The Journey of the Magi 

Of course, the Wise Men would never even get in nowadays. Having to go through both Israel and Judah, and coming in all probability from Iran – possibly even Iraq – they would simply be turned back at the frontiers. Really, that ancient quarrel between Jew and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian, should have been settled long ago. How much more civilised is an entry into England!

‘Excuse me, Sir, you appear a little confused. Don’t know which queue to join, eh? May I see your passport? Oh dear, oh dear. Not a British Citizen, are we? Not even a European Community Passport Holder. You queue in the corner over there, where the draught comes in under the door. And your friends? Also Persian? I see. How about the, er, extremely dark one? Ethiopian. Yes. And the old fellow is from the Ukraine. Oh dear, oh dear. One country that hasn’t existed for years, one that hasn’t quite been recognized yet, and Ethiopia. I suppose it’s no use asking which Ethiopian Government issued his passport? I thought not.

‘Profession? Zoroastrian Magi. All of you. I see. You wouldn’t care to, er, elaborate on that one, would you? You’ve seen a star in the East. Well, I never. Oh, you study stars. And you predict the future. Oh, you’re astrologers! Why didn’t you say so in the first place?  No problem with astrologers, we got heaps of them I’m Capricorn myself. Really? You don’t say? Well, that’s very flattering. Strong-minded, that’s us Capricorns. Firm but fair. Welcome to the United Kingdom. Customs is that way. Have a nice stay ’

‘Excuse me, Sir, HM Customs and Excise. Would you and your friends just wait here a moment? If you would care to read this card.... Anything to declare? Tobacco, beer, wine, spirits, gifts to a value of over forty pounds? You don’t drink. Oh, but you have gifts. Good, good, good. Would you care to open the box, sir?

‘This appears to be gold. It is gold? Well, well, well. Just how much gold would this be, then? Enough to support a small boy and ensure he grows to adulthood despite the endemic poverty and disease of first-century Palestine? As much as that? I’ll come to you in a minute, sir. Next!

‘Fred! Charlie! Everybody! Over here, I think we’ve got something. Smell this stuff. Yes, isn’t it? An aromatic resin, that is. Two sniffs and I feel cheerful already. Ah, here’s the Chief. Look at this, Chief, a black guy with a box of prohibited substances. Take him away. Next!

‘Hurry along, old feller, haven’t got all day. Now then, what’s this? Not more drugs? Yuk, it tastes like lemons dipped in vinegar. It’s what? Myrrh? You don’t say. Used for what? Oh, that’s sick, that is. Remember that film, The Mummy? I’ll bet he smelled like this. Well, it can’t be hygienic. I’ll have to confiscate it. Sorry, but we don’t know where it’s been.

‘You with the gold. You can’t bring that in either. Leastways, you can, but you’ll need all of it to pay the lawyers. What d’you mean, what lawyers? The ones defending your young friend on drugs charges, and trying to recover the old man’s embalming gunge, and fighting the deportation order when we find out that Persian means Iranian.

‘You’re right. The next flight out would be the simplest thing. Can you take who with you? A family? Jordanian father, Israeli mother, baby born Heaven knows where? And they want to go to Egypt? Rather you than me, Squire, rather you than me.’