He had a solemn demeanour, a magnificent moustache and wore a kaftan that would have been quite cool at Woodstock.
‘This isn’t more of this Movember shite, I hope,’ I said. ‘If you want to raise money, go out and do something more useful than growing a bit of fuzz on your face; a litter collection, clean up a few bed-pans or something.’
‘I know not of what you speak,’ he said, looking confused.
‘Balthazar, is it?’ I said, hazarding a guess, because his gear was all pretty generic Magi stuff.
‘I am Melchior,’ he announced, stiffly.
‘Why of course you are,’ I said, generously.
‘I am deeply unhappy,’ he said.
‘I’m not surprised,’ I said. ‘It’s the myrrh, isn’t it? Carrying around all that doom and gloom would get anyone down. You should have held out for the gold, you’d be a big hit wherever you go, especially with the gangsta rappers.’
‘It’s not the myrrh,’ he said. ‘My carriage has broken down; Balthazar and Caspar, they’re all right, they’re on camels. Can you help me fix it?’
‘I’m a doctor,’ I said, ‘not a mechanic.’
‘I know,’ he said, ‘but I thought that’s what doctors were for, you know, to help people and all.’
He suddenly looked a bit shifty.
‘I could make it worth your while,’ he ventured.
A small parcel of myrrh could be a novel gift for my mother-in-law, I calculated, maybe give her a hint of my true feelings for her.
‘Tell you what I’ll do,’ I said. ‘I’ll call the chiropodist.’
‘A chiropodist,’ he said, surprised and getting a little annoyed. ‘Here I am, in the teeth of Christmas, stuck by the side of the road, important messages to deliver, and you’re calling the chiropodist. What would they know about fixing a broken-down carriage?’
‘Not much,’ I admitted, ‘but they could give you a toe.’