did you John, and you were the only one to predict a Portsmouth win against Liverpool. Stroke of genius if you ask meâ€™, replied Jill. â€˜I think we should seriously consider replacing David if he doesnâ€™t start sorting things out soon. Those boys on the camels are getting out of hand. And the smell! That big hairy oneâ€™s just breathed all over me. Nearly knocked me out.â€™
â€˜Something to do with getting 8 points this week.â€™ interrupted Wendy who had been listening quietly to the conversation. â€˜Joe Roberts, Nigel BirelI and Maziar Sattari all got 8 points. I did ask.â€™
â€˜Wise guys eh?â€™ John shook his head and kicked a mound of snow in the direction of the hairy camel. ‘I heard Maziar Sattari got Predictor of the Week for the Chelsea v West Ham draw too. Sounds like favouritism to me.’ he grumbled.
â€˜What sort of competition is this anyway?â€™ Jill fumbled in her pocket for the GPS as they arrived in Church Langley to track the last section of their route.
â€˜The Xmas Factor, Matt said.â€™ shouted Maziar from the hairy beast which had just belched rather unattractively over one of the sheep.
â€˜Canâ€™t you keep control of that blasted thing for just one minute, mate?â€™ John raged guiding the ladies down the narrow path Jillâ€™s screen had lead them to.
â€˜And look out for a bright shining â€˜Pâ€™ on the roofâ€™ chimed in Nigel helpfully. â€˜We should be nearly there now!â€™
Just as the wise man had predicted, the familiar logo, iridescent in the lamp light shone up ahead and the Predictors quickened their pace.
â€˜Hey, Mark. Itâ€™s us!â€™ Wendy shouted happily bounding through the snow to the open door. â€˜When did you get here? Oh, and by the way, congrats on your predictions for Arsenal and Blackburn. Bet the Moonerazziâ€™s mad at you for that one!â€™
Mark Young held his arms open to welcome the shepherdessâ€™ embrace, carefully holding the Brasso at arms length to avoid staining her cloak.
â€˜Arrived yesterday doll. Like Iâ€™ve never been away!â€™ he unwrapped his arms and looked her up and down approvingly.
â€˜Gonna be a great evening. Hey, but just let me finish polishing the handle on this big front door for the main event. Sâ€™really gonna be something special.â€™ he drawled.
â€˜I canâ€™t wait to have a hot shower and something to eat.â€™ joined in Jill, a large smile engulfing her face. I bet Davidâ€™s done us proud eh?
â€˜Ah, well.â€™ Mark looked at his feet and shuffled about. Actually heâ€™s pretty full, what with Chris Butters here already.â€™ On cue Chris appeared from the hallway, her golden hair displaying the faintest of gold twinkles and a smile that shone out illuminating the dark night.â€™
And, well. Me, of course.â€™ He fidgeted about some more and flicked the polishing cloth against the paint work.
â€˜Thereâ€™s always the garage of course.â€™ continued Mark helpfully. â€˜Loads of old tarpaulins from the car and a couple of picnic rugs I dug out earlier. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll be fine!â€™
â€˜Itâ€™s such an honour to be here.â€™ Gushed Chris to the crowd huddled around the door. Playing my joker on this special week and with a top score of 10 points is amazing. Of course, I gave it 150% and itâ€™s been an incredible journey, and Iâ€™m sure you can’t wait to join me in the celebrations.â€™
And so it was on that cold December night. The Predictors huddled together in a garage in Church Langley, but it was a magical evening and singing and laughter could be heard drifting across the rooftops as a man in a sleigh visited all the houses that night.